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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 18: The obedient one

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

In order to understand the reference to the Samaritan, and to fully understand the richness of this parable, the last two posts have looked at how the problem between the Jews and the Samaritans developed. You can read those two posts here #1 and here #2

The parable of the Good Samaritan is incredibly rich on multiple levels, and it also gives us a glimpse into the humor of God. He loves using the unlikely to do the unexpected, especially when He can plant an ironic and deeply profound lesson in the midst of things. 

Remember that the trouble with the Jews and the Samaritans began with what was essentially a civil war in Israel. Because of Solomon's idolatry, God tore the kingdom from his descendants and promised it to Jeroboam if he would only wait, listen, and obey. Eventually, Solomon died, and his son Rehoboam inherited the kingdom. Rehoboam made it clear that he would be a tough taskmaster, taking more from the people than his father, Solomon. The people of Israel would have none of Rehoboam, and they made Jeroboam king. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin stayed with the Davidic line and Rehoboam. For the most part, the kings of both kingdoms (especially the Northern Kingdom) were ungodly and led people into idolatry and heinous sin, however, we must not forget that God initiated the severing of the kingdom. 

The tribes of Judah and Benjamin, ruled by Rehoboam, became known as the Southern Kingdom and the people were called Jews. The other ten tribes, ruled by Jeroboam, became known as the Northern Kingdom, (with their capital in Samaria) and the people were called Samaritans. Both kingdoms were filled with people who were typical people. Just like us, they were arrogant and thought they knew it all. Just like us, they thought they were God's favorites. (We tend to forget that God loves everyone!) 

Of course, the Jews still had access to the temple and Jerusalem and they felt that they were the keepers of the law. Oddly enough, the word translated as "Samaritan" is Samareia and literally means "guardianship" or "guardian". There became a sense that they were the guardians of the law (Remember, it was God who tore the Kingdom apart, so they thought they had a special dispensation, despite the fact of the incredible idolatry of the nation.) There are still several hundred Samaritans today. They have their own Torah and they believe that they are the guardians of the law. Needless to say, the Jews did not believe the Samaritans were guardians of the law or that they had anything "right" at all. Over time, the Jews had come to hate the Samaritans. 

With all that as background, look at this parable again. Jesus was talking to a group of Jewish people. The question that prompted the parable was, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told the story of a man, likely a Jewish man, who was traveling on a dangerous road and was accosted by robbers. They beat him, robbed him, and left him for dead. A Jewish priest and a Jewish Levite walked past, saw the man, and kept going. They did not stop and they did not help the man in any way. The Samaritan (guardian) came down the road, saw the injured man who was, in a sense, his enemy, and at great expense and considerable inconvenience, helped the man. 

Jesus asked the lawyer to whom he was speaking, "Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the injured man?" Because the discussion had revolved around the law, Jesus was essentially asking, "Which one of these three kept the law?' We cannot even imagine what it must have felt like for the lawyer, the expert in the law, (as well as the crowd) to admit that the Jewish people, who considered themselves keepers of the law, had totally failed at loving their neighbor, while the Samaritan man, who turned out to actually fulfill the law concerning his neighbor, had done the good they failed to perform. The Samaritans were not their worst enemy, but they were despised and rejected, and it must have stung. 

What Jesus showed the lawyer, the crowd, and those of us reading today was that they, who considered themselves as God's favorites, were not as godly as they presumed. The priest and the Levite were only thinking of themselves. The Samaritan thought first of the man on the road and it caused him to intervene. Our actions often demonstrate what is in our heart, and the Samaritan's actions demonstrated the compassion in his heart. 

When I look at this parable, I cannot help but think about all the times I've been a priest or a Levite instead of a Good Samaritan. The problem is not just that my actions have been more like the priest and Levite, but that my attitude has also been one with theirs. "It's only natural", we say, and that is right. The natural man cares first for himself, does first what he wants. It is the transformed-by-the-blood of the Lamb, obedient, godly man who cares for the things of God, the people of God first, and who first does what God wants rather than satisfying his own desires. 

Dear ones, we are not called to be "natural", we are called to be men and women of God, obedient and self-sacrificing, loving our neighbor as we do ourselves. Our actions will never be what God intended until our attitudes are right, and that requires a heart change, a relinquishing of our pride and our judgmental spirit. Let us, then, make it our goal to have the heart of God toward our neighbors, the heart of the Samaritan to those in need - despised, rejected, yet giving of ourselves to those who cannot help themselves. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 17: More on the Samaritans

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

Understanding how a problem developed helps us understand the reference to it, so, in the previous post, we began a look at how the problem with the Samaritans developed. You can click on this link

Because of Solomon's unrepentant rebellion and idol worship, God "tore" the kingdom from him, promising ten tribes to Jeroboam. All he had to do was wait, listen, and obey. He was excited about this, as we probably would have been, and he obviously told some people about the prophecy and began to make a conspiracy to make himself  the king, because word got back to Solomon, who tried to kill him. He fled to Egypt to avoid assassination, and stayed there until Solomon died and Rehoboam became king in his father's place. 

When Jeroboam heard the news, he hurried back from Egypt, leading all the people to beg Rehoboam to ease the severe treatment of the citizens by his father. Rehoboam laughed. "Ha. You think my daddy was bad. I'm going to be tougher than my daddy ever was!" Those words were all the people needed to justify rebellion, and the ten tribes rejected Rehoboam as king, split the nation, and made Jeroboam king over those who rebelled. The new nation was called the Northern Kingdom and Judah became known as the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam established his capital in Shechem in the region of Samaria, but the capital was later moved to the city of Samaria. 

As you might expect, there was a great rivalry because those who were in the Southern Kingdom felt that they had an edge on the basis of the lineage of King David. Those in the Northern Kingdom felt that they had an edge because God had torn the kingdom from Solomon and his descendants. All Jeroboam had to do to gain a lasting kingdom was to wait, listen, and obey, but he quickly proved that he would not do what God had said. 

Jeroboam was afraid of losing his newly-gained kingdom because of the need to go to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. He feared that, in going to Jerusalem to the temple, the people's hearts would soften and they would return to the house of David. Rather than ask God what to do, he made a solution of his own. In an unbelievable turn of events, Jeroboam instituted the very behavior that had caused Solomon to lose the kingdom. Jeroboam set up two golden calves and announced that these golden calves were the gods that had brought the people out of Egypt. To make matters even worse, the people followed his leadership and began to worship those despicable golden calves. Things quickly went from bad to worse, and soon they were a nation filled with idolatry. Two centuries later, they were carried into captivity by the Assyrians, which was essentially the end of the Northern Kingdom. 

Jerusalem and the temple were located within the Southern Kingdom. Despite the sin of the Southern Kingdom, they generally made at least a show of worship in the temple, in contrast to the open idolatry of the Northern Kingdom. Because the Southern Kingdom was basically just the tribe of Judah, these people began to be called Jews. The Northern Kingdom was situated in the area of Samaria and the capital of the Northern Kingdom was the city of Samaria. These people, from the ten tribes, began to be called the Samaritans.

We will look once more at the rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans in the next post, but for today, let us ponder what happens when we act without consulting God. Rehoboam tried to prove himself by being tough and lost a kingdom. Jeroboam tried to save himself by making his own brand of religion, and ended up losing his kingdom, as well. Both lost the legacy God offered them because of their rebellion. How heartbreaking is that? 

Dear ones, God is serious about obedience and generously rewards us when we obey. He is also serious about disobedience. (For more on this see Deuteronomy 11:13-15, 26-28, 30:1-20.) His instructions in Deuteronomy 30, had they been heeded, could have saved the kingdom, and we would do well to take note of them today. God gives us a choice, with blessings on one side and discipline on the other. The choice is ours. Let us consider carefully the life we want, and choose well. Our life and the legacy we leave behind depends upon it.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 16: How the Samaritans came to be

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

Today, we are looking at the difficulty between the Jews and the Samaritans. It turns out that the problems between the Jews and the Samaritans were not at all what I had thought. 

The problem began during Solomon's reign. He had taken numerous foreign wives and they "turned his heart away" from the Lord. (1 Kings 11:1-13) When he began to build altars on the high places and worship idols, God appeared to Solomon again and basically told him, "I've already told you not to worship any God except Me, and I cannot let this go." God told Solomon that He would "tear the kingdom" from him. Because of his father, King David, who loved God with his whole heart, the discipline was softened. The kingdom would be split, but not until after his death. Because of David's love for God, two tribes would be left with Solomon's descendants. (The second tribe was insignificant and actually David's descendants would basically have only Judah.)

God moved quickly. The prophet Ahijah found Jeroboam (an industrious and upcoming soldier) on the road. Ahijah had a new cloak which he tore into twelve pieces. He told Jeroboam to take ten pieces for himself. God, he said, was giving ten tribes to Jeroboam and leaving the rest (Judah) with Solomon's descendants. Jeroboam would have to wait until after Solomon died, but if he did, and if he listened to God's commands and obeyed them, He would be with Jeroboam, give Israel to him, and establish an enduring house (lineage) as He had done for David. 

Wait. Listen. Obey.

All Jeroboam had to do was wait, listen, and obey, but Jeroboam was much like us. God had promised the throne to him, and he wanted it. Who wants to wait? We will see more of his waiting problem in the next post, but I suspect that Jeroboam began to talk (and likely brag) about what the prophet had said, because Solomon soon heard about it. King Solomon added more sin to what he had already piled up when he became enraged and tried to have Jeroboam killed. (It would have been a perfect opportunity to repent and seek God's face, but, instead, he chose more rebellion.) Jeroboam fled to Egypt and waited. 

One of the greatest sermons of the 20th century was preached by Dr. R.G. Lee and was entitled "Pay Day Someday". (My mother heard him preach this sermon, and never forgot it. She was still speaking of it, more than fifty years later, in the months before her death.) Dr. Lee was right. There will always be a pay day someday. No matter how rich or powerful we are, we will have to answer for our choices, our decisions, our sin. Even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, had to answer for his idolatry and his disobedience, and the price was tremendous. His disobedience not only devastated the lives of his descendants, but also ripped a nation into shreds. 

It is easy to think that Solomon had "bigger" sins than we have, or "more" sins, or was disciplined because he was "more visible", but that is not born out by Scripture. Solomon refused to obey and God disciplined him. He was not the only one who was worshiping at the high places. He was not the only one who worshipped idols. He was not the only one disciplined. He is simply the one we read about. God always responds to sin. He always responds to rebellion. It is as simple as that, and should serve as a strong warning to us. 

We would do well to heed the instructions that the prophet gave to Jeroboam if we want to avoid the discipline of the Lord. Wait. Listen. Obey. What joy, what peace, what blessings we would find if we would only wait, listen, and obey. Dear ones, resolve to do that very thing. Be still and know that He is God, then live as if you believe it. 

The "Pay Day Someday" sermon is worth reading. Click here to read it. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Problem with Knitting Bags, by Maggie the Wonder Dog Hollis

In case you didn't know... Maggie the Wonder Dog is an amazing 11 pound Shih-Tzu who can dance like a ballerina, sneak like a spy, and herd cows. She is also a wonderful writer. Regrettably, her mother sold all the cows and now Maggie has to content herself with memories of those wonderful days gone by... barking at the cows and making those half-ton behemoths do what she said. Sigh.

My name is Maggie the Wonder Dog and I want to talk to you about the problem of too many knitting bags. Now that may not be a problem at your house, but it is at mine. I only found out about this knitting bag problem today, but it was so bad that action had to be taken right away! Here's what happened.

My mama really likes those people who help out in Kurdistan. She says they are super nice and give people little portable houses so they don't have to live outside. Who would want to do that? No one! Since they didn't have enough of those little portable houses to go around for all the people that were living outside, they said, "People should knit some hats for these outside people so they won't be so cold!" Can you believe it? A lot of really nice people knitted hats for the cold outside people and sent them right over! Wasn't that nice? In fact, my friend, Stella Hayden, told me that her mama knitted some of those hats, too. Miss Debbie is very nice like that. She's always doing something to help someone. 

My mama didn't knit any of those hats, but when she saw some pictures of those cold outside people in their knitted hats, and saw how happy they were, she wished she had. She said, "I would like to knit some hats for cold outside people, myself." I was very surprised about that, because I didn't even know my mama could knit. It turned out that my mama can knit, but she is much better at collecting up a bunch of knitting needles and yarn. 

Anyway, she asked Stella's mama about knitting a hat and Miss Debbie told her what kind of knitting needles she would need. My mama said, "No problem, I think I have some of those needles." This morning, she decided to look for her hat-making needles. First, she dragged a big box out from under the bed. You will not believe how much yarn was in that box, and my mama said I better not tell it either. Then, my mama started pulling out knitting bags. Can you believe this? My mama had five knitting bags! And two knitting baskets! It could have been more, but I don't know. I can only count to five. 

She pulled out so much thread and so many knitting needles, I thought she might be starting a store! I said, "Mama! What is this?" It turned out that my mama used to grab some yarn and some needles, throw them in a bag, and carry them with her when she went to livestock shows with my human boy Ryan. Sometimes she finished her project, and sometimes she didn't. Always, she thought she would get back to it, but I'm kinda doubting that she ever did, since she had so very many projects going in those bags. 

I was shocked. I thought my mama always finished what she started, but apparently not. She looked at all those projects that were barely started and said, "I don't even know what I am making here. I am unraveling all this and starting over!" I am not going to tell you how long that took, but it was a while! She looked at some soft pink thread and said, "I was going to make an afghan out of this. It would probably go quick." When she started looking for the needles to make that afghan, I said, "Mama, what about Ryan's scarf you're knitting?" "Oh, yeah," she said. "I'm going to finish that scarf first, and then I'm going to knit an afghan." "Mama, what about the hats?" She laughed and laughed. "You know, Maggie. I was looking for needles to make hats when I got into all this mess! You are right. I am finishing my scarf and then I'm making hats. I might make an afghan after that." 

To tell you the truth, I am not optimistic about that afghan, and I'm not all that optimistic about those hats, but if my mama ever gets going with all that thread, there won't be a cold head in Kurdistan! 

Now you may be wondering what in the world my mama's knitting bags have to do with you and your life. That's why I give the Wonder Dog Lesson of the Day. It has to be short because I'm a dog, and because people don't always listen if it's long. (My mama said people might not think that is nice, but it's the truth. I was also going to tell you that buying yarn and needles is not the same thing as knitting, but Mama said you already knew that.)

Wonder Dog Lesson of the Day:
1. Finish what you start. That's what God does, and we should, too. (Philippians 1:6)

That's it. There's no need to buy more stuff if you haven't finished what you have already started, so just finish what you start. And make hats for the cold outside people. They need them!

The end. 
By Maggie the Wonder Dog Hollis

How to inherit eternal life, part 15: Serving God by serving others

Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:30-32 NASB) 

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' (Matthew 25:34-45 NASB)

The lawyer asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" and our Lord painted a word picture to help him understand. The one with the greatest need, in the most inconvenient place, who will interrupt our day and disrupt our plans is our neighbor, just as the ones we love and desire to help. Once we understand that we are to love the least convenient and most unlovely, and actually do something about it, then loving the lovely becomes even easier.

As we can see from the story of the Good Samaritan, even the most righteous among us have trouble doing the right thing. The priest didn't do it. The levite didn't do it. The truth is that, all too often, we don't do it, either. When we read this passage from Matthew, however, it puts it in perspective. When we refuse to love our unlovely neighbor, our inconvenient, difficult neighbor, we have refused to love our Lord, and He has some hard words to say about that decision. 

"To the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me."

Selah. Pause and consider.

That verse is a game-changer when it comes to loving the unlovely and inconvenient, isn't it? Loving the neighbor that is the most difficult to love is, admittedly, not easy. It's also not optional. When we love them and care for them, when we become a friend to them, however, our Lord says we have loved Him and cared for Him at the same time, so let us love for Jesus. Let us care for Jesus. Let us serve for Him, and by so doing, let us serve Him.


Friday, January 23, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 14: Walking past the need

Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:30-32 NASB) 

In the previous post, we looked at the city of Jericho. (click on the link to read that post in a new window) 

The word translated here as "going down" is katabainĊ and means "to descend". As we saw in the previous post, there is a significant difference in altitude between Jerusalem and Jericho, so that a traveler literally "descends" when he travels from Jerusalem to Jericho. There have been some who suggested that the priest did not want to be defiled because of his duties as the priest, but he was clearly traveling katabainĊ, descending, which makes it obvious that he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and away from the temple, just as the wounded man had been doing. That fact suggests that the priest had completed his priestly duties, performed in Jerusalem, and was heading to Jericho, possibly for the night. Matthew Henry references a historian (Lightfoot) who says that many of the priests lived in Jericho. If so, perhaps he was going home for the night.

Let's think for a moment about the position of priest. It was a highly visible leadership position. People would have looked to him, expected obedience to God from Him, and taken guidance from the priest's behavior. He was to set the example for righteousness because it was the job of priests to minister to the Lord in the temple on a continuing basis. Because of that ongoing ministry before God, one might expect them to understand something of the heart of God, the compassion of God, but apparently that was not the case in this particular priest. 

Why didn't the priest stop? Either he saw the wounded man or he did not. Jesus made it very clear that he saw the injured victim. Since he knew the man had a need that was obviously going to be tremendous, why didn't he stop? There are many potential excuses. Perhaps he didn't know what to do and thought he might cause more harm than good by trying to help. Perhaps he was concerned about the ritual cleansing that would be required after caring for this man and wanted to avoid that effort. Maybe he was headed home, running late, and didn't want to be delayed. God, however, is much more concerned with compassion than ritual cleansing or delayed dinners. 

There are many potential excuses, but perhaps Martin Luther King's interpretation is the best one yet. He said that the priest, as well as the Levite, asked the wrong question. They asked, "What will happen to me if I stop?" when they should have asked, "What will happen to him if I do not stop?" MLK suggested that their fear of what would happen stopped them from helping. That may be true, and, frankly, I hope it is. Equally as likely, though, is the possibility that the reason the priest failed to stop to help the wounded man was pure selfishness. He was concerned about himself and not the man lying, half-dead, on the side of the road. He was likely concerned about the things that would be delayed by stopping, the additional trouble he would encounter by stopping, and the risk to himself by stopping. He was only concerned about himself.

It is this selfishness that prevented the priest from loving his neighbor and caring for him, and that same kind of selfishness prevents us from loving our neighbor, as well. This passage suggests that, when we see a need, Jesus expects us to meet it, not walk by on the other side. The problem, then, becomes one of meeting one need or the other, either our own selfish desire or the one in greater physical or spiritual need. 

Perhaps the appropriate response today is to look at our own actions with regard to the needs of others. How quick are we to respond with aid to those in need? How consistently do we respond to need? How generously? Would Jesus view the kind and amount of aid we give as He did the priest and the Levite or as He viewed the Samaritan? When people look to us for an example of righteousness, do they see the kind of generous, compassionate lifestyle that they would do well to emulate, or not? 

Let us resolve, then, to give like the Samaritan, who risked himself for the one in need. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 13: From Jerusalem to Jericho

Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30 NASB)

... So the people crossed opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:16 NASB)

We are studying the passage from Luke in which Jesus paints a word picture of loving your neighbor as yourself. I have a little treat for you at the end, so be sure to read all the way through. (You can read about loving your neighbor as yourself and being a friend to sinners with these links in a separate tab and still keep this one open.) Today, we turn to the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. 

Jericho is an interesting city and merits a closer look. Most people will remember the "battle" at Jericho in which the people walked around the city, day after day, as God prescribed, until the walls came down. The victory was, quite literally, won by their walk of obedience. What we often forget is that Jericho was the place where the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. You may remember that they stood, after forty years of wandering, at the edge of the Jordan River. The water was rushing past and the walled city of Jericho was nearby on the other side. (BTW, this is the place where I was baptized and may have been the place where Jesus was baptized by John. Imagine that! Baptized in the place where Joshua and the children of Israel entered the promised land, where John the Baptizer ministered, and where our Lord Jesus was baptized as well. How incredible is that?) 

Jericho was a relatively large city, likely an affluent city (because of the walls), and well-populated. It was also filled with fear. They were terrified because of the vast numbers of the children of Israel who had just crossed the Jordan, and well they might have been, for their destruction was near. It would not, however, be the multitude of wanderers that would destroy them, but their God. 

Jericho is a beautiful city. It was known for its "aromatics" and had a wonderful fragrance. It is surrounded by desert, but because of the Jordan and the spring known as Elijah's Spring, it serves as a kind of oasis in the desert. Getting to Jericho was, however, difficult. The distance from Jerusalem to Jericho is roughly 18 miles. The journey is difficult, in part, because of the change in altitude between the two cities of more than 3000 feet, making at least a portion of the journey extremely steep. Because of the altitude difference, there is an accompanying change in the environment, becoming increasingly dry and arid as you approach Jericho. There are several excellent hiding places along the way and it was a popular place for robbers to hide. In fact, the robbers had been so successful in their crimes that it had become known as the "way of blood" because of the amount of blood shed in that place.

Some commentators suggest that, in this story, Jerusalem is symbolic of God's government and that Jericho symbolizes man's government. Others suggest that Jerusalem symbolizes paradise and Jericho, the world. Certainly, either of those are possible, but Jesus may have simply chosen this literal road for His parable because it was well known to His listeners and familiar as a dangerous path, albeit one that many of them would travel. The man traveling along the road may have simply been going about his business, living life as usual, when he was brutally attacked and left for dead. Those who passed him may have also been simply going about the business of life, hurrying through a dangerous and difficult path to get to an easier part of the journey as quickly as possible. That's the interpretation I favor.

You see, loving our neighbors isn't a scheduled event. We don't set an alert on our smart phone for "love your neighbor time". Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as we go about our day. While we are walking from one destination to the next (or driving, as the case may be), going about the business of life, we are to love our neighbor. The critical factor here is our ability to see our neighbor. Unless we are paying attention, looking around us, with the eyes and heart of Christ, we are not likely to see the need of our neighbor in distress. If we fail to recognize the need, we will never meet it. If we fail to see our neighbor, we will never love Him. 

There's another little problem that we often have, and you likely know it as well as I.  Busyness. When we allow our lives to be overtaken by "busy", we remove the margin that allows the adventure of God. We eliminate the opportunity to love our neighbor when we become too busy to "take the time" for the loving acts God places in our path.

God has not called us to be busy, but to be faithful. Let's begin today to ask God to develop in us the eyes of Christ, eyes that see the need around us, as well as the heart of Christ that responds to that need with ready assistance, willing to go to the distance until all that is needed is done. 
Here's your treat! The day before his death, Martin Luther King spoke to striking sanitation workers about this very passage. It is insightful, wonderfully written, and well worth the read. You can click on the link below to read it. You don't want to miss it!