Reading the Good Samaritan in the Context of Luke’s Gospel: Lectionary Reflection on Proper 10, Year C

This week’s readings are here.

Working through the lectionary’s gospel readings this summer, I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which Luke interweaves various themes, ideas, even vocabulary, throughout the gospel (and even Acts). The many resonances with the whole of his work create rich resonances and invite new interpretations. Looking at particular texts from the wider perspective of both Luke and Acts helps us to see new things in old and familiar stories.

I would like to highlight several elements that I’m pondering this week as I work on my sermon for Sunday. First of all, Samaritans. Luke’s gospel includes three references to Samaritans; all of them take place in the central travel section (9:51-19:27). The first we’ve already seen, the Samaritan village that refused to welcome Jesus. The third takes place near the end of the journey, when Jesus heals ten lepers (17:11-19). Only one of them turns back, praises God, and thanks Jesus. Luke adds the comment, “And he was a Samaritan.” Is Luke making a comment about the inclusion of Samaritans within this new community? In the latter two instances, the actions (and faith) of Samaritans are contrasted with those of observant Jews.

The second intriguing item is that the word “inn” appears in only two contexts in Luke’s gospel–in the nativity story and here. Should that open up the possibility of a Christological interpretation of the parable; i.e., that one way of reading it is to see Jesus as the man who fell among thieves? An interesting article by Mike Graves (available here to seminary alumni) develops the Christological themes–both Jesus and the man were beaten, stripped, abandoned.

A third bit is the reference to Jericho. Jericho appears again at the very end of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, when Jesus encounters Zacchaeus. And where Jesus “goes up to Jerusalem” (a phrase repeated throughout the travel narrative), the parable begins “a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.”

And finally, Jesus says the Samaritan was moved with pity when he saw the man, using the same word Luke uses of Jesus in 7:13 of the widow who is about to bury her son, and of the father in the parable when he sees the prodigal son returning.

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