Luke 10: 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Most sports history fans have heard of Jesse Owens. The black American sprinter won 4 gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, also known as Hitler’s Nazi games. Hitler preached the virtues of the dominant Arian race, and desired to use these games to promote his ideology, but ironically, it was a black man who would become the hero of the games. However, there is much more to Owens’ final gold medal.
Owens later recounted that in qualification for the long jump, he nearly did not advance. He ran down the runway on his first run-through, only to find out that the actual competition had begun, and he now had one foul. Befuddled, Owens fouled his second attempt. He was one foul away from not advancing to the finals. At this time an unlikely hero came to his aid. Luz Long was the great German hope to win the gold medal for the Fuhrer. Blonde, blue-eyed, he was the Aryan ideal of Nazi ideology. But, according to Owens, Luz came to Owens to encourage him. “’You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed.’ Then, apparently, Long suggested that, as the qualifying distance was only 7.15m, Owens should shift his mark back to ensure that he took off well short of the board and remained clear of any possibility of fouling again.”[i] Owen took his advice, qualified for the finals, and won the gold. And who did Owens take the gold medal from? None other than Luz Long. “‘That business with Hitler didn’t bother me,’ Owens later wrote. ‘I didn’t go there to shake hands. What I remember most was the friendship I struck up with Luz Long’”[ii]
It’s also interesting to hear the back story behind parables. In Luke 10:25-37 we hear of an “expert of the law” testing Jesus. This leads to a question of “who is your neighbour?”. Jesus shares the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. Many people may not even realize where the term comes from, but they understand that the Good Samaritan is someone who helps another in need, no matter who they are.
Jesus speaks of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It was a real road, well-known as a hide out. It was a 3400ft decent and robbers could easily hide in mountains. Jesus was telling this story to the ruling Jews, and the proper story would have had a Jewish person being the hero and helping someone in need. While “Good Samaritan” is a positive term today, in Jesus’ day, a Samaritan was a defiled people and not a group that Jews could even associate with. Jesus was not concerned about “man’s rules”, which we see when he asks a Samaritan woman for water (John 4:1-26). And ironically in Luke 9:53, just before he tells the story of the Good Samaritan, he and his disciples visit a Samaritan village, but the villagers turn them away. The disciples wanted to curse them, but Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:55). Despite the aforementioned, Jesus still makes the Samaritan the hero. As he often does, Jesus turns the tables upside down. God loves Good Samaritan’s, those with pure hearts and a desire to do what is right, a desire to love, even in the face of persecution and danger. Are you willing to be such a man or a woman?