Luke 10:30-37 (NLT)
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
A Jewish scribe or lawyer was testing Jesus by asking Him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked the man what the law of Mose’s had said. He replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” He was looking to justify his own actions. The man then asked who his neighbor was, because he knew in his heart there were people he did not treat fairly. So Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan above.
The man answering Jesus did not focus on the first part of his answer, which was that a person should love God with all their heart. That was easy enough to hide and leave open to interpretation. After all, one person cannot see another’s heart. Instead he focused on what everyone else could see and that was how he treated his neighbors. So he wanted to ensure who his neighbor was. Jesus instead showed him his flawed thinking. Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to point out how someone that would not be considered a neighbor was the only one who helped a Jewish man in distress. While the man thought he would always be the one giving, there are actually times when a person needs the love, grace and mercy of another. And if their heart has never been open to helping others they cannot see how another might be able to help them. It’s like us; we need to open our hearts so Christ can work through us to reach others. And because of Christ reaching to help us we can do that.