Here is a parable that should be falmilar to most of us. First let’s set the scene. The Red or Bloody Way…The Jerusalem to Jericho Road, got its name because it was well known to be dangerous for travelers. Jerusalem sat on a hill 2,300 feet above sea level. Now the Dead Sea near which Jericho was, is 1,300 feet below sea-level; and the road descended that 3,600 feet in little more than 20 miles. There were many sharp turns and narrow passages which provided excellent hiding places for bandits. Imagine some of those old western movies with those old roads descending into the canyon below, those twists and turns were often called switchbacks, they closely resembled what we are talking about here today. The plight of this traveller we read about in the scriptures is not unusual for those traveling this road. It is interesting to note that even as recent as the nineteenth century travelers were paying the local Sheiks money to ensure safe passage. So here we have the scene…A dangerous road, populated by bad people and extremely difficult to traverse.
Next the people involved… a traveller who either did not know the stories about this road, which is highly improbable or maybe he was just careless for it was common knowledge that few traveled that road alone. People would get together and form a convoy, knowing there was safety in numbers. Next we meet the priest. Priests were divided into courses each course served in the temple two separate weeks in the year. When priests were not on duty most of them stayed in Jericho. The Priests reaction of passing by and not even checking to see if the man were dead or alive was not the result of his not caring but one of misguided priorities. When not serving in the Temple the priests were free to go about their ordinary duties and routines. The time they were called to serve in the Temple was the highlight of their lives. To touch a dead body made them unclean and they would not be allowed to serve their time in the Temple. The Temple ritual was more important than the fate of this man. Thirdly, there was the Levite. Little different line of thought here. He went over and took a quick look at the man and then moved on to the other side of the road. At play here was the fact that the Levite knew sometimes these bandits would use a decoy to draw people close so they could jump them. He chose his personal safety because of the risk involved…When have we considered personal needs over the needs of others? This next one was the Samaritan and they were hated by the Jews. This is another blog in itself but it will do to just take note of the fact that this was a quarrel that had been going on for some 450 years. He may not have been racially a Samaritan, in those times the name Samaritan was used by orthodox Jews in reference to anyone who were lawbreakers or renegades from the orthodox Jewish religion. So it is possible that he was no more than a businessman who traveled the road on a regular basis, he was a commercial traveller. That would explain why the innkeeper was willing to take the injured man in. He knew the traveller would be back through and would take care of the bill. A traveller of this type would have been viewed with suspicion, hence, in the parable he becomes a familiar figure…the hated Samaritan.
There are some questions we need to answer. The first of course has been the subject of many a sermon…Who is my neighbor? The answer is “anyone who needs your help.” To the Jew this would have been a difficult lesson and answer. I have sought many ways to explain this but the simplest would be that anyone other than a Jew was not worthy of consideration. Jew or Gentile, that being the defining factor determining their actions toward others. As Christians we are called to serve all people, period! The other question is just what is expected of me? Various commentaries always list pity. Pity is an emotional response and perhaps James states it best as too what is a proper response. We of the faith do God’s will only when that faith is put into action.
This Parable puts it straight and to the point. We are responsible for all in need. When we become so entangled in routine and doctrine that the church, ourself and connivence comes before God’s children, the church is dead to that which it is called. Our faith and the strength of our very Christianity will not be judged on our social standing but rather on our willingness to help.
See You Next Week
Life is Good
Resource Material: Barclay, William. The Parables of Jesus (The William Barclay Library) (p. 79). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.