Read Luke 10:25-27. The lawyer who questioned Jesus offered a standard summary of the Old-Testament commands for living a life acceptable to God. How are these two commands linked?
When Jesus was questioned, He often concluded His answers with an outcome quite different from what the questioner was seeking.
In response to the instruction in Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) to “love your neighbor as yourself”, it seems many of the religious people of His day had spent much time and energy debating the extent and limits of this “neighbor” principle.
Jesus had already sought to expand His followers’ understanding of this term, urging that not only should they love their neighbors, but they should do good to everyone: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:44-45, NIV).
But when an expert in religious law sought to test Jesus, he fell back on the much-debated question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). In response, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, but the ultimate response to the lawyer’s question was not to define the “neighbor” terminology. Instead, Jesus said—in effect—“Go and be a neighbor to anyone who needs your help” (see Luke 10:36-37).
Read Luke 10:30-37. What is the significance of the contrast Jesus makes between the three characters who see the man on the side of the road needing their help?
As was common in Jesus’ teaching, His harshest criticism was aimed at those who claimed to be religious but showed little concern for the suffering of others. “In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness”. – Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 497.
In Jesus’ teaching, He points to an outsider, someone considered unfaithful to God, to demonstrate what the call of God is to all who claim to be His followers. Like His first hearers, when we come to Jesus asking what we need to do to inherit eternal life, He ultimately instructs us to go and be a neighbor to anyone in need.