Won't you be my neighbor?

I'm teaching the parables of Jesus to my junior high first day school class this trimester and hopefully, you'll be seeing more posts like this as I prep my lessons.

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25)

Why do people keep asking Jesus this question? Seriously. Lawyer-Guy is all; "What do I need to do to get a cookie? I don't want to clean my room. What if I just make my bed? Is that enough to get a cookie?"

I'd be tempted to tell the guy to just shut up already. If I were to come face to face with someone who I thought had all the answers, I wouldn't be asking him about cookies. Fact of the matter is, I've got access to Jesus (and so do you!) and I've never asked Him about what I need to do to get into heaven.

I've asked "What do you want me to do?" and "Is this okay?" and in fits of anger and despair I've been known to ask "why me?" but I really don't care about heaven. I am willing to believe that God is always just and often merciful and therefore I can trust that I'll deserve whatever comes next. What it is exactly doesn't interest me all that much. Let's get back to the story.

When the lawyer dude who is harassing Jesus this time about his cookie asks for a little clarification about who his neighbors are, Jesus responds with the whole half-dead guy in the ditch story we've heard a million times. You know, some dude passes by, then some other dude passes by, and then this other dude, one of an ethnic group everybody looks down on 'cause they're smelly stops to help out and even pays for the half-dead guy to stay in the motel 6.

But wait. Jesus ends the story with a question:

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:36-37)

Sounds to me like Jesus isn't just telling us that we need to be kind and loving towards everyone (not just our in-group, our literal neighbors, our friends). Seems to me that Jesus is actively shaming our little cookie-seeking lawyer by telling a story about someone who had call to be selective in defining who his neighbors were not only not trying to weasel out of helping others, but actively going out of his way to be kind to a complete stranger in need. I'm going with the shame-on-you version of the story, 'cause I like that Jesus best.

Seeing as my kids really get the whole Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, I'm probably going to work in the story about how A-Rod once saved a kid from getting hit by a car on Newbury Street. The Yankees might well be the closest thing we've got to Samaritans in Boston.


Robin M. said...

Sweet lesson plan. Mind if I borrow from it some time? (I'd have to re-think the Samaritan equivalent for SF, but that's okay.)

Do you have an idea of how they will react/interact with the story? I mean, will you just talk about it or do they usually draw or write or act or something? I'm interested in what works well with junior high kids.

Elizabeth Bathurst said...


The meeting has set of lesson plans with activities that we get handed at the beginning of each trimester. Each lesson has a series of activities and discussion questions which I tend to pick and choose from depending on who shows up and how cooperative they are that day. These are just my thoughts on the story and an idea about a real life example that might resonate with my kids, but you are welcome to use them if you'd like.


RichardM said...

A couple of points you may or may not want to work in.

First, the question asked is about eternal life not heaven. There is a context out of which this question comes. Some of the Jews are traditionalists who not only do not believe in heaven, they believe that there are no rewards or punishments after death. In the books of the Law the perpsective taken is that of this worldly rewards or punishments for obedience or disobedience. Some more modern thinkers did however accept the relatively new idea that there would be a resurrection of the dead in which some of the dead would get to live again in a fully corporeal existence on a new and improved earth. It is only quite a bit later that the Judeo-Christian tradition began to incorporate Platonic ideas of an incorporeal afterlife. I don't think that such ideas ever occurred to Jesus, Paul or any of the early Christians or their Jewish contemporaries.

Also Jewish history is all about guilt and doing the right thing. Historical disasters fell upon the Jews and they attributed them to their disobedience. In Jesus time we see signs of a sort of obsessive-compulsive following of the Law so as to avoid these collective national disasters. Much of Jesus' teaching concerns getting people to let go of this obsession with the details of the external observance of Jewish Law and instead to focus on what is in the heart. so your reading of the story does fit well with the bulk of Jesus' teachings.

Since kids in this age group often like to laugh at peole who are uptight about the rules, this might be something you could get them to relate to.

Roger and Diane said...

I also am faced with teaching the parables to a FDS class of eighth grade boys. I've taught these guys for years, and they've gone through the parables at least once before. I'd like them to get inside the stories this time, and really think critically about them. How to engage them though? They are a rowdy bunch.

Maybe the best way to do that is to get them to rewrite the stories in a modern context. Either get them to write and perform a play (which they love) or maybe make a comic book or claymation.

Sorry to think outloud here, but a I was saying at Bible study last night how I had no idea how what I was going to do in FDS this coming term, and now I do! Thanks!