From Who to Which, the parable of five questions – Monday, 27th week in ordinary time – Lk 10:25-37  

Life is all about asking the right questions and the lawyer certainly had a question with a hope attached to it; WHAT must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with two other question, “WHAT is written in the law?” and “WHAT do you read there?” Now we have three questions and no answer yet.

The lawyer in the parable is often made out to have malicious intent because the narrative tells us that he wished to “test” Jesus. I would like to suggest that we cut him some slack, for he also seems to be a respectful chap; he addressed Jesus as “teacher” and went on to answer the Lord’s question respectfully. 

While the lawyer wanted to ‘test’ the Lord, Jesus wanted to test the lawyers understands of the law and this lawyer certainly had more than just rudimentary knowledge; he had a remarkable understanding too. In response to Jesus’ double question he combines two teaching from the Old Testament, the Shema from the book of Deuteronomy and a teaching from Leviticus. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” And Jesus is impressed! For the young man wanted to know what he must DO to enter into eternal life and his response is more than correct prompting Jesus to say, “DO this and you will live.”

But now there seems to be a problem.  The lawyer feels compelled to be justified by his belief of who really is a neighbour. One must understand that because the lawyer begins with another question WHO, it does not mean there is a dilemma in his mind. You see in the lawyer’s mind as in the mind of any Jew, their neighbour was any Jew, as long as he was a Jew! This is why scripture records this question not as one with a desire to know the answer but as one with the desire to be “justified.” He wanted Jesus to validate his belief and hence the fourth question, “WHO is my neighbour?”

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