ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS

THE TEACHER OF THE LAW

The teacher of God's law was uneasy. He had thrown a question at Jesus, trying to catch him out in his religious beliefs, and Jesus had turned the conversation around, and put him in the spotlight instead.

Yes, Jesus said, you are right. To inherit eternal life you must 'Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and you must 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'

Then Jesus had added 'Do this and you will live.' Now the teacher felt that it was he who was being put to the test. It was he whose integrity was in question. How should he respond? How could he justify himself in the presence of this Jesus who seemed to see right into his very soul? How could he excuse those many times when he knew he did not show love to his fellow human beings?

Seeking escape from the penetrating eyes of Jesus he asked 'And who is my neighbour?'

The words of the parable of the Good Samaritan fell into his soul like the lashes of a whip. They exposed the poverty of his compassion; they cut away the veneer of his profession of faith and revealed the stark emptiness of his claim to know God's Law. They gave to the words 'love' and 'neighbour' a dimension that he had never before considered. They demanded a love that would reflect the love of God, a love governed by mercy rather than by merit, a love that reached out in extravagant generosity, even towards the unlovely, even towards the enemy, even at great personal expense.

When challenged by the final question of the parable 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man?' he could only whisper 'The one who had mercy on him.' Then he heard Jesus say: 'Go and do likewise.'

From that day on this parable would accompany him, accusing or affirming him in his attitudes and actions to others.

Even so it accompanies us. May we all respond with obedience to its message.

Scriptures: Luke 10:25-37; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:19.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2004,2008