The narrow approximately 20 mile stretch of road from Jerusalem to Jericho mentioned in the parable of the Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-37) was infested with robbers or bandits who hid out in the caves along the way. We are so familiar with it that we not only misname it the parable of the Good Samaritan (reflecting Jewish prejudice perhaps ‘all Samaritans are bad excepting this one’, whereas the text simply says a certain Samaritan, v. 33) but we also miss the radical nature of the story to a Jewish audience.
Here is a Jewish Rabbi telling a story (no doubt drawn from real life) about a hapless victim left bloody, almost dead on this potentially dangerous road. He makes reference to two fellow Jews, religious leaders (Priest, Levite) who pass by without helping. The hero in his account is neither of these religious leaders nor even a lay Jew but a despised Samaritan.
This is radical, counter cultural story-telling!
What happened to young Nicholas Francis on that bus and to youngsters and others killed or seriously wounded across our country lifts up this parable to my mind.
As one Baptist colleague said in passing some years ago, somebody needs to do something about the Jericho road! The late world-renowned textual critic Bruce Metzger examined the parable from the implied modus operandi of the key actors and I’ll share his approach and add mine re the possible emotions of each of the said actors.
Metzger said the thieves who robbed the man and seriously wounded him acted on the motto “What is yours is mine, I’ll take it by force”, the emotion here for me is antipathy (feeling against another). So you manhandle and kill a youngster for his watch or phone. Dastardly antipathy!
The religious leaders, says Metzger were acting on the motto “What is mine is mine I’ll keep it to myself”, the emotion behind that motto is apathy (without feeling, minus sympathy even). All those people on that bus, unmoved by a grown man manhandling a young boy for his possession? Damnable apathy!
The hero for Metzger, the Samaritan, despite the possibility of being attacked by said thieves or others like them, stopped and helped the real actual needs of this stranger on the road using his own first-aid kit. His motto you can guess “What is mine is ours let’s share it”.
The impelling emotion here is not simply sympathy (feeling with) but empathy, which I gather from Psychologists is emotional identification, feeling as the other, putting yourself in the needy person’s shoes or situation and acting as necessary.
Indeed the text at v.33, describes the emotion that moved the Samaritan to act, by an emotive verb in Greek that suggests that his innards felt it for this victim. As we would say in Jamaican (usually though of women) “im belly move wen im see im.”
Jesus challenged the lawyer who prompted this parable, with the question ‘Which of the three persons was neighbour to the man who fell among thieves?’ He correctly answered ‘the one who showed mercy on him’.
So I ask, who will fix our Jericho road, our crying beloved country, Jamaica? How soon will our Jericho road be fixed and by whom? Where are the Samaritans in Jamaica who will put themselves at risk to avert, minimize and eventually rid our country of unhelpful, nay wicked modus operandi and equally unhelpful or wicked emotions?