What Shall We do to Inherit Eternal Life?
September 15, 2021
"So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?" Luke 10:36
Who is our neighbor? Is this a question we ever ask ourselves?
There are many responses.
Our neighbor works with us at work. Our neighbor lives next door to us, or across the street or down the road. We stand next to our neighbor on an elevator.
These answers are all correct. But in our text today, Jesus takes the emphasis off the location of a neighbor.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, there is no such thing as a non-neighbor. We show mercy to all.
In out ext, a "certain lawyer" tests Jesus. In other words, he takes issue with Him.
He tries to trap Him in His words.
This "lawyer" represents the "wise and learned" of that day -- the elite -- all who oppose the truth of Christ crucified.
This "expert in the Law" interprets Scripture radically different than Jesus. Proof is in his question, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
This lawyer's question, in referencing Jesus as "Teacher," denies He is the Christ. But, his question also implies he can "do" eternal life. He can earn the gift of eternal life on his own!
"What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
Today, we call it "works-righteousness." It teaches that somehow all our good works outweigh the avalanche of our sins.
Can we count the number of sins we commit in one single day?
Things we should do, but didn't. Things we did but shouldn't do. Counting them is impossible, even just for a day.
One way to tell if someone has fallen away from faith in Christ is the belief they can obey God's law perfectly. They are a good Person. They can earn God's favor.
"What shall we do to inherit eternal life?" Nothing! Believe in the One that fulfills the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms. That is all God asks. Jesus is solely a gift from Him.
Christ dies. He is our substitute for sin. He defeats death by rising. He converts us by the Holy Spirit. He works saving faith in us. These are all God's gifts to us.
To believe it is possible to earn the gift of eternal life means a life looking for loopholes in the Law to justify our actions.
A loophole is what we look for to get around something. In this case, the lawyer looks to get around God's Law.
The lawyer in our text asks Jesus for an interpretation of the Law, in which he opens to find a loophole.
He asks Jesus, "...who is my neighbor?" He expects Him to answer, "only your friends and relatives." And Jesus will praise him for keeping the law. Then the lawyer can depart justified, accepting praise for all his good works for loving God and his neighbor.
But Jesus tells the truth.
No loopholes in God's Law.
To address this, Jesus speaks God's Word with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, a man goes from Jerusalem to Jericho and is robbed, beaten and left for dead on the roadside.
A priest and Levite, both clergymen, both knowledgeable of God's Law, come upon him on the road. Both men know the sum and total of God's Law in the Old Testament is to love God and neighbor.
Maybe the priest and Levite thought the man was dead, and to touch him would make them ceremonially unclean. Then, they must become ceremonially clean again, which is a process of days. A very inconvenient process, too.
Even if the man beaten by the robbers is still alive, the priest and the Levite just don't have time to show mercy. Maybe, they have a sermon to write.
Bottom line, the clergymen make the decision not to show the man any mercy, They just pass him by.
We have tough decisions to make too. To show mercy, or to not show mercy. To show mercy is not always convenient. It means we have to get involved in somebody's life. We don't have time for that. It is not always convenient to work with someone that we don't like. It is just easier to avoid them.
But, showing mercy is closer to home, too. It is not always convenient for spouse to listen to each other unwind. But is shows mercy. It is not always convenient to make the right decision in raising children, but to do so shows mercy too.
In our text, the third person that comes upon the man beaten by robbers is a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans hate each other. Jews despise Samaritans because they are Gentile half-breeds, both physically and spiritually.
But the man left dead by robbers in our text does not care who shows him mercy. He just needs help.
Faith compels the Samaritan. Like us, he wakes that morning not knowing God's will for him. But now he knows.
God brings a new neighbor into he Samaritans life, someone for him to show mercy to. No doubt, God has someone in mind for us today to show mercy to as well.