© godfer – Fotolia.com
In a recent Bible study group-discussion, we were studying the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (). This parable may be seen to primarily highlight that we are to show mercy to our neighbours… to love them as ourselves, as God commands us. Clearly, this is true and vital. However, a closer look at this parable seems to highlight a crucial part of the Gospel message that is becoming more and more void within the western church – realising how sinful we are.
The lawyer, an expert in the OT law, was trying to test or tempt Jesus by asking Him “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus realising the lawyers intentions replied “What is written in the Law?” The man answered by saying to love God and your neighbour. Jesus responded “Do this, and you will live”.
The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked Jesus “Who is my neighbour?” This prompted Jesus to teach the parable of the Good Samaritan: A Jewish man is robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. A Priest and Levite pass him by, but a Samaritan stops to care for him. He cleans him and takes him to an inn where he pays the inn keeper two days wages to look after him. A Samaritan, a ‘wretched outsider’ in the eyes of Israel, was the one who showed mercy and saved the dying Jew. Jesus then asked the lawyer who the neighbour was. The lawyer’s response “The one who showed him mercy”. What did Jesus then say… “You, go and do likewise”.
Now it’s easy to miss the whole point of this parable or even grossly miss-interpret what Jesus is saying, as I think I have in the past.
The lawyer clearly had the attitude of what he must DO to gain eternal life. At first glance, Jesus seems to be saying he must be merciful to, or love your neighbour, to inherit eternal life. However what is Jesus’ real intentions in saying this?
At this point I think many Christians miss a crucial ingredient of the Gospel message. It’s not about us being more merciful and loving to others to gain eternal life. God’s expectations of us are listed in the law to highlight that we can’t be loving and merciful enough to gain eternal life. We fail miserably! Jesus is pointing the lawyer to the Law of God to convict him of his sin and therefore humble his heart. Only then can he see his need to be saved and live as God intends.
Unfortunately for the lawyer, there is no evidence that he got it. What did Jesus do? It would appear He moved on.
I want to highlight two points here:
- The Law of God is as important today as it was in Old Testament times. It’s role is different as a result of the new covenant. Effectively, it does two things now as it did then. It highlights God’s expectations of us in order to live with Him and points out how sinful and hopeless we are in meeting those expectations. One may think, ‘how cruel!’ However, the purpose of the law is to strike out any pride in our hearts. No one is good enough to measure up to God’s standards… we don’t even get close (; ). We can only be justified by trusting in the work and person of Jesus Christ. He alone is without sin. He took our punishment – death, so that through His resurrected life we may have a new eternal life with God. The good news of Jesus takes on a whole new meaning when we realise how sinful we are!! How tragic when the western church leaves out the Law in its teaching in order to make people feel comfortable. It’s a vital ingredient to the Gospel message and a healthy, daily walk with God. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (). Jesus has come to save sinners, not the righteous ().
- When the lawyer appeared not to see the depth of his sinful depravity and the need for a saviour, Jesus seemed to move on. Jesus challenged him to be merciful not simply to encourage him to be more merciful, but rather to help him see he that he can’t live up to God’s expectations. It was meant to crush and humble the lawyer, to drive him to seek forgiveness and mercy from God, but his heart was not willing to let go of his proud attitude of earning his way into God’s good books.
Often we can spend too much time trying to convince someone of the Good News of Jesus, when it is obvious they don’t want to hear it. We must be careful not to keep throwing our “pearls” before them to be trampled underfoot. We can keep praying for them and be ready to tell them the gospel again in the future. However, we are not to waste our energy trying to knock down a door that is not opening. We are to wipe our feet and move on to more willing hearts.
That may sound harsh, but if we are to be effective in taking the gospel message to all people we need to discern when to move on. Ultimately, our salvation is in God’s hands… not our ability to coerce or persuade others.
Let’s trust in God to do the work only He can, and to help us be His instruments of change in this depraved world.
6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”