Our Best Days

My favorite story in all of Scripture is John 4 because it’s my story. A used up and broken down lonely young woman, who felt rejected by her religion and often her peers, Jesus found me trying really hard to live life dependent upon no one but myself. Through the love of my grandma, He gently broke through my shield of self-protection to bring me new life, everlasting life here on this earth and in Heaven.   This story is full of enough nuggets of gold that we could live in it for months and still find new truths. And so, I thought, if I could leave my San Diego Friends with one story, I’d like to leave you with one that continues to speak to me, and hopefully to you, for decades to come.

Let’s begin in the 786 war spoils story of 2 Chronicles 28.  The nation of Israel is divided into two nations, the North and the South. The Northerners, specifically from the town of Samaria, invaded the South, taking prisoners specifically from the capitol of Jerusalem. Upon the armies return to Samaria, they were met by a prophet of the Lord, an agent of God, who spoke vehemently against this invasion and mis-treatment of their fellow God-followers and instructed the victors to return the victims home.

As 2 Chronicles 28:14 recounts, “So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly. The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow Israelites at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria.”

I love the compassionate care the mighty warriors bestowed upon their captives. I love that image of them binding up their wounds, providing water for the thirsty and food for the hungry and giving the weak a place to rest…on a donkey…all the way to Jericho. I love that they had a change of heart and returned their brothers and sisters all the way back home.

Flash forward with me to the time of the NT. The Jews and Samartans do not like each other.   Jesus knows this, and yet, to an expert in the law trying to make sure he fulfills every letter of the law, Jesus tells this story in Luke 10.  Make sure you understand this scene. Jesus is talking to a Jewish leader.

There once was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem sat high on a hill with Jericho about 17 miles east. Marked by sharped twists and turns through rocks and along cliffs, robbers found victims easily among the travelers. One such traveler, not only did the thugs rob, but they beat him up badly, tearing the clothes off his bruised body and leaving him on the side of the road to die.

No worries, though, a priest happened to be going down to Jericho. Afraid to break his religious laws by touching the corpse, the priest passed by the wounded man on the other side of the road.

Soon, a Levite came to this exact same place where the man lay lifeless and barely breathing. He, too, didn’t want to break any Levitical laws that would make him unclean and unfit for worship, so like the priest, he passed by untouched and uninvolved on the other side.

Finally, a Samaritan, as he traveled the road, came to the very same place, and saw the wounded human.

The Samaritan didn’t see a corpse or a human too dirty to touch. He didn’t see a homeless beggar or a poor immigrant or a Jew or a Gentile.

The Samaritan SAW a wounded soul and took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them to soothe and comfort, gently placed his fellow man on his very own donkey, brought him to an inn, cared for him over night and then left enough money with the innkeeper to care for the man until he regained his strength, his life.

And to the expert in the law, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?”

++++++

These two stories take place in 3 distinct geographical locations: Samaria, Jerusalem, and Jericho. The hatred between these tribes of people runs deep and long. There are centuries of disdain between the Samaritans and the Jews AND yet in each of these stories, in the midst of the tension, there is hope and there is healing…and that is what intrigues me.

What motivated the victorious and even vicious army from Samaria to tenderly return their Israelites enemies to Jericho?

Why did the Good Samaritan “see” the wounds of the traveler and stop to help when the deeply devoted religious leaders walked around the messy and the dirty?

And why, to bring in my favorite story, did Jesus “have to go” to Samaria? John 4:4 says that Jesus “had to go” to Samaria. It’s one of the most convicting and interesting phrases in the entire Bible. It’s the only time in the gospels that this phrase occurs in reference to Jesus. The only other time something similar occurs is in Matthew 16:21 when Jesus “began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Sit in this for a moment. Two places Jesus HAD TO GO:

To Samaria & To Jersusalem

Are you seeing this? Are you making a connection? Are you at least intrigued?  Why did Jesus have to go along this particular route, from north to south, from one wounded place to another?

Because Jesus came to heal our histories.

He not only came to heal our histories, but to reorient our future and He does this right in the midst of our present.

Jesus comes into our present, to hear our history and reorient our future.

That’s what happened when the prophet called out to the victors in 2 Chronicles. The victors, hearing the voice of the Lord, completely reoriented the future of their captives by returning them to their homeland. God entered the present circumstances of both the victors and the victims and set their futures on a course for life rather than death.

Undoubtedly, it was God in the Good Samaritan that stopped to bind and heal the wounds of his fellow man to re-set his future from death to life. In the midst of the messiness, the hands of God reached down into the wounds of the traveler, bringing hope and healing, re-orienting him from victim to victor, broken to whole, dead to alive.

There is a beautiful truth found over and over again in Scripture. Sometimes we talk about how God brings beauty from ashes or that our Lord makes all things beautiful in His time. Whatever Scripture we quote it comes down to this one simple truth:

Jesus comes into our present, to hear our history and reorient our future.  

 Tenderly, I ask you, my readers, what in your history needs healing? Where are your hurts, your pain, your struggles, your stresses? What sin are you hiding or what memory are you trying hard to suppress?

Listen, no matter how messy your life has become, Jesus desires to come into your life right now, in your very present circumstances, to heal your history and reorient your future.

It’s really just another of saying, “You’re best days are before you.”

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