by miriam berg
Chapter XVII

Samaria was the name of the northern part of Judea, which embraced the tribal region of Manasseh, the first son of Joseph, after the conquest of Palestine by the descendants of Abraham. It was also the name of the capital city, built by Omri, the third king of Israel after the breakup of the empire of David and Solomon. The name comes from the Hebrew shomeron, which means "watch-mountain", since it was upon a hill, ideally suited for defense. However, Archelaus had renamed it Sebastije, which was Greek for Augustus, in honor of Augustus Caesar.

The Samaritans in the days of Yeshua were monotheists and accepted the Torah of Moshe but in a different form from the Jews. They believed that the center of worship was supposed to be on Mount Gerizim, where Moshe had commanded the Israelites to pronounce blessings over the land, rather than at Jerusalem, which became the center of the Yahwist religion only under David and Solomon. The city of Shechem, which was the holy city of the Samaritans, lies between the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, both about 3,000 feet high. The Samaritans were considered by the Jews to be heretics, and they considered the Jews to be schismatics. The gospel of John understates the matter: For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

After crossing the border into Samaria, Yeshua sent some of his followers ahead to a village to arrange accommodations for the night. But the Samaritans would not receive them, because they were Jews. Yakub and Yohan were enraged; they exclaimed to Yeshua, "Let us call down fire from heaven, and consume them!" Yeshua had to reprimand them for such a suggestion:
You have not yet learned what my mission is all about; did I not instruct you that if a village does not receive you, you are to bless them also, and continue on your way? For I did not come to destroy cities, but to try to save the Jews.
Luke ends the incident by saying merely, And they went to another village.

In whatever village they finally stayed, his reputation was there also, and the inhabitants gathered in the marketplace to see this man who had created such a stir in Galilee. He probably repeated many of his teachings to them also, since it is doubtful that he rejected the Samaritans like the rest of the Jews did. And we are told that a lawyer asked him what he should do to gain eternal life. Yeshua asked him in turn what he found written in the Torah, and the man answered with the two Great Commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with everything you've got; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Then Yeshua nodded and said succinctly:
Very good; just do this, and you shall find life.

However, the lawyer was not entirely satisfied with this, perhaps because he did not really wish to love his neighbor as himself. So he asked Yeshua, "But who is my neighbor?" A telling question: perhaps the most important question in the world, reminding us of Cain's question to God in the book of Genesis: Am I my brother's keeper? Yeshua responded with what is perhaps the best-known and best-loved religious story in the world, the parable of the good Samaritan:
A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and left him lying half dead.
     By chance there was a priest who was going down the same way; and when he saw the man lying there, he passed by on the other side. And in like manner a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw the unfortunate man, passed by on the other side.
     But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where the man lay; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion, and picked him up, and bound up his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine; and he set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took some money out of his own purse, and gave it to the innkeeper, and said, Take care of him, and if you spend more, I, when I return this way, will reimburse you.
Thus Yeshua epitomizes all of his teachings so far. So strong has this story been, in fact, that the very term "Samaritan" has come to mean any humane, compassionate, selfless person. But it reveals Yeshua's own universality as well; despite being rejected earlier by the Samaritan village, he makes the hero of the parable a Samaritan, and emphasizes his point by making the victim a Jew, who were the enemies of the Samaritans. He finishes by asking the lawyer which of the three were a neighbor unto the beaten man; the lawyer replies, perhaps a little unwillingly, "He that showed kindness to him." Yeshua nods again and says:
Now you go, and do the same.
If one had to select the crown jewel in all of Yeshua's teachings, this would be it. Your enemies are your neighbors, just as much as the people who go to the same religious services with you.

Luke says that Yeshua was staying in "a certain village" with two sisters named Martha and Mary. John tells us that the village where the sisters lived was Bethany, which is only two or three miles east of Jerusalem. Martha's sister Mary is often thought to be Mary Magdalene, which would mean that the village was Magdala, back in Galilee. Because of this confusion, we are leaving the story where Luke tells it: following the encounter with the lawyer regarding who a neighbor is, on the way through Samaria.

They were all gathered together then, in Martha's house, and Yeshua was asked to say a prayer before they broke bread. Yeshua, his heart still struggling over his coming fate and the temptation to forgo it and return to his carpentering, spoke only a few words, but they have lived on as the Pater Noster, or the "Our Father"; it is also known as the "Lord's Prayer", where the word "Lord" refers to Jesus rather than Jehovah; but I prefer to call it "Jesus' public prayer":
Father, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us each day our bread for that day.
And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves
     also forgive all those who sin against us.
And bring us not into temptation,
     but deliver us from the tempter.
This is the prayer as it is given by Luke. Matthew includes it as part of the Great Sermon, but it is out of place there because Yeshua has just instructed his hearers to pray in secret, so he cannot have immediately prescribed to them a public prayer, saying, Give "us", and Forgive "us". If Yeshua didn't offer these words as the evening prayer in the house of Martha and Mary, he must have on some other occasion, and they were remembered and remembered and became a ritual recitation instead of the spontaneous prayer which Yeshua uttered from his heart.

After the meal they gathered around while Yeshua spoke to them. And we are told that Mary sat at his feet, and heard him gladly. But Martha fretted because of all the cleaning up after the meal she had to do, and she came to Yeshua and complained, "Master, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? tell her to come and help me then." But Yeshua answered her:
Martha, Martha, you are anxious, and trouble yourself with everything; only one thing is required; and Mary has chosen well, and it should not be taken from her.
Yeshua does not say what the one thing is. Nor have we been told what he spoke about on this occasion either, but it may have been his teachings on anxiety, which would be relevant to Martha's fretting:
Be not anxious for your life, what you shall eat; nor for your body, what clothes you shall wear. For the life is more than the food, and the body than the raiment.
     Look at the ravens! they do not sow, nor do they reap; they have neither a storehouse nor a barn; yet God feeds them! How much more valuable are you than the birds!
     And which of you by being anxious can add even a quarter of an inch to your height? If then you are not able to do this one little thing, why be anxious concerning the rest?
     And look at the anemones, how they grow; they do do not toil, nor do they spin; yet I say unto you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like them. And if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is green today, and tomorrow is mowed down and dried for hay, how much more shall he clothe you, you anxious persons!
     So do not worry about what there is to eat, or what there is to drink; your Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the reign of God in your hearts, and you will find that you have everything you need.
     Do not be so anxious after tomorrow; it will come, let it be anxious for itself. Sufficient for today is what is happening today.
This sounds idealistic to us, of course; if you don't worry about food for tomorrow, how will you get it? But it is easy to see how Mary could have been captivated by the peace and tranquillity shining in these words. And it may be that we will find that it is practical advice after all; being anxious and worried is probably not the best way to get what we need.
Think on this too: five sparrows are sold for two farthings, but not one of them is overlooked by God. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not worry; you are of more value than many sparrows.
God watches over every sparrow; God counts each hair on your head. With these similes Yeshua tries to teach his concept of God as a caring Parent.
I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
      For everyone that asks will receive; and he that seeks will find; and to him that knocks it will be opened.
     And which of you that is a parent shall your child ask for bread, and you give him a stone? or a fish, and you give him a serpent? Or, if he ask for an egg, will you give him a scorpion?
     If you then, being human, know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall God your Father give you those things which you need!
He also told two parables which seem to be about knocking and asking:
Which of you has a friend, and should go to him at midnight, saying, Friend, please lend me some bread; for I have a friend coming from a long distance, and I have nothing to set before him; and your friend would answer from inside and say, Don't bother me; the door is closed, and the children are all asleep; I can't get up to give you anything?
      I tell you, Though he will not get up and help because of being your friend, yet if you keep knocking, then because of your importunity he will arise and give you as much as you need.
This seems to qualify the teaching, Knock, and it shall be opened to you, into, Keep knocking, and eventually it will be opened to you. The second parable was:
There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, nor saw any value in any person; and there was a widow in that city; and she came often to him, saying, Give me justice in this court against this man who has cheated me.
     And the judge would not at first; but finally he said to himself, Though I fear not God, nor esteem any man, yet because this woman irritates me repeatedly, I will decide in her favor, otherwise she will wear me out with her continual pestering.
This also would seem to qualify the teaching, Ask, and you shall receive. Sometimes, he says, you have to keep asking, so that you will eventually receive, just because you are an annoyance. Luke appends some homiletic remarks which must have come from the later followers of Yeshua, because they are referred to as the "elect", and there is a promise of speedy deliverance, which is not the point of the parable. Yeshua apparently made an analogy between the eye and a lamp, or the spirit and light:
Your eye is the lamp of your body; and when the reign of God is within you, it shows in your eyes; but when it is absent, your eyes are dark and gloomy.
     Therefore let your eyes show forth the light of God, rather than darkness.
     And if your eyes are glowing, then will your entire body be glowing, just as that lamp shines forth and lights the entire room.
This is not an exact translation from the Greek text, but the literal translation doesn't make any sense. A literal translation of the last sentence would read, "If your body is full of light, having no dark part, then your body is full of light, just as that lamp with its bright light shines brightly."

Then there was an occasion in the marketplace when a man in the crowd called out to Yeshua, "Master, make my brother divide our inheritance with me." Yeshua frowned at him and said,
Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
After this abrupt exclamation, he went on to give his comments on concern about wealth:
Take heed, and don't be addicted to possessions; for a man's life doesn't consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.
     No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other.
     You cannot serve both God and Mammon.
"Mammon" is from the Aramaic word mamona, which means riches; it was also the name of a Syrian god of riches, avariciously pursued. So Yeshua seems to be saying that God and wealth are incompatible. He told a parable to make this clear, which is known as the parable of the rich man and his barns:
The farmland of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; and he said to himself, What shall I do, because I don't have enough space to store all my produce?
     Then he said, This is what I will do; I will pull down all my barns, and build larger ones; and there I can store all my corn and vegetables. And I will rejoice, and say to myself, Soul, you have much produce laid up for many years; so take it easy, eat, drink, be merry.
     But God said to him, Fool, tonight is your soul required of you; and all the things in your barns, whose shall they be?
This is Yeshua's lesson not to hoard, and more, it is an injunction for a person not to have more than the people around him, for then he has more than he is entitled to, and more than he can use. He also is reported as saying:
Sell all that you have, and give to the poor; make for yourselves purses which do not wear out, treasure in God's eyes which cannot be used up, nor can it be stolen, nor destroyed by moths. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Then Yeshua was told about some Galileans who had been killed while they were in Jerusalem making sacrifices in the temple. The crowd were also talking about an accident in Jerusalem, where a tower had fallen and killed several men. No explanation is given, and the events are not described by Josephus or any other contemporary writer; but Yeshua uses them as the basis for his gloomiest forecast yet:
Do you think that those Galileans were neglectful of the law more than any other Galileans, because they suffered that fate? I tell you, not at all; but unless you change your actions, you shall all perish likewise.
     Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, do you think that they were offenders above all the men that live in Jerusalem? Again I tell you, not at all; but unless you also change your actions, you shall likewise perish.
In other words, those accident victims had not even done anything particularly wrong, yet they lost their lives; and if his hearers didn't begin to seek a new way of life, or the reign of God as Yeshua called it, they were surely heading for destruction themselves. None of his earlier teachings have approached this bleakness of outlook, this prediction of disaster and tragedy. So what is he asking them to do? we can only refer to his Great Sermon, and the parable of the good Samaritan: they must learn to love their enemies, or the greatest destruction in Jewish history will be upon them. He has not said they must follow him, or attend services, or tithe, or bow before priests; he has said that they must do the will of God, and he has equated that will with love of enemies as well as love of neighbors, and also with opening their hands to the poor and needy and not hoarding wealth and possessions for themselves. Finally, he tells a parable about a fig tree that was given one last chance:
A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and found none. So he said to his vinekeeper, For three years now I have looked for fruit on this fig tree, and haven't found any; cut it down; why does it cumber the ground?
      But the vinekeeper said, Sir, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig all around it, and fertilize it; and if it bear fruit afterward, that will be well; but if not, then you can cut it down.
Must not Yeshua see himself as the vinekeeper, breaking up their fallow ground, so that they can sow righteousness, and reap mercy, as Hosea says? If they bring forth fruit worthy of God, then there is hope; otherwise there is none, and they will be cut down, just as Yohanan predicted.

One of Yeshua's most famous aphorisms, reported by Luke on the journey to Jerusalem but included by Matthew as part of the Great Sermon, is the injunction about the narrow way and the wide road:
You should strive to enter in by the narrow gate; for the road to destruction is wide and broad, and many are those who find it; but the door to life is narrow and constricted, and only a few people find it.
Luke does not mention the wide road to destruction, but only the inability of the many to enter into the narrow door. In the Great Sermon he contrasts the ways of universal love with the ways of the world; in this parable he is speaking of the difficulty of the way of universal love. But certainly Yeshua does not need to tell them how hard it is to love everyone! Socrates, too, who taught that we are not to retaliate or return evil for evil, said: "This opinion never has been held, and never will be held, by any great number of persons." He also said, "The difficulty, my friends, is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death."

Luke quotes Yeshua here in response to a question about how many will be saved. This question is clearly Luke's editorial hand, since it addresses Yeshua as "Lord", which term did not begin to be used until long after Yeshua's death. But then Luke reports another parable, amplifying on the difficulty of finding the narrow way, and how the mere fact of being around him is not enough:
When once the master of the house has arisen, and closed the door, so that everyone else is left standing outside, and they begin to knock on the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and he shall answer them and say, I do not know you;
     Then they shall plead, and say, We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets;
     And he shall say again, I tell you, I know not from where you come; get away from here, all you wicked people.
     In the same way, you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, having entered the reign of God, and yourselves cast forth without.
     And they shall come from everywhere, from the the east and west, and from the north and south, not just from Judea, and shall enter into the reign of God.
This is a distressing prospect: shut outside, and no apparent reason given for why they are not allowed to enter. It must be because, though they have eaten and drunk together, and taught in the streets together, they still have not brought forth fruit worthy of repentance, which may be why he asks in the Great Sermon:
And why do you call me lord and master, and do not follow the advice I give you?

Somewhere along the way there was another time when the Pharisees came and asked Yeshua for a sign, which he again refused to give, but this time he compared himself to Jonah, the prophet who had preached doom to Nineveh:
This generation is an doomed generation; it seeks a sign; but no sign shall be given to it, save for the sign of Jonah.
     For even as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, warning them of the coming destruction of the city, so shall my teaching be unto this generation.
The book of Jonah said that Jonah had preached that God would destroy the city in forty days. On this occasion Yeshua is comparing his own message to that of Jonah, and certainly his remarks about the Galileans and the deaths at Siloam constitute a warning that disaster was coming and that it was time for men to change their ways if they hoped to prevent that destruction, just as the people of Nineveh are said to have repented and saved their city. Thus this sounds like another way of opposing the beliefs of the Zealots who wanted an military conflict with the Romans. Yeshua continues his parable:
The men of Nineveh shall stand up in judgment of this generation, and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and I am another Jonah.
     The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and I teach you how to enter the kingdom of God, which is even greater wisdom.
So he tries to make it clear that if they persist in their path they are running against the wisdom of the ages. Then the narrative says that he went on his way through cities and villages, teaching, and journeying on to Jerusalem.

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