2. It is common knowledge that during that time, as with other countries and other eras, there were bandits who waited for the chance to rob a traveler – especially when traveling alone or without enough others to make the task of robbing too risky. And the one who actually stopped, being from Samaria, just added to the frenzy.
3. Apparently the man was in such bad physical condition that he would have died without help. This is probable not just because of his injuries, but because the areas outside the populated areas were generally harsh and unforgiving. Water was scarce, the temperatures were extreme, and animals roamed about at night searching for food. It was just a terrible predicament for anyone to be in.
4. This was also something that was uncommon because the road was traveled primarily by Jews in that particular circumstance and and the traveler would have known that up front. It may have been a case where he felt he had no choice but to risk it. This is probable because it mentions certain high ranking people of the temple including priests that generally do not venture too far from the temple making the proximity not too distant, but still to far for a badly injured man to navigate. It could have been a stretch of road that temporarily co-joined with another primary route or possibly in some other similar fashion. It was an uncommon situation, I believe, and one that warranted consideration was Jesus began to explain the purpose of the parable.
5. It also pointedly revealed the self-righteousness and hypocrisy within the temple community as well as the absence of love that God tried to teach the Israelites and the Jews for thousands of years. It also displayed how much the customs and traditions of man had usurped the Biblical laws and common decency outlined throughout the Bible. In several places in the OT the Israelites are told to be nice to stranger because of how they were treated in Egypt – just as one quick example.
6. It, by reasoning, had set the scene and painted a picture of how far off the path the Jews had wandered. It was a time when the Samaritans became the object of their bitterness, frustration, and invariably their hatred of their current circumstances – they were under the rule of Rome and life was getting perpetually harder. Taxes and other Roman impositions was gradually turning most of the population into hungry, desperate people. Indeed the iron grip of Rome was just too much for the Jews to stand and something truly needed to happen – something to alleviate the burden they carried and that steadily grew heavier.
7. Jesus used this parable, this example, to shrewdly [yet plainly] point out that the barrel had many bad apples and the rest were in real danger of the same plight. He showed in this simple story how badly the religious life, the relationship with God, had gotten. And, it was truly getting very bad.
The society all around Jerusalem and in fact the region known as Palestine to the Romans was being poisoned and the even certain Jews had inadvertently become facilitators. Indeed, some were direct participants. Some from sheer need to provide for their families and other so they could also enjoy the opulence the Roman world offered. There were many types of struggles readily seen throughout the region up to and including struggles within the very old belief system that comprised the life of the Jewish culture. Some were very conscious of the growing gap in social structures and lifestyles. Some also saw the corruption and amount the current temple hierarchy had diluted and strayed from the fundamental axioms of their faith. To say there was a state of unrest in and around Jerusalem would be a gross understatement. That brings me to second, and last point of interest that illuminated the reason for knowing about the world in which Jesus arose and brought light – light that was to open to door to God's Kingdom and truly offer a better life for his people.
I begin by asking a simple, possibly broad, question: What was the typical day like for the average Jew, one who had to work feverishly every day just to keep from starving or becoming another beggar or robber – a growing population by the way?
1. A already briefly mentioned life in the region was harsh and unforgiving. This was true for the farmers, the fishermen, and those of skilled trades. Taxes grew whether the harvest was abundant or meager. The opulent would maintain their lifestyle regardless of how it impacted the rest of society.
2. Disease and other natural events were especially hard on the lower class. Not only their diet but many of the benefits of high social status and privilege such as those things only money or power could provide. Living condition were such that many did not live past their fifth birthday and even more died at birth or before birth. The vital things needed to ensure higher success in pregnancy were truly in very short supply. Coupled with the lack of knowledge about sanitation, germs, and other factors, it is no wonder that the attrition rate was so high among the Jews.
3. Many found it necessary to move away. This was for several reasons as well. They include loss of property for taxes, associating with the”wrong” people, and the hope of better life outside the grip pf Rome. In many cases the grass was greener on the other side. This one reason the Hebrews were spread across the continent and even farther. Many had heard of the places where life could possibly be better from traders and immigrants, even from some factions of the Roman society who themselves were unhappy about their living conditions. To some living in such a backward and rough environment only made them long to be back in Rome or some other province where life was easier and more pleasurable. To some just being in the area seemed more like punishment that anything.
4. It was more expedient for Rome to utilize local people to enforce Roman rule and equally provide a buffer between the Jews (who many Romans just did not understand and thought were primitive and basically good for noting but the most menial labors and simplest lifestyle. To many Romans the Jews were just detestable and made the Romans become more and more hostile and suspicious of them. This in turn made those chosen by Rome enemies of the general population. It was like rubbing their nose in the direness of their life and the increasing hopelessness that was spreading throughout the region.
5. Rome grew more and more envious of the riches possessed by the religious aspects of the Jews including the great amount of riches that were accumulating in and around the temple. As Rome itself began to feel the impact of excessive spending and recklessness of the ruling class – especially the Emperor and royal family. The social structure and economy were under a growing strain and one that was completely ignored by those who lived too highly to care. Citizenship in Rome became less and less attractive as the price for it took a greater toll on those with such aspirations. For some becoming a Roman citizen was an impossibility they had to come to terms with as they were headed toward poverty and knew less and less of equality under the Roman empire.
It should be noted that at this time, during this period when Jesus was bringing light and hope to the world, resentments, jealousies, power plays, corruption, and more were turning the region effectively into a volcano that was could erupt at any time. Indeed it was just a matter of time before this volatile mixture would define the path for the Jews and become the vector that removed their true identity as a people.
6. And it is tragic to say, but the general population of Jews (and immigrants) saw each day as a new challenge and could only hope (above hopelessness) that things would get better. For many it was the thread of their faith and the promise of freedom from Roman oppression, liberation in fact, that made the
7. So, this is the circumstances (and more) that surrounded the life and final days of Jesus as he grew and saw how the world had become like lost sheep with ravenous wolves roaming everywhere. His message and methods did not meet the expectations of the Jewish people based on what they perceived the prophesies to be. It is generally accepted that the Jews were expecting someone to come along and take back their world from the Romans, a strong leader who would forcefully remove the Romans and establish Israel as a strong kingdom again. It is also accepted that this expectation was influenced more by circumstance than by actual interpretation of the prophesies concerning the Messiah.
On the one hand the world was ready or ripe for change and for a light that could bring them out of the darkness of despair and self destruction. On the other it was also ready for change, any change, that might contain the prospect of loosing themselves from the oppressive and suppressive rule of the Romans - and the growing encroachment on their religious liberties; and an age old lifestyle that revolved around that faith. When people become so desperate, when hatred grows to such a disproportionate level and vengeance become the main vehicle for those oppressed. Something seemingly insignificant to the Romans, or sometimes noting at all (except the continued – even increased brutality and fleecing of poor people) so perceived can itself grip those waning holdouts and spark revolt. To some of the Romans the Jews were a problem no different from that of disease and therefore deserved no respect – specially with regards to their “pagan” beliefs. To some they just did not understand why these primitive people didn't appreciate the civilization Rome brought to them – not to mention all of the modern conveniences and protection. The Romans it seemed were just itching for some type of confrontation. Rome was always ready and willing to flex its muscles and demonstrate to the subordinated people they had conquered that Rome was definitely in control and rebellion or even the appearance of such would be swiftly and harshly dealt with.
In our brief snapshot of that era, we know that one of the best ways to dominate a group or conquered people was for them to permit (or somewhat encourage) a certain level strive and dispute among themselves. At least philosophically it encouraged them to vent their anger and frustrations on each other. And a certain amount of complaining was expected and considered healthy. There was an old adage in the military that said if the troops are complaining there is nothing to be concerned about, but when they grow silent it is then we should begin to worry. It was propounded that such complaining was because the troops cared about things and were merely expressing what they perceived to be inputs to improve and correct deficiencies or oversights. This process also prevented unnecessary escalation of temperament known to be the seedbed for revolt. Generally it was the job of the occupying forces to monitor the subjected locals and either intervene take appropriate measures to maintain the balance of peace and compliance. Or Rome stayed out of the frays until it looked as if it might spill over into the established Roman community or give the impression there was a lack of prudent authority to deal with the trend toward insurrection. The appointed leadership feared that when a problem appeared, if it was not prudently expediently dealt with, that Rome itself would hear of it and take matters into its own hand. In other words Rome would send new leaders and enough might to decisively and permanently resolve the issues. Rome was not know for its diplomatic skills when it came to hostilities arising that could give the impression to other provinces that there was a chink in the Roman armor.
We also understand that it was during this transitional period in the region that Rome was beginning to experience internal conflict and the support of the citizens seemed to ebb and flow like the tides of the Mediterranean. The citizens of Rome were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the extravagance of the Emperor apparent disregard for the wants and needs of the people. Their long held belief system (or religion) was also receiving scrutiny and many no longer believed in the array of gods and goddesses that really only personified their own fears and aspirations. The citizenry of Rome grew less and less concerned about some distant province and more so about the evils that had befallen their precious Rome.
Centered around Jerusalem, change was in the wind and although it was not apparent to almost all involved it had been predicted long ago and recorded in the very scriptures the Jewish religious leaders based their complex and even daunting religious teachings. Only the clouded perception of the ruling priesthood and the blinders worn by their constituents kept them from seeing the light that would lead them from the darkness into the Kingdom of Heaven.
We have, then, ever so briefly touched on a small sampling of the societal chaos (loosely called culture or the “Roman world” during the very first days of Christ as the fulfillment of OT prophesy and keeping of a promise God made to the Israelites when they were barely a separate people. If only the scales that covered their eyes and the fearful struggle for power could have been bypassed. Even so these small examples help us see that the complexities of the New Testament world account for the actions, statements, and outcomes we read about in the New testament. Understanding the multifaceted
aspects of the world surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Christ gives true meaning to the scriptures making them a living testimony and truly the vehicle to salvation or “good news” that spread from Jerusalem to the world.