(Source: Meridian Magazine; By: Maurine Proctor)   

We have heard the story of the Good Samaritan so often that we suppose we know its entire meaning, but in a world where all things testify of Christ, we may have missed something tucked into this story like a hidden jewel.

We know there was a man on the road to Jericho—and already the story yields a secret. A visitor to Israel knows that the road to Jericho is a steep descent. It is, in fact, that road from Jerusalem to Jericho that winds down a parched and treeless wilderness, inhospitable and thirsty, with a relentless, burning sun.

The Hidden Atonement in a Familiar Story

(Image via ldsmag.com)

Jerusalem was a sacred city with its irreplaceable temple at its heart, the Holy of Holies at its very center. When the temple was not defiled, it was the House of the Lord, his home on earth. Jericho, in contrast, represented the world with Herod’s lavish pleasure palace at its center and the Mt. of Temptation not far away.

The difference in elevation between Jerusalem and Jericho is stark and happens quickly. Jerusalem is at 2582 feet and Jericho is 800 feet below sea level. The plunging road to Jericho abruptly covers the more than 3300 feet between them.

The man on this road, then, is making a steep descent into the world.

Who is the Man?

Who is this man? He is not given a name or an ethnicity, a country or identity. He is just an unknown man who is making a descent. When we first encounter him on this road all we know for certain is that he has been beaten, stripped, wounded and left for dead. He has no identifying marks that we should know him.

I have often asked classes when I teach this story, who is the man? At first, most don’t know and there are many guesses. Is he a Jew? a Samaritan? a random traveler?

I ask again, “Who has made a descent from a holier place to the world? Who has fallen among thieves?”

It doesn’t take long for everyone to see. It is us. We are the man. The man stands for every mortal person who is making a journey on a dangerous road, and is inevitably wounded.

It is not just some of us who are beaten and wounded, but all who take this mortal journey.

We have made a descent, and while we cheered in the pre-mortal world for this opportunity, sometimes all we feel is the emptiness and loss of something vanished. We feel too often that we are strangers and wanderers here and that we are yearning for something that nothing on this earth can ever satisfy. It is a pang of heart sickness, a stab of longing, the sense that we have been banished from a bright light or exiled from home—as if we accidentally went wandering away from our truest self and familiar touchstones and forgot the way back.

Read the rest of this article at Meridian Magazine