Jesus replied, “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 ESV
The opening of this parable reminds me of an opening scene to “Law and Order,” except the police have not yet arrived. Is this how Jesus will answer the lawyer’s question of what must be done to inherit eternal life, by describing a gruesome crime leaving the victim clinging to life?
I’m wondering. . .who is “the man,” and why was he a target of robbers? The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a common route; it was also notorious for raids and robbings by bandits. Was this man a tax collector, and the robbers thought he was carrying money for Rome? Was he a rich merchant, carrying his wares from one city to another? Was he an upright Jew? Was he a scoundrel?
The text doesn’t say who “the man” was, but he was most likely a Jew. I think not knowing makes a good point. Jesus doesn’t emphasize the man’s income level or place in society, and He doesn’t show partiality to my income level or popularity or education or abilities. What Jesus cares about is my heart, and that my life is devoted to Him.
“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.” Luke 10:31, 32 ESV
How long did the man lie, broken and bleeding, on that road? Did he have no hope? Did he cry out to God for mercy and deliverance? Can you imagine his relief to feel footsteps on the path, to hear a voice — and then his despair at being ignored in his time of great need? And this poor, broken, wounded man, barely clinging to life, experienced this pain of rejection and dismissal not once, but twice! Do you think he was aware enough to know who was ignoring him? Do you think he knew they were two men who were supposed to care for the poor and the suffering?
Have you experienced this man’s pain, if not physically, then emotionally? relationally? I have. Broken by life, beaten up, looking for someone to care, to notice. Only to find that “the church” (the priest and the Levite) didn’t want to take the time; they just “passed by,” refusing to interrupt the routine of surface relationships and programmed encounters. If you, dear reader, are feeling like “the man,” you need not despair any longer. There is hope. Jesus does notice you; He has stopped to help you. Reach out to Him.
I’m challenged as I think about the priest and the Levite in this story. There is no mention of their being corrupt, horrid individuals. Each one was obviously on a specific trip from one place to another. The road between Jericho and Jerusalem was not a “walk in the park.” It was a narrow, steep road, and often dangerous. But they didn’t even slow down! They just crossed the path to the other side, so as not to trip on the poor man! How callous!
But wait. In our aim to accomplish our daily “to do” lists, how many wounded and broken people do we ignore on our way? Their wounds may be invisible, their broken lives only seen in the tired eyes and lack of smile. Am I even aware of the people that God has put in my daily path? Do I see them? Do I care?
Before finishing the story, I want to think about how I can be more aware of the people God places in my path. When I do cross paths, may I not be like the priest and the Levite, who crossed by on the other side; instead of avoiding them or giving them some lip service or lame platitude, may I take the time to apply some salve with an honest prayer and a hug or handshake; may I be willing to give a cup of cold water (or hot tea or coffee or cocoa) and sit and listen without judgment or criticism.