11 August 2015Luke 9:51-56
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." (v. 51)
Psalm: Psalm 66
We are probably familiar with the Good Samaritan (Luke
10:25-37), but we may be less familiar with the 'bad
Samaritans' who provoked James and John to such un-Christian anger.
There is history here.
The kingdom of David and Solomon split into two after the death of Solomon around 927 BC, and there was fierce, sometimes violent rivalry between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Two hundred years later Israel was overrun by the Assyrians, and only small areas such as Samaria and Galilee survived. The Samaritan Jews developed their own version of Judaism (which continues today) with their own Hebrew Scriptures, holy places, priesthood and a temple on Mount Gerizim as a rival to Jerusalem - much to the disgust of the 'proper' Jews of the southern kingdom of Judah who later destroyed the Samaritan temple.
By the time of Jesus, Samaria, located between Judea and Galilee, was not somewhere a good Jew - like Jesus - would visit.
The reaction of the Samaritan villagers to Jesus is interesting. They might well have welcomed him as the messiah (like all Jews, they too looked for the coming 'anointed one') but they rejected him "because his face was set toward Jerusalem", and not Mount Gerizim. And James' and John's reaction to them was equally interesting. They believed that God would give them power to destroy their village as God had destroyed the Canaanites when Israel first occupied their land. But Jesus, it seems, was less concerned about those who rejected him than with those who claimed to accept him but who were unwilling to accept the full implications of discipleship.
For them (and maybe he had some of his disciples in mind too) he had an uncompromising warning: don't follow me unless you are really serious about it and prepared to put loyalty to me above all other commitments - even to home and family. Better to be a sincere Samaritan and reject me than to be a dithering disciple not fit for the kingdom.
- The Judaism of Jesus' day was divided by centuries-old arguments about sacred mountains and religious shrines. Have you come across anything similar in the Christian Church? Why do you think such ancient arguments still survive?
- Jesus' planned visit to a Samaritan village was controversial. What might cause similar controversy today?
- "Better to be a sincere Samaritan and reject me, than to be a dithering disciple not fit for the kingdom." Do you agree?