Two young boys chased a third past an outdoor table on a Jerusalem side street in the mid-afternoon sun. Their playful shouts grew faint as two men sitting next to the table watched them disappear in a trail of dust.
Jonas dipped a piece of bread in a small bowl of olive oil, while Timedechus, his companion, signaled to a rotund elderly man that their cups needed refilling.
“I’m not quite sure why we continue to patronize this place,” Timedechus said. “Nathan’s wine tastes more like water than wine, and his bread grows more stale with each visit!”
Jonas tore off another piece of bread. “Like I say each time you complain, it’s convenient. Halfway between the tabernacle and the synagogue.” Popping the piece of bread into his mouth, he smiled at the Levite. “Gives us more time to complain about the food and drink and offer our wise commentary on anything else that suits our fancy.”
Timedechus chuckled. “Speaking of your expert opinion, what’s your assessment of this year’s Passover celebration, now that it has ended?”
Jonas held out his cup to be filled by a grumpy Nathan before replying. “All in all, it went well. A good turnout, and a number of excellent readings from the Scriptures.
Timedechus took a sip from his cup. “I have heard from several of your fellow priests that your reading and commentary from Exodus was one of the highlights.
Jonas smiled. “Spoken like a true friend. But I would have to say the most interesting highlight was the young boy’s impromptu questions and responses to a group of priests on the last day of the festival. He was really quite dazzling.”
Timedechus reached for an olive. “The lad was perhaps more an anomaly than a highlight. After all, he’s just a carpenter’s son. And from Nazareth at that. You know what they say about Nazareth.…”
Jonas laughed. “Yes, I know. ‘Nothing good ever comes out of Nazareth.’”
Timedechus continued. “There is no indication that the young boy has ever been mentored by a priest or rabbi of note. Some even suspect the boy simply memorized his comments to impress the elders. You know as well as I that Raboth, the priest assigned to Nazareth, is as ambitious as they come.”
A donkey piled high with kindling brayed his complaint as his owner pulled on the overburdened animal’s harness in an effort to move him forward.
Jonas took another swallow of wine. “I was there. I saw no sign of pretense with the boy, though he was precocious. And his parents were none too happy when they finally found him. Seems he got lost—perhaps on purpose—in the shuffle of their journey back to Nazareth. Besides, Raboth’s not smart enough to conceive, let alone pull off, something like that. Raw ambition also requires ability to be successful.”
Timedechus nodded in agreement. “That doesn’t mean he won’t try to take whatever credit he can for the young man’s performance. Anything to impress the elders.”
Jonas grew silent as he stroked his beard.
“What are you thinking, my friend?” Timedechus asked as he leaned back against the wall.
Jonas turned to his companion. “What do you make of this ‘good Samaritan’ everyone’s talking about?”
Timedechus placed his hands on his knees. “I’ll give even half-breed Samaritans credit where credit’s due. He did a good thing. He gave aid to a Jew who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Everyone knows the desert country outside of Jericho is a dangerous stretch of road. The authorities should provide more patrols.
“Jonas continued to rub his beard. “Not only did he rescue him, but he spent several days’ wages to ensure that the injured man was cared for. He went the extra mile. Some of the elders are saying the man is a hero, Samaritan or not.”
Timedechus flicked a bread crumb off the sleeve of his tunic. “I don’t know about him being a hero, but he did provide an act of compassion for a victim who was in need.”
Staring off into space, Jonas said to Timedechus, “I was on the Jericho road that day.”
The Levite smiled sheepishly. “Me too.”
Jonas’s eyes widened. “Did you see him?”
“Timedechus nodded in affirmation. “I took a quick look but moved to the other side of the road and kept my distance. Like I said, that’s a very dangerous stretch of road. More than one person has been lured into a fatal trap by stopping to aid someone who was only pretending to be injured while their fellow outlaws were hiding nearby.”
Jonas shrugged his shoulders. “You’re right, of course. I acted much the same way. I admit I was concerned about the man’s well-being…but I was also a bit afraid. And to be completely honest, I was running late.”
“For what?” Timedechus asked.
“I needed to prepare for the Sabbath service. A lot of people were depending on me.”
Both men grew quiet.
“Jonas coughed. He looked at Timedechus and cleared his throat. “I did include the man in my Sabbath prayers.”
Timedechus rubbed his right knee. “You are a better man than me, Jonas, son of Ashmer. I did not even think to include him in my prayers. I assumed it was a setup. And I too was behind schedule. We Levites have a lot to do at Passover time.” Timedechus reached over and patted Jonas gently on the shoulder. “It’s not easy caring for the spiritual and religious needs of Israel. They are not an easy flock to guide. Sometimes we have to keep our eyes on the bigger picture—the greater good. And if I had known the man was really injured—that there was no trap—I believe I would have responded differently.”
Jonas stared intently at his friend. “The Samaritan didn’t know.”
Timedechus raised his eyebrows and smiled. “The occasional ‘good Samaritan’ does not a virtuous tribe make. You are a priest, I am a Levite, and he, my friend, is still a Samaritan in spite of what a few of our more liberal elders might proclaim.”
“Maybe so,” Jonas replied as he rose from the bench. “But he stopped…and we kept walking.”
Praise for Interview with Joab
“Michael Braswell takes us back to Biblical ties and enables us to picture the persons and events that have defined the faith commitments of those in the Judeo-Christian tradition. His writings are not only inspired, but they are also inspiring for the reader.”
—Tony Campolo, Evangelist, Pastor and author of Red Letter Christians
“These stories give you a ‘first read’ kind of experience … you discover something you’ve not noticed about these biblical stories, but more important is what you discover about yourself.”
—John Michael Helms, Pastor and author of Hoping Liberia
“Braswell effectively infuses his gifts of storytelling and teaching with sound Biblical knowledge to produce a book that will be useful to Bible teachers and students alike.”
—Mark Jones, Professor and author of Criminals of the Bible
“In this unusual and imaginative book, Michael Braswell has gone straight to the well, not so much to tell the old stories of Scripture, but to re-tell in the language of our time.”
—Robert J. Higgs, Professor Emeritus and author of God in the Stadium
About the Author
Michael Braswell is the author and coauthor/editor of books on human relations, ethics, sports, and religion as well as three short story collections and two novels. His most recent work includes Growing Up South of the Mason-Dixon Line (with Anthony Cavender, Ralph Bland, and Donald Ball) and Teaching Justice (with John Whitehead).