When a Samaritan Helped a Jerk

Luke 10:25-37 – The 8th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, July 10, 2016

“Jesus replied, ‘A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death . . .’”

Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh

I wonder . . .

What if the man left near death wasn’t silent?

What if he spoke to the Samaritan who’d come to his aid?

[Warning: certain words below may disturb some readers.]

“You sonuvabitch, lemme off your damn donkey.”

The battered Jew spit blood, his breath more gasps. From atop the plodding beast, his left eye glared hatred at the Samaritan. With the right swollen shut, he was literally half blind. The man loosened his grip on the reins, scheming to fall to the ground.

But the Samaritan had secured his waist to the animal’s middle.

“Your mother’s a whore. Your father’s a dog that licks his own dick.” He coughed more blood. “If you have brothers or sisters”—from his smashed mouth, the words sounded like spudders and pissers—“they’re all pricks and bitches.” (Which came out as icks and itches.)

On they trudged, the Samaritan beside the donkey, occasionally adjusting the makeshift bandages. With the donkey’s steady gait, the Jew shifted like a tree branch in a gentle breeze.

“You’re a pimple on the asshole of life. Now I’m unclean. Now my people will hate me.”

The Jew kept cursing and fuming. The Samaritan knew an inn on the far side of town with reasonable prices, but he stopped at the first two-bit joint he spotted.

The Samaritan eagerly gave the innkeeper extra coins. First, the innkeeper’s wife agreed to tend to the Jew’s wounds. She appeared strong enough to survive his curses and smart enough to keep him alive. Second, to quote his father, others were often needed to finish a job you started. Finally, if he didn’t leave soon, he’d complete the robbers’ job and kill the jerk.

The Samaritan grinned as he trudged back outside. He’d never harm anyone, but fantasizing brought momentary pleasure.

Why have I always thought this was an easy task for the Samaritan?

Why, in reading and telling Jesus’ parable, have I usually imagined the man near death as silent, compliant, and grateful?

Even beaten to a pulp and barely alive, why wouldn’t he curse the Samaritan? They were mortal enemies, born to hate, taught to ridicule and humiliate each other.

+      +      +

He Qi
He Qi

I wonder . . .

What if the “Good Samaritan” parable was inspired by a real event?

What if it offered glimpses of a life-changing encounter in someone’s life?

What if the Jew, the one attacked by robbers, was Jesus?

If you believe Jesus was the preordained Son of God, without sin, perfection from conception, then please ignore my foolish wonderings.

And yet, if you’re only a smidgen like me, a believer with a bevy of doubts, a follower of Jesus that suspects there’s more to the story than what the Gospel writers wrote, then humor me for a moment.

What if, after Joseph and Mary lost him in Jerusalem and before the Baptizer dunked him in the Jordan, Jesus was hurrying along on a lonely stretch of road?

What if robbers robbed him? And nearly killed him?

What if, when the disciples first met Jesus, they were curious about the scars on his face or why he walked with a barely perceptible limp?

Or why, when other good Jews cursed the Samaritans, Jesus told a story with those pathetic half-breed foreigners as heroes?

This is only my idol speculation. And yet still . . . what if Jesus, in some tales, shared clues about his own transformational journey?

+     +      +

The “Good Samaritan” story is usually mangled.

Someone is a Good Samaritan for helping an old lady across the street, or dragging a kid from a burning car, or feeding a Thanksgiving dinner to a homeless guy.

What rot!

Mortal enemies, Jews and Samaritans hated each other for being the other.

A Samaritan came to the aid of a Jew and the very notion of faith, of God, of neighbor changed. Forever.

Few have been or met a true “Good Samaritan.”

  • I once thought gays were wretched sinners.
  • I once was nervous around “non-white” people.
  • I once assumed all longed to be an American since it was the only good nation.
  • I once believed God only loved Christians and the rest were hell bound.

My dismal attitudes changed about gays and people of color and non-Americans and those with different beliefs . . . though not because of meeting a “good Samaritan” that saved my sorry derriere.

Jacopo Bassano
Jacopo Bassano

My change was gradual. Part of the change involved meeting queers just like me (straight and gay can be selfish and selfless). I’ve been fortunate to spend time with African-Americans and Hmong-Americans and Native-Americans and folks from Korea or Samoa or Germany. Many spoke “strangely” and had “weird” traditions . . . and yet were so much like me. My faith deepened when I learned from Sikhs and Buddhists and Hindus and Jews and Muslims and the spiritual-but-not-religious types. Compassion and mercy resist denominational labels.

Most change, if we change, will be gradual.

Hardly any are near death, abandoned on the road, and then—in the proverbial nick of time—given new life by our worst enemy.

Though that does happen.

Jesus taught a lesson nearly impossible to follow. (Did Joseph and Mary’s son learn it as his blood seeped into the dirt while a priest and Levite avoided him? And yet along came a . . .)

I wonder . . .

Who do you hate? I don’t hate anyone!

Who is inferior to you because she doesn’t accept your beliefs? But my way of believing is better.

Who is worse than you because of his birthplace or accent? Come on, everyone longs to be American!

Whether a foul-mouthed jerk near death or a battered silent Jew near death, would the wounded person change because an “enemy” provided support?

I don’t believe that’s why Jesus shared the parable.

Those we help may or may not change.

But I change, and keep changing, when choosing to help the other.


[Images of paintings: Van Gogh from here; He Qi from here; Bassano from here.]

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  1. Your ‘Idol’ reference put a smile on my face. I so enjoy watching for those moments. Not being much of a literary scholar, I can’t say that I ever considered whether the Samaritan had to put up with abuse from the poor man so badly injured. I always thought the point of the story was about possessions and trusting that even if you lose everything you possess and your physical well being is in jeopardy, God will have your back. Thank you for giving me another perspective!

    1. Whew, you smiled at an appropriate place!

      With all of Jesus’ parables, and certainly with any good story, there can be many interpretations. But, as mentioned, our culture has “mangled” the “Good Samaritan” by dubbing the good acts of good people as similar to the parable’s “hero.” I believe Jesus intentionally selected a Samaritan for the person who arrives to help. His first century primarily Jewish audience would’ve likely been stunned by that “twist.” An enemy helping!? Being helped by the enemy?!

      Thanks for reading!!!

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