Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Again the significance of the other is highlighted, not obscured. The Greek translated as foreigner is allogenes literally other sort, other nature or other tribe.
The Jewish audience of Jesus generally despised Samaritans. Jesus applies that sense of otherness to encourage his listeners to self-criticism and self-awareness.
The key issue here is not the religious identity of the leper, but his faith and his thankfulness. All ten had sufficient faith. Only one had the humility and care to return, praise God, and give thanks… and he was a Samaritan. The Samaritan identity — heretical, unclean, and potentially dangerous — serves to underline the essential role of thankfulness.
In the Samaritan stories Jesus tells us that whatever other we encounter we are to look beyond our prejudices to the faith of the other, the behavior of the other, and especially how the other is in relationship with God and neighbor. Jesus tells us to recognize the other as neighbor and as an expression of God.
We also see in the Samaritan stories how our encounter with the other can help us see ourselves more clearly and experience our relationship with God more fully.
Next Friday, Christmas Eve, some thoughts on the potential relevance to homeland security of the six texts we have examined.
This is the seventh post in a weekend series that will conclude on December 24. The purpose is to examine possible principles for inter-religious relations emerging from six scriptural texts.
The first post on December 3 was Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.
The second post on December 4 was Avoid Samaritan Towns.
The third post on December 5 was The Woman at Jacob’s Well.
The fourth post on December 11 was Jesus accused of being a Samaritan.
The fifth post on December 12 was A Samaritan town rejects Jesus (including several reader comments).
The sixth post on December 18 was The Parable of the Good Samaritan.