Reﬂections of/ on Jesus’ ministry
Are all readings equally valid?
Relation to course of Jesus ministry
The ‘mystery’ of God’s kingdom – cf.
The kingdom of heaven is like … (Matt. 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47)
Tares: a reﬂection of opposition
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his ﬁeld. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. (Matt. 13:24-25)
The parable tells the story of Israel, particularly the return from exile, with a paradoxical conclusion, and it tells the story of Jesus’ ministry, as the fulﬁlment of that larger story …
(NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God)
‘Now’ is climax; the harvest (cruciﬁxion, AD 70) will surprise: much ‘seed’ lost
A parable about hearing
“He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt.13:9)
A parable about the hearing of parables
“Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? (Mark 4:13)
A speech-act: by speaking Jesus creates the reality that he speaks of
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that (hina), “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:10-12)
‘‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’’ And he answered them, ‘‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given … This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulﬁlled that says: ‘‘‘For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matt. 13:10-15)
Challenge: desire to engage curiosity?
Hostility of adversaries – cf. Mark’s context: family, teachers of Law (3:22-35)?
Fidelity to OT?
A reﬂection of his experience?
The Good Samaritan: the narrative
Jericho road notorious for bandit attacks
Jericho favoured by priests as home
Reactions to characters
No great aﬀection for priests
Samaritan – why not an ordinary Israelite?
Negative expectations – surprise
The ‘rule of three’
Through actions – 12 verbs:
He came … he saw … he was moved with pity … he went … he poured … he bandaged … he put him on his animal …he brought him to an inn … he took care of him … he took out two denarii … he gave them to the innkeeper … he said …
No comment: ‘show, don’t tell’
No feelings, motives
Use of direct speech at climax
The Good Samaritan – interpretation
One of the best – but least parable-like – of Jesus’ stories
Realistic: meaning emerges without any transposition
Setting and characters: representative, not metaphoric or symbolic
Traditional/ medieval: allegory
The man who was going down is Adam. Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers. The priest is the Law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience, the beast is the Lord’s body, the [inn], which accepts all who wish to enter, is the Church. … The manager of the [inn] is the head of the Church, to whom its care has been entrusted. And the fact that the Samaritan promises he will return represents the Saviour’s second coming (Origen, c. 250 AD)
A simple moral tale?
What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25) – be like the Samaritan!
Misses the point – has to be seen
• as narrative
• in context
Choice of Samaritan as foil to priest and Levite
• Not just a surprise – a challenge to assumptions
• Opens up category of righteous people to others than Israel – to everyman
Turning tables on hearers
‘Love your neighbour as yourself … And who is my neighbour?” (v. 27, 29)
‘Neighbour’: passive, dependent on my help
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
‘Neighbour’: active, my potential or actual helper – who may be anyone, even a Samaritan!
… the jarring challenge and urgent invitation. This is not only, in the explicit words of Jesus Luke records, ‘Go and do likewise’, but also – as and when the message sank in – ‘reorder your mental world so that you see how universally such compassion is possible.
(Stephen I. Wright, Jesus the Storyteller)
This challenge is timeless!