Well, I guess you could call it an interrupted journey. It seemed so important at the time; business seemed so urgent that I didn’t want to wait till the next day when I could have travelled down with some others. Sure, everyone knew what a dangerous road it could be – so many brigands and robbers lurked up in the cliffs and the caves where the Roman soldiers, with their heavy armour and their fondness for marching in straight lines, couldn’t follow. But how many times had I been up and down the length of the road and never seen anything more dangerous than a squad of Romans marching by – and they don’t bother you if you don’t bother them! So, never wanting to let a good business opportunity slip, I kissed my wife goodbye, told her I’d be back in a few days, and set off, jaunty as you please, for Jericho.
I didn’t make it – in fact, I haven’t got there yet, holed up in this inn and waiting for the swelling to go down so that I can get around again without too many creaks and groans. But there I go, always getting ahead of my own story! It was a warm bright day when I set out, and I fully expected to arrive at Jericho by mid afternoon. I am used to travelling, and for a couple of hours all went well, then, just as the sun was starting to get really hot, I found myself growing uneasy. It felt different, somehow, though I couldn’t say how exactly, and I found myself quickening my pace. Then .. something knocked me flying, and I fell hard onto the ground. But I hadn’t finished drawing breath to cry out my shock and pain before they were upon me – fists and boots and heavy clubs. The next few moments were a maze of fear and agony such as I hope to never live through again. But they were efficient, these brigands from the rocky caves; they had beaten me up, taken my money, my little knife, my stout leather belt and even the silver pin on my cloak, then scrambled away back to wherever they came from before I even lost consciousness.
I drifted in and out of awareness for a while, feeling the heat of the sun and the wracking pain of my body, then back into merciful darkness again. It seemed much later (but I have no idea how long it really was) before I heard footsteps and, forcing my swollen eyes slightly open (only one of them seemed to be working) I saw a priest passing by. I tried to cry out for help, but no sound came out. But he had seen me, and, gathering up the hem of his robes, he passed by on the other side. I felt sick with grief and fear, and more than a little anger. Sometime later the same thing happened again – the only difference was that this time it was a Levite. I did not know whether the cold tide that rose inside me was despair or the onset of death. Perhaps there is not much difference.
The shadows were lengthening and my limbs were much stiffer by the time I heard someone else coming, but when I saw it was a Samaritan, I closed my eyes again. If a priest or a Levite wouldn’t help me, what could I expect from that hated race? When I heard him approach me I steeled myself, thinking perhaps he was going to finish me off. Instead, to my absolute amazement, his hands were gentle. He washed my wounds, and trickled a little wine into my dry, blood-crusted mouth. And that harsh wine was the sweetest drink I have ever tasted, and it shamed me that such kindness should come from an enemy’s hand. I did not know that swollen eyes could cry.