Biblical Favorites by Jim Lewis
A lawyer came to Jesus one day and asked him a question that we would all probably like to ask and have answered. The question was, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Many people today simply think of eternal life as living after they pass out of the body. But eternal life for Jesus was more than this. Eternal life for Jesus was living on a higher level of consciousness and experience in which there was no death. The question may be asked also, “What must I do to be assured of happiness, peace, and continued existence whether in the body or out of the body?” Or one might ask, “What must I do to overcome the many cycles of death and rebirth?”
If the lawyer had known what he was getting into in trying to trick Jesus with his question he might not have asked Jesus anything. For the lawyer was about to receive a very startling and shocking answer. But first Jesus asked the lawyer a question. He asked him what was written in the Law of Moses. The lawyer quoted first from Deut. 6:5 where it reads, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” He then added a passage from Leviticus 19:18 where it reads, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him, “Do this and you shall live.” Do this and you shall have peace of mind, happiness, and eternal life. That was a big demand, probably much more than the lawyer could realize or do.
To love the Lord with all the heart, soul, and might means that we are to put God first in everything. It means that we are to desire a relationship with the indwelling Lord above all human relationships. This relationship and the following of God’s guidance comes before family relationships and it comes before all our human desires for things and experiences. “With all your might” means that we must put forth all our human and spiritual efforts to do the will of God and we must do this in spite of all the obstacles and challenges that confront us. We will soon see how challenging it is to do what Jesus is suggesting to the lawyer. It is much easier to try to use our metaphysical knowledge to visualize and get things, to make us outwardly prosperous, than it is to use that knowledge and understanding to love our neighbor as our self. It is more beneficial to do as Jesus said, for this will lead to prosperity far greater than anything we can humanly conceive. Loving God and neighbor are essential to obtaining eternal life. And remember, eternal life does not mean poverty, sickness, weakness, bondage, or any other form of limitation. Eternal life means a healthy, deathless body, supply for all needs without human struggle, happiness far beyond our present expectations, and much other good.
The lawyer, beginning to realize that he was getting himself into an argument that would trap him, tried to ease out of it by asking another question. He asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus shocked him by telling him the parable about the Good Samaritan. Remember, as Jesus started telling this parable, the lawyer had no idea about what was coming up. If he did, he would not have asked that question. We do not understand the attitude of the Jews toward Samaritans. When we do, we will see what a shocker this was to the lawyer.
Jesus said a man was on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem and was attacked by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. It was a seventeen mile journey and this stretch of road was noted for its danger. Jericho was a resort area where the off-duty priests and Levites relaxed and had a good time. When a priest came along and saw the man lying on the road, he passed by on the other side. After that a Levite came along and did the same thing. The priest was one who had the important job in the Temple at Jerusalem of performing the sacrifices that were made by the people who came to have their sins forgiven and to worship God who was supposed to be in the “holy of holies” in the Temple. The Levites assisted the priests in these duties. Neither of these men made any effort to help the injured man on the road to Jericho. You would think that being workers in the Temple, helping people to worship God and to get into a closer relationship with God, that they would have been quick to offer aid. They may have thought the man was dead already and if he was and they touched him they would become ritually unclean. Or they may have thought that it was a trap. Maybe they were just eager to get on with their good times in Jericho.
Then along comes a Samaritan. He stops and helps the man. He puts the man on his donkey and takes him to an inn in Jericho. He tells the innkeeper to take care of the man until he recovers and assures the innkeeper that he will take care of the bill. Jesus then asked the lawyer which of the three men was a neighbor to the injured man. It must have been very painful for the lawyer to admit that the Samaritan was more noble than the priest or the Levite. The Jews thought of the Samaritans as half-breeds and racially and religiously impure. They hated these Samaritans with a passion. The Samaritans were a mixture that took place when the Assyrians captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. So you can see how long this racial hatred had been smouldering in the minds and hearts of the people. When Jesus’ disciples came back from town one day and found Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, they were shocked. It was because he was associating and talking with a Samaritan, something that a good Jew would even go out of his way not to do.
The lawyer thought of his neighbor as being a fellow Jew. Can you now see how possibly shocked this lawyer was when Jesus said in so many words that his neighbor is that Samaritan that he hated so much? Do as the Samaritan has done. Love as much as the Samaritan has loved in helping the injured. This Samaritan that you thought was so unclean and unholy is yet more noble and holy and loving than your beloved priest and Levite. Do good to those who are in trouble even if it does make you ritually unclean.
This is a needed lesson for some metaphysical teachers today. When I began my search for truth I had a shocking experience similar to this in my dealings with a metaphysical teacher. I was in the hospital and called on this teacher for help in prayer and asked the teacher to come and see me. I was told that visiting me in the hospital would lower the consciousness of the teacher and therefore the teacher would not come to see me there but would just pray for me. If visiting the sick in the hospital lowers consciousness then there must not be much of a consciousness to begin with. It is quite a shattering experience when our prejudices are exposed. In so many words Jesus is saying to the lawyer and to anyone who has hidden prejudices, “If you want to experience eternal life, you will have to let go of your resentments, hates, and prejudices. You will have to treat others as favorably as you treat yourself.” It would be something like telling the conservative, saved Christian that the sinner that you thought was going to hell for eternity will get into heaven before you.
When Jesus told the lawyer to “go and do likewise” he gave him a superhuman challenge. If we are to experience a greater realization of life, we too must let go of our negative, limited, and false beliefs. We cannot let the shock cause us to hold on to them more tightly. When we feel uncomfortable about anyone, it is an indication that we have some inner work to do, work in the soul. It indicates that we need to see someone in a new light. It may be that a mate has caused someone great anguish of mind and heart, and resentment and bitterness and rejection has taken over. These negative qualities must be released in order for the individual to experience the blessings of eternal life.
We should keep in mind as an aid to releasing possible negative thoughts and emotions that the beliefs, attitudes, and feelings that we hold in consciousness have an effect upon us. These negative mental and emotional expressions may never touch the one toward whom they are projected, but they do affect us and it is to our advantage to release them. We cannot just cover them up; we cannot repress them and act as if they do not exist.
The Samaritan did not stop to ask if the man on the road deserved help. He did not make any effort to see if the man could eventually pay him back. He did not even consider his own safety. He just helped without question. At another time Jesus made this point even more specific. He says, “Pray for those who despitefully use you.” On the human level we usually want to eliminate those who take advantage of us. But Jesus says we should pray for them. Does he mean that we should pray for them even while they are doing their negative work? That is especially when we should pray for them. Instead of striking back in our own defense, we should pray for those who are treating us shabbily. That is strong medicine for the human ego. However, praying for someone who is acting negatively will open the way for divine order to be established. When we pray for others we will soon realize that they cannot take advantage of us, that they cannot use us. We will realize that they are harming themselves more than they are harming us.
We do not pray for them as many of the writers in the Psalms prayed. Those writers prayed that God would destroy their enemies and cause them as much pain and hardship or even more than they were causing. Jesus is saying that we should pray instead for the illumination and the highest good of others. We do not pray that they do what we want them to do. We do not pray that they immediately stop some habit that disturbs us. We give them total freedom to do as they want to do. We give them the same freedom that God gives us. We pray knowing that what they want to do cannot harm us or make us unhappy. What they do cannot take our good from us, for our good comes from God and it cannot be stopped.
Doing what Jesus suggests seems difficult and it seems that we might lose. But remember Jesus said we would gain eternal life and that means health, happiness, supply for all our needs, and much more. The priest and Levite lost even though they went to Jericho and had a good time. The Samaritan was the one who gained. His caring love would no doubt bring greater blessings than the priest and Levite ever had.
Again, the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It is very simple. Jesus does not mention anything about performing rituals. He does not say that the lawyer had to be baptized, join a church, or perform any other ritual. What he does say is that we must love God with all our heart, soul, and might, and love everyone regardless of race, color, creed, or any other classification. We should love those who hate us as much as we love those who love us. We must love those who hate us as much as we love ourselves. Do this, Jesus said, and you shall live.
© 1985, Jim Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.