As I look at this passage, there is one more thing that strikes me.
This is a story about three people that knew God’s word very well. One, of course, was real (the expert in the law), and two were fictional (the priest and the Levite). Is it any coincidence that Jesus used two people in his story that had the same problem as the expert in the law?
Because though all three knew the law well, though all three could probably rattle off answers to any question about the Bible Jesus gave them, it never went beyond head knowledge for any of them. It never went to their heart as to what it all really meant.
How else do you explain the priest and the Levite in the story passing by the hurt man? They truly didn’t understand what it meant to love God with all their heart, and to love their neighbor. Rather, they made excuses for their failings, namely, their lack of love.
The expert of the law was the same way. When confronted with the law, and seeing his own failings in the matter, he didn’t repent and cry out, “Jesus, what do I do? I can’t meet the standards God has set up!” Instead, he tried to justify himself for his lack of love and turn what Jesus meant to be an issue of the heart into an intellectual debate, asking, “Well, what does ‘neighbor,’ mean?”
So when Jesus explained the meaning, and even had the man answer his own question, he brought it back to his heart. “Go and do likewise.”
What did the man do after that? We don’t know.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the gospel writers often wrote this way to challenge us. What are we going to do with what Jesus said?
It is not enough to have head knowledge. It is not enough to be able to quote the Bible backwards and forwards. You need to live it. It needs to sink into your heart and change you.
Here’s another question. Did the Samaritan in the story see the actions (or lack thereof) of the priest and the Levite? This person who only had a distorted view of who God really was, who mixed his religion with false ones, what did he think of the priest and the Levite? Particularly when he acted more godly than they did?
And when people see us, and compare us to themselves, what do they see? Do they ask concerning us, “How can they be so loving? How can they be so merciful? I want to be like them.”
Or do they say, “Is that what a Christian is? I’m better than they are.”
Let us not be merely people filled with head knowledge. Rather let us let it sink into our hearts and live it.
Let us not simply live lives of going to church on Sunday and doing religious things. Rather let us live lives of mercy and grace that others may see Christ in us and desire him too.