A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers who stripped him and beat him, and departed leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)
What do I mean obviously?
I mean, that’s the response Jesus’ listeners would have to the beginning of the Good Samaritan story.
JESUS: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers.
Am I missing something?
The Good Samaritan story can be summed up like this: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among robbers. This man is beaten half-dead. Two religious leaders pass by, but ignore him. It’s the Samaritan — the foreigner, the immigrant — who sees the victim and helps out. Another character is an inn-keeper who is charged with caring for the man for a few additional days.
A few of the lessons are no-brainers: Be like the Samaritan and take care of others in trouble. Be like the innkeeper and take care of anyone who is brought to you by life’s circumstances.
But there’s that pesky little lesson that the Lord’s listeners would have picked up on right away. And they might not have liked it.
We miss it because we’re half a world away. Not to mention two-thousand years removed. But the locals definitely caught the lesson.
Jericho had a bad reputation. Very bad. It was a place of political corruption (worse than D.C.). Of business and moral corruption. It was a place of gambling, prostitution, decadence, and all manner of both petty and serious crime (worse than Vegas).
Ahhh, but Jerusalem was God’s holy city. The place of worship. The city of peace. (← You see what I did there?)
When Jesus tells us a man left Jerusalem and went down to Jericho, it was not some innocent journey like saying a man was travelling from Clear Lake to Clayton when he fell among robbers. That would evoke our sympathy.
No, when Jesus tells us a man left Jerusalem and went down to Jericho, it’s like saying, “A man left his wife and kids at church and went to the bad side of town to meet with his bookie at the meth lab. Oh, and he fell among robbers.”
“A babysitter left the toddlers home alone, went first to the casino, then to the liquor store, and was robbed in the parking lot.”
What was she thinking? It’s her own damn fault.
“Some dude skipped his night shift at work, was waving around a big wad of $50 bills at Dirk’s Dodgy Bar, went walking down the street to the Happy-Ending Massage Parlor, and a couple of thugs from the bar caught him and beat him up for his cash.”
Obviously. (← There’s that word again.) What an idiot. Of course the thugs caught up to him.
So let’s start again at the beginning: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers who stripped him and beat him, and departed leaving him half dead.”
Hmmm. Certainly puts a twist on Jesus’ lesson. What if the person we are called to serve is to blame for their situation? Even partially? It’s one thing to help an innocent victim. Who would be opposed to that?
Ahh, but Jesus sets up the story to ask what you’d do to help those who suffer from their own errors. Their own sins. Their own stupidity.
It might explain why the religious leaders in the story pass by our victim. Religious leaders can be a funny group. And I don’t necessarily mean ha-ha funny either. Perhaps they were judging him. Or maybe they don’t want to be associated with (read: contaminated by) such a wrongdoer.
But don’t we all, so-to-speak, choose Jericho in our own way, at one time or another?
The Good Samaritan is about way more than just helping strangers. The Good Samaritan is – ouch! – about helping others without judgment. Without trying to decide if they are worthy of help. To be a good neighbor even when it’s his own damn fault.