I had not thought of the Good Samaritan in the same way that N.T. Wright lays out in Luke for Everyone. In it he says, “Can you recognize the hated Samaritan as your neighbour? If you can’t you will be left for dead.” I had read the story thinking that the Jewish lawyer was to see himself as the Samaritan or the Priest or Levite who passes by. The thrust of the story is only to show the Jewish man that he should be like the Samaritan in the story, not that he is in desperate need of help. I only saw him as one of the able-bodied participants.
This story has particular relevance for events in Gaza. As you know from the news, Israelis have responded with overwhelming force to the launching of rockets by Hamas. Israel, once again, is beaten up and bleeding. Will they reach out to the Muslims who are willing to help them, or must their help only come from Israel? Israel does reach out to other countries, but many people around the world side with the Palestinians because as Israel cut through the meat-shield that Hamas has constructed, alienating images of dead women and children become easier for Hamas to circulate.
Jesus’ point is still potent. Take an isolationist approach and you will die. Reach out to neighbours and you will live. The Samaritans were the hated Palestinians of the day. Are there Palestinians who are willing to be neighbours and is Israel willing to take their hand?
On the personal level, are you isolated from others who could help you? Are you reaching across religious, ethnic, and cultural boundaries to be a neighbour? The challenge from Jesus is timeless.
Jesus, I see the strife in Gaza and I wonder if the cycle of violence will ever stop. Let nations hear the political power of your challenge resonate through history to bring peace. If I am withdrawn from a neighbour through fear or pride, let me grow into a more loving response.
- What is the question for Jesus?
- How does he respond?
- Why is Jesus’ response radical?
- How does the response of Jesus challenge Israel and Hamas?
- How does Jesus’ response challenge you to both be a neighbour and to accept help?
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”