The Good Jew instead of the Good Samaritan

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I have affirmed elsewhere in this blog what the late Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon (1920-2010) suggested: that Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan could actually have been a parable of the Good Jew. My own convictions are prompted by the fact that Jesus’ call to action inevitably shakes and startles those he calls. He challenges us to move from a world of comfort to one of perplexity, from certainty to doubt, from safety to risk and even danger.

Here is a contemporary illustration: Over the past two or three months three or four congregations have been working and planning on receiving and resettling a refugee family from the Middle East. One family, but four interfaith congregations. Obviously there are complex cultural, social, and educational dimensions as well as legal processes. If you pause to think of the magnitude of human suffering anywhere – including at home – what emerges in this picture is a pursuit for efficiency rather than expediency. Certainty and the least – if any – risk!

The temple priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable subordinated human life to ritual expediency and we see Jesus challenging that mindset in his ministry and teaching. Be it Sabbath, dietary rituals or a man writing a “get” to divorce his wife, Jesus’ challenges his followers on a road not yet traveled.

That is the road a Jew would have traveled in the parable.

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