What does it mean to “flip the script”? If we think of a script in relation to a storyline or plot, then the idea of flipping a script can mean that how a storyline or script would be expected to develop gets upended or drastically shifted. Maybe this idea is like a “surprise ending.”
Last week, we looked at the idea of flipping the script related to James and John asking Jesus about calling down fire to consume a Samaritan town who wasn’t welcoming Jesus. To their question, Jesus confronted their mindset and flipped the script when He rebuked them in Luke 9:56, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
For this week’s blog, I’d like to add to last week’s thoughts and consider the script-flipping that Jesus did with the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Jesus told this parable as an answer to the question of a Jewish leader who was wanting to justify himself in addition to trapping Jesus in a religious challenge. The question that the Jewish leader asked Jesus was, “Who is my neighbor?”
In His reply, Jesus talked about a man who was brutally beaten by thieves and bandits. This victim was left half dead on a road. A priest came along, observed the half dead man, and kept going along his journey. A Levite (another religious person) did the same thing as the priest. After identifying these detached and callous individuals, Jesus flips the script by introducing someone who was anathema to Jewish people – a Samaritan. This gentleman saw the half-dead man on the road and had compassion on him.
The Samaritan went to great lengths to help the victim recover from his beating. He bandaged his wounds, poured oil and wine into them, set the victim on his donkey, led him to an inn, took care of him, and ensured that the innkeeper would look after the mans recovery.
When Jesus answered the question of the Jewish leader, He flipped the script because the Jewish leader would be wholly biased and hostile against any Samaritan. But in Jesus’ parable, the villain is the hero. So when Jesus finished the parable, He asked the Jewish leader who he thought the neighbor to the victim was in the story. The leader replied that the man who showed compassion was the neighbor. Jesus affirmed his answer and told him to go and do the same.
In this parable, we see religious people who have priorities of maintaining their piety and going about their business. In contrast, we see a person who was disdained by the religious folk and that person was over-the-top compassionate and he was an instrument of healing for a half-dead corpse. In this parable, Jesus prioritizes compassion and challenged the Jewish leader to make the love that he had for his neighbors overflow with compassion.
May we also see this Samaritan to be a hero and model for our own compassion and choices that we make regarding the people around us. By loving people well, we express our authentic love for God – 1 John 4:20.