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Rev. Klockers: A most famous and familiar story of the unexpected

| October 7, 2020 1:00 AM

The Parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke’s Gospel, Luke 10: 25-37, from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, says:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 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 neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, 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 while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

There’s a lot to unpack from this parable. Among them is the call to examine what “neighbor” truly means. There is also the irony of Jewish religious figures showing indifference to the man in the ditch; both passed him by. In part, this was because the man was “half-dead.” If they were to lend him aid and he died on the journey, they would be considered “ceremonially unclean,” requiring them to go through through lengthy ritual cleansing. Another key point, and the one I wish to highlight in this parable, is what I call “the unexpected.”

It was unexpected that the Samaritan would be the hero. Why? It was because Jews hated Samaritans. They were “impure” half-Jewish folks. In that time and place, to the Jew, such a person was considered anathema.

Yes, the surprise was that it was the Samaritan who showed compassion. The man in the ditch was stripped of his clothing (which was a way of identifying his origins, including his nationality). None of that mattered. The unexpected happened.

God can work like that. Just when we believe we know exactly how God operates, there is the capacity for surprise.

Sometimes we can be the recipient of the unexpected from God; and sometimes we may be an agent of God acting in ways that surprise even ourselves.

Be the unexpected.

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.