The Gospel tells of a certain lawyer who “stood up and tested” Jesus trying to trick Him. He asked a question many of us ask either directly or in the secret of our prayers, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10.25) Our contemporary society seems to be preoccupied with this question. In hospital waiting rooms every day, family members of terminally ill patients are asking doctors, “What can we do to save his life?” Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year, mostly during the last few months of life trying to achieve eternal life, or at least prolong death indefinitely.
The answer Jesus offers to us is not at all what we might expect. Following a dialogue with the lawyer and offering the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10.37) What exactly are we supposed to do? The Good Samaritan was the only one who actually went TO the dying man and co-suffered with Him, while all the others kept their distance. It was the Good Samaritan whom Jesus defined as our “neighbor” – turning upside down the hypocrisy of the lawyer. In order for us to have eternal life, we must go up close to those who are suffering and bear their suffering along with them.
The Samaritan “went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10.34) This was not at all what the lawyer had in mind when he proudly asked, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10.29) presuming he had no equals, and that he was above the others. Eternal life was not something he would do for himself, but what he would do for others. So the next time you find yourself asking what can be done so you can live longer, consider the answer....and then go out and co-suffer with someone in need.