But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:29-30)
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a notoriously dangerous way to travel. Jerusalem is about 3000 feet above sea level. The Dead Sea, near where Jericho stood, is about 1000 feet below sea level. In about 18 miles, this road dropped 4000 feet. It was a steep, mountainous road with narrow, rocky defiles and blind turns, which made it a place to be wary of robbers. In the 5th century, Jerome was still referring to this as “the Bloody Way.”
When Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10, he was speaking about the kind of thing that was known to happen on the Jericho Road. But this is the scene he picked to explain what it truly means to be a neighbor. It is about going to the place where people need help, and caring for them. It is not a coincidence that he chose this example. The people who need help the most are not necessarily living in our neighborhoods. They can't come to us; they are broken and dying. Will we go to them?
There is an old Hymn called On the Jericho Road. Here is one part:
On the Jericho Road there's room for just two,
No more and no less, just Jesus and you.
Each burden He'll bear, each sorrow He'll share,
There's never a care, for Jesus is there.
This is a well-meaning idea, but it's not true. If you leave comfort and safety and go to where people are suffering, there are plenty of cares. If you follow Jesus, you'll walk the road, because this is the place he would be. And there's more than just Jesus and you there. There are people who need help. You need to see them. You can't walk the road like it's just Jesus and you.
The Road to Jericho is not safe. Will you walk it?
My brother is getting ready to return to Cambodia a second time, to work with a ministry that rescues women from the slave trade. There is danger, opposing the people who drive this industry. But I understand why he is going. These women desperately need help. The love of Christ leads brave men and women to such places.
Jesus doesn't call all of us to go overseas, but I believe he calls us to leave our comfort zone and find those who suffer. They are closer to you than you think. Some are prisoners, others live in the inner city. They are in hospitals. Some long for a warm meal, others need medical treatment but can't afford it. He also calls us to partner with people who bring his love to people in far off places that the world has forgotten. This is how the world comes to know who Jesus is; we reveal him by our love for others. Take the time you need to plan, but find your way to the road. Jesus is already there, expecting you.