25 A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”
26 Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”
27 The man answered, “ ‘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 neighbour as you love yourself.’ ”
28 “You are right,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
30 Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.
31 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by, on the other side.
32 In the same way a Levite also came along, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by, on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan who was travelling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity.
34 He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’ ”
36 And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour towards the man attacked by the robbers?”
37 The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.” Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”
Other readings: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalm 69:13, 16, 29-30, 32-33, 35-36; Colossians 1:15-20
A teacher wants to trap Jesus with a question. Jesus sees straight through him and asks him to answer his own question. The teacher gives the correct answer that sums up the Jewish teaching: loving God and loving our neighbour.
But the teacher hasn’t achieved his objective of making himself look cleverer than Jesus, so he asks another question: “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus responds with a powerful parable – that of the Good Samaritan, as we know it today.
Jesus contrasts the responses of three people when they encounter a man at the side of the road who has been robbed and beaten up. The first two, a priest and a Levite, were in positions of religious authority. They would have sought to obey the law in every detail, but here they fail to obey one of the most important commandments.
It is the third person, a Samaritan, who acts like a good neighbour and helps this man. To appreciate the full impact of this parable we need to understand the long-standing animosity that existed here. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans and considered them “unclean”, no better than Gentiles. Jesus uses a non-Jew, a despised foreigner, to show this religious teacher how to live out Jewish teaching.
With this parable Jesus makes it clear that we should always be neighbours to any fellow human being who needs help. We may never have met them before; they may be from a different racial and religious background. Nonetheless, we are still their neighbours.
Consider the reasons the priest and the Levite might have had for not helping the man. Do you see any of these attitudes in yourself? What needs to motivate our actions towards others? What do we learn from this passage about why we should help others in need? Is it significant that Jesus says “do this” (verses 28 and 37)? What light does James 2:14-17 shed on this? Think about what it means for you to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.
Let Psalm 69 guide your prayers for those you love and for those you see in need.
Read Colossians 1:15-20 slowly several times. Then take a couple of lines at a time and contemplate the meaning of the magnificence of Christ revealed here.
Lectio divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. © 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition
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