Last weekend we heard the familiar gospel story of the Good Samaritan, a story that has become so familiar that it has lost its edge. In the story, you’ll recall that it’s the Samaritan who helps the wounded man on the side of the road, only after the wounded man has been bypassed on the road by a priest and a Levite. A Samaritan, in the culture and time of Jesus, was considered an enemy of the Jewish people and so it would have been surprising, even stunning, for the hearers of this parable to hear that it was a Samaritan who helped. It’s a characteristic of the stories that Jesus tells that he addsa twist, often a shocking twist, to illustrate that the kingdom of God that he preaches is far beyond our understanding. His stories shock us into new ways of seeing. Last weekend I shared this modern-day version of the Good Samaritan story, a story that helps us answer the “who is my neighbor?” question the parable asks.
A man, while driving on a busy road, gets a flat tire. He waits by the side of the road with a sign in the window, “need a jack”with an offer of money. No one stops. Finally, after three hours, he is ready to give up, and a van stops. A man gets out of the van. He is an immigrant, from Mexico,does not speak English, but calls for his daughter, who does speak English. He has a jack, but it’s too small for the job, so the two men find a nearby log to put the jack on, and after what he describes as “a fair amount of sweating and cussing” they finish the job. The man goes on to describe the experience from there: “The two of us were filthy. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a $20 bill in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome.
She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.” “After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale, and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was ‘por favor, por favor, por favor’ with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English, ‘Today you, tomorrow me.’ Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back.”