But He Wanted to Justify Himself...
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘who is my neighbor?'”
This is the statement that comes immediately before the story of “the Good Samaritan” In Luke 10. Right before this, a religious man had asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him back- “What’s the law and how do you read it?” Apparently the man answered correctly. I wonder what kind of look Jesus was giving the man for him to feel that he needed to further justify his “right” answer. Perhaps the Spirit of God was longing to convict him and he wasn’t ready for it. Either way, Jesus told him (and everyone else) why he felt the need to justify.
A man was beat up and left for dead. The religious leaders and prominent men of the time passed him by. Too much baggage. I mean, what was he even doing out there on the road anyways? Probably stole something and they beat him up. You know, if he wouldn’t have put himself in that predicament he might not have needed help. Also, there are plenty of other people that died in Jerusalem last year too, so we’re not sure what the big deal about this guy was. Maybe one of his own “kind” beat him up so they probably didn't want to get into the middle of it. They needed to get to church on time. And love God and stuff. Also, did you know that people that get beat up probably also beat other people up- because who just randomly gets beat up?! A few guys that looked just like him beat up a guy on the corner last week so this might have even been that guy! I imagine these to be some of the inner thoughts of those that passed him by on the road...
Good thing the Samaritan came by. Sheesh. Those conversations were making me uncomfortable. But the Samaritan man knew what was up. He himself was a bit of an outcast. He knew that even though he knew nothing of this man, that he mattered. He mattered so much that he made it his personal goal to help him- even though he wasn’t the one that beat him up. Isn’t that crazy? He recognized that this man, left for dead, needed immediate attention at that moment in time. He was on that road with that man for that purpose.
We know that this story didn’t actually take place because Jesus spoke it as a parable. But didn’t it? Isn’t it happening right now? Jesus never spoke anything without purpose. From this parable we get a famous story of learning to love our neighbor. Jesus didn’t tell us a single thing about the man who was left for dead, only that he was. We, dear church, need to listen up. Your neighbor might not vote the same as you. Your neighbor might not have the same skin color, background or belief system as you. This is NOT a qualifier for helping. It is not a justification for continuing to walk on. It is an invitation to step into the kingdom of Jesus.
Jesus asked the religious man who was a better neighbor in this story. Jesus often asked questions to help people look deeper into their own hearts and motives. For the religious leader, it was clearly spelled out- “he longed to justify himself.” He wanted to get himself off the hook so he could go back to his best life now.
But the moment you look into the eyes of one who has been left for dead, no matter their story or reason for being there, you simply cannot go back. Maybe that’s the problem. When was the last time you knelt beside one left for dead? It changes everything. When our opinions shout louder than our actions we are missing the point. We may think we have the “right” answer about something, but based on this parable, Jesus seems much less concerned by right answers and opinions. He shows us the true intentions of our hearts and longs for us to see through a new pair of eyes- His eyes.
So I challenge us all with this- the religious man began by asking Jesus a question. What if we did the same? "Jesus, what should we do right now to be part of Your Kingdom?"
"So now tell me (Jesus asked) Which one of these men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?" The religious scholar responded, "The one who demonstrated kindness and mercy." Jesus said, "You must go and do the same as he." Luke 10:36-37 TPT