The Good Samaritan: An example of the Distinctive Voice of Jesus?

“A man was travelling on a road in a bad part of the Judean countryside where bandits were known to hide in caves and come out to ambush innocent people. Sure enough, he fell into the hands of attacking robbers. They stripped him, stole all his belongings, beat him severely and left him half dead. By coincidence, a priest walking down the same road saw him, but went out of his way to avoid helping him. Next, one of the priests subordinates came to the same place and crossed to the other side of the road to avoid him.  But then, a so-called Palestinian Muslim extremist came by. He took pity and immediately called an ambulance on his cell phone. While waiting, the Palestinian man did everything he could to comfort the dying man with the provisions he had. He poured wine on the wounds and removed his own clothes to help sterilize his wounds and lessen his blood loss. When the two ambulance drivers arrived he jumped into the ambulance with them and the four of them all drove to the Jewish hospital in Jericho together. When they got to the hospital, the Palestinian man paid the doctors a retainer fee for taking care of the dying man. He had saved his life. Then, because he had to leave, the so-called Palestinian Muslim extremist said, “Take good care of him. I’ll be back later to cover any additional costs and buy all you nice Jewish doctors dinner tomorrow”.

(Luke 10:30-35)

We don’t know the identity of the dying man. It seems Jesus wanted his audience to imagine that he was a common Jewish layperson like them. That is whom we would expect to be the hero who stops and saves the dying man’s life. But, in typical Jesus style of speaking, he shocks his audience into thinking about the impossible. He shocks them into thinking about a brand new human nature. The audience must have first reacted with laughter to the story for it’s implausability. Samaritans were enemies of the Israelites, because of an ancient disputed about the Temple’s location, similar to the dispute about the Muslim Dome of the Rock today, which stands where the Jewish Temple used to stand. The idea that a Palestinian would go so exceedingly out of his way to help a stranger and an enemy is also typical not only of Jesus’ fondness for shocking his audience, but also Jesus’ fondness for dramatic irony and exaggeration when he speaks. And so, the laughter that helped his audience remember and think about the story gave way to deep thought. Who is my neighbor? Can we really all have such a radical change of heart? “Can’t we all just get along?” As the victim of L.A. riots Rodney King once said.

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