From the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 22:35) a lawyer asked the Lord Jesus a question, trying to “tempt” Him: “Master, what is the great commandment in the law?”
In the book of Luke we see that Jesus is questioned by “a certain lawyer“ who wanted to “tempt” Him into saying some-thing he could take issue with. There is some evidence that this is the same incident.
In Matthew’s version the lawyer asks which is the “great commandment” but Luke has Jesus asking the lawyer a question. In any case, it’s the answer which interests us most in our study. Here the lawyer indicated that the law requires a man to love God totally-and his neighbor as himself. When Jesus agreed with him, the lawyer was not satisfied. Still trying to justify his own lack of love, the lawyer came up with another question: “And who is my neighbour?” (v.29).
Now Jesus could have given the response, “Neighbor means fellowman; you are to love everybody.” But if He had said that, the lawyer would likely have replied, “But how can I love everybody? I don’t know everybody:’ so rather than answering directly, Jesus told a parable to illustrate His meaning. Let’s look at it.
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (KJV)
Now this story is an allegory, each of the people and events portrayed in it are symbolic. The man lying in the road represents Adam, or man. As Adam was traveling on his way, he fell among thieves. Who is the thief in John 10:10 who comes to steal, kill and destroy? Satan! In verse 30 we see that the enemy did three things to this man (representing the three curses of the law):
1) “Stripped him of his raiment” (representing poverty);
2) “Wounded him” (representing physical sickness); and,
3) “Departed, leaving him half dead” (representing spiritual death). “Half dead” means that he was dead spiritually, but still alive physically.
The priest of verse 31 is a type of the law. The Levite in verse 32 is a type of the ritual of the law. This signifies that neither the law nor rituals can save a person. Next came the Good Samaritan. Can you guess who he symbolizes? He is the Savior.
Now let me ask you something. When the lawyer asked the Lord what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus agreed with him that if he would love God with all his being and love his neighbor as himself, he would live. Jesus then told a parable which seemed to illustrate the point that loving one’s neighbor was enough to qualify a person for heaven. Can a person really inherit eternal life by loving his neighbor? Do you think that if you just love your next door neighbor that is enough to save you? Is loving the man who works next to you on the job all it takes for you to enter the kingdom of God? No, we both know that just loving our neighbor will not get us into heaven. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, apart from our “works”.
The question the lawyer asked originally was, “And who is my neighbour?” (v.29). But the question Jesus asked at the end of His parable was, “Which of these, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (v.37.) Do you see the difference? The neighbor was not the man on the road who needed help; the neighbor was the man who provided the help! And who was he? Who was neighbor to the man in need?
Who was neighbor to the man who fell among thieves? “He that shewed mercy on him” (v. 37). The Good Samaritan. So then the Good Samaritan might better be called the Good Neighbor! Who did we say the Good Samaritan represented? The Savior. So then when we love our NEIGHBOR as ourself, who do we love? We love the Lord JESUS! It is by loving, serving, believing in Him that we are saved: It was this same Jesus, this same Good Neighbor, who showed mercy on us when we had fallen among thieves.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
So that’s why we should love our neighbor as ourself. We love because God first loved us and gave Himself for us, and because He tells us, “Go, and do thou likewise.” Now we are to be the GOOD NEIGHBOR. We are the body of Christ, the Good Neighbor. So let’s follow the Lords example.