25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
I am sure you all might have heard the familiar story of the man who wanted guidance about a major decision. He started to close his eyes and not knowing where to look, wanted God to answer him. In the dilemma, he opened his Bible, put his finger down to get guidance from whatever verse his finger happened to land on. His first try brought him to Matthew 27:5, “Judas went out and hanged himself.” Thinking that verse was really not much help, he determined to try again. This time his finger landed on Luke 10:37, “Go thou and do likewise.” Still undeterred and not ready to give up, he tried it a third time and his finger landed on John 13:27, “What thou doest, do quickly.”
Today our church celebrates as Youth Sunday and meditates on the theme Youth Sunday: Life Focused on the Word.
The lawyer who comes before Jesus is well versed with the Word of God. When he comes before Jesus asking a genuine doubt he is faced with a counter question by Jesus. What is written in the law? What do you read there?
He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”
What is curious about his response is that we won’t find this quote anywhere in the Old Testament together or at one place. Instead, it is a combination of two verses: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5) And, Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:18)
We see that the lawyer was well versed with the Word and linked these two verses to give as an answer. His answer was perfectly right. And Jesus responds with a nod, “Do this and you will live.” But he did not understand the meaning and to make him understand what it is to have a life focused on the Word Jesus tells this parable.
How can we have a life focused on the Word? Is our life focused on the Word?
- I Need To Journey From Head To Heart
All the characters in this story are revealed except the man who has been robbed and found in a half dead position. He is the only one who is completely anonymous. The other characters can be identified with a group. A priest, a Levite and a Samaritan.
The abandoned man could have been a priest, a Levite or a Samaritan or a Jew. We do not know which particular group he belongs to. He could have been one of these. He could not be identified due to the following reasons:
a. He has been stripped of one of the most distinctive cultural signs, his clothes.
b. Because he was abandoned half-dead he cannot talk, so he cannot be identified with any linguistic group.
These are the two ways by which we can identify a person.
The priest was the first one to come along the road. He sees the person. If the man isn’t a Jew, it creates a problem, for a Jew would not want to touch a non- Jew. And if he is dead, then the priest will be defiled, which creates an even greater problem.
Priests collected and distributed the tithe brought to the Jerusalem temple. If the priest touches this man, especially if he is dead, then the priest will be defiled, unable either to take food at the temple or to distribute it to his family or servants. He will have to go through a full week of cleansing, and then suffer humiliation by having to stand at the Eastern Gate with the defiled. In the end, he will lose four weeks’ pay.
The priest was smart for bypassing the robbed man. Anyone with a reasonable brain would know he had to look after himself, his family and his servants first.
Then, along comes the Levite, the lowest of the three orders in Israel’s priesthood. It is his job to assist the temple priests on Sabbaths and feast days. He too like the priest ahead of him, is bound by the same laws of uncleanness as the priest. Furthermore, he is afraid of robbers. When he arrives at the scene, he knows the priest has gone on, so how can he, a lesser person in the religious pecking order, do what the priest refused to do?
But the Samaritan was different. The difference that we see in the priest, levite and Samaritan is the way they thought – the priest and Levite with their mind and the Samaritan with his heart.
V.33,34 tells why the Samaritan could not move forward seeing this man whose identity was unknown. He felt compassionate.
Compassion comes only when we think with our hearts. Jesus didn’t think logically. He was so in love with the world that he could not think logically or with mind. He thought with heart and so was ready to give away his life for our sake.
Much more than any generation we today think more with our mind than with our heart. A child’s love towards his father or mother once he/she is grown up resembles with the attitude of the priest and the Levite. But a parent’s love for their children even after they are grown up is like that of the Samaritan’s. They always think with their heart. If a problem comes they are ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of their children. But the vice versa is seldom true.
2. I Need To Journey From Concepts And Thoughts To Behaviour
It is not at all an exaggeration if we say that the lawyer was well versed with the Law and Word. Jesus too accepts it. Jesus’ reply refers to the Law and the lawyer’s understanding of it.
According to Joachim Jeremias, German Lutheran theologian, scholar of Near Eastern Studies and university professor for New Testament studies., in his book The Parables of Jesus says that the Greek verb anaginosko does not mean “to read” but “to recite.” Therefore, the question of Jesus should be understood as: “How do you recite?” which implies a daily recitation such as regular prayer.
The lawyer knows the law, he knows what he must to do to inherit eternal life, but he does not practice it. It has only been a recitation but he never knew how to interpret it or translate it.
Today most of the misunderstandings that have happened in our family or social life if analyzed is because our thoughts and concepts have not been translated into action.
3. I Need To Journey From Being A Professional Christian To A Professing Christian.
If the priest and the Levite were bound by the laws of uncleanness then it applied to the Samaritan also.
The Samaritan also faces the problem of contamination. As well, he is a prime target for robbers. The thieves might respect the priest or the Levite, but who cares about Samaritans? The priest and the Levite have ignored the man in trouble and he may ask himself, “Why should I help?”
But through his acts he shows that the instinct of helping one in need is a God instinct. We mirror God when our lives reflect God’s imprint.
What the Samaritan does is also symbolically important. He uses wine to disinfect the wounds and oil as salve to aid the healing process. And where else are these elements used? In the temple. They are used in worship back up in Jerusalem.
The Samaritan connects temple worship to everyday life. What we do in worship on Sunday is not removed from the situations we meet the rest of the week. As oil and wine are used to worship God in the temple, so are they to be used to disinfect and heal.
The priest and the Levite, as professionals, used oil and wine in their temple worship. In fact, they have just finished their work in Jerusalem. But when human need stares them in the face, it never occurs to them that what they use for worship can also be used for healing. Instead, it is the hated Samaritan who gives the ultimate worship, and by obedience used temple material for good.
Have we today become professional Christian or professing Christian?
Jesus sets the parable between Jerusalem and Jericho. And what do they represent? Jerusalem is the center of worship, the holy place where people go to meet God. There the highest form of worship is experienced and expressed. Jericho is the city Joshua cursed when the children of Israel first broke into the promised land: “Cursed before the Lord in the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho” (Joshua 6:26)
Jesus connects these two cities and by doing so tells us that in his world there is no distinction between the divine and the profane, sacred and secular, holy and worldly. We cannot worship in Jerusalem and then walk to Jericho as if what we have done in the temple has nothing to do with what we see on the road.
For my life to be focused on the word I need to travel long and the path is not easy.
- I Need To Journey From Brain To Heart
- I Need To Journey From Concepts (ആശയം) And Thoughts (സങ്കല്പം) To Behaviour (പെരുമാറ്റരീതി)
- I Need To Journey From Being A Professional Christian To A Professing Christian.