25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Twice the story about Jesus being asked about the greatest commandment is given. Once in Matthew 22:34-40 and again in Mark 12:28-31. As a matter of preference I prefer the version in Mark as it has more details. All that aside the verses above are often included in a search for the question asked of Jesus about the greatest commandment, but that is an obvious error as we can see. Here Jesus is asking the question and the expert in the law is the one answering.
It does not end there though as the expert in the law only asked and answered the question so he could ask another in the hope of causing Jesus to misspeak. Jesus told him his answer was correct and if he did as he answered he would have eternal life. The expert was not interested in looking at what Jesus had answered for his heart was not in his answer, but only in the chance to trip up Jesus. So he asked
“And who is my neighbor?”
He must have been truly shocked when Jesus answered with the following parable
30 “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
To really appreciate this you have to understand Samaritans were looked down on by Israelites as half-breeds or worse. Is was not uncommon for Israelites to make trip north longer by going around Samaria instead of through Samaria to avoid contact with Samaritans. Next Jesus asked the expert
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert had to hate this question as it revealed his own heart, but he answered nonetheless
“The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus replied “Go and do likewise.”
For us our closest neighbors are our wives or husbands and children and siblings and parents and then co-workers … etc. So how do we treat our closest neighbors? We begin with them in following the command Love your neighbor as yourself. Easy to say, easy to try, and easy to fail. I have failed miserably many times, but I continue to try.
It’s Friday, I hope you have a Great Weekend and remember to go to church for worship, prayer, fellowship, and hearing the word of God taught. May you receive it in such a way you truly want to put it into practice throughout the days and weeks ahead. Then may you “Go and do likewise.”