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A Samaritan… Really?!?

July 16, 2013

The Gospel lesson today is probably the best known parable of Jesus. I have heard sermons over the years talking about how evil the first two characters in this story are and how devoted the the Samaritan was or even how bad the Lawyer was. Each of us may have had moments in our lives where we have been each character in this parable.  Let us think about each of these people for a few minutes.

At the beginning of our text, we have a “certain lawyer”. This person was well versed in the rabbinic law of the first century. I have always wondered why the author left out this person’s name, since they apparently know who it was… Could it have been Saul before his meeting with the resurrected Jesus? Maybe, maybe not. Being a rabbinic lawyer, he had status and did not expect this lowly Nazarene carpenter to engage him in this debate. “You?”, nothing good could come out of Nazareth… but as always Jesus put this certain lawyer in his place by telling the parable. The Lawyer had to be furious. Jesus referenced people that were lower in status than the Nazarenes. A Samaritan…even when you had to go to the lowly town of Nazareth, one with any class avoided ever traveling through Samaria. Haven’t we all at one point  felt, that even though we keep the rules and we try to hold others accountable for “their misinterpretation” of the rules and how their status maybe “their” problem, doesn’t change the fact that it is not only “their” problem, but “OURS” as well?

Next we have the poor human being, that was beaten within an inch of their life. The person was minding his or her own business, traveling down the road… and then it happens…BAM!!! The robbers appear and take everything. The person’s possessions, his or her animal, the goods, even the clothes off the back of this poor soul, and left the shell of a human being left for dead in the ditch. Yes, I know that I implied the gender of the person was maybe male or female, but in all probably it was a male, because if it was a woman, the traveler would have been tortured and then killed because in the first century Roman world women were considered objects.

Now we have this “priest” come down the road. He was probably coming from the synagogue. The purity laws would have kept him from touching this nearly dead person, and “Oh my, this person was missing his clothes.” Nudity in the first century, and today, is often left between spouses. So look away… look away. And the priest just keeps on going.

Next is the Levite. He is in the same situation that the Priest was in… and acted the same way. Look away…look away. And what did he do? And he kept on going.

Next we have a Samaritan. Many of the Israelites felt that the Samaritans were less the human. They were the ones that were left behind from the Babylonian captivity. The Samaritans were not the most educated nor did they have status. But this Samaritan lived into the purity laws preparing this poor human being and anointed him for death. After anointing him, the Samaritan loads the poor soul on his animal and carries him to the inn. It is apparent that the Samaritan must have had a little status to be able to afford to pay for the personal care of this person and stay at the inn.

Have any of you every thought about the inn keeper? We never hear him ask “Why me?” The inn keeper must have known the Samaritan and knew that he would keep his word that he would pay for the additional expenses incurred for the care of the traveler that was beaten so badly. The inn keeper honored the Samaritan by doing what was asked.

Finally we have the last part of our cast… the audience. Those that were around when Jesus was telling this parable and those that first heard this lesson read to them including us today. The first time listeners must have been be in shock… Jesus used Samaritans to prove his point?  What was he thinking? For the first listeners, and for us today, Jesus was making the point that where we are from doesn’t determine our neighbors. It is where we are and those we encounter along the way that are our neighbors.

In the words of a certain lawyer, “Who is our neighbor?” And how are we going to serve our neighbors as ourselves? May we live into the peace of God that passes all understanding, and help our neighbors carry their burdens in this life, so we can be children of the living God and that God may find pleasure in our actions. Amen.

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From → jimmyahornjr

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