Isaac was driving between home and work. It wasn’t a very long trip; it’s the kind of trip that we’re all used to taking. He undertook the 12-mile journey almost every day. In fact, he had driven it so much that he started to be able to drive almost on autopilot. You know the feeling, I’m sure. You get in the car, you leave your house and before you know it, you’re at work or school. It’s the kind of trip that sometimes scares us because we have no memory of the past half-hour.
Isaac was an Israeli merchant but what he sold isn’t really important. It’s enough to say that he worked very hard for what he had and did his best to support his family.
One morning, as he was driving to work along an empty road, he saw three or four men standing outside their car, looking under the hood. Being a good Samaritan and having plenty of time to make it to work, he parked his car about 50 feet beyond theirs and walked back to them to see if he could lend a hand. He remembered learning a few things about fixing cars from his dad; he would spend hours as a boy in the garage, watching his dad fix cars that other mechanics had given up for dead. He walked up to the men and took a glance under the hood with them. “What seems to be wrong?” he asked. The men just shrugged and continued to look with blank stares. “Oh, look here,” he said after looking at the engine for a few minutes, “it’s very simple. A couple of your spark plugs have fallen out of their sockets.” He remembered the lessons that his dad taught him about spark plugs – how to find the highest quality plugs, how to install them, how to prevent unnecessary wear. Isaac began to reach over and re-insert a spark plug into its socket when he felt a sudden, excruciating pain on the back of his head. The last thing he remembered was lying on the ground and seeing a trickle of his own blood fall to the dirt as two cars roared off – the one he had tried to fix and his own.
Two hours passed, then three. Finally, another car approached. The driver saw Isaac, lying naked and obviously beaten on the side of the road. He though to himself, “Somebody really ought to check on that poor man but he’s probably already dead and I’ve got to get to work.” He was a seminary professor on the way to an important seminar on the Jewishness of Jesus. He would be debating a number of influential rabbis and couldn’t afford to lose any time, so he put his foot on the gas pedal and resumed his previous speed.
Another long hour passed. Then, another vehicle rumbled along the road. It was a tour bus filled with Christians from around the world on a tour of Israel. The American tour guide announced over the bus’ loudspeaker, “…and this is probably the road that Jesus took numerous times from Jerusalem down to Jericho.” The tour guide saw the man lying on the side of the road and noticed that all of his passengers were staring at the gory sight. He quickly tried to distract his passengers and, under his breath, told the driver to speed up and get away from such a depressing scene.
That was the last vehicle for hours. It was almost dusk when another car, this one small and dirty, approached the scene of Isaac’s attack. Farouk was in such a hurry to reach the West Bank by nightfall that he almost didn’t see the man lying on the side of the road. He hated to re-enter the West Bank after dark; he never knew what kind of security hassles he’d have to endure from the Israeli guards. He was a private courier and ran packages around the country. It never failed though, wherever he went, people would look at him with suspicion and try to figure out if he was a member of the Fatah or Hamas parties. He could almost audibly hear their disdain as they thought, “Filthy Arab. Dirty Terrorist. Palestinian Dog.” He could tell, how could he not? Truth be told, he didn’t have much time for all that; he was, much like Isaac, just trying to make end’s meet for his family. His father had become sick and needed constant care. The elderly man had almost given up after his beloved wife had died in a rocket attack gone wrong about 3 months prior.
Farouk almost missed Isaac lying there. But as he drove by, out of the corner of his eye he spotted what he thought was a man lying naked on the ground. His car screeched to a halt and he was out of the vehicle almost before he could think about what he was going to do. He found Isaac, beaten and bloody, but still breathing. As quick and as gently as he could, he stretched Isaac out in the back of his own car and sped as fast as his little car would go to the hospital in Jericho. It was the wrong way; he definitely wouldn’t make it back to the West Bank before nightfall now, but that’s not what he cared about. The only thought in his mind was to get this poor man to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
Farouk illegally parked his car in the ambulance lane at the hospital and rushed inside, screaming for a stretcher and a doctor. The attendant at the desk looked at him suspiciously, just like everyone else, but eventually radioed for a stretcher to be sent to Farouk’s car. As he watched Isaac roll by he pleaded with the hospital administrator, “Please, I don’t have any money with me but please take care of this man. I will give you the keys to my car; it’s not worth much but it’s something. I’ll be back tomorrow with as much money as you need to take care of this man. If not, you can take my car.”
Isaac was still in surgery when Farouk walked out of the hospital and hopped on a bus headed toward his home.
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?