Friday, 20 July 2018

Fresh light on the story of the Good Samaritan

It seems that in the time of Jesus, the Jews and Samaritans had hated each other for 600 years.  "The Samaritans were descendants of the surviving Israelites of the northern kingdom who intermarried with the newly imported alien population after the fall of Samaria in 722 BC."  (The Lion Handbook to the Bible, p 497)  The Jews saw them as a heretical sect, especially after they built their own temple on Mt Gerizim.  Perhaps, the final straw of rejection and disdain.  It was a Jewish king who destroyed this temple in 128 BC.  Yet, the Jews and Samaritans had so much in common.  The believed and worshipped the same God and both accepted the Torah, the first five books of the Bible as their authority.  Both waited the coming of a prophet like Moses - the Messiah.

Do the people of Israel have a new set of Samaritans to hate?  The Palestinians or the Gazans or Hamas or the Iranians, perhaps?
Or, Jeremy Corbyn - the JC of Islington North instead of the JC of Nazareth?
Just as the Jews longed for a Messiah to overthrow their Roman rulers 2000 years ago, is the boot on the other foot today in that part of the holy land that the state of Israel has designs on - Judea and Samaria?
In other words, do the Palestinians, in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, regard their Israeli occupiers in the same way that the Jews, 2000 years ago, regarded their Roman occupiers?
Is the state of Israel the new Rome for the people in the internationally recognised Occupied Territories, that many Jews and Christians call Judea and Samaria?
Is raising these questions so indicative of the new anti-Semitism on the Left in the UK today?

For 600 years, the people of Israel regarded the Samaritans as their enemy.  Yet, the Israelities had so much in common with this Jewish sect.  For the next 1900 years, the Jews were dispersed and, then in more recent centuries they were the subject of enmity from the West and from the Western Christian Church.  From 1948, the Jews regarded some Arabs, many Muslims, all Palestinians, every Gazan, Hamas en bloc and, the nation of Iran - all as their enemies.

When it comes to the Luke 10 story or parable of the Good Samaritan, is it acceptable to ask if Jesus the Jew was being deliberately provocative or even disloyal to his compatriots in putting his own religious leaders in such a poor light and, to cap it all, to put their enemy as the hero - the hated Samaritan?

He seems to have  been putting himself and his fellow Jews down and putting their enemies, the Samaritans on a pedestal to be admired.  Or, is there no significance in Jesus choosing a Samaritan as the hero?

Or, was Jesus giving an example of what it means, practically, to love your enemies, to do good to those who hate you, to bless those who curse you and to pray for your persecutors?

The story in modern dress
For the Judaeo-Christian nations today, is a modern day Samaritan, our 70 year old traditional enemy, Russia?  But we Westerners would call them the Bad Samaritan, of course but Jesus would see some good in the Russians and put one Russian in a story to put them in a good light.  Or is politicising the parables of Jesus unacceptable, for they are meant for personal, private holiness by individual, born again believers?

Or, does the West view the Robbers in the story as wicked Russia beating up our allies like Ukraine and occupying Crimea?

The 89 year old Father of my church and retired leader has wondered if the State of Israel is behaving as the robbers beating up the poor defenceless Gazans.  The 2014 July/August war killed over 2200 including about 500 children and the 2018 boundary protests killed over 140 Gazans and one Israeli soldier.

Who would you class as a modern day, walk on by, do nothing, priest and levite in the story?
Were we the priest and levite in knowing but doing nothing to save the Jews, the Roma and all the other minorities and outcasts in the 1930s and 40s in Nazi ruled Germany?

"And who is my neighbour?"
The shocking thing about this story is that we are being told that our neighbour is Hamas, Hezbollah, the suicide bomber, the terrorist, the Gazan and the Palestinian.  Our neighbour is our enemy to whom we are to do good.  But, never, the enemy is our neighbour!  Unfortunately, Israel has made enemies of some neighbours by giving nothing and wanting more.  Yet, it has made peace treaties with two of its neighbours - Egypt and Jordan.