What do you think of when you hear the term “Good Samaritan.” You probably imagine a kind-hearted person, who looks a lot like you, that takes compassion on the weak and suffering. Those are nice images, and we need lots more people who do this good work. However, it is not the type of image that Jesus intented when he told the story of a “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-37.
Our summer sermon series called Climbing Trees brings is to this story. We are using Amy-Jill Levine’s book Short Stories by Jesus as our guide. Levine is a New Testament and Jewish studies professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Her mission is to help us see Jesus’ parables through the Jewish lens that he and his listeners would have had when they were told.
I want to share Levine’s final comments on the parable. It is so good:
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the few that makes an almost perfect translation to today’s situation.
Samaria today has various names: the West Bank, Occupied Palestine, Greater Israel. To hear the parable today, we only need to update the identity of the figures. I am an Israeli Jew on my way from Jerusalem to Jericho, and I am attacked by thieves, beaten, stripped, robbed, and left half dead in a ditch. Two people who should have stopped to help pass me by: the first, a Jewish medic from the Israel Defense Forces; the second, a member of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. But the person who takes compassion on me and shows me mercy is a Palestinian Muslim whose sympathies lie with Hamas, a political party whose charter not only anticipates Israel’s destruction, but also depicts Jews as subhuman demons responsible for all the world’s problems.
The parable of the “Good Hamas Member” might be difficult for people in support of Israel’s existence. Were Jesus a Samaritan, we’d today have the parable of the “Good Jew,” told in the streets of Ramallah. If people in the Middle East could picture this, we might have a better vision for choosing life. (Levine, Amy-Jill. Short Stories by Jesus (pp. 114-116). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.)
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