by Joel Lawler
A story is a character that wants something and overcomes obstacles to get what they want.
We love books, movies and plays because there is something about a good story that we all can connect to. It is a part of our humanness.
Jesus often told stories because it is a great way to pass along a message and have it remembered.
A religious teacher interrupted Jesus while he was talking. The teacher wanted to trap Jesus by getting him to say something controversial. He wanted to divide the crowd that was following Jesus by having him say something that would upset people.
He asked Jesus: "Teacher, what do I have to do to have eternal life?"
It was a loaded question because some of the people did not believe that there was such a thing as life after death. Others strongly believed it. It was a trap.
Jesus answered him by asking "What does God's law say? How do you interpret it?"
The teacher answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself."
"You are correct." Jesus said. "Go do it and you will live."
"But who is my neighbor?" the teacher asked.
Jesus told a story about a man who was mugged and left for dead. A priest saw him lying beside the road and decided to walk on the opposite side. Not long after, a pastor came down the same road and also saw the man and he also chose to ignore him and do nothing to help.
A third man came down the road. This man was lower class and looked down on. He was a social outcast. He saw the man and felt compassion for him. He went down into the ditch where the man was lying. He bandaged his wounds and cared for his injuries. He took him to a nearby hotel and rented a room for him. He told the people at the front desk to let him stay as long as he needed to and he would return to pay the man's bill.
Jesus asked, "Who acted as this man's neighbor?"
"The one that treated him with compassion," replied the teacher.
In the story, the hero wanted to act to show mercy. His character had to overcome obstacles to achieve what he wanted. He had to go into the ditch in order to help the man out. He bandaged the wounds of someone who he had never met before. This had to be awkward. I am sure the man bled on him. He probably smelled horribly. It had to be difficult to care for him. The hero made personal sacrifices to help the wounded man. He also took on the inconvenience of finding a hotel for the man which he paid for with his own money. The man had been robbed and had no way to pay for a room. The hero gave his own money to make sure the man had a place to recover. He also trusted the man and the hotel manager by agreeing to pay whatever expenses that would occur after he left.
He overcame an obstacle to do something for someone that he did not know. The person who was robbed was from a different social class. It was the people who looked down on the hero of the story. It did not deter him from doing what was right.
The priest and the pastor chose to act selfishly. They could not be bothered to help someone in need.
It is amazing how deep and rich this story goes and the lessons that are contained in it.