So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises.
What aspects of first-century Judaism are criticized in Luke 10:25–37? What aspects are lauded?
(adapted from Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels)
Neal Chandler wrote a really fun article where he pointed out regarding the parable of the Good Samaritan that “Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, told his story to the Jews. We tell it —and, I think, rather like to tell it —on the Jews” (italics in original). He then retells the parable involving a stake president, a General Authority, and a dirty hippie. It’s pretty awesome. In so doing, he makes a hugely important point: we commit interpretive malpractice when we use any scripture to emphasize only what they are doing wrong. President Uchtdorf made this point recently. So the Parable of the Good Samaritan is not about how those people didn’t take care of the wounded traveler. It’s about how we don’t take care of him. When I catch myself (and I do frequently) putting myself in the role of the good person in the story (“I am just like Nephi because . . .”) I need to remind myself that the scriptures are not there to pat me on the back. I need to be asking myself instead in what ways I have been acting like Laman and Lemuel recently.
So I think we are, perhaps to our detriment, pretty good at the first part of this question–we easily recognize that the emphasis on ritual purity probably stopped the priest and Levite from helping the wounded traveler. (It may also been the physical danger of stopping to help and risking being attacked as well.) But which aspects are lauded? In the frame of the parable, we have a lawyer who asks Jesus a question and there is quite a bit which goes well there, both before and after the parable. In the parable, there is a “host” (or innkeeper), presumably Jewish, who is willing to take in a beaten traveler, at the request of a Samaritan, without full payment up front–also very good. Most people don’t even notice the innkeeper, but she or he is another hero in this story.