Jericho Road Part 2
If you missed the earlier post on “The Jericho Road”, you can read it here.
We left a beaten half-dead traveler laying along the Jericho Road.
He is Jewish. The man who stops to aid him is a Samaritan.
The Samaritans were a race hated by the Jews. In return, the Samaritans hated the Jews. It was a hate that is always made worse when someone feels marginalized or looked down upon. The Samaritans felt as if they were viewed as second-class citizens by their Jewish cousins.
I won’t go into all of the long dysfunctional relationships of these two races.
A story from an earlier chapter of Luke’s Gospel sets the stage better than any words. It’s found in Luke 9, one chapter earlier than the Good Samaritan story. The Gospel writer Luke shares an often overlooked event:
As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up[j]?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.[k Luke 9:51-55
Jesus has started out on his final earthly journey from Galilee to Jerusalem where rejection, death on the cross, eventual resurrection and ascension to Heaven awaited.
He had a lot on his mind. The scripture above uses the strong word resolutely. I love how one of the older translations states, “He set his face toward Jerusalem.”
A geography lesson is in order. To travel from the Galilee area to Jerusalem meant traveling through the land of the Samaritans. Enemy territory for Jews. A region where Jews weren’t welcome. I can just imagine a city limits sign, “Jew, get out by sundown.”
Any self-respecting Jew would avoid Samaria even though it meant a winding loop across the Jordan River that added days and miles to the trip.
But that wasn’t Jesus’ way. He chose to go straight through Samaria. Jesus didn’t avoid people because of race, creed, or religious differences.
In the Luke 9 story, Jesus sends an advance team to prepare for his group’s arrival at a Samaritan village.
This team is rejected by the Samaritans. Their Jewishness and destination of Jerusalem is the reason for the rejection.
I can feel the racial discrimination in this encounter.
Two of Jesus’ closest disciples, the brothers James and John, immediately ask for permission to rain down fire from heaven to burn the village to a crisp. Jesus had nicknamed the two brothers as the “Sons of Thunder,” a name they are trying to live up to in this story.
The scriptures succinctly say that “Jesus turned and rebuked them.” I would have loved to heard what he said standing in the Land of the Samaritans.
Now back to the Good Samaritan Story . . .
This rejection story in Luke 9 helps us understand the deep prejudice that makes the Parable of the Good Samaritan (in Luke 10) so powerful.
The man who stops to help the naked bleeding Jew is a Samaritan. A despised Samaritan. Jesus is telling this story to the Jewish lawyer who started this parable with his question, “And who is my neighbor?”
Standing near Jesus is his traveling entourage. It includes the disciples. And it includes James and John, probably still smarting from the earlier Samaritan village rejection story and Jesus’ rebuke.
I bet St. James, St. John, and the rest of the disciples are just as amazed as the crowd that the hero of this Jericho Road story is a doggone hated Samaritan.
As Jesus continues his story, the Samaritan doesn’t just feel compassion. He acts on it:
Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[e] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
Take care of this man.
I’ve always wondered if the Samaritan even knew the race of the traveler he saved. This man. It really doesn’t matter.
The Samaritan saw a hurting human being. That’s how we are to look at others.
Jesus comes to the end of his parable where he lowers the boom on the Jewish lawyer who had started this encounter and story with his earlier question, “And now who is my neighbor?”
Finishing the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus asks, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
The lawyer had a speech impediment. He couldn’t say the word “Samaritan.” It was a vile word for a vile people. Instead, he simply said, “The one who showed . . . mercy.”
Who is my neighbor?
Anyone I encounter
What does it mean to Love your neighbor as yourself?
Sadly, in my world travels, I’ve seen people who wouldn’t even say the name of a rival tribe, race, or culture without adding a curse word or epithet.
Since 2000, when I didn’t even have a passport, I’ve been privileged to travel to seventeen countries. I’ve been a long way from my home in Dry Creek, Louisiana.
I’ve been in four Asian countries. Eleven countries on the African continent.
In every journey, I’ve found friendship and the kindness of strangers. I guess you find what you’re looking for.
However, I’m yet to visit any country that didn’t have deep divisions over race, tribalism, and culture.
I’ve seen up close the deep distrust of the Irish toward the British.
In Asia, the Chinese hate the Vietnamese, who despise them in return. They both hate the Cambodians.
I love Africa and its peoples, but there is tribal hatred everywhere. The Dinka and Nuer of South Sudan are fighting an ongoing civil war due to tribal prejudices. We all know about the troubles of the Tutsi and Hutu of Rwanda. One million dead in one hundred days.
However, I’ve lived most of my six-plus decades in the country I love called America. I still recall during my African sojourn times when I visited the U.S Embassy and saw our flag waving proudly. It also touched me deeply with homesickness and pride for being American.
I don’t believe the prejudices of America are any better or worse than in other places.
Racial prejudice is wrong regardless of skin color or storyline.
I could go all over America and list the prejudices one can find.
But there is one place and type I know best.
It’s the Black and White divide that is found throughout our country.
I use the term Black and White not because they are perfect descriptors, but because they are markers in discussing race
Racial prejudice was wrong in the past.
It’s wrong today.
And if I’m a true Jesus-following Good Samaritan-living man, I cannot hold a grudge toward another man due to his skin color.
I grew up in a lily-white section of Louisiana. The school I attended for twelve years had few minority students or teachers.
I was fortunate to be brought up in a home where race was never an issue. I’m thankful for my upbringing.
If I truly profess to be a follower of Jesus, I must put the words and parables of Jesus into practice.
The Good Samaritan parable tells me all I need to know. My neighbor is the man or woman who needs my help, friendship, and compassion.
It transcends race, creed, even religion.
Who is my neighbor?
I hear the words of that Good Samaritan, “Take care of this man.”
There should be no room in the heart of a believer for anything less than love.