You may be familiar with the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’, the one about the good guy who helps his enemy by rescuing his beaten up and bloodied body out of the gutter and paying for his recovery. Do you know the backstory to this story, the brackets before and after, and the reason why Jesus told it in the first place?
See there was this ‘Expert in Religious Law’ asking Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life, which holy law is the most important one of all? Jesus’s response is surprising because he tells that story of the ‘Good Samaritan’.
It’s surprising because we’ve been taught as followers of Christ that it’s not our acts of love or obedience – our goodness – that guarantee us eternal life (as the ‘religious’ – see above – would believe), but rather by His grace, through our faith in His redemptive sacrifice for our fallen, broken selves. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
But here in this story He tells of a good man who loves his enemy by going above and beyond what was expected of him. It would seem that the good deeds of the Samaritan are the actions that Jesus is calling us to emulate in order to achieve perfection and therefore eternal life.
Surely the ‘Religious Expert’ would have been the best of the best in achieving this? And yet, after hearing the story, the he walks away. Did he realise how inadequate his religious efforts were or was it something else that hindered him, pride maybe. Did eternal life seem to difficult to attain?
Bearing in mind that the Samaritans were enemies of the Jews, who would be your Samaritan today? I don’t know about you but I’m not all that good at loving my friends and family all the time. I’m definitely worse at loving my enemies. If I was relying on being good at love then my eternal outlook would appear to be firey hot!
Ultimately Jesus is showing us what we probably already know, that our hearts fail and disappoint us no matter how hard we try. But the solution is not to just try harder and become more disillusioned. Instead He has offered to give us a new heart, His heart. Accepting His heart in the place of our own is the key to eternal life. This is the Good News.
This was unacceptable for the ‘Religious Expert’ as it implied submission. Seems crazy but was it pride in his own semi self-righteousness, his half kindness, his sort-of loving nature and sometimes obedience that caused him to find it so difficult to submit to Christ’s perfect righteousness? If only he’d accepted the offer, put his trust in Jesus’s divine ability rather than his own human inability, and not walk away.
And yet he did, and still does.
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