We all know in an instant when the reporter starts to speak whether they’re asking to draw blood or to seek truth. Before we conclude that the attack question technique was invented in today’s tension filled public square, listen to the question a lawyer asked Jesus in the first century. Was he seeking information or trying to discredit Jesus? And notice that the lawyer’s question is a good one, one we should all ask Jesus.
“Now look, there was a certain lawyer (an expert in the Jewish Law) who stood and testing Jesus, said, ‘Teacher, what must I do so that I will inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responded, ‘What stands written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘Love the LORD, your God, with all you heart and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You answered correctly. This do and you will live.’ But desiring to justify himself, he said, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
Here was an expert with the right question and the right answer. He got an “A” when it came to knowing right answers, but an “F” when it comes to having the right heart. He knew that Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 summarized the essence of the Mosaic Law, but the fact that he was testing Jesus and then tried to justify himself by drawing Jesus into a technical debate on the meaning of the term “neighbor” reveals the true nature of his heart.
In Monday’s devo we will see that Jesus doesn’t dodge the lawyer’s question about our neighbor. In fact he will answer it with one of the most powerful stories He ever told. Today, however, I’m wrestling. Why didn’t Jesus simply tell this lawyer that he was a sinner and needed the cross and the resurrection to inherit eternal life? How could Jesus tell the lawyer he was correct to think that obedience to the first commandment and to the golden rule would qualify someone for heaven?
Meditating on this passage and seeking to answer these questions can help me learn how Jesus didn’t just debate heady theology but reached deep into people’s lives to expose real heart attitudes and actions. Maybe we move too quickly from the Law so that people don’t feel their need for grace.
LORD, help me not to miss that Jesus is correct when He says that someone who loves You with their entire being and expresses this love in concrete actions of love toward others will inherit eternal life. Just as you challenged this lawyer, challenge me to face honestly how I’m doing when it comes to obeying these two most important commandments and help me not to be like this lawyer who wanted to debate the meaning of your Law but didn’t want to admit how much he needed Your gift.
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