In chapter 1, Willimon retells the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10, considering the response of the Jewish man who has been beaten and robbed and who is lying in need. The persons he would have accepted salvation from–the priest, the Levite–pass by, but the last person on earth he would desire or even think of receiving salvation from–the Samaritan–is the one who indeed saves him. Willimon writes, “So this is not a story about a person who stops and gives the man in the ditch the use of his cell phone in order to call the highway patrol–we would have done that. It’s a story about the odd, threatening, humiliating, and extravagant form by which God draws near to us for our rescue” (p. 11).
What need have we educated, successful, wealthy, resourceful, clever, resiliant North Americans for salvation at the hands of a homeless, jobless, wandering rabbi put to death by an foreign government in military and political occupation of his ethnic homeland? This a juxtaposition in profiles if ever there was one.
Willimon continues: “Like most of Scripture, the story of the man in the ditch is a story about God before it is a story about us, about the oddness of our salvation in Christ. … [We] would rather be the anything-but-poor Samaritan who does something nice for the less fortunate among us. In other words, [we] don’t like to admit that just possibly [we] might need to be saved.”
If indeed a way to hear that story is as Willimon puts it here, one of the things we notice is that the Samaritan would have found himself finally in a position of strength vis-a-vis this Jew. The one who considered himself a full member of the people of God, at the mercy, literally, of one whom he despised and considered unworthy. If the man had been half-conscious, he would have certainly cringed upon the approach of the Samaritan. The tables are turned, the Samaritan now able to return some of the abuse that he and his kin suffered socioculturally. But to the surprise of the man in the ditch, the Samaritan does not respond with violence to this opportunity to shame one of those who looked upon he and his race as shameful. Instead, he responds with mercy, care, love, compassion.
A new friend in a covenant group pointed out recently that Moses did not look fully upon God’s glory because it would have killed Moses for him to do so (Exodus 33:20). Yet when we did finally look upon God’s glory in Jesus (John 1:14), we killed him. But in Jesus, we see the one whom we beat and executed when given the opportunity respond not with violence but with love. Odd and great is the salvation that comes through Jesus.