This Sunday we’ll be reading a very familiar part of Scripture – the parable of the Good Samaritan (albeit, he is never called “the Good Samaritan” in the story, but it’s a designation that has stuck). We’ll be reading Luke 10:25-37.
The story is prompted by a Hebrew Bible scholar who is apparently trying to smoke out Jesus’ heretical views on God’s acceptance of people. The original question, “what should I do to inherit eternal life?”, was a regularly discussed topic among the rabbis of that day. Jesus asks a question in return – which the man gives a fairly standard answer to: Love God and love people. It’s important to note that he’s not really asking how to be saved – the question centers on how a person who is part of God’s eternal life should live.
Wanting to cinch the trap he set for Jesus, the scholar then asks whom Jesus defines as neighbor.
Remember, they are in Samaria, a place and people hated by the Jewish faithful of that day. The answer to that question could pose a problem from both the Jews and the Samaritans.
(If you’d like a more in-depth understanding of the conflict between Israel and Samaria, you might take the time to read THIS.) I’ll be giving a very brief history of the conflict on Sunday morning.
Jesus responds to the test with a story…of course he does. As you read the story – determine who you identify with right away. Do you see yourself as the victim…if so, who are the robbers in your mind? The story gives neither of them any description…probably so that we can fill in those blanks.
The Priest and the Temple assistant pass on the other side of the road from the victim – most likely for ceremonial purity reasons. They have responsibilities after all, which touching someone who may be dead would prohibit them from fulfilling. What not-so-subtle message is Jesus getting across about the prioritization of religious activity? What religious pursuits, if any, do you have that might cause you to “cross the street” in avoidance of others? What does this story tell us about God’s attitude concerning that?”
Why do you think Jesus chose to make the hero of the story a Samaritan? What effect might that have on those hearing it, given the history there?
Jesus finishes by asking yet another question – one that not only didn’t answer the scholar’s question, but which turns the tables altogether. Instead of figuring out who is worthy of being called a neighbor, Jesus puts the emphasis on being a neighbor…to all. How does that instruct us on what God considers our social responsibility to be?
This story has much to teach us – especially in our world where we are so outraged and angry over the smallest of differences. May we have ears to hear. Hope to see you on Sunday!