In this four-part series, we are considering Bible figures traveling away from Jerusalem. This symbolized traveling away from the presence of God. In Part 1, we traveled on the Road to the West, to Emmaus. There, the Lord Jesus met the disappointed disciples. In Part 2, we traveled with Saul on the Road to the North, to Damascus. There, Jesus met and converted that angry, self-righteous, religious person. In this blog, we will go from Jerusalem to Jericho, the Road to the East. Here we will revisit Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Person Battered and Beaten by Life: Going Down, Down, Down
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was the Road to the East. Jericho is only 18 miles east of Jerusalem. The issue is not distance but depth. I recall being in East Jerusalem many years ago. There you will find “the Muslim Quarter” of the city, including the Golden Gate and the Dome of the Rock. The view to the east from Jerusalem to the arid Jordan Valley is breathtaking. The topography descends almost straight down when Jerusalem ends. I remember thinking, “If I lose my balance, I may roll all the way to Jericho.”
Jericho is the lowest inhabited city in the world at 846 feet below sea level. If one stands in Jericho, looks up and imagines a 10-story building, then the top of that building will be at the sea level of the Mediterranean Sea. Jericho is very near the lowest point of the face of the earth, the shore of the Dead Sea.
Furthermore, after conquering Jericho, Joshua cursed anyone who would rebuild it (Joshua 6:26). All in all, Jericho is a low place associated with curses, dryness, and an inhospitable climate. In this context, Jesus stated, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). Images abound here. The man was “going down”—physically, spiritually, financially, and geographically. He was about to fall into a desperate, near-death situation.
This man represents all who are battered and beaten down by life. This strange pandemic era has left many financially broken, emotionally battered, and spiritually isolated. Even in “normal” times, life may batter people and beat them down. This may include Muslim societies, too. Many Muslim women, for example, are physically or emotionally isolated. Muslim men, women, and children may encounter all of the trials that life can bring. These tribulations are not specific to Muslim societies, but many Muslims can be included in those who have been battered by others and beaten down by life.
Who is My Neighbor? Even a Muslim?
We recall the context of Jesus telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer was interacting with Jesus, testing Him about the criteria for entering eternal life: “Wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 25:29)?
It was in this context that Jesus indicated to all who were listening that one’s neighbor includes people in need. In our times, this would include those who do not know Jesus as Savior, as well as those facing dire physical needs. Muslims do not know Jesus as Savior and many Muslims find themselves in great despair, beaten down by life.
It may be to these particularly needy Muslims that Jesus is calling us to be a good Samaritan. We have an opportunity today to befriend Muslims, particularly those beaten down by addictions, poverty, domestic abuse, and corruption. These precious people need to meet the greatest Good Samaritan, the Lord Jesus Christ. We may play the part of that simple Samaritan of Luke 10, doing what he could in the situation. He wanted no credit, and God received the glory.