In The Parable of the Good Samaritan, a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him that he must love God and love his neighbor as himself. The lawyer then asks who his neighbor is, and Jesus responds with a parable.
In this parable, a Jewish man gets beaten up and left in very bad condition. Three people pass by on the road where he is located, but only one, the Samaritan, stops and helps the man. Jesus tells the lawyer to go and do likewise.
Usually we hear this passage in reference to taking care of the poor or going out of our way to help those who are less fortunate than us. While those things are true, it cannot be what Jesus meant about how to get eternal life.
Jesus’ answer to the lawyer wasn't about "getting into heaven." It had everything to do with finding more freedom and life in Him, starting here on Earth.
Let’s look at the three men who pass by:
- A Priest. Since the man on the road was half dead, the only way the priest could have known if he was alive would be to go over to him. However, in doing so, he would risk violating the law which prohibits anyone from touching a dead man. His internal struggle would have been: "I know I should help this Jewish brother. However, if I do go to help him, and he is dead, then I am done as a priest for a while, not to mention the pain it will be to get cleansed." On this day, the rules and regulations of religion won.
- A Levite. The Levite was another religious person, responsible for the daily tasks of the temple, who would have known that it was correct to help his brother in need. Like the priest, his concern for purity outweighed his desire to help the man.
- A Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, so he was the last person they would have expected to help. However, he offered wine to clean his wounds and oil to ease the pain. He took him to an inn to continue his care until he was fully recovered. He saw through to the end what he felt God would have had him to do.
Remember, this is a story that Jesus is telling to show the man how to receive eternal life. These two religious men thought they knew how eternal life was found. But the very thing that prevented them from helping is also the thing they needed to let go of to find the life Jesus offered.
Jesus ends the story by telling him “to go and do likewise.” Why? He wants us to experience the abundant life He has died to give us. It comes by experiencing His love in greater measure by being obedient to His Father’s will.
Jesus shows us that eternal life is not something you get when you die; it is something that you find when you are obedient to what the Father places in front of you to do.
In our obedience we find greater and greater freedom. The more freedom we have, the more we experience the promises of the Kingdom of Heaven (eternal life) here on earth.