"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" asked the Lawyer. But what can a man do to inherit anything? Can inheritances be earned? No. Inheritances are bequeathed. They are given, based not on what you do but on who you are. Inheritances are about being and receiving not doing.
And so Jesus answers the Lawyer's question: "Do this and you will live." He speaks not of eternal life. He speaks of life. That is, do this and you will show yourself, prove yourself to be alive. Do not do these things and you will prove yourself to be dead. For the one who does not do this is dead: dead in his trespasses and sins. For the wages of sin--the transgression of God's Law--is death, as the Lord promised Adam "In the day that you eat of it, you will surely die." So, Jesus' answer really is a veiled question about human nature. He asks: Who are you? Are you alive? Or are you dead?
And so the Lawyer, seeking to justify himself, seeking still to earn eternal life, asks "Who is my neighbor?"In other words, the Lawyer still doesn't get it. And thus the parable.
The parable is told from the perspective of the man in the ditch. As you listen, you can't but help seeing yourself in the ditch. And so you can't help but see all these people walking by on the other side. The Lawyer sees those so focused on their doing so as to earn eternal life, that they do not show themselves to be alive to those who are in need. And so the Lawyer sees himself walk by on the other side. He sees himself leave himself for dead. He wasn't a neighbor even to himself. He is dead. Anyway you look at it, either as the one in the ditch or as the ones who walk by, he is dead.
But the one who was a neighbor is the one who had every right not to be: the Samaritan. The one despised by his own half brothers did not see it below him to help one in need. For he, too, saw himself in the ditch. He felt it in his bowels. He had empathy and sympathy. And so he showed mercy. He reached out to those who did not deserve it as though he himself were in that ditch. He paid his half-brother's price. He felt their pain. He went the distance for them. He lived so that they would not die. He proved himself to be alive to save them from death. He had compassion on them. He felt sorry for them and did something about it. He is alive.
Now the parable goes out to you. You are in the ditch. Do you see yourself pass by? Yes. But your half brother, our Lord Jesus Christ, has compassion. He proves himself to be alive. He comes into your death to pull you out it, to give you His life. And you live.
Now go and do likewise. Prove yourself as one alive out of the grave, saved from death, forgiven of your trespasses and sins. Do mercy to your half brothers in the ditch. Have compassion on them. Feel their pain, pay their price, go the distance for them. Live . . . in faith toward God and in fervent love toward your neighbor.