Jesus has an odd way of doing things. Here we see Him sending more people to preach, but how must they have come across? “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. … And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road” (Luke 10:3-4). This may have been for their own safety, but can you picture them – heads down, so intent on their purpose that they’re ignoring everybody; not so much as a good-morning? That doesn’t seem likely to get them anywhere, but Jesus encourages them before they go. I’ve been encouraged too by these words: “Anyone who rejects you is rejecting Me” (Luke 10:16). If I’m talking about Jesus and someone isn’t responding well, it’s comforting to know He shares my pain.
Amazingly, this group He’s sent out get results! They come back astonished that evil spirits obey them and leave people when they use Jesus’ name, but He tells them instead to be happy their names are written in heaven, and Jesus is ‘Filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit’. I’d like to have seen that. He says a prayer that’s also found in Matthew 11: God’s hidden things from people who are wise in their own eyes, and revealed them instead to those who are childlike (Luke 10:21).
As if on cue, an expert in Jewish Law (who’s probably wise in his own estimation) puts Jesus to the test. “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks the man for his opinion, and he quotes Moses: Love God and love your neighbour, but Jesus’ definition of who a neighbour is stuns him. He tells a famous story about a man left for dead. A priest and temple-worker pass him by, but a Samaritan stops to help him. His nationality is significant and needs explanation.
You can read in 1 Kings 12 about Israel and how King David’s grandson’s poor choice caused it to split in two. The southern kingdom of Judah remained loyal to the family of David, while the north took to themselves a king named Jeroboam. God made this happen to keep a promise to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29-39). God vowed to give him ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, but Jeroboam couldn’t quite believe it. “The kingdom will probably go back to David’s family. If the people continue going to the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, they will want to be ruled again by Rehoboam” (1 Kings 12:26-27), so he made two golden calves to put in the towns of Samaria – the northern kingdom. He told the people it was too far to Jerusalem and to worship those instead – a great sin that displeased God, so perhaps it’s no surprise that much later the king of Assyria attacked Samaria and took the Israelites captive, bringing foreigners in to replace them (2 Kings 17:24). However, the foreigners weren’t honouring God; they didn’t know how, so God sent lions in and some of them died. The king of Assyria solved this by sending an exiled priest back, to teach them Jewish customs and how to worship God.
That’s why Samaritans are despised by Jews: Their race is a mix of Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) people. Jews believe associating with Gentiles makes them unclean, so saying a Samaritan stopped to help him is like … well, … think of your worst enemy! The expert can’t even admit it was the Samaritan who was a neighbour to the injured man; he just says, “The one who showed him mercy” (Luke 10:37).
The chapter ends with Martha opening her home to Jesus and friends on their way to Jerusalem. As it was her home, she was probably the eldest daughter. She had a sister (Mary), and a brother (Lazarus). Mary’s at Jesus’ feet listening while Martha’s busy serving, but she’s a bit uppity. “Don’t You care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40), but Jesus doesn’t tell her to share the load with Martha; He says instead that Mary’s made the better choice.
Aren’t you glad Jesus shocks us sometimes? Life could be dull if He didn’t.