As Jesus was teaching there were always people opposing what he said. Always there was a Pharisee, scribe or some other person from the religious establishment trying to take him to task over some matter of the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ teachings.
Here we see another example from a man who was a lawyer. He stood up amongst the people and tried to put Jesus to the test by asking him this question. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Verse 25) Jesus then went on and told him how to inherit eternal life.
First let us look at the lawyers in the Bible. In some ways they were no different to today. Lawyers today interpret the law, and that is what they did in Jesus’ day.
But if you ask a lawyer today for an answer generally you will not get one. Lawyers don’t give answers, they give opinions. The way the legal system works is that the lawyers will interpret the law and give you an opinion on what the law means under different circumstances, but if you want answers, you go to the judge to argue a case.
It was no different in Jesus day and Jesus did not like the way lawyers operated. In speaking to the lawyers on one occasion he said this, “One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:45-46)
Given that lawyers do not give answers but only give opinions, it is easy to see why Jesus condemned them for this practice. The lawyers became rich by burdening people with many burdens, but do not do anything to lift those burdens. People come to lawyers for answers but only get opinions that sometimes make them even more confused, stressed and worried. But Jesus gave the people answers to relieve their stress and give them peace.
Life in the Law
So when this lawyer stood and asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus gave him a lesson in the law. He forced the lawyer, who understood the law of God, to find the answer in the law. Jesus said to the man, “What is written in the law?” (Verse 26) The lawyer answered saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Verse 27)
These are the two great Commandments that Jesus spoke of in other places. The basis of the law is love; first to love God and then to love your neighbour.
The lawyer knew these two laws for he was able to recite them to Jesus when asked. He understood the two laws too for he knew that by keeping these two laws on which the whole of the law rested, that this was how to inherit eternal life. Thus Jesus answered the lawyer, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” (Verse 28)
A Better Way
What we learn from this is that you can inherit eternal life by keeping the Old Covenant laws of Moses. There is eternal life to be had through keeping the law.
But the law was highly restrictive for it showed sin for what it is and constantly stood condemning man. That is why Jesus came to provide a better way for man to have life.
The writer of Hebrews showed the New Covenant was better than the old law when he wrote, “On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19)
The better hope is to come to God and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we do not just receive forgiveness of our sin, but the removal of sin so that we can become perfect, as he is perfect. As he said to another man who was asking about how to inherit eternal life, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
The better way through Jesus is to “follow him.” But to do this, as he showed this man, you must be prepared to forsake all of the things of this world. You ust be prepared to give up all of the things in this world that could take your full and undivided attention away from following Christ.
When we do this we come into the place where we can be transformed into the image of Christ by the Holy Spirit. And when we are in the image of Christ we will be perfect like he is perfect. There is no other way to achieve perfection except through Jesus Christ. The law will not make a person perfect for it always stands ready to condemn. But Jesus does not condemn us even when we fall. Instead he offers compassion, comfort and the grace of God knowing that we will fail, but also we will learn and grow as we continue to walk with him.