Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. "Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?"
[Jesus] answered, "What's written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?
He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence -- and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
"Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live."
Looking for a loophole, [the religion scholar] asked, "And just how would you define 'neighbor'?"
Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
"A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him on to his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill -- I'll pay you on my way back.'
"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"
"The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
<The Message >
1. In John we have a story about a Samaritan woman at a well. In the Greek Orthodox tradition she has a name - St. Photina (Lady of Light). The issue of revealing what is runs through that story. The Messiah is revealed through the vehicle of revealing to others who they are.
Here in Luke a Samaritan man (does anyone know of a tradition where he is named? - I would like to know) continues the theme of revealing. In this case the neighbor is revealed.
It is revealing to consider the parallelisms here and to see how Messiah cannot be understood without the neighbor, and the neighbor can't be understood without the Messiah.
2. So, who is the neighbor? Well, it can be a Samaritan. What keeps it from being you? This is the simple and complex work of going forth to do kindly.
Do you wake up for your day with the anticipatory question, "I wonder where I will be able to be kind today?" This question helps focus us and keep us prepared to respond with kindness all through the day. Post this question on your mirror, refrigerator, door knob - wherever you will note it (and perhaps it would be good to have it in several places) until it becomes a natural part of your daily preparation.
See the movie, Pay it forward.
3. It is not necessary to bad mouth the priest or levite in order to deal with this passage. It is enough to simply note that they passed by and missed the blessing available to them. Putting them down is not the neighborly or kind thing to do. It is enough to attempt to see what kindness means in our everyday living.
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