…Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
As we continue the study of this parable, we have already seen the ways that the attitude and reaction of the Samaritan varied from the other examples that Jesus used, and how the Samaritan began to help the injured person. So now we continue to examine the care that was given.
In the previous study we were thinking of what could be meant by the phrase, ‘…and took care of him.’ Which, of course, is what happened when the Samaritan arrived at the inn.
After a night at the inn, one can assume that there were good signs of recovery visible with the wounded man, and certainly that he was no longer in danger of death. I don’t think that this is too much to read into the story, because the caring and sympathetic attitude of the Samaritan is well described. And so it is that the Samaritan was able to decide to complete his journey.
As was pointed out in a previous study, the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is not all that far, about 15 miles, 24 km, and so could easily be completed in a day. The man was travelling on a donkey, and so this could easily be completed in half a day.
If there were people expecting him at the end of the journey, they would certainly not have been expecting him to need to stay overnight on the way. So, if there was some business to do, he was going to be late for it – but yet he had done the right thing. He had shown love and care and helped to save the life of another person – and we all hope that there would be someone to do a similar thing for us should we fall into such bad circumstances.
So he could explain the situation to business contacts, be conciliatory, and negotiate. He seemed to be a trusted person (we will come to why I say that in a moment) and respected. These are characteristics which, when used well and also become known about a person, make it easier to overcome things such as lateness for an appointment.
Of course, he may also have been on his way home, in which case there could be family waiting for his return. They would be worried that he had not reached home by nightfall, and even more worried that he had not returned at all in the night. So the Samaritan could certainly have had concern for the worries of his family and wish to return home and bring peace to their hearts.
Whatever the reason, the Samaritan needed to complete the journey. Seeing that the wounded man was not going to die, but had begun to recover, he decided to leave him there in the inn. But it was obvious that the injured man was not in a fit state to be travelling onwards yet, and so the Samaritan made arrangements for him to stay at the inn.
Of course, an inn is a business and not a charitable foundation. To stay there costs money – the rent of the room or bed (there were often communal rooms in ancient inns), and the need to pay for food and drink. Although not written into the story, I believe that the Samaritan had already dipped into his own pocket for the help and care that he had given to the injured man the previous evening. And now he was doing so again for the sake of the continued recovery of the man. And we are told that he gave the innkeeper 2 denarii.
Even the use of this currency is quite interesting. If you remember, we had discussed the reasons for Jesus being questioned by the expert in the law. That it could have been a genuine question for the sake of improving his spiritual life, or that it could also have been a way of testing Jesus. We are not told for sure, but as I pointed out before, there is evidence more of the latter than the former. And this evidence is mostly in the response of Jesus. Why? Because the expert in the law was most likely a Levite, and probably even a scribe (one task of a scribe is to prepare new scrolls of the Law for the synagogues). And I showed that both the first two examples of men arriving at the scene of the wounded man were also Levites – and of course these were negative examples. So Jesus was making this personal to his questioner. And in one sense he was continuing to do so.
The choice of currency reveals this also. The denarius was Roman currency. Coinage, in those days, was not as now. When you go to any country, you expect to see only one currency being used by the people living there. Some countries of the world today use two – their local currency plus, usually, the US dollar (and I see this happening sometimes in the country I am in now – Ukraine). But in the Holy Land at the time of Christ there would be several currencies. There was the temple currency (which is the reason the bible mentions the tables of exchange at the temple), and people who were practising the Jewish faith would likely be carrying some of this currency – although this could only be used in the temple and some synagogues for religious purposes. Then there is the fact that this land had been ruled by the Greeks for a long time, and the Greek currency was often to be found still in use in many parts of the Roman Empire. There was also the local currency, which had not been fully replaced by either the Greeks or the Romans, and many Jews preferred to use that whenever they could. There were even other currencies to be found (the Egyptian for instance) but these were of lesser importance. But growing in importance, and quickly becoming the common currency in many states and nations, was the Roman denarius.
Speaking of this in the parable, Jesus was again poking at the sensitivities of the Levite. In a very real way, the expert in the law could have felt that Jesus was doing a ‘put down’ of his tribe by casting two Levites in a negative light in the story. Then to be positive about the hated Samaritans… And now the Samaritan is using the currency of the even more hated invading Romans. If this expert in the law was sensitive to such things, then this story would certainly begin to test his patience and sensibilities!
There comes the question of the value of 2 denarii, and you will find many answers to this. This is not something so straightforward to answer. This was silver coinage, and in modern value the silver of one coin, by weight, today is worth much more than $2. One answer often given for the value of the denarius is that of 20 cents, which does not seem much by modern standards. But we all know that, with the passage of time, prices and wages change greatly. There was a time, for instance, when the poorest pay given in England was a farthing a day. That is one quarter of an old penny, or one 960th of a British Pound! And this value could buy a loaf of bread.
What is often believed is that one denarius was a day’s wages for a manual worker at the time of Jesus. So, if you were to take this reckoning, then the innkeeper was being paid 2 full days wages to take care of the injured man.
This is interesting in 2 ways. First, obviously, is the continuing generosity of the Samaritan. If you take the British minimum wage of £7.20 per hour (at the time of writing) and multiply for 2 times 8-hour days, this would come to £115.20 (more than $150). I am pretty sure that money was already spent into the situation of the wounded man, and now here was quite a large amount being given to the innkeeper.
I wonder how many of us, today, would be this generous in donating money for a total stranger who we know nothing about, other than that he was left for half-dead? How willing are we to dip into our own pockets for the sake of helping others? This one consideration – two whole days wages – is in itself an additional challenge from the story to me. And I think this can touch the consciences of many when the fact is realised.
But then there is another aspect to this. I believe that the Samaritan must already be known to the innkeeper, and so his character known and that he is to be trusted. Why? Because, not only was he clearly generous and more than ready to pay for things, but he said that he would reimburse any extra expenses that may happen. The way the story is told, we are to assume that the innkeeper was happy with this arrangement.
There are many rogues and deceivers to be found in all countries and in all periods of history, but this Samaritan was obviously not one of them and was trusted by the innkeeper.
And here is the second challenge arising from the discussion of money, although it is not necessarily only about money: what is your reputation with those you meet? Are you trusted? Are people willing to do things for you because of your good reputation? Or are people wary, and keep a hand on their own wallets just in case…? This is more than about money, though, and I am sure that you can understand what I am saying here.
It brings to mind the quote from the apostle John about Jesus:
“as he was, so are we in the world.”
1 John 4:17
So, if we belong to Christ, we are representing him as we go about our daily lives. In one sense, everyone we meet can form an opinion about Jesus based on what they see in us.
It really is that serious!
So what kind of Jesus are you presenting to the world? And I am constantly challenged by the thought of how I present Jesus to the world through my life.
I pray and hope that we reveal the Jesus who is not only righteous, but full of practical love and willing to help and to serve.