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The Roads Best Travelled 26: The Jericho road (5)


Issue 263

Based on Luke 10:25-37

Why did the priest cross the road? – it may sound like the opening line of a joke, but it is in fact the starting point for some serious insights into life and work. What stops someone helping someone else in need? What stops you putting yourself out, paying a price, or giving time? There will be many reasons and individual differences, but there are also some common factors.

For the two devoutly religious men on the Jericho road, their refusal to get involved would be linked to fear. The road was dangerous. Robbers often used to pose as injured travellers in order to set a trap. Personal safety was therefore more important than helping.

In your working week, putting yourself out to help someone else may involve risk. There is the risk of being accused of time wasting,  to your strong reputation, to your job security or to your personal status. You could be seen as weak, a soft touch, or even interfering. You may be misunderstood or lose some income because you diverted from your own agenda. If you decide to help someone on a longer-term basis you may even slow your own progress on your career path. The priest and the Levite (temple assistant) were both afraid. At least the Levite had a look but still decided it was too risky to get involved. Fear and caution took over.

There is another more sinister reason. To touch a dead person, according to the Law, would make a priest unclean for seven days; he would lose his turn at temple Duty, and this traveller would certainly have appeared to be dead. Of course, the priest would only be ceremonially or ritually unclean, it was a religious etiquette. He was not prepared to express compassion because his religious rituals were more important.

Before you relegate this to the pages of history, consider what is going on in today’s world, including today’s marketplace. There is a tendency to label some foods as clean and others as unclean, so people can separate over food laws. There is a tendency to label certain times of day, or days of the week more holy than others, so further potential for separation emerges. When a person considers some time or place to be more holy than another, arguments and divisions can sometimes follow. The phrase ‘my religion forbids me to…’ can be elevated to the highest form of regulation.

If the prevailing belief system is non-religious or atheistic, and forbids religious expression, further division follows as ‘secular’ rituals become normative. Freedom of religion is a precious thing, sinceit allows people to pursue their search.

The message from the Jericho Road is that the moment religious ritual becomes more important than human compassion, it ceases to be authentic – whoever you are.

The Teacher from Nazareth did not shy away from challenging the expert in the law – who knew all about ritual cleanliness – to put ritual where it belongs: in second place to mercy. The Jericho Road runs right through your marketplace – travellers are falling by the wayside. Fearful, wrongly  rioritising travellers will still cross the road to avoid getting involved. It is up to you to cross the other way, however difficult that is, – take it from the Teacher who knows all about crosses.


Luke 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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Series: The Roads Best Travelled
Module: 7
Season: -
Daily Guide: No

Tags: authenticity, fear, prioritising, risk

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Geoff Shattock

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