In US immigration reform as well as the controversial Chinese policy in Hong Kong in allowing mainlanders to flood the already overcrowded city, many would find the story in Luke 10 to be a reflection point, but what kind of reflection can result?
In A-J. Levine’s second chapter on the Good Samaritan, she talks about the impossibly upside down world of Jesus. In a discussion about the lawyer, she suggests that the lawyer in Jesus’ world would be considered a good guy. He was, in fact, a cultural gatekeeper who would prevent the Jews from sliding into gentile assimilation. Yet, Luke’s portrait was consistently negative.
Levine then points out the importance of the main issue Jesus was dealing with “How do you read it?” in looking at the question of eternal life and the Torah. The assumption of the privileged position of the lawyer who could read as opposed to the largely illiterate population comes in sharp focus in this story. In many ways, Levine agrees with Jesus on the importance of loving in view of the Jewish law.
In this book, Levine brings out many excellent points. The following are the ones I strongly agree with. First, she sees the victim as any person. Certainly, Jesus didn’t focus on the ethnicity, even though the victim looked most likely to be Jewish. Second, she denies that ritual purity is the issue with the religious characters. She’s totally right because they were getting off works, so to speak. They weren’t heading towards Jerusalem. Why did they have to worry about the man being dead? Third, and most significantly, she cites Martin Luther King Jr.’s interpretation of the two religious leaders being afraid of what would happen to them as they traveled on the dangerous road. The Samaritan however thought in reverse, “What would happen to this man if I don’t stop?” This is a most reasonable interpretation based on the geography and the Torah stipulation of love.
The significance of the Samaritan’s ethnicity deserves mention, and Levine surely focuses on that ethnicity. I think she’s right to see the radical nature of seeing someone who’s very much the despised enemy of Israel being the good person in the parable. I agree with her assessment. The Samaritan wasn’t “good”. He’s despised. Here’s where I disagree with her. At the beginning of her chapter, she writes that the whole story isn’t answering “Who’s my neighbor?” Now, I believe Jesus did answer the question using the ethnicity of the Samaritan to do so. I’ve given my readers a key to interpret this story anew. I hope this conversation with Levine helps stimulate further reflection on not only the neighbor being the Samaritan, but also the question of “Who’s my neighbor?”