Bible Study 1.30.12, 2.2.12, 2.5.12 For Worship 2.12.12Posted: January 27, 2012
Bible Study 1.30.12, 2.2.12, 2.5.12 For Worship 2.12.12
Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?”
27 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.”
28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,
34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan only appears in the Gospel of Luke. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke reports an early mission to the Samaritans. The Gospel of John even suggests that Jesus undertook a mission to Samaritans see John chapter 4. Both Luke and John were written later than Mark and Matthew, and so the sympathetic portrayal of Samaritans may have developed after the Church reached out to them.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is not primarily about helping people. Jesus was far more subversive than advocating helping people by the side of the road. There were three classes of Israelites in the First Century. There were the Priests. Most of them were relatively wealthy living off of the taxes that supported the temple. Then there were the Levites. These were the temple support staff – temple musicians, accountants, scribes – the average Israelite looked on these people as having cushy jobs. The Priests and the Levites also participated in the “foreclosure racket,” of the money changers, pushing poor peasants off of their land, and then creating large landed estates that would turn around and hire back the now landless peasants at starvation wages. There was a lot of pent up anger directed toward the Priests and the Levites in Jesus’ audience. So as Jesus told his story, the average Joe in the audience was expecting the hero of Jesus’ Parable to be an Israelite. But no, Jesus made a Samaritan the hero. A Samaritan, one of those dirty stinkin Samaritans.
And here we need to stop and acknowledge just how acrimonious was the relationship between Jews and Samaritans. The Samaritans claimed to be the survivors of the Northern Kingdom who returned after the Assyrians had conquered and resettled them in what is today Northern Iraq. The Judeans wanted to claim the land of the former Northern Kingdom, so they vigorously denied the Samaritan claim to be remnants of the Israelites. When the Judeans were taken into in Babylon the Samaritans actively strove to prevent Judean resettlement in and around Jerusalem. There was bad blood. When the Hasmoneans defeated the Greeks and set up for themselves an independent Kingdom, they oppressed the Samaritans. The Samaritans didn’t like the Romans much, but Roman occupation to them was better than Jewish Occupation. So if anything the Samaritans cooperated with the Romans and benefited from that relationship. When Jews from Galilee would attempt to journey to Jerusalem the Samaritans would harass them. So the favorite route for Jews was to go way out of the way to the East, down the Jordan River Valley and then up to Jerusalem in order to avoid the Samaritans.
When Jesus uses a Samaritan as the hero of his story he is really talking about transcending tribal animosities. During the Civil Rights Movement, the Good Samaritan Story was often retold using an African-American as the hero as a way of speaking to the problem of racial and ethnic conflict Jesus was addressing.
Beyond the principal theme of the Parable, let’s also consider some other points in the text. Once again Jesus answers a question with a question. A lawyer asks the question, so Jesus asks him to render an opinion. The lawyer summarizes the law using the two great commandments. Jesus applauds his answer. But then the lawyer asks the further question, the difficult question, “who is my neighbor?” In this context we can see why Jesus’ answer was so radical. If Samaritans are my neighbors, then I might have to love everyone – even people I don’t like.
Having answered a question with a question Jesus resorted to a story. The story is good and dramatic. The Jerusalem to Jericho Road was dangerous. Traveling that road by yourself was foolish. Some of the bandits on the road were lepers who had been ostracized with no family to take care of them, so they lived in the wilderness and made a living from preying upon unwary travelers. These lepers were so desperately poor they would even steal the clothes off of their victim’s backs. So the poor victim was left for dead, naked with no water in the hot Sun adding to his delirium. The Priest and the Levite pass by on the other side. Why? Perhaps they were in a hurry to get to Jerusalem, not unlike us. Perhaps they were afraid this was an ambush, so they hurried away. They may have been concerned about ritual cleanliness. If they touched a dead body, they would not be able to perform their religious duties in Jerusalem. As we have already mentioned, this was all a set up for the punch line of the Parable.
We should note Jesus states that the motivation of the Samaritan was compassion, the keynote of the ministry of Jesus. In our present day and age, as political leaders fail to show compassion for the poor and dispossessed, we need to lift up the virtue of compassion again and again. The Samaritan not only stops to help the man, probably saving his life, he transports the man to an Inn, where he pays for the care of the Israelite. And then rather than leaving the poor many to the compassion of the Inn Keeper, who was probably Israelite, the Samaritan offers to reimburse the Inn Keeper for any expense incurred, when he returns. The Samaritan truly goes the second mile.
We should also note that Jesus ends his story by again asking a question. “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The answer seems like a no brainer, but we can imagine the lawyer may have been hard put to offer up the answer. Note that he doesn’t say, “the Samaritan,” but instead answered, “The one who showed mercy on him.”
Let us also note Jesus’ close to the Parable which is his admonition to us: “Go and do likewise.” Show mercy. Be compassionate to others. Reach out to all people as your neighbor.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. What question was asked of Jesus?
2. How did Jesus respond?
3. Who asked the question?
4. When Jesus asked the person a question, what did Jesus say about his answer?
5. What is the motive given for the man’s follow up question?
6. In the Parable, where was the “victim” traveling?
7. Who was the first person to see the “victim” lying in the road?
8. Who was the second person who saw the “victim” lying in the road?
9. Who actually stops to help?
10. What further provision did the person helping make for the “victim?”
11. What motive was ascribed to the person helping the “victim?”
12. How did Jesus close the Parable?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. How important is eternal life on your list of concerns?
2. If someone asked you the question, “what should I do to inherit eternal life?” How would you respond?
3. Who do you think is your neighbor?
4. Do you have any neighbors you don’t like?
5. How do you think Jesus would retell the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Alabama in 2012 to impart the same kind of meaning his story had in the First Century?
6. Can you think of any good excuses for the Priest and the Levite?
7. Who do you think the Priest and the Levite would represent in our modern context?
8. Who would the Samaritan represent in our modern context?
9. We live in a world with cell phones, where we can call 911. Can you think of a situation in which you might have to render aid to someone?
10. How do you feel, when you come to the end of the Parable, and Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
11. Can you think of any other Parables where Jesus stands our normal sense of values on their head?