Some say that he was trying to test Jesus, while others believe he was trying to trick
Jesus. But, maybe he was just looking for the answer to a question he had been
struggling with. Whatever was his motivation, the question that he asked was likely one
that many others had pondered at some point. It was actually a two part
question. The first part of the question was,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Now, the man asking the question was a lawyer who had been trained in the Old
Testament. So, certainly this expert lawyer already knew the answer to this first
part of his question. Sensing this, Jesus sort of brushed him off, answering his
question with another simple, somewhat condescending question;
“What is written in
the law,”
Jesus asked?  The lawyer then proceeded to recite the requirements for
eternal life as is written in the Old Testament;
“Love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And love
your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus’ reply was essentially, ‘Well that’s what it says, then
that’s what you do.’

But, the lawyer was not satisfied. See, he knew who God was and he knew how to
love God with his heart, soul and mind.  The lawyer also knew what it meant to
love himself. But, his follow-up question was the one the lawyer probably genuinely
struggled with;
“Who is my neighbor?”

Apparently, Jesus considered this follow-up question to be much more intelligent
because His response to this part of the question was not nearly as straight
forward and dismissive as was His response to the initial question. In fact, Jesus’
allegorical response to this follow-up question would become one of the most
popular stories ever told. Jesus proceeded to tell the story of a Samaritan man who
went above and beyond to help a Jewish man who had been robbed, beaten, and
left for dead on the side of the danger-filled road to Jericho.

Jesus’ elaborate response is even more compelling if we understand the dynamics of
the relationship between Jews and Samaritans during that time. Jews and Samaritans
were something like bitter foes. So, for one of them to go out of their way and put so
much time and effort into helping the other as this “Good Samaritan” did, was virtually
unbelievable. In modern day times it would be like a radical Muslim going out
of his way to show compassion to a liberal Christian; or, like a Palestinian helping a
Jew; a Blood helping a Crip; Hillary Clinton helping Monica Lewinsky, or Rick Ross
helping 50 Cent!

To answer the lawyer’s question,
“Who is my neighbor,” Jesus carefully illustrated the
point that our neighbors are ALL of humanity. Not only those who look like us, dress
like us or live near us, but anyone who is hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, or a
stranger who needs inviting in.
Who Is My Neighbor?