Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “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.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…Luke 10.25-30a
To the saints who serve God as disciples in Jesus’ name in First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, greetings;
So, what would you claim amongst the best all time questions? What about when it comes to questions Jesus asks? We looked at one last month, “Do you want to be made well?” which was addressed to the unnamed man at the pool of Bethesda, a question that is in fact asked of not only every person (thus the reason behind the man not having a name) as well as every faith community (given John’s tendency to speak on more than one level at any given time). What of questions asked Jesus? For me, this would have to rank as one of the very best: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, because it has many assumptions built into it.
First, the idea of an inheritance assumes more than a basic socio-economic level, doesn’t it? The question has to do with eternal life, but the thrust of the question still deals with “inherit”. Second, “what must I do” indicates that it’s not really a gift, as an inheritance is, it’s something that the person asking, the lawyer in this case, is assuming can be earned or acquired by other than simply being received. That said, it’s a worthwhile question, one I have suggested most of us would be willing to write a significant check to acquire.
Jesus, as he is often portrayed as doing, honors the questioner as much as the question. He asks the lawyer to participate in the process of understanding not only the answer, but the question. Initially the lawyer is willing, even eager, to respond, speaking forthright out of his practice and his piety as to what is required of a faithful Jew. The response he gives is a form of the Shema, the common morning and evening prayer of a faithful Jew. Jesus affirms his response and encourages him to simply “do this”, in other words, put the words into practice, assuring the lawyer that his response is right and will be life-giving in practice.
Then the lawyer gives himself away, according to Luke: “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor’?” Jesus tells the story of the “Good Samaritan” (although “good” does not appear in the story), one of Jesus’ most beloved stories.
What do you think of the lawyer’s question? What do you think about Jesus’ invitation to the lawyer to answer his question? What do you think of the lawyer’s question as to whom he could/couldn’t consider his neighbor? Whom do you consider your neighbor? We’ll be examining this question in October and early November in worship and in study within FPCC.
Thank you for the privilege of being your temporary supply pastor. May this find you doing the best you can in all that you do with all you have, given God’s help, amidst the challenges and comforts that come your way.
*A Special Thank You…
Thank you very much for your many expressions of kindness at the time of my Dad’s death. I remain grateful and thankful to you for your care of me. Thank you to the members of the Session for their leadership during my absence from FPCC to be with my family in Minnesota, and to those on the staff with whom I have the privilege of serving for their extra service during my absence.
Thanks be to God for the privilege of serving God with you in this place at this time. ~ Timm