The Mercy of Seeing -- By: Krista Mournet

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 44:0 (NA 2012)
Article: The Mercy of Seeing
Author: Krista Mournet


The Mercy of Seeing

by Krista Mournet*

I often wonder why the Parable of the Good Samaritan isn’t called “The Parable of the Wounded Man.” Other parables, at least in popular parlance, are titled with reference to the one acted upon: “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” “The Lost Coin,” “The Lost Sheep,” “The Pearl of Great Price,” why not “The Parable of the Wounded Man”? In any case, whatever you call it, this very brief story is powerful in itself, and made even more so by its location in the midst of a dynamic encounter in Jesus’ ministry.

But before we get to the main text, let’s take note of a couple of key features at play in the larger context of the story. First, we read at the beginning of Luke 10 that Jesus has sent out seventy followers to go ahead of him, preparing the way for his arrival and preaching the kingdom of God (10:1–12). As they go out “like lambs in the midst of wolves” (10:3), they are to carry nothing with them, rely on the charity of strangers they meet and receive their hospitality as they preach. The text tells us in 10:17 that these first seventy returned joyfully to Jesus, reporting of the miraculous events that have occurred in their journeys. But surely, as the first Jesus followers continued in this pattern of itinerant ministry, they would have encountered treachery along the way; so the story told by Jesus just a few verses later would have been a very real possibility for these first Jesus followers.

Second, we need to remember the unique staying power that parables have as over the millennia we return to them again and again. They are fictional stories—they never really happened. And yet, on an experiential level, they happen all the time. We all know what it feels like to be abandoned and forgotten; to find ourselves lost and in need of rescue; to be in desperate need of reconciliation, at the mercy of those who have every right to hate and punish us, only to find in awestruck relief that we have been forgiven instead. These stories speak to our common experiences as a human community; the unique joys and sorrows that bless and plague us. And so as the years pass, we return to them—we mine them anew for the ancient truths they tell us.

The Game is Afoot

As we approach our main text, Luke 10:25–37, we notice that Jesus has been speaking to a large group of his followers, including those seventy who have just returned from their itinerant journeys, as well a...

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