Luke 10:25-37 – The 8th Sunday after Pentecost â€“ for Sunday, July 10, 2016
â€œJesus replied, â€˜A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death . . .â€™â€
I wonder . . .
What if the man left near death wasnâ€™t silent?
What if he spoke to the Samaritan whoâ€™d come to his aid?
[Warning: certain words below may disturb some readers.]
â€œYou sonuvabitch, lemme off your damn donkey.â€
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 animalâ€™s middle.
â€œYour motherâ€™s a whore. Your fatherâ€™s a dog that licks his own dick.â€ He coughed more blood. â€œIf you have brothers or sistersâ€â€”from his smashed mouth, the words sounded like spudders and pissersâ€”â€œtheyâ€™re all pricks and bitches.â€ (Which came out as icks and itches.)
On they trudged, the Samaritan beside the donkey, occasionally adjusting the makeshift bandages. With the donkeyâ€™s steady gait, the Jew shifted like a tree branch in a gentle breeze.
â€œYouâ€™re a pimple on the asshole of life. Now Iâ€™m unclean. Now my people will hate me.â€
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 innkeeperâ€™s wife agreed to tend to the Jewâ€™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 didnâ€™t leave soon, heâ€™d complete the robbersâ€™ job and kill the jerk.
The Samaritan grinned as he trudged back outside. Heâ€™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 Jesusâ€™ parable, have I usually imagined the man near death as silent, compliant, and grateful?
Even beaten to a pulp and barely alive, why wouldnâ€™t he curse the Samaritan? They were mortal enemies, born to hate, taught to ridicule and humiliate each other.
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I wonder . . .
What if the â€œGood Samaritanâ€ parable was inspired by a real event?
What if it offered glimpses of a life-changing encounter in someoneâ€™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 youâ€™re only a smidgen like me, a believer with a bevy of doubts, a follower of Jesus that suspects thereâ€™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?
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The â€œGood Samaritanâ€ 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.
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 â€œGood Samaritan.â€
- I once thought gays were wretched sinners.
- I once was nervous around â€œnon-whiteâ€ 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 â€œgood Samaritanâ€ that saved my sorry derriere.
My change was gradual. Part of the change involved meeting queers just like me (straight and gay can be selfish and selfless). Iâ€™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 â€œstrangelyâ€ and had â€œweirdâ€ 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 thenâ€”in the proverbial nick of timeâ€”given new life by our worst enemy.
Though that does happen.
Jesus taught a lesson nearly impossible to follow. (Did Joseph and Maryâ€™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 donâ€™t hate anyone!
Who is inferior to you because she doesnâ€™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 â€œenemyâ€ provided support?
I donâ€™t believe thatâ€™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.