If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a good story worth?

"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. By chance a certain priest
came down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the
other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place,
came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.
And when he saw him, he had compassion. 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.
On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave
them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever
more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'

"Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell
among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."
Then Jesus said, "Go and do likewise." 

                                                     Luke 10:30-37 NKJV, condensed

                            Two Good Samaritans

The elevation of Jerusalem was over 2,000 feet. Jericho was about
20 miles away, below sea level, just north of the Dead Sea. So we can
picture the road as steep in places and with many hairpin turns. That's
where the thieves gathered to wait for an easy target. Jesus picked the
perfect location to stage his story. And our next passage takes place
in Bethany, a town on this very same road.

Jesus was answering the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Or as we
might put it, "Who do I have to be nice to?" Jesus could have responded
with one word, but instead chose to tell this story. A traveler was
attacked by thieves. Now that's believable; many of us have also been
robbed. We know how to hide our cash, stash our valuables out of sight,
and keep everything under lock and key. But this man was ill-fated;
thieves stripped him clean, beat him up and left him lying on the road,
floating in and out of consciousness.

Luckily a priest from Jerusalem came by. Surely this man of God will
help the wretched wayfarer. But no, the priest barely looked at the fallen
man! Instead he moved to the other side of the road, as far away as
possible, and passed on by. Soon a Levite approached, one of those
people who works at the Temple doing everything from taking out the
trash to singing in the choir. The Levite also saw the wounded man.
He stopped to look at the poor guy and assessed his condition. Then
he, too, went on without giving any aid or comfort!

Oh-oh. Look who's coming now. There's a scumbag Samaritan
strutting around the corner like he owns the world. Never trust one like
that; there's an eerie look in his eyes. Don't know where he got those
expensive threads. Probably never had an honest job in his life. Those
Samaritans talk so dumb, you can't even understand them. He's got
girlie pictures sticking out of his pocket and enough wine strapped on
his jackass to satisfy a mob. Hope he passes quickly, wouldn't want
his shadow casting a bad omen over the helpless man.

Oh-no. He's slowing down. He's stopping to look. He's bending over
the man. Probably gonna' slit his throat. What's he doing? He's getting
a bag off his donkey and pulling out supplies. Making like he's a doctor
or something. Who does he think he is! A lot of nerve he has, touching
that decent fellow!

We know the rest of the story. The hated foreigner compassionately
applied first-aid, then took the unfortunate traveler to an inn. But he still
wasn't done. He paid in advance for additional care and asked the
innkeeper to provide whatever the man needed! And if more expenses
were necessary, the Samaritan would cover it the next time he came
through! That's how this character became known throughout the
world as the Good Samaritan.

There are three potential heroes in Jesus' story: a priest, a Levite and
of course the one from whom nothing was ever wanted, the despised
Samaritan. By chance all three were presented with a wonderful
opportunity to act with courage and offer aid to a stranger in need.
Only one of them demonstrated who our neighbor is, and Jesus hailed
his kindness and mercy and told us to go, and do likewise.

Neighborliness is found where we least expect it. The day after
Thanksgiving, 2007, protest against illegal immigrants was hushed for
a few moments when the following news story was broadcast across
our land. By chance a migrant from Mexico, who had crossed the
border unlawfully, saw an American child alone and unprotected from
harm. Jesus Cordova had been walking for two days and was about
50 miles from Tucson when he spotted the 9-year old boy in shorts
with bloodied knees, whose mother had been killed when her van
veered off the road and over a cliff.

Cordova gave the boy his sweater, found some food in the wrecked
vehicle and then built a bonfire to attract attention and keep them both
warm throughout the night. Neither the man nor the child spoke the
other's language, but Cordova said he never considered leaving the
child alone in the desert.

Around sunrise the next morning, they were found. The child was
taken to a hospital in Tucson; Jesus Cordova was taken into custody
and returned to Mexico. He had come to the United States to earn
money to feed two families; his four children who live with their mother,
and his girlfriend's three children. Unselfishly, he sacrificed the dreams
of his own loved ones for a stranger's orphaned child by the side of
the road.


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker: Share your reactions and how you felt as you read or 
                   listened to these two stories.


Jesus' cast of characters included a wounded person, the travelers who
passed by without offering aid, the good Samaritan, and the innkeeper.
            Think about each character, one at a time. Try to understand the role
            each one played that day, and what reasons they may have had for
            their attitudes and acts.
                        Which character is most like you?


Think about Jesus Cordova. What was his situation and his goal?
            What were his options when he spotted the boy?
            Had you been in his shoes, how might you have responded?


Recount a time when you felt like a wounded victim lying on the roadside?
            Who played the role of "Good Samaritan" for you?


By chance, a certain priest came down that road. God surprised him
that day with a wonderful opportunity to serve the wounded man.
            Describe your attitude when God surprises you in a similar way?
            What could have made the Samaritan act with compassion?
In a word or sentence, who is your neighbor?
            How far do you "spread the corners of your tent"?
                        What are the limits and boundaries?


What excuses could the shame-on-you priest and Levite have used
to explain their lack of involvement?
            When have you used some of those same excuses?
Eyes that do not see! Hearts that do not pity the wounded!
            How do we get so calloused and indifferent?
What reasons do we use for not obeying the bottom line--"Go and do likewise."


It's not what we do, but what we fail to do, that damns us!
            Is that the message Jesus is trying to get across?
            Could doing nothing be our worst offense in God's sight?


Many people prefer to write a check or a letter to the editor or discuss
the wounded at a committee meeting. While these things may be good,
they are no substitute for personal involvement.
            What makes hands-on experience so different from hands-off?


Write a paragraph beginning: Jesus, you are my Good Samaritan . . . .

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