Teaching about Compassion

KEY VERSE: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” —Luke 10:27


WHILE Jesus was engaged in teaching the people, a lawyer (an expert in the Mosaic Law) endeavored to trap him by asking him what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus in turn asked the lawyer what the Law said, and when he answered by quoting our key verse, Jesus commended him for answering correctly. But the lawyer was still intent upon trying to embarrass Jesus and so he asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (vs. 29) From the lawyer’s point of view this was a loaded question, for the scribes confined this term to their own nation, sect, friends, and connections, and felt no obligation to love others at all. Jesus did not answer the question directly, but rather related an example so obvious that the lawyer could answer the question for himself.

The situation as related by Jesus was as follows: “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.” (vss. 30-33) Jesus continued the narrative, stating that the Samaritan bound up the man’s wounds, took him to an inn and there nursed him during the night. The next day he made provision for his expenses until the man was able to depart.

The lawyer could not have missed the point that it was the Samaritan who showed compassion. It is generally assumed that the unfortunate man was a Jew. But disregarding the strong national and religious prejudices as well as the contempt and hatred with which the Jews in general treated the Samaritans, and overlooking the hindrance, trouble, danger, and expense involved, this Samaritan showed mercy and compassion on a fellow human being. The narrative complete, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which now of these three thinkest thou was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” (vs. 36) The lawyer answered that it was he who showed mercy. Jesus said, “Go and do thou likewise.”

When we consider this whole episode in the context of the lawyer’s first question of what he should do to inherit eternal life, it is evident why he was not able to attain to life through the Law Covenant. He, and also the nation of Israel, were endeavoring to comply with the terms of the Law by adhering to the letter. They had completely overlooked the spirit of the Law. The implication to be drawn from the remark by Jesus, “Go and do likewise,” is that by keeping both the spirit and the letter of the Law, he could earn eternal life.

But we know that it is impossible for imperfect man to keep God’s perfect law, for the Apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20) But we also know that the footstep followers of the Master, having been justified by his blood, are able to keep the righteousness of the Law. “For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [for a sin offering], condemned sin in the flesh. That the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”—Rom. 8:3,4

Enlarging further on the essence of the Law in expressing its spirit, the apostle states in Romans 13:7-10: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law. For this, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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