Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Lawyer’s Question

"The tomb constructed here of marble stone contains
All that of Robert Skerne and of his wife remains,
He being valient, faithful, cautious, skilled in law,
Noble, ingenious, did treachery abhor:
Constant in speech, in life, in feeling and in thought,
That justice freely and to all was due, he taught.
The honours of the royal law alone he prized.
To cheat or be deceived a thing he quite despised.
May he in heaven rejoice, who lived on earth sincere,
Who died upon the fourth of April in the year
Of Christ one thousand twenty score and thirty seven.
Have mercy on his soul, Jesus, Thou King of Heaven."

Apparently Robert Skerne was a respected man as well as being a just lawyer. Some are not so. One, centuries ago, attempted to catch Jesus in an unanswerable question.

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25 KJV)

How many problems can you see in that question? First we have to know what is meant by lawyer. Strong’s gives νομικός (nomikos) as “according (or pertaining) to law, that is, legal (ceremonially); as noun, an expert in the (Mosaic) law“. He would be an expert on the question he asked, thus it is said he “tempted him.” He was looking for the answer he felt he already knew. If Jesus gave a different answer, the lawyer would instantly know it to be false.

“What shall I do …” Obviously he hasn’t been listening to Jesus because he does not understand that we cannot earn God’s grace. We can, through sinfulness, cease to hear God’s message, but we can neither be good enough to earn His grace nor once in His care can we lose it.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

Now I’m not certain about “inherit eternal life.” If he were a Sadducee, he did not believe in eternal life, so this could be a third error in his question. Jesus, however, did have the right answer:

He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? (Luke 10:26 KJV)

Why tell the lawyer what he already knew?

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Luke 10:27-28 KJV)

Jesus had nothing to add to the answer. It was, and still is, the truth that we should be using for our own standard of living within God’s will. But – the lawyer had another question:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (Luke 10:29 KJV)

Do you think maybe there was a question in his own mind that he had not been loving someone as well as he loved himself? I know I still have a problem with loving ones I personally consider unlovable. What?? You don’t know an unlovable person? As me, I can explain.

Jesus’ answer runs several verses – Luke 10:30-37 – just click on the verse and read the whole story, along with the lawyer’s answer and Jesus’ response. It is important, but not as important as our own response to all of the questions raised in this simple conversation.

What are yours?

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