Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Luke 10.25-37: "Re-defining Neighbour "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Who are your neighbours? How far from your home does the area you call neighbourhood extend? How well do you know your neighbours? Are they all of one social and/or racial group?
A Window on the Text
In most Bibles this section is headed ‘The Good Samaritan’ and the story is familiar as such to many people, old and young. But in The Message * the heading is ‘Defining “Neighbor”’. Why would Eugene Peterson break with tradition and change the title? Might it be that labelling this individual Samaritan as ‘good’ inevitably suggested that most Samaritans were bad?
At its heart this story, so beautifully re-told by Luke, is an account of prejudice, racial and social. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a busy trading route between two cities. But crossing a very barren area of desert on the descent from the Judean hills to the Jordan valley, it was renowned for being a haunt of robbers or highwaymen.
The victim was probably a trader of some sort, likely to be carrying his wares, and the money he had earned: a good target. The same might be said for the Samaritan who comes to his rescue: wealthy, carrying enough money to pay his bills and a down-payment for the care of the injured man. And maybe a regular traveller on that road and well-known to the innkeeper, to be trusted to return and settle outstanding debts.
And what of the robbers? Quite probably they would once have been subsistence farmers, who had fallen into debt and subsequently been displaced by big landowners extending their vineyards to satisfy the Roman market.
So in this story we find a catalogue of social and racial division in society at that time:
- Religious prejudice: an injured, bloody and half-dead man is ‘untouchable’ to the priest and Levite; this would make them ‘unclean’ before God, especially if travelling to the holy city of Jerusalem.
- Social prejudice: the Samaritan and the injured man might have been ‘in trade’ - a lowly social class then and now; an inn was a poor place at which no respectable person would have stayed.
- Racial prejudice: Samaritans, the people of Samaria, were looked down on by the Judeans as being at best poor Jews, and at worst pagans. That this was a consequence of war and ethnic cleansing seven centuries earlier could not be forgotten.
To these prejudices and divisions, Jesus says everyone is our neighbour. The word ‘alien’ or ‘stranger’ cannot exist in the heart and mind of a follower of Christ. Each and every one is to be seen as and treated as a child of God.
* The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Eugene H Peterson. 2002.
Responding as a community
- How might you as individuals, or as a group, do something to extend your understanding of neighbour and neighbourhood?
- How might you turn that understanding into practical reality?
- With a local map on the table, light tea lights and place them on the map to represent your neighbourhoods.
- Have a smaller scale map to hand also, then light lights to represent the places and people to whom you are going to extend your understanding of neighbour. (Be prepared: a world map could be needed for this exercise!)
- Reflect in silence for 5 minutes on the places and people represented by the lights, then name and pray aloud for the strangers who are going to become your neighbours.
- Say or sing one of the following songs
Say the Grace to one another but include your new neighbours in that blessing.
- When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
- Brother, sister let me serve you.