The Narrative Lectionary brings the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-42 into conversation with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:43-45. We typically preach these stories separately, with very different messages. The Gospel of Luke, however, tells them back-to-back. Why?
This presentation tells both stories through pictures, and links them by the words listening and distracted. What distracts us from listening to God’s Word? What does is it look like to listen to God’s Word? What is Jesus telling us to do?
Here are the images, with minimal verbal commentary between them. Enjoy.
I begin with the Mary and Martha story, because I think it is the final note in a series of stories since the Transfiguration.
Jesus enters Martha’s house.
We live in a world full of distractions. Martha was distracted by her duties of hospitality, so much so that she neglected the presence of Jesus. It’s not that hospitality is bad, of course. It is good, and expected. But, Jesus calls for radical action to usher in the Kingdom of God.
Mary, on the other hand was willing to break the rules and listened to him.
What distracts us?
Remember what the voice said from the cloud at the Transfiguration? What does it mean to listen to Jesus?
Here is another distracted character. What distracts the lawyer?
He already knew the right answer. This has ALWAYS been the answer. Jesus isn’t changing the heart of God or the playbook.
What do you think is going on in his mind? Is he distracted by a need to be right(eous)? Is he distracted by hatred for non-Jews?
So, Jesus, in typical, non-direct fashion, tells a story…
A man (assumed to be Jewish, because we always place ourself in the center of the stories we hear) has been robbed, beaten, and left for dead.
These two characters are also distracted. If the body is dead, it will make them unclean and unable to enter the Temple. Touching blood would also make them unclean. They have to go be holy. They don’t have time for this.
It was common to group the priests, levites, and lawyers together. It was also common to tell stories like this in sets of three, where the third character “gets it right.” It is fairly safe to assume that the lawyer expected his kind to show up next, hopefully as the hero, because the Law always saves the day.
The Jews hated the Samaritans. They were descendants of the rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel who turned away from the Temple and were later destroyed and diluted by the Assyrian Empire. Now, they were nothing more than half-blood, mongrel, heretics.
The hatred flowed both directions.
The phrase “he was moved with pity” is unfortunate, in my opinion. The English word pity denotes condescension, in today’s usage. The phrase translates a single Greek word splangnizomai which is translated elsewhere as compassion. It is the same word Jesus felt toward the widow in Luke 7:13.
It is a gut-level response in which the observer suffers with the suffering person.
And true compassion always moves us to action. The Samaritan gave of himself to insure the best possible care for…his enemy.
That must have been hard to admit.
Loving God and Loving Neighbor are not separate enterprises. To love God is to love neighbor, and to love neighbor is to love God, because God is the action of love.
The task for us, as followers of Jesus, is to listen and act, because listening without acting isn’t listening, it’s hearing with distractions.
Lent is a wonderful time to slow down and reflect on our own distractions. We can ask God to show us the neighbor to whom we can demonstrate love and from whom we need to accept love.