The Gospel of Luke: a commentary & meditation 
“And who is my neighbor?”

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

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?" 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 right; 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 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast 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 neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Meditation: What would you do if your neighbor get into big trouble through his or her own fault? For the Jewish believer the law of love was plain and simple: treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself. A Jewish expert in the law wanted to test Jesus and his disciples to see if they correctly understood this basic commandment.  He understood "neighbor" to mean one's fellow Jew who belonged to the same covenant which God made with the people of Israel. Jesus agreed with the sincere expert but challenged him to see that God's view of neighbor went beyond his narow definition.

Jesus told a parable to show how wide God's love and mercy is towards all. Jesus's story of a brutal highway robbery  was all too familiar to his audience. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho went through a narrow and steep valley surrounded by cliffs.  Many wealthy Jews had winter homes in Jerico. This narrow highway was dangerous and notorious for its robbers who could easily ambush their victim and escape into the hills.  No one in his right mind would think of traveling it alone.

Why did the religious leaders refuse to give any help when they saw a victim lying by the roadside? Didn't they know that this victim was their neighbor?  And why did a Samaritan, an outsider who was despised by the Jews, treat this victim with special care at his own expense as he would care for his own family? Who showed true neighborly care, compassion and mercy? Jesus makes the supposed villain, the despised Samaritan, the merciful one as an example for the status conscious Jews. Why didn't the priest and Levite stop to help? The priest probably didn't want to risk the possibility of ritual impurity. His piety got in the way of charity. The Levite approached close to the victim, but stopped short of actually helping him. Perhaps he feared that bandits were using a decoy to ambush him. The Levite put personal safety ahead of saving his neighbor.

What does Jesus' story tell us about true love for one's neighbor? First, we must be willing to help even if others brought trouble on themselves  through their own fault. Second, our love and concern to help others in need must be practical. Good intentions and emphathizing with others are not enough. And lastly, our love for others must be as wide as God's love. No one is excluded. God's love is unconditional. So we must be ready to do good to others for their sake, just as God is good to us. Are you ready to lay down your life for your neighbor?

"Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and whilst nursing minister to you.  Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say: ‘Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.’  Lord, give me this seeing faith, then my work will never be monotonous.  I will ever find joy in humoring the fancies and gratifying the wishes of all poor sufferers.  O beloved sick, how doubly dear you are to me, when you personify Christ; and what a privilege is mine to be allowed to tend you.  Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities.  Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience.  And, O God, while you are Jesus, my patient, deign also to be to me a patient Jesus, bearing with my faults, looking only to my intention, which is to love and serve you in the person of each of your sick.  Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore.  (Daily prayer of Mother Teresa of Calcutta)


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 (c) 2004 Don Schwager