Scripture records for us that Jesus answered the Lawyer’s question by asking him: “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10: 26) This question is an amazing answer by the Lord. He directs this legal expert back to the very law which he should know intimately. Jesus goes straight to the motive and heart of this man by asking him “How does it read to you?” Jesus was asking him what he believed the Law (the Word of God) commands in regards to eternal life.
This question lies at the foundation of all of our beliefs regarding God and eternal life. The Lawyer responds by citing from Deuteronomy and Leviticus by answering Jesus’ question in this manner: “… YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” This is a classic example of knowing about God’s word but completely misunderstanding the meaning of it. When we acquire only a head knowledge of His Word, we will misunderstand the spiritual communication of exactly what God is speaking to us.
Jesus responds to him by saying in Luke 10:28 “… You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Jesus acknowledges this man’s recitation of Scripture, but Jesus knew that he was from from understanding the truth behind the words. We know this because of the Lawyer’s attempt to justify himself by asking another question: ” And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then tells us the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable reveals to all who will hear that eternal life is not something that can be attained by outer appearances. Eternal life is made known in us through a changed life. That changed life is a gift of God. As we hear the parable, Jesus tells of a Priest and a Levite who come upon this man who had been beaten and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Both men’s response had been to pass by on the other side for fear of becoming defiled if the victim were dead. They were more concerned about their position as religious leaders than the care for another human being (their neighbor). Many professing Christians today believe that eternal life (salvation) can be both attained and maintained by their actions alone.
Then along comes a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans did not get along to say the least. Even though Jesus does not identify this victim as a Jew, we can ascertain from the account that he was since he was coming from Jerusalem to Jericho – probably on a pilgrimage to the Temple. Why on Earth would a Samaritan stop to help a Jew? This is the total point of Jesus’ parable.
This Samaritan – moved with compassion – stopped and aided this fallen man. As Jesus tells us, he cared for his wounds and took him on his own beast to an inn and continued to take care of him. The next day when the Samaritan has to leave (for he was on a journey of his own) he left 2 denarii for the innkeeper for his continued care and promised he would return and pay any extra. This man truly went the extra mile.
This parable teaches us what it means to truly love our neighbor and addresses the question of “Who is my neighbor.” Our neighbor is not just the person who we know and lives in close vicinity to us, it is the community of creation that we are to love and care for. No matter what the personal cost to us there may be. This kind of love is the outpouring of our love for God first and foremost. We cannot love in this way unless the love of God indwells us.
So, to address the original question of what must we do to inherit eternal life, we need simply to understand that it does not lie within our power to earn eternal life. It is the free gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. His finished work on Calvary’s cross paid the debt that you and I could never pay. Even on our best days. We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus alone. We are justified by faith in His finished work of atonement alone.
When we fall into the false belief that we earn or maintain our salvation by our actions, then we too are no better than the Priest and the Levite from this parable of Jesus. We will be more concerned about ourselves than others. It is only because that we live an exchanged life (2 Corinthians 5:21) that we can truly love God or our neighbor at all. We love with the self sacrificing (Agape) love of God that was first made known to us in Jesus Himself.
So, are you a Good Samaritan? You are if you have been born again from above. If not, I encourage you today to yield to the drawing of God upon your life. Do not deny the Holy Spirit if He is leading you to repentance. Do this and you will live.