The rejection in Samaria

In this coming 13th Sunday of Ordinary time, the gospel is taken from Luke. In yesterday’s post we looked at the consistent use of travel language by St. Luke. Today we look at one event along the way:On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, 53 but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

The rejection at the beginning of Jesus’ travel narrative corresponds to the rejection in Nazareth at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (4:16-30). Both of these rejections come soon after the similar events of Jesus’ baptism (3:21-22)) and his transfiguration (9:28-36). Many scholars suggest that both the people in Nazareth and in the Samaritan villages reject Jesus because they cannot accept his understanding and embodiment of the divine purpose. It is clear that he is heading towards Jerusalem. We know (and so did Luke’s readers) what will happen to him there.

The hostility of the Samaritans is not the personal hatred Jesus will meet in Jerusalem. It is evidence of the national or racial prejudice between Samaritans and Jews. Jesus’ disciples cannot expect to be free from this treatment, but the answer is not retaliation. James and John must learn to avoid useless clashes and to look for new places to spread the kingdom.

Craddock (Luke, p.143) writes: “One can almost appreciate the anger of James and John over the refusal of hospitality to Jesus; they are being protective and do not know how to handle rejection. They bring to mind overzealous evangelists of another generation who extended God’s grace to the audience and then tossed balls of hellfire at those who refused the offer. Jesus’ disciples remember quite well scriptural precedent for calling down heaven’s fire (2 Kings 1:9-10), but they have forgotten the recent words of Jesus: when on a mission, accept the hospitality offered to you. If none is extended, shake the dust off your feet and move on (9:1-6). Is it not interesting how the mind can grasp and hold those Scriptures when they seem to bless our worst behavior and yet cannot retain past the sanctuary door those texts which summon to love, forgiveness, and mercy?”

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