Luke 10:25-37 A Samaritan And True Justification.
It is interesting to see what preceded this story of the so-called “good” Samaritan. It begins with a lawyer asking Jesus what a man must do to inherit eternal life (v. 25). His answer echoes Jesus own summary of the law (vv. 26-27 Cf. Dt. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). However, Jesus summary was in response to the question as to what was the “the first commandment of all.” (Mk. 12:28 Cf. vv. 29-31; Dt. 6:4-5; 10:12; Lev. 19:18; Mt. 22:34-40) This lawyer, like the man rich young ruler (Mt. 19:16-22), thought that they could inherit or have eternal life by what they did, by their own observance of the law. In both cases Jesus gave examples of how no one, in and of themselves, keeps the law perfectly. Even within the law itself we read that one could only keep it if the LORD circumcised their hearts (Cf. 30:6). The inheritance of eternal life only ever came by way of the covenant relationship, a covenant of grace. So Jesus challenged the lawyer to prove that he was indeed living by the law (v. 28). Luke makes the point that the lawyer wanted to “justify himself,” so he asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” (v. 29).
Those who believe they can justify themselves inevitably water down God’s standards to reflect the level of their own behaviour. The same belief exists to this day. There are those who think that the more religious one is, like a religious leader, the greater chance they have of earning eternal life, like the priest who passed by the helpless victim on the side of the road (vv. 30-31). Others imagine that the more ascetic one is the greater their chance, like the Levite perhaps (v. 32). Then along comes the Samaritan, who has compassion on the man, dressing His wounds, taking him to an inn on his own animal, and ensuring he was taken care of. This Samaritan showed what it meant to love one’s neighbour. However, this example from Jesus was not to show how one could earn eternal life, it was to show what it means to love one’s neighbour, and that loving one’s neighbour means showing mercy. The crucial point is mercy, and it is mercy alone which we need from God if we are to have any hope of eternal life. This story shows how a religion of works falls short. Those who show mercy, know mercy themselves (7:47-50).