“We are all “out” on our own recognizance.” — George Carlin
Clothes make the man, goes an old saying. That is to say, people draw conclusions about others based on how they present themselves to them and clothes play a part in that. It is part of human nature. It allows us to live at the speed of life. We know who is who and what to expect of them. We invented uniforms and traditional dress — like kilts that by their very cloth tell what clan you are from — exactly for that purpose: To make a statement what to expect from the person wearing it.
But what if all distinguishing marks are removed? What if one was robbed, stripped and left naked by the side of the road? (10:30) All distinguishing marks are now gone. Are you from Jerusalem? Jericho? Chorazin? The villages at the foot of Mt. Gerazim?
And if you are unconscious: No chance of you saying Shibboleth, is there? (Jd 12:6) How will we know who you are?
And what will we do with you? If you are dead, that would be one course of action, if you are yet alive that would be another.
Suddenly, the speed of life must slow down a lot as you are not clothed with identifying marks of what you are and neither are you clothed with the normal functions of life that tell us that you are even alive.
To make matters worse, your very lying there is a warning: There are robbers about! Beware! Are you bait for the next unfortunate victim?
This is what is lying by the road between Jericho and Jerusalem is like. Good Luck!
Ah, but what if you were the second one to get to the scene and you knew one of your wise leaders had just passed by here as well? Well, if he has seen fit to leave the scene as is, then certainly it is OK for you as well. One must not pretend that one knows more than ones betters.
And what would happen if one helped? Surely, when the man by the side of the road awoke he was told that a Samaritan had tended to him. What if he was a Judean? Even the oil of the Samaritans was abomination. Would he be furious? Would he have waited for the Samaritan’s return in ambush at the inn?
If he had died at the inn, even if he had been from Samaria himself, would his family have sought out the Samaritan traveler with revenge in their hearts, believing him to be the reason for their brother’s dying?
Wisdom says, on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, that perhaps it is better to move on. Custom and etiquette agree. The need not to interrupt life already in progress gives assent. (10:31)
This is a tough place to be lying near dead and without ID by the side of the road.
This traveler is lying by the side of the road much like Israel lay by the side of the Nile, or the Euphrates for that matter. Found utterly desolate and near demise. The traveler is found much like all humanity is found by the heavenly hosts and those who, on heaven’s behalf, would wield heaven’s power over the forces of evil and decay. It is the way Jesus finds all of us, really.
This simple reality, that we are all incapable of uttering a simple “Shibboleth,” escapes most of us. We are out under our own recognizance but ultimately a hammer will fall. We are gamblers with no bankroll, hobos smiling at the sunrise. (T. Garrod)
Yet, Jesus’ disciples seem to travel the land without regard for the common wisdom. They have gone out without purse, bag, or sandal. (10:4) They are of a new way and they travel the road differently. A different wisdom attends them: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” (10:21) Yes, children, the ultimate “unwise.” The ones who might actually go over to the traveler and see if he was alright, and do so — being devoid of the fears of common wisdom that certainly also had grasped the Samaritan — without fear but in the sense of natural human curiosity.
The lesson of the parable of the traveler and the Samaritan is obvious: You become neighbor, human in a sense that matters, when your curiosity and fascination with life always gets the better of you and you seek out the other.
This road between Jericho and Jerusalem is navigable, but treachery awaits. What force will make travels bearable? (10:27)