How do we inherit eternal life? Some would say you just need to believe. But in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells us actions speak louder than words.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Who is our neighbor? We are often confronted with this question in our daily lives as we encounter the calling to treat others with compassion. In this reading, Jesus tells the parable of the Samaritan who cared for the man who fell victim to robbers but was ignored by many.
It’s interesting the way in which Jesus tells the parable and asks the law scholar which was the neighbor. It wasn’t in terms of who lives closest to you, but in term of who dispenses mercy. Most likely none of those who passed by the victim lived next door to him, nor very likely near him, although Jesus doesn’t address that in the parable. But I think we can assume they were all strangers. Yet Jesus and the law scholar agree, the neighbor was the one who treated the victim, who showed mercy.
When we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, then, we are told to treat everyone in need as ourselves and to do so with mercy and compassion. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus, having set the example through his parable. “Do this and you will live” — inherit eternal life.