The Good Samaritan
(OT 15 Year C)
On the whole, lawyers do not get a good press in Luke. Samaritans, on the other hand, are favoured by all the New Testament writers. In fact, in John, many of Jesus' disciples were Samaritans.
The well educated lawyer in today's Gospel is out to trick Jesus but ends up with egg on his face. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" he says.
I am willing to bet that most of us have mulled over that same question in our own lives.
Jesus' turns the question back - in essence "what do you think you have to do?"
The lawyer responds by quoting from the Torah, the Jewish book of Law, "Love the Lord your God, and your neighbour as yourself".
No Jew would dare to challenge such an answer and Jesus is no exception.
"Your answer is correct" Jesus says.
The lawyer tries even harder to be a clever devil! "Who then is my neighbour?" Jesus' response to this cynical comment is the story of the Good Samaritan. The question put by the lawyer also appears, with slight differences, in Mark (12:28-31) and Matthew (22:35-40), but the Good Samarian story is only in Luke.
It's about a notorious 17 mile desert road with high ground on either side from Jerusalem to Jericho, perfect for an ambush - which is exactly what happens to our unlucky traveller.
The best stories are told in threes - 'an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman..'
In stories of this kind, the third person provides the punch line to clinch the point.
Picture the faces of the listeners as Jesus tells his story. You can almost hear them chuckling at the behaviour of the clergy, a modern equivalent might be a priest and a deacon! They are expecting the third person to be an "ordinary" layman.
They get a dreadful shock when he turns out to be a despised Samaritan!!
Jesus asked the lawyer "Which of these three, in your view, acted as neighbour to the one who had fallen into the muggers' hands?"
The lawyer cannot even bring himself to say "the Samaritan" and almost spits out "The one who had mercy on him".
His final comeuppance is Jesus' invitation "Go, and do the same yourself".
The lawyer's face must have been a picture. Even the thought of following the example of a Samaritan made him feel ill.
If you were to re-write the story today, who from our times, would you put in the place of the Samaritan? Who would take the place of the lawyer? Who would be Jesus now?