The good samaritan

May 21, 2009

So I was reading this morning in Leviticus, and not one, but two passages made me think of that particular story Jesus tells the lawyer in the Gospel of Luke.  Leviticus 19.18 is what Jesus is quoting when he says “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”  I was stunned that this verse that Jesus quotes is specifically about how you treat other Jews.  I hadn’t realized that before.
And then when I got to Leviticus 21, which is all about the priests, the first thing commanded of the sons of Aaron is “no one shall defile himself for a dead person among his people, except for his relatives who are nearest to him, his mother and his father and his son and his daughter and his brother, and also for his virgin sister. ”   And I said, “woah”.

Remember those priests in the story of the good samaritan?  When they come up on the guy, Jesus has said in the story that the guy was beaten and naked and looked half dead(luke 10.30).  Those priests are not being the uncaring, insensitve jerks I’ve always been told they were by walking past him on the road.  They went so far as to pass by him on the other side of the path, because if they go look to see if he’s dead and it turns out that he is, then they are defiled and can’t be priests anymore.  Or if they start to help him and he dies while they are helping him…..defiled.  It’s a lose/lose situation for them, and they know it because they have been told this part of the law since they were kids.

Here’s the kicker though, and I think this is the point Jesus was making to his lawyer friend.  While the priest and the Levite are keeping the law by not touching him, the samaritan is fulfilling the law in helping him.  The context for this whole story was that the lawyer has answered Jesus correctly on the fulfillment of the law which leads to eternal life(v25-28), but then wants to what? justify himself(v29).  So we get the question, “who is my neighbor?”

I am that lawyer every day.  I seek to justify myself by asking “what must I do?” and hoping for the easy answer.  That lawyer wants Jesus to say “love your fellow Jew” because he can do that and he has done it, it’s easy for him.  Jesus rocks his world by giving him a situation where fulfilling the law is in almost complete contradiction of keeping the law.  He’s also rocking mine.  What about you?  Is Jesus asking you to fulfill the law in your life instead of just keeping it?

p.s.  You don’t really want to just be keeping the law.  it’s too much to even keep and you’ll only end of condemning yourself.  That’s what the lawyer didn’t realize and Jesus was showing him, that keeping the law won’t get him anywhere without a mediator to fulfill it on his behalf.  Praise God that Jesus is that mediator, for both that supid lawyer and stupid me.

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