Luke: 10: 25- 37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Ryan and Harris are siblings aged 6 and 8 respectively. They both are always fighting over the trivial things and sharing is not a virtue in their land. They both love pancakes and mommy dear makes it for them. Now to teach them to share she makes an odd number of pancakes and the number is 11. So you know they both had 5-5 each and there was peace in the universe. But wham, bang bang. The question is who will have the 11th? The fight ensues and it gets physical and this is when mommy dear interrupts. She is ready with her sermon. She asks both of them, “What would Jesus do, if he was in your place?” The boys looked puzzled. The expression on their face was as if the question was what is 37855×389÷635=? Well mother seeing their confusion to answer that, resolved the chaos by saying “You know if Jesus was here, he would say ‘I love my brother and let him have the pancake’”. Ryan the younger and the smarter one clapped hands and said “Problem solved mommy, Hey Harris, you be like Jesus and let me have the pancake”. Keep this story with you and let us further explore the timeless parable of Good Samaritan.
The question that initiates the parable is a question by a religious scholar as to “Who is my neighbor?” This is a very important question as we need to love neighbours, but then who is the neighbor? How do we decide, whom to love and whom not to love. Jesus gives a parable. And we will not just be passive readers but let us see where we stand as we recount it. Let me remind you of a very famous Airtel Ad which was on our tongue and which by far still is. It had a ring to it. The ad defined friendship on the simple premise of “Jo tera hai wo mera hai, jo mera hai wo tera…Jo tera hai wo mera hai…..lalalalaala” Please do sing along as you read as I have sung it while I have written this. Now you might think, why the ad of all things. Hold on. We will get to that.
First we know that there is an unnamed man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Please have a mental picture of him which sure the listeners of Christ had. Now we will sing along the song as to what each character must have sung when they saw the man. First the robbers: We are dedicated Bollywood fans and having songs for every situation is no big deal for our imagination.
Robbers see the man. The thugs with all the attire circling the man and singing “Jo tera hai vo mera hai……. Jo tera hai hai wo mera” (What is your’s is mine… what is your’s is mine) and repeat it for more dramatic effect and sing it out loud. And the next scene is the half dead man on the road. So how did the robbers see him? Jim Moore says that we have a lot of people who look at people, experiences and things with Cruel Eyes, to snatch, to take away, to control, to hoard. We live in a time where such practices are institutionalized by big corporate companies and all they want to do is snatch and dispossess people. Well that would take us to a different tangent.
The next two characters have different entries in the scene but same song on their lip. What is it? “Jo Tera hai wo tera hai… Jo Mera hai wo mera”(What is yours is yours and what is mine is mine). When one reads about the robbers and cruel eyes, it is a relief that most of us are not snatchers, usurpers and goons. Thank God! But the very noble priest and Levite saw the man lying half dead and must have had the “O that is so sad, poor fellow” expression. But they did not want to get involved. Play safe. Why get into trouble? We all are convicted of this. We want to be involved in social issues as long as it is on ‘Facebook’ and dealing with slogans. But the moment it gets risky, we begin to calculate. In principle, we are against child labor. It is bad. But, when we see a Chotu serving tea or as a waiter in a hotel, we feel bad, but that is the extent of our action. We like the Priest and the Levite look around with Calculating Eyes.
Now enters the notorious Samaritan. The people listening to Jesus telling the story must have said “What good can come from him?” But figure out the Samaritan is in a foreign land. He is not aware of the road so observes everything around and pays special care. I remember the first time I rode bike in Bhopal, I was aware of every crater, pothole, turn, landmark and road. I was aware and was anxious about being lost as I am too proud to take directions. Well, so would have been the Samaritan and lo and behold, there is a half dead man and the risk of being a foreigner. But what is the song he sings. “Jo mera hai wo tera hai… Jo mera hai wo tera hai.. chalo isse baate hum.” (What is mine is yours, let us share it.) He saw the half dead man with Caring Eyes.
My friend Blessen Varghese, who is now working as an evangelist of the Mumbai diocese at Khardi mission, gave a brilliant insight by saying that every person who travelled down that road had “Oil and Wine” with them(It is like having a security like our mobile phones in today’s world). It was a travelling must. So it means that the Priest and the Levite too had it but as far as they were concerned ‘Oil and Wine’ is to be preserved for a future use for their well being. When the Samaritan pours oil and wine, he is risking his well being and security and puts the man’s security at the top priority. But is the story about glorifying the “Good Samaritan”? If so, it is easy. In real life and on social media we love to read about sacrificial people and good Samaritans. We do our best to share it.
The question that started it all is “Who is my neighbor?” Once we know who our neighbor is, we can limit our love by embracing some and excluding others. Now again Jesus asks a very crucial question after the story. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (vs36) The answer seems very simple, “One who showed mercy”. That is very simple. But the last word of Jesus is “Go and do likewise”. So the lawyer answered his question but the answer he got was very different. Jesus does not define a neighbor, he created a neighbor. The question to be asked is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Will I be a neighbor?” Like Ryan, it is easy to expect Harris to be like Jesus. The question is, “Are you ready to be like Jesus and be a neighbor?”
Let me leave you with a story. There was a 12 year old boy who lived with his family in a small village in Africa. The boy’s name was Panya. One day as Panya was playing near his hut, he saw a distant hut being enveloped in flames. There were many who gathered outside without knowing what to do. There was a baby inside the hut and the cries were getting louder. Panya hearing the cry of a baby plunged into the blazing hut to find the baby in a poorly made crib. He had trouble to negotiate the fire as the flames danced upon his head. Finally freeing the baby, he picked him up, carried him outside and in the nick of that time the hut caved in. The villagers were now relieved as they out of fear were paralyzed to do anything. They were very impressed seeing the courage of Panya. One person said and asked “Panya, you are very brave. Weren’t you frightened? What were you thinking as you ran into the burning hut?” Panya answered, “I was frightened but I did not think anything when I heard the cries of the baby. I jumped.”
It was not that the baby was Panya’s neighbor. Among all the onlookers, Panya became the neighbor to the baby.
Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopal