I’m not sure we need to deal with this parable in very much detail. It’s such a well-known story. But you know me—I’ll at least make a FEW comments. The setting of the story is some religious big shots come to test Jesus. Do these guys EVER give up? Obviously not—not until the do away with him. He’s really getting on their nerves, and the competition is unbearable. Even though the guy’s motive was hostile and his question insincere, Jesus still uses it to try to bring the man to truth. He’s absolutely amazing, I tell you. Again, nobody could make all this up. If people wrote it, there would be other trash in there. People just can’t keep their hands off stuff and their agendas out.
The question’s great: “What must I do to be saved?” We’re usually told that the answer to that is Jesus’ blood. Jesus had a very different answer. If you scope around the gospels, we find he gives this answer:
Love God with all that you are. REALLY love. Full out commitment and sacrifice.
Love your neighbor. I mean, really love. Ditto.
Do God’s will by obeying his moral commands
Be willing to do whatever is necessary to follow him completely.
Of course believe in Jesus. Of course have a personal relationship of love with him. Then go on the journey described above. Anybody can “believe” in Jesus, and so many say they do. Anyone can say a prayer asking Jesus to save them, and so many say they did. But then Jesus says you have to embark on a life journey fully devoted to the love of God, the love of neighbor, morality, and radical, costly discipleship.
Jesus is cagey. He turns the question back on the questioner. Sly guy.
The guy responded with good answers, but he felt what he knew: He didn’t live that way. So he tries to snake his way out of it by starting a debate. “Who should I love?” In typical cultural fashion, he’s going to talk about to proverbial “how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.”
Then Jesus tells the story—one of the most famous stories of history, so I don’t need to delve into it. The point? Forget about angels and pins, religion and worthiness, preconceptions and expectations. We can have a relationship with God that shows itself dramatically in our attitudes, thoughts, values, and behavior. If you know it, do it.