Carol continued her story. “A man was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho. It was about 17 miles, about a day’s journey. We have no idea why he was walking. In fact, that doesn’t matter. This was a story Jesus was telling. The details he leaves out don’t actually exist.”
Sarah took a swallow of coffee. “What do you mean?
“This is a parable.” Carol said. “It’s a story that Jesus is telling, a made-up story, to make a point. The details he includes are to help illustrate, the details excluded never actually happened. It seldom helps to say, ‘What would have happened if?’ because that would have been a different story.”
Sarah shrugged. “Whatever. What’s the point he was trying to make?”
Carol smiled. She was always trying to show how to read the Bible even as she was explaining teachings. She knew that Sarah wouldn’t remember everything, but her way of reading would rub off.
“Jesus is trying to answer the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” Carol said. “Jesus had just agreed that ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ was the second most important commandment. A man trained in Jewish law, including interpretations of this very statement, was trying to determine what boundaries Jesus put around the neighborhood. So Jesus tells about the man who was walking the 17 miles to Jericho.
“Along the way, he is mugged. The man is left stripped and beaten and bleeding. No one argues with that part of Jesus’ story, so it must have been a common occurrence. ”
“And three men come along,” Sarah said. “And only the last one helps. A mayor, a doctor, and a little boy. I remember that from VeggieTales. But I also know that it was a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. It feels like the setup to a joke.”
Carol nodded. “It wasn’t a joke, exactly, but Jesus was picking on the people listening to his answer.”
[to be continued]