Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. – Luke 10:31 (NRSV)
On Tuesdays, we have Bible study on the upcoming texts for the week. I office out of my house; therefore, I need to plan ahead for my 35 minute commute (without weather or traffic). I try to leave at least 45 minutes before the study begins.
Yesterday, I saw a car beside the road with a flat tire. I’ve changed many flat tires, and I thought about stopping. But in the 1.5 seconds it took me to drive by, I thought that nowadays, everyone has a phone, so they’ve probably already called for help. I also didn’t want to get dirty since I had commitments through the evening. And I would have been late for Bible study (I arrived just in time as it was).
This week, I’m preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). These familiar texts are a challenge for preachers because most people have heard several sermons on them already, and we already know the point. I never know how much background to go into because I don’t want to bore people.
But as we were discussing the parable, someone asked about the priest and the Levite. So, we talked about their roles. Touching a dead body would make them unclean and unable to perform their important duties. It also wasn’t safe to stop.
When I hiked the Jericho Road, Bedouins followed us along the way (we weren’t in danger, this is how they make their living). When it seemed they weren’t on the trail with us anymore, we would realize they were above us on the rocks or were actually ahead of us. I often stopped to take pictures and would find my entire group out of sight as they went around the corner. And, for the priest and Levite, the man who looked like he was left for dead might have been a decoy. It made sense not to stop on a dangerous road.
Then we discussed the actions of the Samaritan. As an average person, he wouldn’t have had extra cloth for bandages – he may have torn his own clothes or used something he’d plan to sell. The oil and wine may have been intended for his meal. Two denarii are two days’ wages – in addition to the time lost to stop and care for the man and take him to the inn. Beyond this, the Samaritan promised to come back, promising future sacrifice of resources for a man he didn’t even know (and might not even be grateful to a Samaritan).
As we were talking about this, I realized I had lived this parable on my way to discuss the parable (and I wasn’t the Samaritan). I passed by a person in need on the highway. As a pastor leading the Bible study and worship in the evening, I didn’t want to get dirty. I also didn’t want to be late. It also might not have been safe for me because I don’t know who is in the car and the tire was on the traffic side.
But even if I had stopped, would I have been as generous and self-sacrificing as the Samaritan? Would I have given them money to replace their tire? Would I have given them my spare tire if they didn’t have one?
God’s Word is a living Word, still speaking into our daily lives. What we think we know is only a first fruit of what we might learn if we are willing to be open to what God would have us know.
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 10:36-37 (NRSV)