Who Is My Neighbor?
The lawyer who questioned Jesus was an expert in the Jewish scriptures. The New Testament often refers to them as Scribes and Pharisees.
These scripture experts had combed through our Old Testament Scriptures and identified 613 commandments.
248 were positive commandments ("Thou shalt ...") and 365 were negative commandments ("Thou shalt not ...").
The commandments were also grouped according to seriousness. The most serious were The Ten Commandments -- these were called the "heavy" commandments. The "lighter" commandments included those like the one found in Deuteronomy 22:6-7 which stipulates that a person who finds a bird's nest with a mother sitting on eggs or with young may take the young or the eggs but must let the mother go.
As you might imagine there were many arguments about which commandments were the most important, and what exactly does a commandment actually require in different situations.
One of these scripture experts -- Luke calls him a lawyer -- came to test Jesus. He asked "Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Lawyers know that you never ask a question for which you don't already have the answer. You don't want to be caught by surprise and lose control of the conversation. So it was with this lawyer. He already had his answer.
It was based on two different scriptures. The First was Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." The second was from Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus answers the lawyer's question by asking, "What do you find written in the law?" The lawyer gives his ready made answer and Jesus agrees with him. In Mark 12:29 Jesus gives the same answer when he was asked, "Which is the greatest commandment?"
But this only frustrated the lawyer. He knew that the real issue is how you apply the commandmen ...
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