A lawyer puts a question to Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with the two great commandments – love for God and love for your neighbor. “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is not enough to know the law.
With Jesus, word and deed are one, and to “do” the law is to live. When faced with human suffering, an immediate need, those who only know the law pass by. It is not enough to grow in knowledge if we do not move from the realm of the theoretical to the domain of the practical. God’s law finds fulfillment in acts of love, and God’s kingdom is open to all who combine knowing and doing.
Paul asks God to grant the Colossians knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual discernment. He encourages them to lead lives “worthy of the Lord,” fully pleasing to God (v. 10). Discernment assists in using knowledge beyond one’s self. Even Amos, a humble herdsman and “a dresser of sycamore trees” was not a member of the knowledgable prophetic guilds, yet he had been called to prophesy to Israel. The justice of God that Amos declared to the people of Israel is also proclaimed in Psalm 82. God is depicted as a ruler of the Divine council, for only then will there be justice for the weak and the needy, and protection from the wicked. Knowledge and understanding will not suffice nor save.
Leader: We praise the Spirit which unifies us as one people. But the plenitude of our gifts disturbs us. We seek to know the truth, but trust only our own truth.
People: We seek to feed the hungry, but trust only the manna gathered by our own hands.
Leader: We seek to see the plumb line hanging in our midst, but tilt our heads and move our bodies to see the angle we want.
All: We have failed to celebrate the life gifts of all persons. We have failed, even in this community, to feed and be fed with those gifts. We have failed to work and to wait for justice. (Wheadon United Methodist Church, Evanston, Illinois)
Many hospitals are named “Good Samaritan,” reflecting the compassion expressed in the gospel story. In the congregation, acts of mercy inform the life and prayers of its people. As the despised Samaritan responded to the man in needs, we recognize God’s presence in the lives of those often considered our enemies as well as the sick, outcast, poor, and despondent.
- As you read the Gospel passage, put yourself in the place of the lawyer. What do you think motivated his original question? What might his reactions have been throughout his exchange with Jesus?
- How would you define the word love as used in the two great commandments?
- How do you love God with your heart, soul, strength, and mind?
- In Luke 10:37, Jesus tells us that a neighbor is one who shows mercy. How would you define mercy in this context? Who has been a true neighbor to you in your life?
- How can we apply Jesus’ principle in a world where we encounter the needs of people all over the world?
Image: “The Good Samaritan” by Vincent Van Gogh (1890). Look carefully to see the two figures who have chosen not to become involved in the injured man’s plight continue their journey on the road. The victim’s travel bag, emptied by the assailant-robber, lies open and empty beside the road at the left. The red-bearded Samaritan struggles to lift the injured man onto his horse. The victim attempts to assist by pushing and lifting his injured body onto the mount.