Oil And Wine


‘The  thief comes only to steal and  kill and  destroy’ (Jn 10:10).  The  only goal of  the thief is to  rob others. In the process he might destroy their  belongings or  even endanger  their lives. But  Jesus  came  to  give  us life  in  all its  richness.

Now think of  a group of  bandits who lie  in  wait  to   rob the travellers.  Naturally their attention will be  to   snatch anything   that is  valuable and at the same time easy to carry.  This is why hard cash and jewelleries have traditionally been the primary target of  robbers.

But in the Bible, we find a peculiar  kind of  robbers.  We are familiar with the  parable of the  Good Samaritan. A man was going down  from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of  robbers. They  left him  half dead and went away.Though  a  Priest  and a Levite saw him, they passed by on the   other side, ignoring the  wounded man  who was in  urgent need of   help. But the Samaritan who came next  was moved with pity. He went to  him   and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put  him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. After  telling this beautiful parable to the man who  wanted to  justify himself, Jesus says; “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37). This parable is the  true model of Christian charity and the  phrase ‘ Good Samaritan’ is not confined to English alone.  Its literal translation is being used in many languages  across the  world to describe those who do works of charity and mercy without expecting anything in return.

One thing that often skips our attention in this  narration  is something that those robbers did after committing the crime. We read in the gospel that  the robbers  ‘stripped him (of his clothes), beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead’ (Lk 10:30). Like any other robber, they  also should be looking for the  valuables of that  poor man. But what  benefit did it bring  them by  stripping him and taking away his clothes?

To understand why he was stripped of his clothes, we should know the way Jesus taught the people.  Parables were his medium of instruction. He used  parables  for every  instance to the extent that the  evangelists record that he taught everything through parables and did not teach anything but through parables.  But when he was   alone with  his disciples  he used to explain the inner meaning of  those parables to them. 

Every parable Jesus told had a deeper meaning   different from the   meaning  that the audience   could understand at its first hearing. The parable of the Good Samaritan is no exception.  We know that  the man was going down from  Jerusalem to Jericho. Here the key words are  Jerusalem, Jericho and going down. As we know, Jerusalem was the place of the  God of Israel, the place  where  His presence was ever present. On the other hand  Jericho was a place synonymous with  everything  bad and ‘was to be  devoted to the  Lord for destruction’ (Josh 6:17).  Joshua specifically instructed the Israelites; ‘As for you, keep away  from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the  devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it’ (Josh 6:18).  Such  abominable things happened  in Jericho in the past that  Joshua told  the Israelites in  a prophetic tone never to  rebuild the city, and in case anybody attempting to rebuild it, he  will be punished, which ultimately turned out to be real in the life of Hiel of Bethel during the  reign of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34).

The man going down from  Jerusalem to Jericho  is the symbol of  a person walking away from  the presence of  God. ‘Going down’ certainly indicates the  downward plunge in his  spirituality. Geographically also, Jericho is situated around three thousand three hundred feet below Jerusalem and the   road connecting these two cities,  winding through rugged mountains, was steep because the aerial distance between  them  was  a mere 15 miles. At the start of the   journey, the  only protection  that was available to  him was  his clothes. Was this cloth not the  Divine Grace  that covered him as long as he was in the  presence of God? The white cloth that we  receive at the time of  Baptism  is also the symbol of  Divine Grace. In the message to the church in Sardis we read; ‘ If you conquer, you will be clothed like  them in white robes…. ( Rev 3:5). Again in the  message to the church in  Laodicea, we read about  ‘white robes to clothe you and  keep the shame  of your nakedness from being seen….'(Rev 3:18). Cloth is  a metaphor for the Divine Grace that  envelopes man.  In fact the  garments of skin made by God to  clothe Adam and Eve after their fall was its  archetype. Now, imagine for a moment  that  Adam was the traveller who was  going down from  the presence of God  to a place that  God never wanted him to go. Only then will we be able to comprehend the meaning of this parable.

It is difficult for Divine Grace to  work for a person who voluntarily leaves God.  Those thieves who attacked him did not appear  there  all of a sudden. They were  lying in wait  outside the  city of God to pounce upon any person  coming out  of  Divine protection. So, once we leave  the city of God, expect the  unexpected because  every road  outside the  walls of the  city of  God is marked by  the  presence of  a thief and  the  real thief is none other than Satan.

But the merciful God does not  reject any person, not even the  most wretched sinner. He is the good shepherd who goes in search of the  lost sheep. He  accepts even those  who   sin against Him and go astray. He appears as a Good Samaritan pouring oil and wine on their wounds. Like the  father of the prodigal son, He  clothes  them with new garments. In short,  He  restores  everything  that we lost  because  of  sin, the most  important of them being the   cloth of Divine Grace. One thing we should  give special attention   in this parable is that  the  Good Samaritan  treats the stranger by spending his own time  and money. Rescue, relief and  rehabilitation come absolutely free for the   wounded man. In the same way, the healing that Jesus  gives us is also totally free. Through sacraments, especially those of  Confession and  Holy  Communion, he pours oil and wine on  our  wounds and bandages them. He clothes us with new garments. We need to do just one thing. When  Jesus  meets us  on our way from Jerusalem to Jericho, wounded and forsaken, deprived of everything  including our   clothes,  do not  rebel.  Through this  dangerous and treacherous   path, another  Priest and another  Levite  might come, but they will  also  pass by on the other side.  Even another Samaritan  might come, what is the guarantee that he will be good?  

We read that  after  bandaging the  wounded man, the  Good Samaritan took  him straight to the inn.  But how  did  he  arrange to transport the  wounded person? ‘Then he put him on his own animal, brought  him to an inn, and took care of him’ (Lk 10:34). Until he came across the wounded stranger, the  Samaritan was comfortably  riding  on his   animal. At this place a switching of places happens.  The Samaritan puts the stranger on the animal and he himself walks along. This is the price of   redemption.  Jesus voluntarily takes up all the burden of  sin  from  us  and  makes us  comfortably sit in his place.  Not satisfied with that, he himself walks along with us until we  reach a safe place!

What would have the   wounded man  done after recovering at the expense of the Good Samaritan? The Gospel is silent about it.  But I would like to imagine him    terminating his  trip   to Jericho and instead returning to Jerusalem. Because after this highway robbery, he would not have  preferred to  continue  his journey. Hope that this  man returns to   the city of God from where he left in search of something else.

Jesus the Good Samaritan also wants us to  return to  the presence of God. In fact every person  experiencing the  love of this  Good Samaritan should  stay with  God for the rest of his life.   As we  said earlier, Adam was the  lone traveller   through the treacherous  path from the kingdom  of  God to the  kingdom of the world, whom  Jesus  met  on the  ‘way down’ naked, wounded and  forlorn. At Calvary,  Jesus  switches places with Adam, and of course  with all his offspring. Now onwards,  we  are not to worry about sin or its consequences.  Jesus  has  made up   for everything that  we lost  by sin.  Conversion is another name for   the act of somebody abandoning his downward journey halfway and  returning to  God. It is not a mere  act but an experience and being inexplicable, one should experience it to know what it is. We need to taste  how good our God is, who redeemed us from everything  Satan  has inflicted on us. Jesus is the only reliable  companion in our  journey to Heavenly Jerusalem.  As long as he walks with us no enemy will dare to confront us.  ‘Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that no one  shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again overrun them, for now I have seen with my own eyes’ (Zech 9:8).

Finally what went  wrong with that unnamed traveller   who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho? It was that he opted to  travel alone, which he should not have, given the inherent  risks of  traversing that rugged mountainous road without a companion. Perhaps this is the  takeaway from this  parable  for us,  who often  undertake dangerous journeys through treacherous terrains, unaware of what awaits us on  our way.    Bandits would  pounce on us any time and  rob us of everything we possess including  our clothes and leave  us half dead. In the ultimate analysis he would  have been safe had he taken a reliable friend with him on his journey.  Lucky are we,  who are  blessed with the   company of  the  most reliable of  friends, Jesus. 

‘ O taste and  see that the Lord is good; happy are those  who take refuge  in him’ (Ps 34:8)