…as you did it to one of the least of these…
An encounter with Jesus went like this:
Luke 10:25-37 ESVUK
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Moving on directly from the last blog, which was little more than a short selection of the many times the Bible speaks about refugees, we saw that God cares for refugees and demands we that we welcome them and treat them well.
This encounter between Jesus and a lawyer – someone who studies the Jewish religious law, so a theologian rather than a solicitor or barrister – takes a simple question and answers it, after telling a story, with another question, as was the Jewish way at the time. Why answer a question with another question? – Why not?
The point being that those we are called to love are not those we like or have authority (I don’t see anything that says we should not love them, that is not the point) but that love, compassion, help should be extended to those with whom we have little in common. The Jewish society of Jesus time despised the half-breed Samaritans, racism pure and simple in today’s language, but Jesus made the despised Samaritan the hero of the story. I can imagine how it played out in front of the crowd:
JESUS: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
JESUS: Now by chance a priest was going down that road,
JESUS: And when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite he came to the place.
JESUS: And saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan,
CROWD: (Boos and hisses, then waiting for Jesus to give the Samaritan what for…)
JESUS: A Samaritan as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
We get used to hearing Bible stories and forget just how shocking they are. There is no indication that this Samaritan worshipped or even believed in God, just that he acted in the way God wants us to behave.
The Jewish behaviour, as I showed in the last blog, was to treat others well because they remembered that they were mistreated in Egypt. They fled Egypt after eating a meal with unleavened bread, there was no time to wait for the bread to rise. They were told to have this meal, the Passover meal, every year to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt. This remembering them escaping to freedom was to be the basis of them treating other people in the land they settled in well, whether passing through the country or as refugees.
Jesus shared such a meal with his disciples:
Luke 22:7-20 ESVUK
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed…
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and ga
ve it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
We still celebrate this. Whether we call it The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass or something else, we commemorate and receive the God who came to Earth not just to die and rise for all people of all races, all genders, all sexualities foe all time: Everybody,. Not just to die but to teach and show us what human life is all about.
This God, this Jesus the God/man said:
Matthew 25:37-40 ESVUK
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’