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When the King Came by  George Hodges


 

 

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

[240] OVER the Jordan lies a land which was called Perea, that is, the land beyond. There our Lord spent the greater part of the remaining months of his life. He went to Jerusalem for a few days at the Feast of Tabernacles, when he healed a man born blind. He was again in the city at the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple. One of these days came in the fall, the other in the winter. Perea was a Jewish district, like Judea and Galilee. In the towns were synagogues and Pharisees.

New disciples now gathered about him, and one day he chose seventy of them and sent them out before him into the cities of Perea, as he had sent the Twelve into the cities of Galilee. So the Seventy went, healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom of God, and people listened to them, especially simple and poor people. The Pharisees despised them, but men and women who lived on farms and [241] in the back streets of towns received them. At that time Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Many of the wise and prudent hated our Lord, as they did in Judea. They thought that they knew all knowledge, and were much displeased when he came teaching things which they had never taught. It hurt their pride.

Sometimes these people asked him questions, hoping that he would not be able to answer them. Once, when a company of them sat about him, a lawyer stood up and said, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" This he asked, not because he felt himself in danger of missing life eternal, or because he wished our Lord to help him. He spoke as a lawyer, whose business it is to ask questions. Our Lord answered, "You have the law-books; what do you read there?"

For the law meant more then than it commonly means now. Nobody would think of [242] looking in a modern law-book to find out how to inherit eternal life. These books are about bargains and mortgages and corporations and crimes. People read them to learn how to keep out of jail. But this lawyer's books were full of religion. Some of them are in the Old Testament. They showed how good and bad actions affect not only the present, but the future life of men. So the lawyer, remembering the words of his books, answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." And Jesus said, "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." But the lawyer was not satisfied. Our Lord had answered his question, but that was not what he wanted. So he asked another, hoping that this one would be too hard for him. He said, "And who is my neighbor?" For this as you remember, was one of the matters of difference between our Lord and the chief people of the Jews. They said that the Jews had no neighbors except such as were of their [243] own race and religion. They did not call Samaritans, or Gentiles, or publicans, or sinners neighbors; they called them strangers, and had no love towards them whatever. Our Lord replied in a parable.

He told a story about a man who was walking along a very lonely road. There were steep rocks on either side and many sharp corners. Sometimes the way went down so deep among the cliffs that it was almost dark; sometimes it climbed so high upon the hills that the traveler, as he went, could look out over miles and miles. The man did not seem to enjoy the journey. Every little while he stopped and listened. When he came to a corner, he looked very cautiously to see if there were anybody on the other side. Sometimes, when a stone loosened from the rocks came rolling down into the road, he would look up, greatly alarmed, and wonder if somebody's foot had stirred the pebble from its place. For the traveler was afraid of robbers.

The road was called the Red Road, partly because the white rocks through which it ran [244] had red streaks in them, and partly because of other red streaks which were not in the rocks, but were made by the blood of wounded men. Almost every day robbers would rush out upon some traveler and take away all that he had, leaving him bleeding by the wayside. That is why the man kept such a sharp lookout as he hurried along.

At last, however, in spite of all his looking and listening, down came the wild brigands from behind a rock or around a corner. They caught the poor man, choked him, threw him down and beat him, and after taking all his goods and money, away they went, leaving him lying on the hard rocks, half dead, making the Red Road redder than ever.

By and by there came a priest on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem to take his part in the service of the temple. When he saw this poor man, he did not stop to help him, but turned across to the other side of the road, and went straight along, without looking back. "Dear me," he said, "there have been robbers here, and very lately, too. Perhaps at this very [245] moment they are dividing their spoil in the thievish corners of the rocks. They may hear my steps. This is a place of peril. Let me get out of it as soon as I can." So on he went, thinking only of himself.

Presently there came another traveler, bound, like the priest, from Jericho to Jerusalem, and on his way to the temple. This man was a Levite, that is, he sang in the choir. The choirman saw at once that something had happened, and he felt as many people feel when there is an accident. He wanted to see how the robber's victim looked. So, instead of going by on the other side, he crossed over and stood beside the wounded man. And the poor man, groaning with pain, looked up and saw the Levite, and said to himself, "Ah! here is a friend who will give me help; he has come to take me up." Then do you know what the singer did? He turned away and left him.

It was as if a company of people were cast away on a desert island, and looking day after day across the ocean, watching for a sail; and one day somebody cries, "A ship! a ship," [246] and there is a splendid vessel with flags flying; and they hail the ship, and the captain hears or sees and begins to come in towards the land; and their hearts are filled with joy and they hurry about packing their things, making ready to go home; and then, suddenly, without a word, the ship turns and sails away and presently is out of sight. How disappointed they would be! It would have been better not to have seen the ship at all. It was with such a feeling that the wounded man watched the Levite as he climbed the hill. So the Levite left him. And presently the priest was praying and the Levite was singing in the service, as if they thought that God sees only what takes place in church, and does not know what happens on the road.

At last, there came along a man whom all the Levites and the priests disliked, because he did not go to their church. This man was a Samaritan. He stopped as he saw the wounded traveler, and had compassion on him, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. He lifted him up on his own horse, and walked beside him, supporting [247] him. By and by they came to an inn, and the Samaritan got a place for the man to sleep, and sat up with him all night, nursing him. Then in the morning, when he must go away about his business, he called the landlord and paid the poor man's bill, and put in his hands some money beside that, saying, "Take care of him, and if it costs more, let me know when I come again, and I will pay it." The Samaritan was a stranger both to the man and to the country; he knew also that the man's friends, and probably the man himself, disliked Samaritans. Yet he did all this.


[Illustration]

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

"Now," said our Lord to the questioning lawyer, "which of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He that showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said unto him, "Go, and do thou likewise."


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