“But one of them, seeing he was healed, returned and… fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.”—Luke 17:15-17
Jews weren’t fond of Samaritans, to say the least. Everything we say about groups we hate was said about them: they got religion wrong, they thought they were better than you, they were strange, standoffish, dangerous, lazy, immoral.
But Jesus had a thing for Samaritans.
Most people detoured around Samaria. Jesus went through. When one village wouldn’t let them in, his disciples thought it’d be a good idea to kill them for being so uppity. Jesus rebuked them. That’s Bible-speak for ‘told them to shut up.’
At Jacob’s well, a Samaritan woman gave him some lip when he asked her for water. They ended up talking metaphysics and relationships. By the time they were done, they’d both had a very deep drink.
He cast a Samaritan as the selfless hero of one of his best stories, forever leaving us no choice but to imagine that an enemy could be ‘good.’
And when a Samaritan leper showed up among ten needing a cure, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus already knew he’d be the one, the only one, who’d return to say thanks.
Jesus had a thing for Samaritans. So much so that his fulminating adversaries taunted him as a ‘Samaritan-lover.’ That’s like saying N-word-lover, Mexican-lover, Queer-lover, Immigrant-lover, Muslim-lover.
I bet Jesus bore the taunt proudly. Or maybe humbly. Because one of the things you discover when you acquire a thing for outsiders and enemies is that you could do a lot worse in life than be just like them.
Jesus, give me a thing—your thing—for everybody who is somebody’s other. Amen.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.