Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Luke 10:25-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
A legal expert stood up to test Jesus’ understanding of the law. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”
Jesus replied, as he often did, with a question: “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” The answer was obvious. You could stop anyone on the streets of Jerusalem or in the Galilean villages and asked them this question and they would answer, “Everybody knows the answer to that question ‘love God and love your neighbor’.” The legal expert answered the question, quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
But the legal expert wanted to prove himself right, so he asked another question: “And who is my neighbor?” This is the more pointed question. Not it really gets down to living the law. The lawyer was really asking, “Well I need to know who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to loving as God loves and as God commands. He was asking about the limits of love. Really, he was asking, “Who do I have to love?”
Jesus never really answered that question at all. Instead, he told a parable about a person in need and a person who helps—the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Then, Jesus asked, “What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus simply said, “Go and do likewise.”
I wonder if the lawyer left scratching his head and asking, “What just happened here? I asked him ‘Who is my neighbor?’ and he told me to go and BE a neighbor to others.” Because Jews and Samaritans hated each other, Jesus’ point is clear: everyone is your neighbor. Everyone.
Saul Bellow argues that Jewish culture would never have survived without the stories that gave moral meaning and force to Jewish tradition. One of those stories goes like this:
There was once a rabbi in a small Jewish village in Russia who vanished every Friday morning for several hours. The devoted villagers boasted that during these hours their rabbi ascended to heaven to talk with God. A skeptical newcomer determined to discover where the rabbi really went.
One Friday morning the newcomer hid near the rabbi’s house, watched him rise, say his prayers and put on the clothes of a peasant. He saw him take an ax and go into the forest, chop down a tree and gather a large bundle of wood. Next the rabbi proceeded to a shack in the poorest section of the village in which lived an old woman and her sick son. He left them the wood which was enough for the week. The rabbi then quietly returned to his own house.
The story concludes that the newcomer stayed on in the village and became a disciple of the rabbi. And whenever he heard one of his fellow villagers say, “On Friday morning our rabbi ascends all the way to Heaven,” the newcomer quietly added, “if not higher.”
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster