Tuesday, March 17, 2009

40FP(11): Luke 10.25-37

Text from the New Living Translation

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.
32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.
34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.
35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Why is this a favourite passage?
It's quite a familiar passage, but what I want to draw out are two points.

The first is to note that Jesus doesn't challenge the grammar of the request, rather he accepts it and builds on it. In other words, Jesus accepts that salvation is a doing (or, it necessarily involves a doing) and the notion of 'belief' isn't raised. Jesus could have said, in response to the initial question, something like 'believe in me as your personal Lord and Saviour' - but he doesn't, and I find that both significant and reassuring.

The second point to emphasise is that the story isn't really about reaching beyond ethnic boundaries, it's about abandoning religious boundaries. The Priest and the Temple Assistant are both following the regulations for their conduct, because if they were to help the wounded man then they would then be rendered unclean and unfit for their religious duties. Whereas the Samaritan - off the scale in terms of being religiously 'unrighteous' - is the one who actually does the Father's will by showing mercy and compassion.

So: a key text for me.

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