When Jesus talked to the people, His enemies always listened carefully. They wanted to trick Him so they could accuse Him and discredit His teaching. But they could never catch Him saying anything wrong.
One day, as Jesus talked to the people gathered around Him, a man pushed through the crowd. This man had studied the Jewish law and taught others what the law said and meant.
“Teacher,” the man said to Jesus, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The man did not want a real answer; he was sure he knew the answer. He was one of those who wanted to trick Jesus. But Jesus did not fall into the trap. Instead he asked the man, “What do you read in the law?”
Quickly, the man answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
“You have answered rightly,” said Jesus. “Do this and you will live.”
But the teacher was not satisfied. The Pharisees and other learned men argued a lot about who was a neighbor. The Samaritans and Gentiles were not even thought of as being neighbors. And how could anyone decide who among the Jews was good enough to be considered a neighbor and worthy of love? So the teacher asked Jesus another question.
“Who is my neighbor?”
In answer, Jesus told a story about a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. The people knew this was a rocky, narrow, winding road, and many robbers hid behind the rocks waiting to attack travelers. The man was attacked by the robbers. They beat him, stole his money and even took his clothes. Then they ran away, leaving him half dead.
A little later, a priest came walking down the road. He saw the wounded man, but he did not want to get involved. After all, the man might be a Samaritan, and a priest was too “pure” to touch a Samaritan. Besides, the robbers might still be near, and the priest did not want to be attacked. He crossed the road and walked hurriedly by on the other side.
More time passed. The wounded man lay helpless and suffering. Then a Levite came by. The Levites served in the temple, helping the priests. The Levite walked over and looked down at the wounded man. He felt sorry for him, but like the priest, he was afraid the robbers might come back. So the Levite crossed the road and went on his way. At last, a Samaritan came by, riding a donkey. He took one look at the wounded man and forgot all about the hatred the Jews had for his people. The Samaritan jumped from his donkey and ran to the wounded man.
Gently, he washed the man’s wounds with wine to prevent infection. Then he poured soothing oil on the open cuts and bound them with clean cloth. The Samaritan lifted the injured man onto his donkey, and led the animal to Jericho, where he found an inn.
All night, the kind Samaritan took care of the sick man. In the morning he had to go on with his trip, but he left money with the innkeeper.
“Take good care of this sick man,” said the Samaritan, “If it costs you more than this, I will pay you when I come back.”
When the story was ended, Jesus looked at the teacher of the law.
“Which of these three, the priest, the Levite of the Samaritan, was a neighbor to the wounded man?” Asked Jesus.
The teacher knew the answer, but he still could not bring himself to say the word, “Samaritan,” so he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “and do likewise.”
Jesus had taught the teacher and all the people that the important thing was not to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” But to BE a neighbor. He wanted them and us to know that the best way to serve God and show our love for Him is to love people and help them when they are in trouble.
What does the Bible say about love? Read Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12:31. How much did God love us? Read John 3:16. Did you know Jesus gave us a new commandment? It is found in John 13:34.
Our Treasure Chest Verse is the answer the teacher gave when Jesus asked what the law of God says:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Luke 10:27