Jesus and the Expert in Law. Who is my Neighbor?



One day an expert in law came to meet Jesus. During the times of Jesus if a man needs to be called an expert he needs to have complete knowledge in the book of laws. This man who came to meet Jesus had mastered or memorized the entire old testament laws. Such men during the days of Jesus were well respected in the community. This expert in the law was proud of his intelligence and knowledge. He asked Jesus, "Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?"

This was not a new question for Jesus. Few years before Nicodemus asked Jesus about eternal life. Nicodemus was a rich and powerful man. But he went to Jesus with humbleness and eagerness to know the truth. He wants to know what He can do to reach eternal life and ready to do it. Jesus in turn spent time with Nicodemus and explained many things not only to him but also to us. It is recorded in John chapter 3. But when the expert in the law asked the same question Jesus did not observe any genuineness or humbleness in his question. The expert in the law took eternal life lightly and he was more interested in questioning Jesus. 

Hence, instead of answering the question, Jesus asked the same question back to the expert. He proudly answered the question from his memory immediately. "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 really proved his knowledge by answering the questions.

In other words, the expert in the law asked a question for which he already knew the answer. But Jesus knew deep in his heart the expert only knew the answer to the question but he never practiced it in his life. Hence Jesus asked him to go back and practice what he said. Reading the Bible and following it is a three-step process. 

  1. We need to read the Bible
  2. We have to understand how to apply the Bible in our life.
  3. We need to convert our understanding to application in our personal life.

The expert in the law knew the Bible, but he had a question on the understanding and on the application of it. He wanted to know, who is the neighbor so that he can love them. Jesus starts answering through an illustration. 

Priest Who Never knew the application:

There was a Jew who traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem is known for its peace and Jericho for its curse. While the Jew was traveling through the road to Jericho, he was attacked by thieves and beaten almost to death. While the jew was lying on the road and looking for help, a Jewish priest came by. The priest knew the old testament commandments very well. He knew he had to love the fellow Jew. He preached the law many times in the temple. But he decided to cross the road and decided to pass by the injured man as if he has not seen him. The priest never understood what he has preached to others. He did not think through the application of the laws while he preached it to others.

We might also end up in this category of people. We may be someone who regularly attends church and share the good news of the gospel with others. But unless we consciously focus on Bible and understand the application of it, we might end up missing what God is trying to teach us.

Temple Assistant Who knew the application but never applied

Next, a temple assistant came by that way. He heard many sermons about eternal life. He also knew about loving others. He came by the man lying on the road. He came closer to the man lying on the road and looked at him. He remembered the application of the Bible. But the temple assistant's heart was not ready to apply what he knew already. He moved on with his worldly business.

Some of us might fall under the category of temple assistant. We might know the Bible. We might have also understood the application of it. But we might end up never applying it in our life. 

Samaritan Who knew little about the law but knew how to apply it

Lastly, the Samaritan came that way. The Samaritans were not even allowed to enter the temple of God. They were considered as an outcast and restricted to the outer court of the temple. They hardly could attend and hear any sermon given by the priest. But the Samaritan knew about loving others like the priest and the temple assistant. Unlike the priest and temple assistant, the samaritan carefully thought through the application of what he read and applied it to the Jew lying half-dead on the road to Jericho. The samaritan knelt before him. He took the oil and poured it on his wounds. Cleaned all the wounds then took him in the donkey. He put the Jew in the inn and paid the inn to keep to take care of him. The money he paid could have covered for food and stay worth two weeks during the times of Jesus.

Jesus makes a clear point to the expert in law. The Bible is all about applying it in our own personal life first. The first priority while reading the bible should be given to preaching to us and then to others by understanding the application of every scripture.

Now Jesus asked a question back to the expert in the law, who is the neighbor to the Jewish man who was hurt. The expert in the law was in a difficult position. If he says Samaritan then he has to love him as he loves himself. But deep in his heart, he hated the Samaritans. Hence he is not close to the application of the scriptures he has studied for many years. 

Jesus communicates a powerful message to us. Following Jesus is not just about knowing the Bible but knowing the application of it and applying the same in our life. 

Finally, who is our neighbor? The Jews and Samaritans hate each other. Jews consider Samaritan as an abomination. Our neighbor could be a person whom we hate, whom we thought there is nothing good in him, or an abomination to our community. 

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