Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 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.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ Luke 10.25-28
Word of Hope
This short passage is the lead-in to the story of the Good Samaritan. I think this section sometimes gets overshadowed by the more well-known parable that follows. But there are some things here worth consideration. Specifically I find two ideas of note: Who says something and what things are not said.
A lawyer comes to Jesus looking for the key to eternal life. In our day when we think of lawyer we think of civil or criminal law. But this lawyer was most likely a Temple lawyer, steeped in Jewish law; perhaps a colleague of Saul of Tarsus.
Jesus does not answer him; at least not directly. Instead Jesus asks the lawyer what is in the law. And what happens next ties into the two considerations to which I referred. Here is a lawyer. He knows the Jewish law. He knows section and paragraphs or chapter and verse if you will. He knows the Torah, Deuteronomy, and all the laws in those books. Yet he mentions nothing of dietary restrictions, clothing materials, gender, sex, sacrificing bulls, giving Temple alms, or even study. He passes up all of that with ‘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.’
So it is the lawyer, not Jesus who says what the law is. And he says nothing about all those nit-picky rules, regulations, and laws of the Torah.
What is important here? Jesus has caused the lawyer to think about what he already knows; but does not do. How often in the Gospels does Jesus tell some Temple authorities that they just don’t get it? They are following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. This lawyer has been led to see that he already knows the law, but must be told to act upon it. ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
Loving God, open our eyes to see what we already know. Open our hearts to love You with all our being. And through Your love, let us love ourselves so that we can live our neighbors.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare.