29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”…36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”Excerpt from the parable of the Good Samaritan found in its entirety in Luke 10:25-37, NRSV
It is fascinating to watch how Jesus gets his detractors to answer their own questions. Lessons become ingrained when they are the result of our consideration of the facts, our experience, knowledge, and what we have learned in time past. When we answer our own question how can we dispute the conclusion to the matter?
“Who is my neighbor?” was the question directed to Jesus. We discussed this interchange in our Sunday morning Bible study. What answer did the lawyer expect from Jesus? In light of the exclusivity of certain segments of the population, particularly within the religious realm, perhaps the lawyer was hoping to find a reason to exclude rather than include. Or maybe he wanted to call Jesus to task with the answer. However, that was unreasonable because Jesus’ reputation preceded him as one who kept company with those that society and particularly the religious elite considered beneath consideration. Whatever the reason for the question, the lawyer, the scribe, this one who was the keeper of the law was forced to answer his own question.
At the end of the story, all he could say was, “the one who showed him mercy.” As one of our class members said, there were no labels attached to the one who eventually helped the man lying in the road. It was simply, “the one who showed mercy.” The writer of our lesson, Mark Hetrick, proposed the following: “Jesus’ question shifted the focus from the external to the internal, from definition to motivation, from object to subject, from others to the lawyer himself. The issue wasn’t who is qualified to be considered a “neighbor.” It was whether or not someone (in this case, the lawyer) was willing ‘to be neighborly’ by practicing mercy, providing care, and showing love to one in need.”
It is not trying to figure out who is our neighbor before we can show mercy or offer assistance and help. Hetrick goes on to say, “…’neighbor’ wasn’t an object to be defined but a behavior to be demonstrated and a way of life to be cultivated.” May the prayer of our hearts be that we would be neighbor to those we encounter as we journey through this life.
Growing Together in Christ,