Red Letter Year: 7/29

Luke 10:21-42 (part 1)

21 At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. 22 My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. 24 I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”


There is a lot going on in this passage. I wish there were a natural break in the middle somewhere. I also considered posting the scene with the lawyer and the Good Samaritan parable alone, then the verses before and after separately, since the bookends here relate to each other, but that didn’t feel right either. So, we are going to spend two days with this passage. For today, let’s focus on the middle, the conversation with the lawyer and the parable. Tomorrow I will address what comes before and after.

There are a few things to note in interaction between the lawyer and Jesus. In Mark and Matthew, Jesus recites the two great commandments. Here, he deflects that question and allows the lawyer to answer. It looks for a moment like the lawyer and Jesus agree (though Luke has already identified hims as hostile); the lawyer had either heard Jesus teach this before or this was a more common understanding of Torah they both shared – to a point. A second thing to note is that the lawyer sought to justify himself. Reading this should remind us of how Luke described the people baptized by John – the ones who justified God. The lawyer does the opposite.

The parable itself is quite provocative. Jesus is still in Samaria and is speaking boldly into the racial tension between the Jews and Samaritans. Jesus not only makes the Samaritan in his parable the hero, he juxtaposes the Samaritan against two people who should have been moral leaders among the Jews. They are scrupulous keepers of the Law. By including them in the story, Jesus is indicating that such keeping of the Law is inadequate. Their approach to the Law led to the lawyer’s self-justifying question. Jesus refuses to answer the lawyer’s question because the lawyer is asking the wrong question. The lawyer wants to know who counts as a neighbor, and thus who does not count as a neighbor; he wants to know the extent and limit of his obligation. So much and no more is what the Law requires.

But Jesus transcends the Law and reorients the discussion around the good news of the coming of his kingdom which does not proscribe limits to obligation, but requires disciples to become people who care for everyone they encounter – especially those in need and especially when this involves personal risk. The Samaritan takes great risks helping the attack victim. He delays or drops his own affairs (this at least made him very late for a meeting.) The thugs might have still been around. He makes himself financially vulnerable to the innkeeper (not always the most honest folk). We must take the same risks with our lives and possessions if we are going to be disciples of Jesus.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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