“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And 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 neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’ But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?'”(Luke 10:25-29 ESV)
The lawyer’s attitude is really common, isn’t it? We all desire to justify ourselves. We want people to see we are clearly right—and if by some chance we aren’t right, we want to make sure nobody notices.
I think it’s borne of shame. Being wrong, making mistakes, supporting a false idea—all of those things make it clear that we are not perfect. We do not want people seeing our weaknesses. We’d rather hide them—as this lawyer tried to do by changing the subject. It’s almost as if he said to himself, “Aha! I know what to do. Let’s raise a technical question about exactly who qualifies as a neighbor in the eyes of God. That ought to start a fascinating discussion! People will run off after the new topic and forget about the microscope Jesus just placed my personal life under.”
Of course, it didn’t work. Ever courteous, Jesus took the new conversational gambit—and turned it right back to the same question again, by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Here we have a man, a nobody, who unexpectedly comes across a neighbor in need. He has pity on him. He binds up his wounds, gets him to safety, and pays for his recovery. He isn’t turned off by the pitiful state of the man he rescued. Instead, he loves him. He becomes the man’s savior.
Of course, the real Good Samaritan is Christ Himself—and we are the victims. He finds us broken, naked, harmed by the power of the devil, unable to help ourselves. But He doesn’t stick His nose up in the air and walk past. He rescues us. He covers our shame, cleans our wounds, and brings us to safety in His Father’s kingdom. He justifies us—that is, He takes the mess that is us and transforms us into clean, whole, beloved children of God. He heals us and covers our shame with His own perfect goodness.
Jesus does all this at His own cost—not just a sleepless night and a couple of denarii, but the cost of His own suffering, death, and resurrection. He takes our death and applies His own resurrection life to us. And now we are truly justified—as Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). We can stop trying to justify ourselves. Jesus has taken care of it.
We Pray: Dear Lord, thank You for justifying me through Your own death and resurrection. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on July 7, 2022
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. When have you been tempted to make excuses for yourself—to justify yourself? Give a simple example.
2. How do you feel when you realize that Jesus has already justified you and set you free from shame?
3. Going forward, what will your life look like as you learn to live with the joyful knowledge that Jesus has already justified you, and you no longer need to protect yourself?