Creek

A certain Jew is walking to Jericho on business. He hates this trip because of the dangers along this barren wasteland. Often robbers lie in wait behind the many large rocks along this road. If he wasn’t in such a hurry, he would have taken the safer northern route. Over the next rise he sees another traveler coming towards him and breathes a sigh of relief; it is unlikely that he would be mugged with someone else in sight. But his relief quickly turns to apprehension as the other traveler approaches and he recognizes him as a Roman soldier carrying his baggage and weapons. As he feared, the soldier sees him and motions for him to stop when they meet.

According to Roman law, any person who is not a citizen of Rome can be required to carry the baggage of a legionnaire one mile; to refuse meant death. It was not unusual for the soldiers to stretch a mile a lot longer than the markers along the roads, especially on deserted roads like this. The soldier gives the baggage to this Jew, while keeping his weapons at the ready, and orders him to carry them back towards Jerusalem one mile. To add two extra miles to his journey will make the Jew even later in reaching Jericho before the Sabbath begins and he will no longer be able to do business. Yet, he does not complain, but lifts the heavy load and walks alongside the soldier back towards Jerusalem. As they walk, he asks the soldier about his family and hometown. Taken by surprise the soldier tells him of the death of his brother on the eastern frontier, which is why he was coming this way alone. The soldier noticing the Jew’s belongings asked him where he was headed and the Jew explains the business he had in Jericho

As they continue to talk, they come to the next mile marker. The soldier, who had intended to force this Jew to carry his baggage all the way to Mt. Olivet, decided to be merciful instead and reached out for his bags. Although he still could just barely make it to Jericho before the Sabbath, he demurred and said that the bags were very heavy and he would be happy to help the soldier carry them another mile. The legionnaire is stunned, but says nothing. They had only taken a few steps when he could no longer keep his peace and asked why he was doing this when he did not have to and it would cost him a significant amount of business. The Jew responded by asking him if he had heard about Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth. The soldier said that he remembered him well, as he had been on the detail that had crucified the rebel. In fact, he had won the fine tunic worn by the criminal when they had cast lots for it. The other was silent for a minute and then quietly told the soldier that he was a disciple of Jesus. The soldier quickly reached for his shield and sword, but the saint told him that he had nothing to fear from him. He continued by explaining that Jesus had taught not to return evil for evil, but good instead. He also told him of a wonderful speech that Jesus had taught on a mountain in Galilee, where He had taught men to go a second mile.

By this time they can see Bethany, the home of the disciple. He invites the soldier to have a meal with him and his family before continuing his journey to Jerusalem. The soldier is amazed again, yet the hospitality of this Jew seems to be sincere, compared to the obvious farce of the Jewish Council. His superiors do not expect him back at his barracks until tomorrow and the gnawing hunger in his stomach persuades him to agree. They arrive at the Jew’s humble house, much to the surprise of his wife, who did not expect to see her husband until the next day. Her concern at seeing the soldier is quickly answered as her husband explains that they met on the road and he has invited him for a meal. She sends her daughter to go start preparations for the meal and asks the soldier to consider staying the night since the sun has nearly set. The soldier is no longer shocked at such unforced hospitality from these Jews and welcomes the invitation because he wants to ask them more about this Jesus of Nazareth.