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 traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.Luke 10:31-33
Sunday afternoon we left our campsite and intentionally turned the wrong way on highway 243. It’s a winding, scenic route that goes from Idylwild to Banning through the San Bernadino National Forest. Near the peak, at about 6000 feet above sea level, we spotted a vista point where we decided to stop for a picnic and take some pictures above the clouds.
It was a perfect day and we were in high spirits exploring the rugged terrain of eastern Riverside County.
I pulled over into the lonely turnoff parking lot and the McLane clan piled out of the car to scout a place for our impromptu meal. We raced out onto a giant patio in the sky and found a tree with some shade perfect for our intentions. The view was amazing and stretched far off into the horizon.
Paul and I went back to the truck to grab our cooler.
As I was pulling the cooler over the gate I heard the roar of a motorcycle engine coming up the hill. The driver downshifted which made the high performance engine whine a wheezing exhale, followed by the screech of tires. We turned our heads the other way as he flew by in a cloud of grey smoke. Then the bike dumped on its side and the rider skidded across the pavement, tumbling to a stop about 25 feet later. His shoe landed right next to us and his bike bounced off of the parking lot, over the curb, smashing into a concrete barrier before flying up into the bushes.
I looked at Paul. Paul looked at me. “Did that just happen?”
He got up in a fit of cuss words. Throwing his gloves and ripping off his helmet. Kicking at and punching the air in anger. A few seconds later 5 of his friends on equally powerful, more prone, motorcycles pulled up. He was clearly not horrifically injured but in pain nonetheless.
Dazed, bloodied, humbled, his excuses quickly turned into confession. He was going too fast, trying to show off, and now he was going to pay the price with his body & his precious bike.
Not knowing what to do I picked up his shoe and walked it over to him.
“Um, here’s your shoe dude. You were pretty lucky to not go over that cliff. Are you OK?”
He didn’t really know if he was OK but told me he was fine. I gave him his shoe and started walking down the path to my family.
When I saw Kristen I said, “Some idiot on a motorcycle dumped his bike in the parking lot. That was CRAZY!” Paul was stoked. He’d never seen anything like it. Neither had I. Neither one of us knew what to do with our nervous energy. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
When I put the cooler down and opened it up I just couldn’t escape the reality that I should do something. How could I possibly see that accident and then a minute later sit down to eat a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with my family? What kind of man would do that?
“I guess I should go do some first aid. That dude is pretty banged up.”
I went back to the truck and dug out my first aid kit and some bottles of water. He and his friends were standing around not really knowing what to do. They shared some laughs and recalled what they had seen. One of them actually captured the whole thing on his GoPro and was joking about putting it on YouTube.
“Hey dude, I’m not a doctor but I do have a first aid kit. Want to clean up those cuts?”
And so it began. Before I knew Ryan’s name he dropped his pants and we started cleaning his road rash. His knee and thigh were scrapped up pretty bad. His shoulder bore the same fate.
“Do you think you could clean up my cuts, too? I fell a couple miles back.” Another young man walked up to me showing me his gnarly wrist, probably broken.
“Yeah, let’s clean that up. You don’t want to get it infected.” About two minutes later he too dropped his pants to show me his knee, oozing with blood and gravel. His damage was actually worse than the other guy. He said, “I’m supposed to work tomorrow. Do you think I’ll be OK?”
“I don’t know. But you should get an x-ray for your wrist and a couple of stitches… because I can see your knee cap.”
For about 15 minutes I helped these two guys clean up their road rash. Some water to wash it off, some gauze to clean it out, some disinfectant, and more gauze taped over to keep it clean.
We made small talk about motorcycling and their other accidents and the thrill of why they do it. I didn’t talk much, just listened to their stories and got them patched up. I told them I was sorry this had happened to them and hoped that they made it home OK. (His bike was totaled) A few more bottles of water for everyone and we parted ways.
It just so happened that we stopped there. And it just so happened that I had a truck full of supplies from our first aid kit. Clearly, this moment had been orchestrated in advance, right?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan and You
Luke 10 is one of those passages that stinks to teach as a religious leader because as you’re teaching it you realize that you are the goat in the joke. Jesus sets up the story that the priest and the Levite mess it up while the outcast gets it right. His point is that religious people are often so worried about doing their religious things that they forget to love their neighbors as themselves.
But when you are teaching it in front of people your minds rushes with times where you were exactly that priest or that Levite, too busy and self-important to do something so basic.
It’s one of the most convicting passages of Scripture you’ll ever teach.
For every 100 Ryan’s I encounter I only get it right 1 or 2 times. (And here I am writing about that one time I get it right to make a point? See what I mean? I’m such a hypocrite sometimes.)
It wasn’t until later in the drive, with the accident miles behind us, that it sunk in.
The religious leader who asked the question which started Jesus on his parable? I wonder if he changed? I wonder if the next time he saw someone injured on the side of the road if he stopped to help? I wonder if he made a conscious effort to stop being a religious snob and start being a person who actually cared about God’s people more than he cared about looking like he cared about God’s people?
For self-reflection: How will I slow down from my “important religious stuff” enough to notice the man on Jericho’s road? And what am I going to do about Jericho’s road? (It’s a place where people get beat up while travelling.)