This is Luke’s version of the Great Commandment. The idea of which comes from a prayer out of Deuteronomy 6, a prayer that both Jesus and the lawyer in the story would have known well. VERY well. We just heard about this in confirmation last Sunday, a prayer known as the Shema and all Jews use it a lot. Kind of like how followers of Christ generally know the Lord’s prayer, the Shema is that well known. Within this prayer, the Shema, in this greatest commandment in Luke chapter 10 we hear the lawyer tell us once again, “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.” Basically, we are to love God with everything we have. That’s the greatest commandment. And along with loving God? Or as we’ve heard Jesus say it in Matthew, “The second is like unto the first, love your neighbor as yourself.
It seems like a reasonable commandment. Not that God’s commands have to be reasonable, I guess but as I think about it most of God’s commands really are pretty reasonable all in all. Take a day off every week, that’s our Sabbath. Don’t murder people, outright or with the words of our mouth. Honor your parents. Don’t steal. All those kinds of things that God commands us to do don’t stretch the imagination too much. They’re pretty reasonable, all things being equal.
They may be reasonable but that doesn’t mean we like all of them a whole bunch. It happens to most of us at one time or another and he lawyer in this story is kind of in that mindset. Not liking the command to love God and love neighbor as he’s been told, he wants some details. He wants some clarification. Perhaps it is some wiggle room that he’s looking for. Who is my neighbor, he wants to know? C’mon buddy, it’s not that complicated. You just don’t sound like you want to love your neighbor even though God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are pointing you that way.
A point that Jesus makes to him quite clearly. The good Samaritan story has been told and retold for a couple thousand years and the point of it is pretty straightforward. We love God as we love our neighbor. Even when we don’t want to. Perhaps especially when we don’t want to. A Jewish man is beaten and robbed. The people who should have helped him just passed on by and the one person who would have been despised, the Samaritan, does stop to help.
We have to ask ourselves today what this story says to us. It’s pretty easy to stake out territory in a fit of self-righteousness but in any interaction we have with others, we have to ask ourselves, am I the priest, the Levite or am I the Samaritan? It is pretty clear from this story which one Jesus asks us to be. Not under command or coercion but because Jesus is our Samaritan, saving us from the ditch we’ve fallen into. Saving us from our sin as he goes to the cross and dies, asking nothing in return.
That’s what we’re responding to. That’s what we’re called to. That’s what we’re drawn to. Loving God and loving neighbor. It’s not that unreasonable.