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July 10, 2022

Switching Questions

A very smart man, learned in the ways of the Law, one time came to Jesus with a question. At the end of their conversation, Jesus said: “Go and do likewise.” Here in this encounter, Jesus is telling a learned man to go and love one’s neighbor. Read Luke 10:25-37, and you will see the (parable) story of the Good Samaritan. Here we see Jesus doing a switcheero of questions—changing the person’s eternal-life question to the question of identity. This expert in the law came with a question on the merits of receiving eternal life. But Jesus knew what he needed. So, Jesus introduced the parable and admonished this person to change his question. The question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” must now became “Who is my neighbor?” This question of a search for identity will allow the person to see God’s love for people and thus give him more opportunities to practice the law of love, the new commandment that Jesus shares with everyone. The switching of questions becomes an open door to a life of love.

Joel Green states that the parable itself is framed with questions concerning the identification of “neighbor.” Whereas Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Plain had eliminated the lines that might be drawn between one’s “friends” and one’s “enemies,” this legal expert hopes to reintroduce this distinction. He does so by inquiring, “Who is my neighbor?”—not so much to determine to whom he must show love, but so as to calculate the identity of those to whom he need not show love. By the end of the story, Jesus has transformed the focus of the original question; in fact, Jesus’ apparent attempt to answer the lawyer’s question turns out to be a negation of that question’s premise. Neighbor love knows no boundaries. (Gospel of Luke. 1997:426)

Here are some questions for you: Did Jesus ever change your questions? Have you been stuck in the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What would happen to your Christian faith when you ask the question: “Who is my neighbor?” What is your switcheero-story?