In many issues of The Record, we ask several parishioners a question and publish their answers. In the July Record, the question was about favorite parables. Here are the answers!
The Romans during the time of Jesus were at the height of their power and glory. They had conquered and made provinces of much of the known world. Judea was a Roman province… one to which no Roman proconsul wanted to be assigned. Judea was too small, too poor, and the Jews refused to engage in military exercises on the Sabbath.
It was understood that wealth for the Roman officials depended on provincial taxes. Of course, the Jews hated their Roman conquerors, but they hated their fellow countrymen who collected their taxes even more because they often skimmed off the top.
In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus draws a picture of a Pharisee, puffed with pride, convicted of his own righteousness and disdainful of others. The Pharisee thanks God in the temple that he is not like other men, those extortioners and adulterers, and even the tax collector, who is also at the temple to pray.
The tax collector, on the other hand, beats his breast and prays, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus says, “I tell you this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I think that it is part of being human to revel in seeing those holier-than-thou, religious zealots being brought low by Jesus. I am sure part of me likes this parable for that reason – just as I am sure that Jesus did not mean for that to be the takeaway. The better part of me loves the message of a merciful God showing preference for and acceptance of the repentant sinner. Yes, there is hope for all of us – even for me.
Margaret Grayson is a retired Latin teacher.
The Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:25-37) is arguably one of the simplest yet most radical parables of Jesus, making it one of my favorites. However, when we hear it today, we are often unaware of how truly radical it was to first-century Jews. Allow me to rewrite it in modern terms:
A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A neo-Nazi was leaving a rally and was ambushed by counter-protestors who beat, robbed, left him half-dead in a ditch.
Now by chance a pastor was going down the road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Same for a member of Human Rights Watch. But when an elderly African American woman passed by, she came near to him and was moved with pity. She went to him, helped him to his feet, brought him to a hospital, and paid for his medical bill.
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the neo-Nazi left for dead?” The reply came, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” In this age of political hatred of the ‘other,’ the radical challenge of this parable speaks for itself.
Ryan DeMarco is a political science teacher at North Cross School and joined St. John’s in October 2018 after moving here from Georgia. “I love getting to meet all of the people in this wonderful church… and I love exploring the city and the mountains around the Roanoke River Valley.”
Sadie: I like the story of the Good Samaritan because we should love our neighbors. Sometimes it’s not easy to help or share but God wants us to help everyone.
Savannah: I like the story of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) because it reminds me to spread God’s love and it makes me happy to share God’s love with others.
Sadie is a rising pre-kindergartener; she’s excited this year to see her cousins and ride her bike at the beach. Savannah is a rising second grader; she’s looking forward to going to the beach and visiting people she loves this summer.
The Q&A is compiled each issue by Christine Mortlock.
Published in the July 2019 issue of The Record.