No one actually achieves this, which is the reason Christ had to provide a different way of obtaining eternal life, through the forgiveness of sins rather than through perfect behavior, as it is written:
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:20-24But in speaking hypothetically, Jesus is correct in answering with the law. He often does this for those in need of a bit of humiliation in order to convict them of sin. For that is the purpose of the law, as Romans above also states - to bring awareness of one's sinfulness.
But, in typical lawyer fashion, this man tried to get around the law, making it more palatable for him. For if the law is to love one's neighbor, perhaps we can limit what "neighbor" means, so as to limit our responsibilities. As amusing as this may seem, I find this attitude of "let me interpret the Bible in such a way that it fits into my chosen lifestyle" rather than deriving our lifestyles from the Bible, to be quite common in the Christian community even to the highest levels. It was in this context that Jesus told this parable.
The priest and the Levite represent the religious elite. These people were characteristically arrogant and hypocritical, treating others they considered to be of a lower class, such as Samaritans, with contempt. Samaritans in particular were looked down upon. For though holding claims on Judaism, they were not pure Jews. They were half-breeds both genetically and theologically, and the Jewish religious elite was also quite racist at the time. Characteristic of Jesus, he loves to humiliate the proud and lift up the humble, and thus he used a Samaritan in his illustration.
But Jesus was not exaggerating in his portrayal of the priest and Levite. And the crowds, as well as the lawyer, knew that. I could well imagine that this priest and Levite would have asked themselves the same question when they saw the man in trouble that the lawyer had asked of Jesus ("Who is my neighbor?"). I can imagine they would have a little theological debate in their mind desperately trying to find some "Biblical" reason for not stopping to help the man. And sure enough, from their years of hard study, they manage to find something to absolve themselves of such responsibility.
Some (certainly not all) study the Bible, even perhaps go to seminary, just to get around what the Bible says. They see a need to be met but through their theology manage to avoid meeting it. In the process of doing this such people often try to bring the righteousness of the law down to a level where it is attainable to them. And thus they miss the righteousness which is by grace through the forgiveness of sins, not having sufficient awareness of their own sinfulness.
But consider the man who exercised a righteous behavior.
Jesus meant for the requirements of the Law to seem overwhelming. And in this way to prepare people, even the self-righteous, to be compelled to receive the gospel of grace. For the gospel of grace contains a righteousness which is apart from the Law, the righteousness from God which comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
|A lawyer once asked,"What must I do
To inherit eternal life, what say you?"
Jesus replied, "What says the Law?"
"To love God and your neighbor without any flaw".
This said the man and Jesus replied,
"Do this and you will be justified".
"But who is my neighbor in what category?"
He said and so Jesus told him this story
A man was going along the way
And suddenly found himself in great dismay
He was robbed, beaten and left for dead
While the robbers took what they would and fled
A priest happened to go down the street
And saw the man whom the robbers did beat
But he passed him by on the other side
He could have helped, but he did not provide
A Levite also did the same.
But finally a Samaritan came.
When he saw he took pity on him
As the man's prospects were clearly grim
He bandaged his wounds pouring on wine and oil
Caring for him with much toil
He took him to an inn and then the next day
Payed for his care while he went away
But told the innkeeper, "I will return
And pay you any extra that you earn"
Now which of these three do you suppose
Was a neighbor to the man, which do you propose?
"The one who showed mercy," the lawyer replies
Jesus answered, "Go and do likewise."
So if you think by the Law you will be saved
You'd better be more than just well behaved
You must love in spirit and not only in letter
Though you think you're good, you must be better.
The Berean Christian Bible Study ResourcesFeb 10,2009