An expert in the interpretation of the scriptures, one well acquainted with the priests and levites, stood up to test Jesus. This would be a public setting, for everywhere Jesus went people gathered to hear him.
The expert is not authentically asking what he must do to live a life of faith and enter into eternal life. He is testing Jesus in front of everyone; he is arrogant. But all too quickly his test of Jesus becomes a test for him. Jesus immediately asks the expert a question and now he is on the defensive whether he realizes it or not.
After answering Jesus well with, “Love God and love your neighbor” the expert still wants to test Jesus, justify himself in front of everyone. So the expert asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
“Who is my neighbor?” is a great question for us especially as we begin a new year. It’s a good question any time of the year and one we might ask each day as we seek to serve the Lord Jesus. Who is my neighbor today, Lord? Show me, I pray.
Jesus tells the story of a man attacked by robbers on his way to Jericho. Everyone knew that was a dangerous route to travel and it wasn’t unusual for robbers to attack people there. One would expect that religious leaders, priests and Levites, would stop the help anyone in need particularly someone who was barely surviving a terrible beating. But the priest and the Levite just pass by.
But a Samaritan stops, helps, and goes beyond what is expected to care for the beaten man. Samaritans and Jews didn’t mix. They had different beliefs and it was also a racial thing. Yet Jesus took his disciples to Samaria. Jesus even talked with a Samaritan woman, notorious for her sins, and an outcast in her village. Jesus, just before he ascended into heaven (Acts 1), told the disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and he specifically mentioned being witnesses in Samaria.
The Samaritan lives the command, love your neighbor, in Jesus’ story. The test of the expert continues as Jesus asks him, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…?” The expert is good with answers, “The one who had mercy on him.” He would not say Samaritan. The final test; Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” While the expert was good with answers, I wonder if the expert was good at living. Because he was all about testing Jesus I think his walk of faith and love of neighbor wasn’t what it should be.
“Who is my neighbor?” is a great question. Jesus wants to widen our perspective of neighbor beyond our family, friends, our kind of people to whomever we meet who is in need. Today, any day, as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus, let’s ask, let’s pray, Who is my neighbor today, Lord? Show me, I pray.