Sunday 10 July 2022

Bible Book:

'But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.' (v. 33)

Luke 10:25-37 Sunday 10 July 2022

Psalm 25:1-10


Sometimes the bitterest enmities are between those with most in common. So it was with the Jews and the Samaritans.

After the death of King Solomon, a dispute about royal succession led to the kingdom of Israel being split in two (1 Kings 12), with Ephraim in the north and Judah in the south. This political division was eventually reflected in differences in religious practice, not least because Solomon’s Temple was in Jerusalem, Judah’s capital city.

Some point to 2 Kings 17 as the key point of religious division; the Assyrian policy of deporting and resettling conquered peoples, while seeking to placate local gods, may have led to a ‘diluted’ or compromised form of Jewish religious practice in Samaria. But this event sat within a longer and more complex process of development, in which the two communities from a shared beginning took increasingly divergent paths.

The Samaritans, like the Jews, held the Torah in great esteem, although there are some differences in their respective authoritative versions. But, unlike for the Jews, the Torah was the whole of Scripture for the Samaritans; they did not regard the prophetic or historical books as holy. This had some important implications for their beliefs: Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Torah, so has no special status; there is also no scriptural endorsement of an ‘anointed one’, whether this be David or a king or messiah still to come. The Samaritan Torah also includes an instruction to build a shrine at Mount Gerizim, which became their centre of worship and is still home to a tiny community of Samaritans today.

Both the Jews and the Samaritans regarded themselves as the preservers of the true worship of YHWH (God) – and therefore regarded each other as apostates. No wonder they felt each other to be a threat! They were so close, yet so far apart. And what we might regard as terrorist groups from each side were guilty of occasional attacks on individuals, communities or places of worship.

This is the context in which Jesus told the story of a man of compassion, who stopped to help. A man who saw not an enemy, but a neighbour in need of help. The Samaritan in Jesus' story was clearly a man of some means and generosity (he gives the innkeeper what would, for a labourer, be two days’ pay, and promises more). But this was no dispassionate act of charity – the word that translates as ‘compassion’ is related to the word for ‘guts’. This was something visceral, something he felt deep down in the pit of his stomach. This, said Jesus, is what love really is.

To Ponder:

  • Put yourself in the position of either the Samaritan or the traveller who has been attacked – who would you find it difficult to have compassion for, or to receive help from?
  • Who are those communities or individuals who seem to share so much with you, but whom you struggle to trust?
  • The priest and the Levite get a bad press, but they were in a difficult situation. If the man had been dead and they touched him, they would be unclean and unable to fulfil their Temple duty. Can you think of occasions when you have had to decide between competing religious, ethical or professional responsibilities? How did you decide what to do?

Loving God, fill us with compassion that moves us to action, with love that sees the humanity of all, and with grace to accept the love of those we are taught to despise.

Previous Page Saturday 23 July 2022
Next Page Monday 11 July 2022