Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘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.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
I love it when Jesus gets asked a question and then gives a completely different answer than what he was asked. He does that in this passage as the lawyer asks Jesus specifically what he must do to "inherit eternal life." Jesus answers with a question - quizzing the lawyer on the law. The lawyer gives the right answer, then Jesus gives the zinger.
"You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
We miss Jesus' meaning here when we simply read it in an English translation. When we go back to the Greek, we understand that Jesus is telling the lawyer something completely different than how to "inherit eternal life."
The lawyer asks how to get "aionios zoe" or life that is everlasting. Jesus tells him however that if he follows the law's command to love God, neighbor and self with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, "you will 'zao'" or "live." Instead of telling the lawyer how to have everlasting life, Jesus was telling the lawyer how to live right now. Zoa means "to be among the living" or "to enjoy real life."
The lawyer makes the mistake so many of us make. We see Jesus as our ticket to heaven. We don't have to live here in this misery and endless cycle of want and desire and dissatisfaction. Instead, we want to know when it will be over - when we can cross the Jordan and be in the Promised Land with Jesus in eternity. In short, we want to know that it's okay to forsake this life for the next.
Jesus says, "NO!" Instead, we are instructed in this passage how to live now. It's not our love of God, neighbor and self that stamps our ticket to heaven. Instead, it's our love of God, neighbor and self right here, right now that brings the reign of God into this reality.
Jesus is telling the lawyer - and us - that the key to life - to be among the living, enjoying real life - is love. We must love God, our neighbor and ourselves with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Unless we are doing that right now - we are not alive. To be eternally alive, first we must be alive - but we are dead right now unless we are practicing this all consuming, wasteful love that we are commanded to embody right here, right now.
Jesus is telling the lawyer - and us - to stop looking for short cuts, to stop wishing our lives away on some dream of a better world where we live in peace and harmony with God. We can have that world now if we simply live by the law of love. Resolve today to be among the living, to enjoy real life by loving as God commands.