Trayvon, George, and the Samaritan

Trayvon Martin hoodie

A lesson for this Sunday – The parable of the Good Samaritan

In the Gospel of Luke, the parable is introduced by a question, known as the Great Commandment:

Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies with a story:

Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’

Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”

He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

In the time of Jesus, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notorious for its danger and difficulty, and was known as the “Way of Blood” because “of the blood which is often shed there by robbers.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, on the day before his death, described the road as follows:

I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level or 258 metres. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

However, King continues:

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Samaritans were hated by Jesus’ target audience, the Jews, to such a degree that the Lawyer’s phrase “The one who had mercy on him” may indicate a reluctance to name the Samaritan. The Samaritans in turn hated the Jews. Tensions were particularly high in the early decades of the first century because Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones.

As the story reached those who were unaware of the oppression of the Samaritans, this aspect of the parable became less and less discernible: fewer and fewer people ever heard of them in any context other than as a description.

Today the story is often recast in a more modern setting where the people are ones in equivalent social groups known not to interact comfortably. Thus cast appropriately, the parable regains its message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can exhibit moral behavior that is superior to individuals of the groups they approve. Many Christians have used it as an example of Christianity’s opposition to racial, ethnic and sectarian prejudice. For example, anti-slavery campaigner William Jay described clergy who ignored slavery as “following the example of the priest and Levite.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, described the Samaritan as “a man of another race,” while Sundee Tucker Frazier saw the Samaritan more specifically as an example of a mixed-race person. Klyne Snodgrass writes “On the basis of this parable we must deal with our own racism but must also seek justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong.”

Today we are again called to examine the stereotypes we carry within ourselves and ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

 

Bookmark and Share

About John Lundin

JOHN LUNDIN (www.JohnLundin.com) is a self-described "spiritual agitator" and the author of THE NEW MANDALA – Eastern Wisdom for Western Living, written in collaboration with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was recently invited by the shamanic Elders of the descendants of the Tayrona in northern Colombia to be one of the few outsiders to ever live with them and receive their sacred teachings. The Elders have specifically asked him to share their urgent spiritual and environmental message with the world. Rev. Lundin earned his Master’s Degree in theology from Chicago Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago, and teaches world religions and cross-cultural spirituality, and leads meditation workshops and spiritual growth retreats throughout the world. He is currently living with the indigenous peoples of La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia while researching and writing on issues of universal responsibility toward all humankind and the environment within which we all live.
Tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.