Luke 10:25-37; Luke 12:22-34; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Question: 

I'm trying to write an essay on these passages.

Comment: 

LUKE 10:25-37 offers one of Jesus' greatest parables, the Good Samaritan.  

It's important to remember, I think, that this great parable is Jesus' response to a single, simple question: Who is my neighbor? Jesus demonstrates one of his favorite teaching techniques by declining to answer the question. Instead, he tells a story that will allow the lawyer to answer the question himself.

The situation is simple. A man going from Jerusalem to Jericho is set upon by robbers, who leave him for dead by the road. Three people pass by—each with a perfectly valid reason for not stopping to help. For a priest or Levite to interact with either blood or a body would be a significant defilement, requiring an extensive process of purification. So each of them carefully crosses the road to avoid any possibility of defilement, and passes by. 

Samaritans were those people considered to be less pure, less than acceptable to mainstream Jewish belief. They were descendents of Jews who had remained behind in the land at the time of the Babylonian Exile, and had intermarried with other tribes and peoples in the land. They lived on the fringes of Jewish society, and contact with Samaritans was strictly limited by religious law. So the significance of the Samaritan being the one person willing to stop and help—and willing to take on the expense and inconvenience involved in supporting the victim—would have been very significant to those listening to Jesus tell the story. And to the lawyer, backed into a corner and forced to admit that the lowly Samaritan had been the true neighbor. If Jesus had simply stated that priests and Levites weren't always the most hospitable or 'neighborly' people, and that even Samaritans sometimes behaved better, he might have found himself in real trouble with the Pharisees and Sadducees listening and eager to trip him up. But he just told a simple story, and left it to the lawyer to draw the inevitable conclusion.

The moral lesson is clearly that we should be neighborly to those in need. And the metaphysical implications go even deeper. It isn't enough to know our spiritual truth, or to pay lip service to its implications. We have to be willing to put it into practice, freely and openly. And it is often in the less exalted dimensions of our consciousness that we will find the simple love and clarity of purpose that we really need. 

LUKE 12:22-34 is strongly related to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, although things are presented more briefly and in a different order. Luke seems to have 'cherry picked' several teachings on the same theme: Anxiety. The whole purpose of Jesus's ministry, as I see it today, was to encourage his disciples through the process required so they can embrace and express their true identity as beings of Spirit. It's a process that can seem fearful and challenging.  It often puts us as odds with the demands of the world around us. Human priorities are no longer our focus. The reassurance, of course, likes in verse 32:  "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." And with our spiritual Source supporting our every step, there is no need for the anxiety that sometimes seems to overwhelm us.

1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27 is similarly focused on the always-immediate question of how we are to move through this human experience once we are awakened to our true identity as Spirit. Paul compares the awakened life to a race, except that we all win in the end. Like runners, we stay focused on the destination, but we move forward in an energy of cooperation rather than competition. And we maintain "self-control in all things" (9: 25) so that our mortal pleasures and distractions do not overwhelm us as the race continues.

Blessings—and good luck with the essay!

Rev. Ed