side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way; and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day, he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.’” Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The teacher of the law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”
The lawyer knew his Scriptures very well. When Jesus asks, “What is written in the law?“ the lawyer quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, verses we now call the “two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor,“ reminding us of the “two tablets“ of the law which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. The first commandment about loving God is the “Shema“ which every Jewish child knows by heart, beginning with “Hear (shema), O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone…“ It is the prayer the lawyer in this story would have recited twice every day as an adult Jewish man. The second is a repeated theme throughout the Torah. Speaking through Moses God makes very clear to the people of Israel that they should care for the strangers and aliens among them. God loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). In the gospel, Jesus changes the lawyer‘s question. The lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?“ By his definition the neighbors of the story would have been the priest and the Levite, members of his group, not the alien and heretical Samaritan. However, at the end of the story, Jesus changes the question by asking, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor?“ that is, “Who proved to be a neighbor?“ “Neighbor“ is not defined by location or group but by those who need concern and care. Our “neighbors“ are those who need us anywhere and anytime and the challenge is to respond in full generosity and mercy and not hindered by any form of constructed social barrier.
© Copyright Bible Diary 2018