“Who is my neighbor?” That’s what the religious scholar asked Jesus in Luke 10:29. What follows is a fascinating study in human nature. Last time, I talked about “Loving our Samaritans.” This is a continuation on that theme. In Luke 9, we saw that the Samaritans had rejected Jesus, and His disciples wanted Him to call fire down on them like Elijah did. After all, these are “wicked people” (see Luke 9:54). I already mentioned the generations of prejudicial hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews thought they were morally superior to the Samaritans; the Samaritans resented this and hated the Jews.
The funny thing about prejudicial hatred is that it not only exposes you as a hypocrite, it puts you on the wrong side of God. It’s good to understand this if we’re going to benefit from the story that follows (Luke 10:25-37).
So, here we see Jesus, 30-something verses after His disciples declared the Samaritans are “wicked people” who deserve God’s judgment, having some Q&A time with a religious scholar. The scholar’s question is disingenuous. Jesus responds by asking him about his understanding of the Law. Here’s what comes next…
27 The religious scholar answered, “It states, ‘You must love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy, and your every thought. And you must love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
28 Jesus said, “That is correct. Now go and do exactly that and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28 TPT)
Evidently, this wasn’t going to satisfy this first-century troll, so he continues to press Jesus…
29 Wanting to justify himself, he questioned Jesus further, saying, “What do you mean by ‘my neighbor’?” (Luke 10:29 TPT)
I love this exchange. Our disingenuous troll tries to trap Jesus on terminology. Jesus is about to masterfully do His ‘Jesus Jujutsu‘ on him and flip this whole pretext on its head. And He does this by using a Samaritan—someone thought morally inferior by the Jews—as an example of how to fulfill the Law! (Keep in mind, Jesus’ own equally sanctimonious disciples are also listening).
We all know the story. A Jewish man is robbed and beaten and left for dead. Two different Jewish leaders see the bleeding man and walk right past him. But then, a Samaritan arrives on the scene:
33 “Finally, another man, a Samaritan, came upon the bleeding man and was moved with tender compassion for him. 34 He stooped down and gave him first aid, pouring olive oil on his wounds, disinfecting them with wine, and bandaging them to stop the bleeding. Lifting him up, he placed him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn. (Luke 10:33-34 TPT*)
As the story goes, this “wicked” Samaritan makes sure the Jewish man had everything he needed to fully recover (see Luke 10:34-35). Jesus finishes by asking another question:
36 So, now, tell me, which one of the three men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?” (Luke 10:36 TPT)
Did you notice what Jesus did here? He’s not asking what the religious scholar asked: who is “MY neighbor,” but who is “THE neighbor?” It’s not about who do I have to consider as my neighbor, but how do I become a true neighbor. It’s not about who I should love, but how I should love. Of course, our troll gives Jesus the obvious answer to His question:
37 The religious scholar responded, “The one who demonstrated kindness and mercy.” (Luke 10:37a TPT*)
In other words, virtue-signalling isn’t virtue! And love only means something when one demonstrates kindness and mercy; when we show ourselves to be like our Father in heaven by loving our enemies and blessing them (see Matt.5:43-47).
Finally, Jesus tells the religious scholar,“Go and do the same as he.” (Luke 10:37b TPT).
Another way to put it: go and do the same as this person that you despise and look down upon, because even though you’re trained in Scripture, and are a Jew, this Samaritan is the one fulfilling the Law.
I hope you can appreciate what’s happening here, and how pride and prejudicial hatred can blind us. Of course, this is also a study in grace. Jesus is saying that we’re no better than the people we despise the most. As Paul told the divisive Corinthians:
7 For what makes a distinction between you and someone else? And what do you have that grace has not given you? And if you received it as a gift, why do you boast as though there is something special about you? (1 Cor.4:7 TPT*)
Beloved, as followers of Jesus, we’ve been blessed in so many ways. We have learned what it means to be loved by God! Now, we must learn to love others as we are loved by Him (John 15:12).
Here’s the thing: Jesus loved the Samaritans, even though they didn’t love Him. THIS is why we must learn to love our “Samaritans.” It’s the perfect way to learn how to walk in other-centered love, to express it toward someone who opposes us, and may even hate us. It exposes our feelings of moral superiority and hypocrisy and helps us to become like Jesus and children of our heavenly Father (Matt.5:44-45). And, as we will see next time, it opens the door for them to powerfully encounter God.