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The Road From Jerusalem To Jericho


Luke 10:25-37

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’

36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of most well-loved stories in the Bible. It was told by our Lord Jesus.

A man was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Some robbers attacked him. They tore off his clothes, punching and beating him ruthlessly. Then they left him lying there, half dead.

It happened that a Jewish priest was going down that road. When the priest saw the man, he just walked by on the other side of the road.

Next, a Levite came there. He went over and looked at the man. He too walked by on the other side of the road.

Then a Samaritan traveling down the road came to where the wounded man was lying. He saw the man and felt very sorry for him. He had compassion for this dying man.

The Samaritan went to him and poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. He put the wounded man on his own donkey and took him to an inn. At the inn, the Samaritan attended to him and took good care of him through the night.

The next day, the Samaritan brought out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. The Samaritan said, "Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come again."

Why did Jesus share this parable?

More than a lesson in social responsibility, Jesus was teaching us about the conditions of our own hearts.

This parable was told as an answer to a question. Jesus was answering a religious teacher of the law who had asked Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

This man was a devout and pious man, priding himself in his understanding of both the Written and Oral Torahs.

The religious leaders had formulated a legalistic system that had turned obedience to God into a totally strict adherence to the letter rather than the spirit of the 613 divine laws that God had given them. It became an impossible obstacle course comprising of stringent man-made dos and don’ts that no living human being can possibly do and abide.

As this religious and legalistic approach contradicted what Jesus taught, open confrontation became inevitable.

Accompanied by the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and others, this teacher of the law stood up and asked Jesus a probing question. He was trying to test Jesus. He asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

The man answered, “Love the Lord your God. Love Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. Also, you must love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Jesus said to him, “Your answer is right. Do this and you will have life forever.”

But the teacher of the law knew that the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” was an impossible task to fulfill. So he thought of an excuse to justify himself and escape his responsibility and duty to do so. So he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

That is why Jesus told him this heart-searching parable. At the end of the story, Jesus said him, “Which one of these three men do you think was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the robbers?”

The teacher of the law answered, “The one who helped him.”

Jesus said to him, “Then go and do the same thing he did!”

Jesus set the location of His parable to be on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of about 18 miles.

This journey across the Judean Desert began from Jerusalem, approximately 2500 feet above sea level, to Jericho at 825 feet below sea level. In that short geographical distance, the descent was approximately 3325 feet. Such a dramatic change in height across a rugged terrain resulted in a rapid shift in environmental conditions. Thus for anyone making this journey, it was both exhausting and dangerous.

Jerusalem was where the Temple was, the centre of worshipping God. The priests were a higher class of Levites. They were supported by other Levites. These Levites would assist the priests in doing tasks such as keeping the temple clean and tidy, starting and maintaining the fire at the sacrifice altar, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and playing musical instruments.

Some of these priests and Levites lived in Jericho. When they were off duty, they would return home by travelling this road between Jerusalem and Jericho.

But this road was rocky, rough and hazardous. One section of the Jericho Road was known as the Way of Blood because many people were robbed and killed there.

When Jesus set this road to be the opening scene for His parable, the people knew exactly what and where He was referring to.

The first person to see the wounded man was a priest. But he was too busy to render any help. He had other things to do. Then came one of his assistants, a Levite. Like his religious leader, he did the same. Pretending not to see anything, he too passed by on the other side of the road.

Then came a Samaritan. A what? A Samaritan! Jesus caused a great stir by introducing this notorious character.

The Samaritans were formerly belonging to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The capital of the Northern Kingdom was Samaria. When the Ten Tribes were carried away into captivity to Assyria, the king of Assyria sent people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim to occupy and inhabit Samaria.

2 Kings 17:24-29

24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.

25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them.

26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.”

27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.”

28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.

29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt.

The foreigners from the pagan nations came to Samaria and intermarried with the Israelite population living there. These people living in Samaria at first worshipped the idols from their own nations. However after being troubled with the lions sent by God, they began to fear the God of the land.

Thereafter a Jewish priest, whom they had carried away from Samaria to Assyria, was sent back to them to teach them how to fear the Lord. They were instructed from the Books of Moses. But many still retained their idolatrous traditions and customs.

The Samaritans embraced a religion that was a fusion mixture of Judaism and pagan idolatry. Because the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religions, Samaritans were generally considered half-breeds, and were greatly despised by the Jews.

To the Jews, the Samaritans were spiritually defiled and unclean. They would not use the words “good” and “Samaritan” together in the same sentence. Hence, it was impossible to have a good Samaritan according to the Jewish mindset and worldview.

But in Jesus’ parable, this outcast became the main leading character. He was the only one who stopped to help a helpless Jewish man. He went far beyond what most people would do.

He cleaned the injured man's wounds with oil and wine, and then bandaged them properly. As people did not carry first-aid kits in those days, he would most likely have to tear up some of his own clothings to make those bandages.

Next, he put the wounded man on his donkey and took him to an inn. He took care of the man throughout the night, and only departed on the following day. After paying two silver coins, a considerable amount in those days, he promised to reimburse the innkeeper for any further expenses.

This was an exceptional and unconditional love, towards a total stranger who had rejected him as a social enemy and outcast. But the good Samaritan did not let those prejudices and intolerances stand in the way. He overcame and broke those walls of divisions between the Jews and the Samaritans throughout the years!

The question “Who is my neighbor?” was changed to "Who is a neighbor?" Jesus was reversing the question back to the teacher of the law - "Are you a neighbor?"

Are you a neighbor to help those in needs? Is your heart near enough to hear their cries and pleas? Are you able to put aside your own agendas and do what is really necessary?

Romans 13:9-10
9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:14
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 John 4:20-21
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

The commandments of the Lord should not hinder us from loving God and loving our neighbors! On the contrary, they should free us to do likewise! 

Our hearts are being examined. Are we neighbors to those around us? Are our hearts near enough to see their hurts and pains? Are we warm and loving towards them?

Let's put away our own religiosities and holy pretense, behaving and functioning as Christians only within the walls of churches.

James 1:27 
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

This journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is not an easy road to travel. It requires us to love and care for others like Jesus has loved and cared for us! It requires us to put aside our own prejudices, regardless of race, language or religion, breaking through walls of divisions and hostilities. And love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 

5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 

6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

 

Written on: 12 June 2017