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SCRIPTURE: LUKE 10:30–37 FILM: BUEN VECINO
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most popular of Jesus' parables. It has big production value, the villains are religious figures, and the hero is unlikely, to say the least. There's plenty of drama too—robbery, violence, rescue, suspense, and grace. But in Buen Vecino, nobody's life is at stake ... there isn't even a robbery.
Randall Wallace, the screenwriter of Braveheart, said, "I never let facts get in the way of the truth." This parable communicates many things, but fundamentally the story rests on the truth that Christ calls us to help others. And in making Buen Vecino (which means "good neighbor" in Spanish) contemporary to our culture, the film explores our work life and occupational relationships. The employees' striped shirts (which can be hard on the eyes) symbolize the dizzying experience we often feel at work. Buen Vecino explores a day when things fall apart around us, vacuums interrupt us, and wheelbarrows get dumped in our pools (or cubicles or whatever). Those (hopefully) rare, disastrous days can cause us to feel as though our very lives are at stake.
WATCH THE FILM BUEN VECINO
READ THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
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." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
In the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus used familiar images to hook his listeners. The road from "Jerusalem to Jericho" was actually the superhighway of its day—a forty-mile stretch well known for two things: (1) a generous population of priests on their way back and forth from Jerusalem to fulfill their priestly duties; and (2) danger, particularly along one stretch known as adodim (which means "blood"—a reference to the often-violent muggings in that area). Jesus' scenario certainly rang true in the ears of his first-century hearers.
Likewise, Jesus intentionally used the image of a Samaritan for impact. Samaritans were hated by the Jews and seen as both heretics and half-breeds. However, this Samaritan goes out of his way to care for the victim. The "two denarii" the Samaritan gives the innkeeper would probably have covered expenses for two to three weeks. Commentators through the ages have disagreed on the meaning of this parable. Some have even contended that it's not a parable at all, but rather an extended allegory. They saw the road from Jerusalem to Jericho as the road from Eden to Babel, and that sin has allowed the devil to rob and beat us, leaving us "half dead" by the roadside. To many, Jesus represents the Good Samaritan (he was even accused of being a Samaritan by the Pharisees—see John 8:48).
Jesus has come to rescue the lost and broken—especially the outcasts. He cares for our wounds and even pays the price for our healing. Critics of this interpretation say it overspiritualizes the parable and misses the fundamental point of being a true "neighbor" to all.
DISCUSS THE FILM AND ORIGINAL PARABLE
1. Buen Vecino means "good neighbor" in Spanish. What are some of the similarities you see between Buen Vecino and the Parable of the Good Samaritan?
2. In what way do you act like a "priest" or a "Levite"? How do we often "pass by" people in our lives? What is Jesus trying to teach us in this parable?
3. What were some of the costs incurred by the Samaritan in the story? What did it cost Magdelena to help in Buen Vecino? What are the "costs" that keep you from loving those in need with grace and compassion?
4. The Samaritan in the film is a loud non-English speaking Hispanic hotel maid. If Jesus told this parable today to a church audience, whom might he choose? Who would be most offensive to you?
5. Who would be the last person you would want to help you? How is God challenging you to think of that person as your neighbor?
BEHIND THE SCENES
We only had one chance to dump that wheelbarrow full of dirt in the pool. Seriously, that was it. We were on a tight schedule and had to move on to the next scene in the morning. It was the last shot of the day and everyone was on point. Our first assistant camera person, Laurel, lowered the slate into the shot, called out "Take one and only," and clapped the slate. I held my breath and steadied my camera as if the very existence of life on earth depended on the next few seconds. It was nerve racking to say the least.
And as you saw, we got the shot.
Sometimes it feels like life is a "one and only" encounter. We'll only have this one chance to help this person, or say this thing, or do something about this tragedy. In one sense, that is kind of true. But in another, we live in a world infused with the grace of God, and he is making all things new. Every day we get to choose whether we'll honor the Lord's command to "love your neighbor as yourself."
And who is my neighbor? This is possibly the most important question asked of Jesus during his life on earth. And the answer Jesus gives in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is equally significant. Jesus shifts the emphasis of the question from generating criteria by which you determine "who is and who is not your neighbor" to what is required in order to define yourself as a neighbor. Simply put, you are a neighbor when you have mercy on your fellow man. By directly linking the word neighbor with a particular action that demands a recipient, Jesus perfectly harmonizes his answer with one of the many beautiful melodies resonating throughout the Scriptures: You are not alone. From the Ten Commandments to the Beatitudes, the Bible represents the human-to-God relationship in light of how we behave in community with others. As soon as you take away your fellow man from your theology, your foot has set upon a very slippery slope that inevitably ends in the quagmire of Christian nihilism. We were created to live in community with God and our fellow man, not alone. And what determines whether or not our fellow man is our neighbor is not race, gender, culture, geography, or even religion. The single determining factor for whether or not someone is our neighbor is how we treat them. If I stand back and ask myself who qualifies as my neighbor, I am missing the point. The Parable of the Good Samaritan makes this perfectly clear. We don't get the luxury of deciding who is and who is not our neighbor before we decide to have mercy on them. The Samaritan was the man's neighbor because he had mercy on him.
Go and do likewise.
He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.
From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part VII, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)
IN BETWEEN SESSIONS
This week intentionally stop for one person who you would normally "pass by." Briefly journal here (or in a separate notebook if you need more space) about your experience and share what you learned with the group.
Rewrite the Parable of the Good Samaritan in your own context. Is there a situation at work, in your home life, or your social circle where a certain type of person is continually "passed by"? Write your own story where someone takes action and decides to be this person's neighbor.
REPEAT WITH A NEW FILM OR THE SAME FILM NEXT TIME YOU MEET
SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 25:14–30 FILM: BURIED TALENT
The Parable of the Talents is about money, or "bags of gold" as the NIV renders it. In Jesus' day, a talent was a unit of measure used to weigh precious metals and other items of value. However, the short film Buried Talent is about painting. So ... why isn't this film about modern-day investments? As you watch the film and explore the Scripture text, consider that the deeper meaning of the parable examines stewardship beyond finance. God leaves many things in our care: money, friendships, charity, talents, etc. The title, Buried Talent, is an obvious play on words. In fact, the use of the word talent in Western culture as a gift or skill originated with this parable! The parable also involves fear and how it can inhibit and freeze us. As you watch the film, consider the challenge the artists are given. It's an extraordinary opportunity with tremendous resources. But there's a catch ... they only have limited time and instruction.
WATCH THE FILM BURIED TALENT
READ THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
14 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19 "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.'
21 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
22 "The man with two bags of gold also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.'
23 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
24 "Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26 "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 "'So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
Wealthy landowners usually delegated control and multiplication of their wealth to trained accountants or, as in the case of Jesus' parable, servants. These landowners also often embarked on long journeys. Given the time period, the value of a talent was about six thousand denarii. One denarius was a day's wage. A single talent was worth twenty years of work! The servant who received five talents was entrusted with the equivalent of a hundred years' wages!
In those days, and it still holds true today, one of the safest and least profitable ways of protecting one's money was to bury it in the ground. Such ancient buried reserves are still occasionally found to this day. This servant was afraid to do anything with his master's assets other than keep them "safely" below ground. He should've known better; the smallest possible investment—providing interest on a savings deposit—wouldn't have endangered the money and provided at least a little return.
Not only that, the principle that integrity in smaller matters qualified one to prove one's integrity in larger matters was often invoked in antiquity. It's reasonable to assume the third servant in Jesus' parable would have known how easily he could double his money and that his master was testing him. Nonetheless, the servant decided to bury his master's talent because, as he states when brought to account, "I was afraid...."
DISCUSS THE FILM AND ORIGINAL PARABLE
1. How can we compare the two propositions? (investing coins in the original parable and creating art in Buried Talent)
2. What are some things in your life that have been entrusted to your care?
3. Do you sometimes feel that God asks much of you, but you sense a heavy burden to work it out on your own?
4. Tom's character is the most professional of the group. He has a portfolio of work and is quite organized. Given this opportunity to be free to paint whatever he likes, he freezes and fails. Can you think of a time when you froze in the face of a similar opportunity and ended up "burying" your talent? What did you learn from that situation?
5. Jamie's character is right out of college, and this is her first interview for a painting job. She's the most nervous of the group, and yet she produces a marvelous painting. Can you think of a time when you let your talent rise to the surface in spite of your fears? What did you learn from that situation?
BEHIND THE SCENES
We'd been shooting all day under the hot sun in Clovis, California, and the very last thing we had left to shoot was the scene when the wife sees the paintings for the first time. I was operating the camera, watching the scene unfold, and suddenly my eyes filled with tears. The viewfinder just went fuzzy. The scene played out, but I didn't really get to see it. I was caught up in the moment, the sheer delight the wife took in the paintings her husband had created for her and his joy in seeing her so fulfilled! The whole scene was such a powerful image of the day when the Father will turn to many and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share in your master's happiness!"
We are all entrusted with the talents we need to do the things God has intended for us to accomplish. This theme runs throughout Scripture. Long before Jesus' time, God entrusted two men with the talent they needed to accomplish the daunting task of constructing his tabernacle. Their names were Bezalel and Oholiab and you can read about them in Exodus 31:1–7. A few hundred years later, King Cyrus of Persia sent some Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and wrote a decree that reads much like the commission of Bezalel and Oholiab (Ezra 1:1–2). This passage and the one in Exodus both reveal that God had certain people in certain places to accomplish certain things, and he made sure they were equipped with the talent they needed to do it! He gives people the talent they need to engage in the crafts he has set before them. God has always been moving people and equipping them to use their talents.
Now if it were only that simple.
It is interesting to note that in Jesus' day a "talent" was equivalent to twenty years worth of daily wages. We're all born with certain talents, but it takes many years to truly master them. The time we spend using our talent gives us invaluable experience. Unfortunately, many of our talents lay dormant. If we never begin, we'll never accumulate the experience we need to use our talent with the ease, gusto, and sheer enjoyment Diego does in the film! Like Bezalel, Oholiab, the painters in Buried Talent, and the servants in Jesus' parable, we are all charged to use the talents entrusted to us.
Excerpted from Parables Remix Study Guide by Stew Redwine Copyright © 2012 by Stew Redwine. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
How to Use This Study 13
Session 1 The Parable of the Good Samaritan: (Luke 10:30-37) 15
Session 2 The Parable of the Talents: (Matthew 25:14-30) 21
Session 3 The Parable of the Lost Coin: (Luke 15:8-10) 27
Session 4 The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: (Matthew 13:44) 33
Session 5 The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant: (Matthew 18:21-35) 39
Session 6 The Parable of the Two Debtors: (Luke 7:36-50) 45
Session 7 The Parable of the New Wine in Old Wineskins: (Luke 5:33-39) 51
Session 8 The Parable of the Rich Fool: (Luke 12:13-21) 57
Session 9 The Parable of the Two Sons: (Matthew 21:28-32) 63
Session 10 The Parable of the Good Shepherd: (John 10:11-18) 69
Session 11 The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree: (Matthew 24:32-35) 75
Session 12 The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: (Luke 16:19-31) 81
Session 13 The Parable of the Friend at Midnight: (Luke 11:5-8) 87
Session 14 The Parable of the Shrewd Manager: (Luke 16:1-13) 93
Session 15 The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree: (Luke 13:6-9) 101
Session 16 The Parable of the Mustard Seed: (Mark 4:30-32) 107
Session 17 The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds: (Matthew 13:24-30) 113
Session 18 The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders: (Luke 6:46-49) 119