We are studying Leviticus 19:18 and Luke 10:25-37 for Sunday, October 18. This is the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, and Jesus’s commentary on the commandment, in the form of the parable of the Good Samaritan. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider as we study and discuss the text:
It seems likely we’ll spend most of our time on the Luke passage, but … it’s worth noticing that Leviticus 19:18 is embedded in the “holiness code” that occupies Leviticus 19 – Leviticus 22 and that begins “You shall be holy, for I, YHWH your God, am holy.” So it might be worthwhile looking at how that holiness is specified, what constitutes holiness concretely especially in chapter 19, since it forms an important part of the context for Jesus’s instructions in Luke. We might want to ask ourselves how leaving part of the harvest for poor people, not lying or stealing or cheating, paying our employees promptly, not hating people or holding a grudge or “getting our own back,” among other things, all constitute “holiness.” Because we probably have a preconceived notion of “holiness,” and this may not be it. How is loving our neighbors as ourselves part of holiness, specifically?
Perhaps more important, how is this holiness connected to relationship to God?
Then we could ask ourselves – is Jesus saying anything really different from what Leviticus is saying? How? What makes us say that?
[By now you probably know my bias! But just to be completely clear: I would argue that Jesus is not saying anything the Torah doesn’t already say – even here, even in Luke. And if Jesus WERE going to say something the Torah doesn’t say, it would be here, in Luke. So if it isn’t here, well … that’s significant.]
[More personal] If we use the holiness code as our rubric – how are we ourselves doing? Do we want to think about that? Do we feel we need to do anything about that? Why, or why not?
One more question on the “holiness” theme: We can think of “holiness” as “being set apart,” “being dedicated to,” “being unique, special.” Those ideas can go in more than one direction, concretely. If we treat Jesus’s discourse in the parable of the Good Samaritan as a commentary on the meaning of “holiness,” does it affect our understanding of holiness, in that sense of being set apart, being unique, special? How? Why?
The lawyer in verse 25 is doing the same thing (same verb, same activity) as the devil is doing in Luke 4:2. [We might want to notice that those tests in Luke 4 all involved scripture, and the implications of scripture for practical action, too.] What do we notice about the question in verse 25?
How does Jesus’s story refer back to the question of eternal life in this verse? How is a story about a man who fell among robbers and the way three passers-by treat that man related to that first question, about life, do we think?
The narrator tells us in verse 29 that the questioner is seeking to “justify” himself, or to “make himself righteous.” Assuming the narrator is reliable and actually knows what is in the questioner’s mind – how does this question serve that purpose? How is it supposed to “justify” the questioner?
[More personal] Do we ever ask similar questions, or apply similar tests? What are they? Why do we do that, do we think?
Thinking about the different characters in the story Jesus tells (and not leaving out the robbers!), how do they illustrate different ways people can behave? What are those ways, how would we describe them?
Who do we ourselves identify with in the story? Why is that, do we think?
[More personal] How, or when, have we behaved like the robbers? Like the traveler? Like the priest or the Levite? Like the Samaritan? Which do we feel is more typical of us? What insight(s) does this give us? What might we need to do with them? Why?
The more I think about this text, the deeper it gets. After all this time, we have not gotten to the bottom of it. Why is this so hard for us?