This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the protest which split an already split Christianity. Let’s instead think of what we have in common, says Watt, both in faith and duty.
Have you ever noticed how every discussion of the divisions within the realm of ‘Christianity’ eventually degenerates into a food fight over who did what to who, and when? And like that guy with Irish Alzheimer’s (who forgets everything but his grudges), no progress towards true reconciliation is ever seen? And the Irish are the perfect example. Green versus Orange. South versus North. Whiskey versus Scotch. And both sides have a continuous hangover. What gives, brother?
Now I have my own weird perspective, as you well know. And because I was not the eldest or the youngest in my clan, I believe I can view those two extreme points on the familial horizon with a little more equanimity than those two privileged endpoints. And I contend that the real reason we can’t all get along is because we never go far enough back to find out the real origins of our first falling-out. But that’s what I’m going to do for you now. I’m going to tell you where the real fight should be fought. And who we should be fighting against. Together. Because the real fight is inside the walls, my friend. Not outside.
Josephus knew this, as he sat, under guard, watching the siege of Jerusalem. He sat there, along with his Roman captors, as they both watched Old Israel crumble from within. One watched in wonder, the other in horror. Guess who was amazed? It was the Romans. They could not believe what they saw. But Josephus could believe it. He knew the factionalism inside the walls. He knew what had led to this. To the impossible struggle. But not against the Empire. No, it was a struggle against itself. A struggle it could not win, because any victory would also be a suicide. Josephus knew Old Israel was dead. Still walking, but yet dead. And all of this before the Romans ever breached the walls.
And what was it that both sides saw, each in their respective state of mind? They saw the ruin of power. The power that all three sides inside the walls struggled to exercise. But more precisely, because of each faction’s failure to exercise it with justice, let alone mercy. And because they were divided, they would fall. Inevitably. It had to be. Why? Because their faith was in man. Which man? Any man. Any man but ‘that man‘. That’s right, the man who The Talmud refuses to name. But we know who they mean when they call him ‘that man‘. The very fact that they call him (only) ‘a man’ tells us all we need to know. They denied His divinity. And because they refused to believe their own prophets, that man’s last prophecy came true. Not a stone would be left upon a stone. In this generation, no less.
And now we are at that time again when, as history mockingly repeats itself for the benefit of the willfully blind, we will see it again. See what? The fight inside the walls, of course. Inside the walls of the New Jerusalem. You know—Holy Rome. Eh? What am I talking about? Well, since you can’t seem to see it, let me explain. And the first thing we have to understand is how there came to be those who are not inside the walls. Those Josephists who are not within the besieged city. But nevertheless, these are men whose loyalties seem to be with those inside. But they never join the real fight.
So let’s ask the silly question; what is a Samaritan? You know, those good guys, right? The Good Samaritan, right? What? What am I burbling about? Well, I’m talking about a lot of things, as usual. But let’s get started, while there’s still time. And let’s back up. I love driving in reverse. I could have been an Egyptian tank commander back in ’67. Remember my reference to the Good Samaritan? The term can also be stated another way. Like this; THE good Samaritan. Same words, different emphasis. But notice one thing: both phrases reference the singular. The (as in one) Good Samaritan. In other words, as in the exception. The exception to the rule.
And what was this rule? Simple: Samaritans are bad. And who held this belief? The Jews, of course. But not all Jews, it seems. At least, there was One who didn’t think all Samaritans were bad. And He singled out the Good Ones for us. The ones who had real faith. Why? To teach us a lesson. Or three, actually. Because He actually spoke of three of this condemned species. Yes, I know, I’m getting even more obscure. Sorry, but it has to be this way. For now, at least.
Let’s get back to the story, which is this. The Samaritans are the descendants of the Ten Tribes of Israel. Back before the first schism, when the Twelve Tribes were one nation, when there was One King and One Priest. Right after King Solomon, the Son of David. Whoops, scratch that. Somebody else owns that title now. Why? Because Solomon wandered off the reservation. You know, with his 300 wives (a sure sign of insanity), and his temples to their gods (a sure sign of apostasy). So forget him being a son of David. At least for now.
Anyway, Solomon passes on, and the kingdom lands in the lap of one of his sons. Rehoboam was his name. Not a bad guy, but not his own man, as will be seen. And here’s what happened. One day, while he was busy sitting on the throne of his father, his cousin, Jeroboam, comes in and asks if he may speak. Now keep in mind that King Rehoboam is from the Tribe of Judah. And the Tribe of Benjamin is allied with Judah, because…well, just because. That’s another story. Anyway, Jeroboam on the other hand, is representing the other 10 Tribes.
So, King Jeroboam says sure, speak to me, my cousin. And so he does. Jeroboam says (and I paraphrase here) ‘Oh great King, the Temple is built. Nothing like it on the earth. Covered with gold. Unmatched anywhere.’ King Rehoboam says, ‘So what?’
Jeroboam then says (I Kings, 11:26) ‘Oh great King, the Palace is built. Nothing like it in all creation. Covered with gold. Fabulous’. King Rehoboam again says ‘So what?’ So Jeroboam says, ‘Well, since these are the two grandest things on the earth, and they are now done (and paid for, mind you), can’t we lower the taxes?” Oh my. He wants a tax-break! Can you imagine? The Chutzpah! Pandemonium breaks out. Outrage is everywhere. Time for an Official’s time-out!
So King Rehoboam convenes the War Council. He asks his councilors what he should do. The old men, who know a crisis when they see one, tell him to listen to his cousin. Sure, cut the taxes. Nothing big, though. Show some mercy, some understanding for the little guy. But the Young Turks, they say no. Hell no! Who is this upstart, speaking to you like that, Oh Great King? Show him and all the rest of these ungrateful pigs just who’s running this show. Mercy? God forbid!
So Rehoboam comes out from his War Room and announces to Jeroboam that, yes, things will now change. The tax rates will change. They are going up! Take that, you piglets! That’ll teach you, you ungrateful swine! And now we get to the real action. The point when history is made. Because that’s when Jeroboam speaks the phrase, the same words Joshua would shout, when Moses would signal him to blow the ram’s horn, telling all the tribes. ‘Every man, to your tents!‘
Well, what did this mean? Isn’t it funny how all the Judaizers never know anything from the Old Testament? Huh? Judaizers? You know, Protestants. Round-Heads. And these days, that description of scriptural ignorance also fits most Catholics too. So, we’re actually closer now than we’ve been for centuries, right? Wrong.
Here, let me explain. This phrase that Joshua would shout simply meant this: pack your bags, brothers, because the Glory Cloud is moving! Yes, the Shekinah was on the move. The cloud that shielded the Twelve Tribes from the burning rays of the Sinai sands during their forty-year jog in the desert was moving. The cloud that shielded them during the day, while the pillar of fire guarded them during the night. And whenever Moses detected that the cloud was moving (because he was always watching God, not man), he told Joshua to alert the tribes to pack their gear, and get ready to move, in order to stay within the shadow of the Glory Cloud. And they, of course, would bitch about it. ‘We gotta move again? Damn! I wish we were back in Egypt!’ Be careful what you wish for.
Anyway, when Jeroboam sounded the Call of Joshua, the intent was clear. Pack it up, brothers, we’re moving! And so they did. The Ten Tribes, under Jeroboam, moved their allegiance from Jerusalem to Samaria. Into the realm of Ephraim & Manasseh. The sons of Joseph. Remember him? No? Oh well. Anyway, the point was this: God had sent Jeroboam to confront his cousin King Rehoboam for his pride. The pride he inherited from Solomon, his proud father. Why? Because this pride led him to abuse the sheep of his flock. And this political rebellion of Jeroboam was sanctioned by God. King Rehoboam was not being faithful to the Law of Moses. Which is to say, to the Law of God. King Rehoboam would not show his brothers any mercy. And there would be a price to pay for that if he would not listen. Which he didn’t. And so, the political rebellion began. And once rebellion starts, it never stops of its own accord.
But Jeroboam then sinned as well. He came to see that the people of Israel (the Ten Tribes) who, while loyal to him politically, were still at one with the practice of their faith. That is to say, they still went to Jerusalem to worship. And so there were two kings (Rehoboam and Jeroboam), and two kingdoms (Judah vs. Israel), but still one Temple. And one High Priest.
And Jeroboam, the newly minted King of Israel, thought that this common religious loyalty meant political trouble. For him, that is. For his new dynasty. After all, if the people of his new kingdom still went to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifice, then they weren’t totally in his control. And so he committed his own sin: he refused to show obedience. Obedience to the High Priest. The rest is history. The Assyrians took Samaria and the Ten Tribes of Israel away in 740 BC. Which was about 150 years before the Babylonians took Jerusalem and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin into exile. So, guess which sin must have been worse? Guess whose sins were accorded an additional 150 years of patience? Which sin is worse, political, or religious?
And so now we are at that same point of all history, in its continual repetition. Who is supreme, church or state? Who blesses whom? Who speaks for God? King or Priest? Whose will be done? We know what King Jeroboam decided. His political will must rule everything. Completely. And so, he decided to become Solomon the Second. He built his own version of The Temple. In Samaria, of course. Which is why we call them Samaritans.
Jeroboam tried to mimic the real Temple in every detail, although we have no proof that he did so, architecturally. We do know that he then instituted ‘The Sacrifice’ at his version of reality, in order to keep his own tribes on the reservation. To solidify his royal rights, he needed ‘authentic’ religious rites. ‘Hey, Komrades, no need to make that treacherous journey back to Jerusalem for the annual Passover. Check out my new and improved Temple, here in downtown Samaria. Same great menu, same great service! Come on down!’
So the Samaritans became the Old Testament Protestants. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, ‘You worship what you do not know‘. Think about that. How could the Samaritans know God? After all, He didn’t live there. He lived in Jerusalem. Literally. And yet, Jesus seemed to be giving her a pass on her past. He seemed to be saying that she could (and would) be saved. Why? Because of her faith. Because of her blind faith. The blind could be healed. Right? Just like He healed the Samaritan leper. So what is going on here? Quite a lot, actually. But at its core, there was one simple thing. Obedience. To God, through His appointed Priests.
Not seeing this yet? Let’s look at the next example. The Samaritan leper. And the lesson is clear, in so many ways. He was a leper, but so were the other nine he was with. Were they Jews, or Samaritans? No word in Scripture on that, but the overall total seems clear, ten. As in the Ten Tribes? Maybe; maybe not. Maybe leprosy was the only thing that could erase the distinction between a Samaritan and a Jew. Otherwise, what were they doing together? Anyway, these lepers call upon The Judean for mercy. And He extends it. And says, not as an afterthought, for them to all go and show yourselves to the High Priest.
So what’s this mean? Scripture is clear. You were not officially cleansed until the Priests (of Jerusalem, not Samaria) declared it so. So what’s the point? It’s an institutional one. And Jesus was enforcing it here. Explicitly. He was saying that your cleansing from corruption was a function of The Church. Whether it is Old Israel or New, it is His officially sanctioned hierarchy that is to give official witness to the miracle of your absolution, whether physical or spiritual. And our part in this process is our submission to this hierarchy. Bless me Father, for I have sinned. So, am I just being a power-freak here?
No. I’m simply stating the obvious, for those who will see. And just what is it that is so obvious? Well, it is the fact that there are stations in life. And not all are equal. In fact, none are, if you believe in the individuality of each soul. After all, how can the last be first unless there is a difference between first and last? And all those in between. So what am I driving at? The fact that when we accept our lot in life, we gain His favor. Why? Because that is what He did. He was submissive to this same demand of hierarchical order. All the way to the end. He didn’t die at the hands of the shepherds, you know.
I know what you’re thinking. The answer is no. I don’t think one man is better than another simply because of his station in life. Quite the opposite, in fact. And again, Scripture is replete with the examples of those in power who abuse this same power, to the detriment of those under them. Just look at King Rehoboam. Conversely, contrast David the shepherd (the lowest station in life) to proud King Saul. The same Saul who sought to kill David. And yet David refused to lift his hand against him.
Anyway, the one leper in ten who goes and shows himself to the priest is the only one who returns to thank his actual benefactor. Who? Jesus, the new High Priest. The first Priest of New Israel. So the lesson here is simple: you must show your obedience to the divinely ordained hierarchy before your gratitude for your blessings will be well received. And I believe we can infer that those who did not return to offer their gratitude probably didn’t go and show themselves to the old High Priest. But this one leper does. So, mark it down; that’s one good Samaritan.
Here’s another. The Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus commands her to draw water for Him. She is amazed. Not at the command, which she willingly performs. Rather, she is amazed He would speak to her at all. After all, He is a Jew, and He obviously knows she is Samaritan. Because they’re in Samaria, right? And Jesus tells her of her past (many husbands and live-ins) , without condemning her. She in turn, goes and tells everyone she can find that the Messiah is here, in the flesh. Jewish flesh. Now keep in mind, this activity of hers will not sit well with King Jeroboam when he hears of it. Why? Because it undermines his own religious/political authority.
There will be a price to be paid by this woman. A price for her submission to the Jew who says that salvation is from The Jews. Specifically, this one particular Jew. The same Jew that says there is only one place to worship, and that place is not in Samaria. Otherwise, you don’t actually know whom you worship. So, she does as He says (‘draw me water’), she hears his judgment (about her many husbands), and she acts on His promise (salvation is from the Jews) based on his Jewish nature. Mark it down. Another good Samaritan.
And let’s not forget the best Samaritan of all. The Good one, of course. The one who obeys the command to love thy neighbor, even if he is a Jew. And who gave this command? A Jew, of course. And so the Good Samaritan did as he was commanded to do. Even to his own cost, in both social and financial ways. In other words, he submitted to the authority of the High Priest of Jerusalem, who would surely say that a Samaritan (that is, a rebellious Israelite) has a duty to save a Jew.
So what then is the lesson of these three Samaritans? Simple, my friend. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Obedience to superiors is half of the recipe for salvation. And it’s the hard half. Ouch.