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Just as in the Old Testament, the neighbor is one who obeys the law of God. Why then did the Jewish lawyer who certainly understood this
principal ask Jesus: "Who is my neighbor?". And why did Jesus answer the lawyer by telling him the parable of the good Samaritan?
In order to understand both the question and the answer, we must consider the historical background:
"The Jews hated them [the Samaritans] and would have nothing to do with them. Over the centuries the Assyrians intermarried with Jews to form the hybrid group known as the Samaritans. The Jews did not accept them as their neighbours and it was with this in view that Jesus spoke to the Jews the parable of the good Samaritian:
(Howard Lindsell Study Bible)
The Jewish lawyer knew that Jesus had made converts among the Samaritans (Luke 9:52) and wanted to justify himself in his hatred of them, even though they were related by race and religion.
(The Samaritans kept the Torah) Jesus responded to the lawyer by telling the parable and then asking him which of the three who passed by the hurt man proved to be neighbour unto the *wounded man*
The lawyer said: "He that showed mercy on him".
Jesus confirmed to the lawyer that the Levite and the priest did not prove to be neighbors unto the victim because they did not obey God's law.
On the other hand, the Samaritan whom the lawyer hated, proved to be his neighbour because he did obey God's command to "love thy neighbour as thyself".
Again we see the principle that our neighbour in the biblical sense is not simply someone who is near, but one who is a believer in God and
keeps His commandments.
Jesus was not teaching the lawyer that “every” man was his neighbour. Rather, He was saying that now (under the New Covenant) “any” man could be his neighbour – not just the Jews.
Harold Kupp


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