Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

See Differently, by Tobias Mayer, 2022, chalk pastel on black

And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Luke 10:29b-34

The story of the good samaritan is not, as we tend to consider it, the story of a good deed. Rather it is the story of a world turned upside down, a world where the least shall be the greatest, the last (here literally) shall be first. Jesus told this tale in response to the question, who is my neighbour? Jesus' response makes it clear to his listeners that it is not who you are that matters in the kingdom of God on earth,1 but what you do. The Samaritan people of that time were considered the low-lives of the region, Godless and unclean. The Samaritan in Jesus' story nonetheless becomes "like God" in his response. Go and do thou likewise says Jesus to the lawyer who was questioning him, and indeed to all of us reading this text—go and be like the other, the one you despise, the one you are afraid of. Experience life anew. Rise above the petty concerns and categorisations of men, and abide with God where all are equal, and we are judged not by wealth, class or social standing, but by the depth of love and kindness in our hearts.

This is a radical story, one which confronted the very fabric of society, showing it to be weak and built on little more than vainglory and the worship of false gods. Many (perhaps all) of the parables Jesus told were in one way or another stories of how life would be in the kingdom of God. Each one intended to shake the listener from their slumber, offering to the poor hope of much needed change, while unnerving the rich by reminding them of the tenuousness of their position. It is no wonder the authorities, the powers that be, so quickly plotted against him. Silencing this radical preacher was absolutely necessary to sustain the status quo. When a mirror is held up to our faults we have the opportunity to reform. Sadly, too often we instead look away, or break the mirror—or, in this case, the body of the man holding it.

1 In talking of the kingdom of God, Jesus was not referring to heaven, or any kind of after-life, but very much to a new earthly kingdom that would come in the lifetime of his listeners—providing they changed their own ways of responding to power.