To read the texts click on the texts: Jonah 1:1-2:1,11; Lk 10:25-37
Our text for today contains the Parable of The Good Samaritan. This is a parable that is found only in the Gospel of Luke, and the context in Luke is the question that is asked by a lawyer regarding eternal life.
In Matthew and Luke, the lawyer is hostile (not so in Mark), because the question is asked to “test” Jesus. While in Matthew (22:34-40) and Mark (12:28-31) the question is about the greatest commandment, and Jesus answers the question quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, in Luke, Jesus asks the lawyer a counter question and gets him (the lawyer) to answer. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (Love of God) was part of the “Shema” (the prayer to “Hear”), repeated twice each day, but it had not been linked to Leviticus 19:18 (Love of neighbour) as it is here.
Since it is the lawyer who answers, Jesus responds with a commendation (“You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”) Though the lawyer was forced to answer and cede the upper hand, he does not give up, but asks a question over which there was some controversy – “Who is my neighbour?” In his response to this question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.
This parable has often been interpreted as one in which Jesus is telling us that those in need are our neighbours, or that it has an anticlerical edge, in which Jesus is showing up the priestly class by mentioning priest and Levite as not reaching out to the one in need. If these were the meanings, then there would be no need to make the third person that passed by that way, a Samaritan. The third person could have been a lay Jew. The reason why the third person is a Samaritan is because Jesus wanted the lawyer who was a Jew, to go beyond the narrow definition of neighbour, to go beyond his prejudice, his bias, and his stereotyping.
When Israel was split into kingdoms after the death of Solomon in around 922 BCE, the North (named Israel which had its capital at Samaria) and the South (Judah which had its capital as Jerusalem), it became the target for its neighbours, because its strength was divide. In 722 BCE, the Assyrians captured Israel and its capital Samaria and took as their wives and concubines Israeli women. The children by that union were known as Samaritans and till the time of Jesus were regarded as inferior and outcasts by their former Jewish brothers (and sisters). Jesus is thus asking the Jew (the lawyer) if he can get rid of his negative way of looking at the Samaritan, and regard him also as neighbour. It is interesting that at the end of the parable, Jesus overturns the lawyer’s question. Jesus asks, “Who was neighbour to the one who fell among robbers?” whereas the lawyers question was “Who is my neighbour?” The Samaritan is indeed, neighbour.
We often look at people with tainted glasses or a prejudiced vision. We tend to categorise them and place them in neat compartments based on their backgrounds. This attitude leads to stereotyping people and not being able to see them as they are. Albert Einstein said this about a prejudice, “It is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice”.