It was so good to be back in church with you today. It was an amazing two weeks in Israel, but Dorothy is right, “There is no place like home.”
I had a tough time posting to the webpage the last few days that we were in Israel because they wanted an arm and a leg to buy internet time. I’m just too much of a tightwad I guess. The last few days in Israel were amazing as we visited Jericho, Masada, En Gedi, and our last stop of the trip was into Jordan to see Petra. Two of those places, Jericho and En Gedi, were spots that I didn’t get to visit two years ago when I was in Israel, but they were spots I had a great desire to visit.
Jericho is a Palestinian/Moslem city under the Palestinian Authority. There are no Jews or Christians living in the city and there is a fence surrounding the city with Israeli police guarding it. Jericho is located in the West Bank. I had a great desire to teach Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan there because of the current situation going on with the Israelis and Palestinians. There are deep feelings between those two groups, but no worse than the feelings that were present in Jesus’ day between the Samaritans and the Jews.
In Luke 10, an “expert in the Law” tried to trap Jesus by asking Him, “Who is my neighbor?” The Jewish teacher knew who his neighbor was from Leviticus 19, but he didn’t want to “love his neighbor as he loved himself.” When he asked Jesus the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him a story about a man who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road to Jericho. Two men, a priest and a Levite came by the man, but they passed him by. Then another man passed by on the road and saw the man who had been beaten and left for dead. This man was a Samaritan, a hated Samaritan. He stopped, bandaged up his wounds, and put him on his own donkey before he took him to an inn and paid for him to be cared for. Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor?” The man said, “The one who showed mercy.” He couldn’t even say “Samaritan.”
It was a blessing for me to teach the parable and to address some of the problems that people have with other people. I told those present that some black folks are taught not to trust white folks, white folks are taught not to trust black folks, and the list goes on. The divisions that we face in our own society are not just racial, they are economic, educational, political, and religious as well. We convince ourselves that others are not “worthy” or our time. We convince ourselves that others are out of the reach of the gracious grasp of our King. We build fences like the one around Jericho to keep people at arms distance from us, but Jesus came to tear down walls and fences.
As we were leaving Jericho that day one of the young men with me said, “I don’t know about all of the politics of this place.” I said, “Jesus’ story isn’t about politics, it is about people.” We need to let the politicians deal with the politics so that we can focus our energy on loving people–all people.
In His Steps,