“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’[c];and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10.25-28
For those who know the story, this is the first half of the parable of the Good Samaritan. I’ve broken it down into two sections so I can highlight each section. This first group of verses, v.25-28, depict an “expert in the law” standing before and testing Jesus. Now when I think of testing someone, it’s not an encouraging move. It implies being critical like putting someone to the test to find out how much they know about a certain topic.
This expert in the law, which is how Luke identifies him, asked a very simple question, which we assume he knew the answer. (Those who are pious ask answers they already know to people the assume aren’t as smart as they are.)
“What must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the Law? The expert asked Jesus not one but two questions. Like he was “baiting” Jesus. And indeed he was. So Jesus replied with his own question, “How do you read it?” (Jesus turns around the questioning on the expert.)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself,” said the expert in the law who is quoting directly from Moses in Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Jesus answers the man, “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.”
But the expert wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The rest of the Good Samaritan story you know, and I will cover this next time. But for today, the question I’d like to ask is why did the expert of the law feel the need to justify himself? Why not be settled with Jesus’ answer, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live,”? What is it within us that requires the need to be justified, to be made right, to have everything figured out?
Living for God and in his kingdom is more simple than we might think — loving God and loving others. This is “eternal life,” Jesus said. When I think of eternal life, I think of abundant life. In essence, I believe what Jesus was saying is if you want to live for God love him and love others. Do this and you will find joy.
What is keeping us from loving God and others today? What is preventing us from finding joy? What is the restlessness in our spirits that causes us to seek, to ask, to discover and to figure out? Let’s follow the advice of the expert in the law today by loving God and loving others. This is a good start to discovering God’s Kingdom.
“O Lord God, you are good. I am restless at times, seeking to find what’s next. Holding on to your holiness and trusting you to save me. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your love and grace. Help me know that my days matter and your purposes are being fulfilled. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen