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The Samaritan ~ The Great Pretender

07 Jan

Even if a persecution did not follow the death of Stephen, the Gospel would have had to break out of the haven at Jerusalem where it was nurtured by the Spirit of God since Pentecost. The Jewish religious authorities, in killing Stephen, had officially rejected Jesus as the Messiah and the Kingdom of God whereby the believer is the bearer of the Shekinah Presence of God and considered thereby to be the Third Temple of God built by the Messiah. Having rejected this, they set up the abomination that eventually made Jerusalem and its Temple a desolation.

Judaism of the first century was very particular over what was clean and unclean. They went to great lengths to make themselves clean before God and their brethren. It was these traditions that were questioned by the Baptist’s ministry (cp. John 3:25) and which probably resulted in his imprisonment (John 3:24; cp. John 4:1, 3 and Matthew 4:12). The Jews’ religion emphasized cleanliness, and the blurring of clean and unclean was held in great contempt. It was this kind of contempt in which the Jews held Jesus. All Samaritans were considered unclean, and respectable Jews had no dealings with them (John 4:9), so to accuses Jesus of being a Samaritan and having a demon (John 8:48) was the ultimate rebuke, implying not merely that he wasn’t an Israelite at all, but that he was a pretender to the faith. This is how the Jews viewed Samaritans—pretenders of descent from Abraham. Samaritans were completely unacceptable to the Jews.

It is interesting, therefore, that Jesus made the Samaritan the “hero” of the parable in Luke 10:30-34. The parable is significant in that the ceremonial cleanliness of both the Levite and the priest prevented them from helping the poor man who lay half dead from an attack by robbers (Luke10:30-32). Had either the Levite or the priest ministered to the man, they would have become ceremonially unclean and couldn’t lawfully participate in their Temple duties. Nevertheless, a Samaritan, when he came upon him, dressed his wounds and paid the cost of an acceptable place for recuperation (Luke 10:33-34), thus fulfilling the requirements of the Law (cp. Luke 10:27). Who, then, in the parable was the pretender, and who was the real worshiper of God? This question is at the heart of Luke’s message in Acts.

In effect, by the Jewish authorities having Stephen killed, they concluded they knew nothing of what was become of Jesus (the Prophet like Moses cp. Exodus 24:18; 32:1; Acts 7:40) who had gone up in the clouds to receive his Kingdom (Acts 1:9). The Jews who accused the Samaritans of mingling the worship of Yahweh with that of other gods (cp. 2Kings 17:25-29), had themselves begun to practice similar worship in that they “prayed” or called out in the name of Beelzebub to harness the power of evil in order to cure the ailments of people to whom they ministered (Acts 7:40-42; cp. Matthew 12:24 and Acts 19:13).[1] Yet, when Philip sought refuge in Samaria from the persecution at Jerusalem and preached the Gospel there, the Samaritans (in contrast with the ceremonial-clean-conscious Jews) received the Gospel. The Samaritans received Jesus as the Messiah, whom the Jews had refused. If we consider only this passage of Scripture who is pretending to worship the God of Abraham and who is the true worshiper? There is a reversal of positions after Acts 7. Although the Jews are continually sought out first by Paul to offer them the promises of the Gospel, it is the Jews and not non-Jews who find it difficult to yield to Jesus. Not only so, but the predominant trouble faced by believers come not from non-Jews, but by the Jews themselves—the very people who claim to be God’s own nation, and all this in the name of ceremonial cleanliness.


[1] Compare this with Josephus’ statement about Solomon being “enabled” by God to learn the skill that expels demons: Antiquities of the Jews; book 8, chapter 2, paragraph 5. Considering that Solomon had apostatized the Jewish faith of his father David, it is more probably that he inherited this knowledge from his wives, and Josephus maintains that “this method of cure is of great force unto this day.” Compare also Wars of the Jews; book 2, chapter 8 paragraph 6, where the Essens “enquire after such roots and medicinal stones as may cure their distempers,” showing that the Jews had abandoned the ways of the Lord to rather take up incantations to demons, using charms and trinkets (magic) like their pagan neighbors.

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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Kingdom of God

 

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