The Scribe's Question and Mary's Choice
( Originally Published 1915 )
WHILE JESUS was on his way to Jerusalem one of the teachers of the law—whom the Jews called "scribes"—came to him with a question. These Jewish scribes were everywhere enemies of Jesus, and were continually asking him questions, not that they might learn, but that in some way they might give him trouble.
This scribe said to Jesus, "Teacher, what shall I do that I may have the life everlasting?"
"What is said in God's law?" answered Jesus. "What do you read there?"
He answered, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all, your strength, and with all your mind; and you must love your neighbor as yourself."
"That is a right answer," said Jesus; "do that and you shall live."
But the scribe, wishing to make an excuse for himself, and thinking to puzzle Jesus, said, "But who is my neighbor?"
Then Jesus told to this man the parable or story of "The Good Samaritan."
"There was once a man," said Jesus, "who was going down by a lonely road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The robbers who hide among the mountains in that region rushed at this man, stripped him of everything, and beat him near to death; then ran away and left him almost dead on the roadside. It happened that a priest was going down the same road. He saw the man lying there, but instead of coming to help him, walked past him on the. other side of the road. Then a Levite, one of those who help the priests in the services of the Temple, came to that place; and he too went by on the other side, carefully keeping away from the suffering man.
"But soon after, a Samaritan, one of those people whom all the Jews hate and despise, came down the same road. This man, when he found the poor man lying in the road, got off from the ass on which he was riding and stood over the man. He felt a pity for the sufferer and put bandages on his wounds, after pouring into them a little oil and wine. Then he lifted up the man and carefully placed him on his own ass, and walking by his side, brought him to an inn and cared for him all that night. On the next morning he took out from his purse two pieces of silver, handed them to the inn-keeper and said to him, "Look after this man until he is well; and if you spend more than this, I will repay it to you when I come this way again."
"Now," asked Jesus, "which one of these three men, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan, do you think showed himself a true neighbor to the poor fellow who fell among the robbers?"
The scribe answered, "The one who showed kindness to him."
Jesus said to him, "Then go and do as this man did." He meant to show the scribe that "our neighbor" is the one who most needs our help, whoever he may be.
When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, he did not at once enter the city and find a lodging place within its walls, for he knew well that it was filled with his enemies; and that the priests and rulers would try to seize him and put him to death. He expected after some months to die at Jerusalem, as he had so many times told his disciples—although they could not believe it—but the time for his death had not yet come. For a home while attending the Feast of Tents, he went to a village about two miles from Jerusalem, on the east of the Mount of Olives. This village was called Bethany, and in it was living a family all of whom were strong friends of Jesus : Martha, her sister Mary and their younger brother Lazarus. With this family he stayed while he was visiting Jerusalem.
Martha was the older sister and the head of the house. She gave Jesus a hearty welcome and made herself busy in attending to his needs. But Mary, her younger sister, left everything and seated herself at the feet of the Lord, eager to listen to his words. Martha, somewhat worried by her many cares, especially in making ready a dinner for Jesus, was not pleased at her sister's conduct. She came to Jesus and said :
"Lord, do you think it right for my sister to leave all the work to me? Tell her to help me."
"Martha, Martha," replied the Lord, "you are anxious and trouble yourself about a great many things. Only one thing is really needful. Mary has chosen the best dish, and she will not be dragged away from it.
Jesus meant to say that Martha need not prepare a dinner with many dishes, for he needed only a simple meal; and that Mary had chosen well instead of food the words that he was speaking, which were really a feast to her soul.
At one time Jesus was praying in a certain place. It may have been on the Mount of Olives, between Bethany and Jerusalem, for Jesus went there often to pray. When his prayer was over, the disciples came to him and said :
"Master, John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray. Will you not also give us a prayer that we may use?"
Jesus said to them, "I will give you this prayer. When you pray, say, `Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and forever. Amen.' "
Jesus also gave to his disciples a parable or story about earnestness in prayer. He said :
"Suppose that one of you who has a friend should go to his house in the middle of the night, and should knock at his door loud enough to wake him from his sleep, and should say to him, `Friend, please do get up and let me have three loaves of bread ! A friend of mine has -suddenly come to my house and I have nothing for him to eat;' and suppose the other should answer him from inside the door, `Don't bother me; the door is locked and I am in bed with my children. I can't get up and give you anything!' I tell you, though he will not get up and give you anything merely because you are a friend of his, if you keep on knocking long enough, he will at last rise and give you whatever you want, because you persevere in seeking after it.
"So, I say to you : ask, and the gift shall be yours; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For every one who asks, receives; he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocks, the door shall be opened.
"Is there a father among you, who if his son asks
for bread, will give him a stone? If he is asked for a fish, will he give his son a snake? Or, if asked for an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If you then, even not as good as you should be, are willing to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give this Holy Spirit to his children that ask him?"