The man lay beaten, bloody, robbed and left for dead on the Jericho Rd. Then he heard the crunch of sandal on gravel approaching. “Would you be my neighbor?” he called to the priest. Without breaking stride, the priest continued down the 17- mile road from Jerusalem at 2,300 feet above sea level to Jericho, 1,300 feet below sea level. The priest had duties which could not be fulfilled if he became unclean.
Later the man lying crumpled against the wall of rock rising above him, heard the crunch of gravel. Ah, a Levite, who prepared worship matters for the priest, directed the choir and music. “Could you be my neighbor?” the mess lying against the rock wall called. The Levite stopped, but he didn’t have time. A choir to direct, worship plans to complete.
Now a third crunch of gravel. The man saw it was a hated and heretical Samaritan, sub human they were. Any Samaritan felt the same way about a Jew. But the horrible person stopped, helped, loaded him on his donkey, took him to an inn, stayed the night to care for him, and paid for a month’s stay.
Jesus asked, “Which was the neighbor to the man beaten and robbed?”
Jesus helps us understand who our neighbor is. He became the hated Samaritan. Our unneighborliness hung him on a cross. He hung beaten and bloody at a crossroad outside Jerusalem where the sandals crunched in the gravel as passersby derided him or ignored him.
Who is our neighbor? It is not only those who stand alongside and with whom we live, but those who live on the other side of the chasms which we have created. It may be a political chasm across which we feel free to deride others. It may be a cultural chasm. Jesus became our neighbor and now he says, “Go and do likewise. Love your neighbor as yourself as an expression of the love you profess to have for me.”