Today begins our 2022 Lenten journey. Over the next several weeks we will reflect upon what Jesus did for our salvation and redemption. There are Gospel passages that resonate with us. Some are well known by their titles, like The Woman at the Well (John 4), Jairus’ Daughter (Mark 8), The Paralyzed Man (Luke 5) and The Blind Beggar (Luke 18). Two of the most frequent sources for sermons are The Raising of Lazarus (John 11) and The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
The parable is offered to a lawyer who asked Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” A man, who was going down to Jericho, was waylaid by thieves. A priest and Levite who traveled on the same road passed by the injured man. This may be the part of the passage that some pastors wrestle with. Why did the priest, and then the Levite pass by a man lying on the side of the road? Was where they were headed more important than caring for an injured man? Or did they believe he was already dead and beyond all help?
The author of Luke’s Gospel allows us to take in what just happened, just like the lawyer, without describing how Jesus’ listeners reacted. And then, a Samaritan, a foreigner, and enemy of the Hebrew people, does what the priest and Levite did not. He took the time to discover if the man was still alive. Then the Samaritan tended his wounds, placed him on his own animal, and took him to an inn, caring for him for the rest of that day. The next day he gave the innkeeper two denarii to care for the injured man until his return. Jesus brings the parable to a conclusion with the following question: Luke 10: 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Whenever I read this passage or begin to develop a sermon from it, I consider how to quickly get to these last two verses. I am not comfortable with how the priest and Levite walked by the man in a rush to reach their destination. I have spent more time characterizing the good Samaritan than questioning the decisions of the priest and Levite. I want to get to the happy ending and the inspiration that this parable gives us.
There are 46 days of Lent (Sundays included). Time for each of us to consider not only the good things that Jesus did for our sakes but also the pain he endured so that our lives would be better. Easter is coming. But for the next 7 weeks, our Christian journey takes us down that Jericho road, asking us to stop at uncomfortable places where our Savior was questioned, tested, and rejected by those who had waited so long for His presence among us. May we walk through the valleys that our Savior experienced during these days. And Amen.