Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 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.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

 The question of eternal life is in relation to the Good Samaritan Story.  A man, traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is beaten and left for dead. In time, both a priest and rabbi come by, but they decide to pass him by. In fact, one passes on the other side.

But, a Samaritan, comes and cares for him, takes him to a local motel, pays the medical bill for days, and comes back and checks on him. The Samaritan does not seek to find out who the wounded person is, what faith or nationality he is from, nor care that he is not in his home territory. The care and compassion transcends borders, nationality, faith and gender.

 Regardless of how it is preached, it is a story of politics and discrimination that rings today in truth. It is a political story, for the Jewish disliked immensely the people of Samaria who had intermarried with the Assyrians. For the Assyrians had defeated them and the northern Kingdom.

Many Jews were taken into Nineveh in 722 B.C. as slaves but many were allowed to stay while many of the victorious Assyrians stayed or were allowed to return to Samaria and settle. In time, many adopted Assyrian faith; some mixed them together while some remain Hebrews. It made for tension however.

Jews who traveled between Galilee and Judea avoided Samaria and went around the East Coast. Later, when Cyrus allowed all Jewish people to return to Jerusalem in 587 BC, the Samaritans were not allowed to help in rebuilding the Temple.

 So, when Jesus told the Teacher how to inherit eternal life, the answer was startling. And Jesus says to the man after the story of the Good Samaritan, “and which of the 3 was the Good Neighbor.” and the lawyer says, “The one who showed mercy.” And Jesus says “Go thou and do likewise.” For what Jesus was really saying is, “You are accepted here. This is your country.”  

The lawyer, even in the correct answer, could not say “the Samaritan.” He had to say “the one who showed mercy.” The lawyer was full of bias and even hate toward the person he felt was not one of them. The lawyer and the ruler in Luke 18 both felt eternal life was based on acceptable answers, not on some definable action.

I believe the lawyer felt the neighbor would be someone from your own community, your own faith, your own color, your own belief. He never expected it to be a foreigner, one who had mixed blood, and one who might not worship the God he did.

 But that’s the way God operates. God surprises us. And here we are truly surprised that the story of the Good Samaritan is the key, the way, the truth, and the life to eternity and life everlasting through Jesus Christ.