Pastoral Letter: April 1, 2022
"Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.””
--Luke 10: 30-37--
Friday, April 1, 2022
You can be forgiven for not ever thinking that this was a parable about evangelism. It may be that in generations past we held to narrow a view of what evangelism was and how it could be carried out. We no longer have the privilege of allowing ourselves to think so narrowly. If we are going to share good news it must demonstrate how it is “good” and not merely “news.” It needs to address the needs of those we share it with.
Jesus uses the familiar in his parable because the trap that is being laid is in the familiar. Everybody thinks they know how the story is supposed to play out and Jesus throws curves to get everyone thinking not about how the story should have gone but to examine why the story goes the way it does.
Everybody in Jerusalem knew that the road down to Jericho was not a road you should travel alone, especially on foot. Think of the worst area of town and multiply that by itself and that gets you close to knowing how rough the Jericho Road was. Nobody listening to the story is surprised that this one solitary traveler on the road to Jericho came to harm, absolutely nobody. In fact, they are all probably nodding knowingly and cursing the man’s utter foolishness at attempting such a feat. No doubt they think that his misfortune is deserved.
Next comes the succession of curveballs.
A Priests and later a Levite come down the road, also alone, which might lead you to think that Priests and Levites generally are exempted from criminal intentions. You are wrong for thinking that. They would be pretty sure bets to be carrying something valuable. So, the audience is alarmed. They know that both the Priest and the Levite are in trouble, they just don’t yet know what kind of trouble both are in.
A lot has been made about the fact that if the man is dead and the Priest and the Levite touch him, they become ritually unclean. At best that is a minor convenience addressed by a ritual bath and a night’s rest. If the man is not dead, they can touch him all they want without penalty. At this point you might need to be reminded that in Judaism the Law of Moses can be violated if doing so will save a life and the worst penalty at play here is both the Priest and the Levite are disqualified from serving in the temple until they have bathed and slept if, and only if, the man is indeed dead.
They refuse to check. They refuse to stop and render aid. They refuse to see if they can save a life because the penalty for failing to save that life is needing a bath and a sleep.
The Samaritan is the lowest of the low to a Jewish audience. Nothing is expected and nothing is wanted from the Samaritan. And yet he stops, binds wounds carries the hapless mugging victim to an inn and improves upon the aid already rendered. Because he was on the road for a purpose and already has been delayed, he finds help looking after the man, pays that help the equivalent of two days’ pay with a promise to reimburse any extra expenses upon his return.
What good news is found in the actions of the Priest and the Levite? What good news is found in the actions of the Samaritan? Good News isn’t just for what Christ has done for us; it is for what others need to have done for them. The best news for the man on the road to Jericho is that somebody was committed to caring for him. That man is raised up for us as an example to follow.
May God bless you and keep you and may you find your place in the body and Christ’s ministry here on earth.
-Reverend John Maich