“Pack up your books, everyone. Ready or not, it’s time.” Peter’s loud voice jolted everyone in the library and earned him some angry glares. Not that he noticed or anything, Peter usually spoke first and thought later.
Andrew looked across the table at John who rolled his eyes and shook his head. James let out a long sigh that spoke what all of them were feeling. The four of them had eagerly formed a study group earlier in the year, particularly pleased at how their names matched those of Jesus’ closest disciples. They had just pulled an all-nighter studying for Professor Graham’s mid-term exam.
Graham was an impassioned storyteller in the classroom and known to be a stickler for details. His Bible classes always filled quickly. Today’s exam was on the parables that Jesus taught. They were as ready as they were going to be.
Peter swooped up his stuff and ran off with the haphazard bundle clutched tightly against his chest. John checked his watch and nodded. Gathering books, papers, and empty coffee cups, they somberly started towards the classroom. Once outside, James suddenly yelled, “Oh no, I forgot…” and rushed back inside.
Looking at Andrew, John stated, “He’d better be fast or he won’t make it on time. Graham won’t let him in if he’s late.” Andrew nodded and they increased their gait. Pulling their coats tight at their necks to buffer the biting chill, they hurried toward the Martin Luther building.
As John yanked open the door, a strange sound coming from across the street, a groan or a moan, halted them in mid-step. They both turned to look and readily saw a pitiful figure huddled in an alcove hiding from the fierce wind. His hair was wild, his clothes were filthy, and his only protection against the wind was an old suit jacket someone had obviously cast off. “Help me”, his words had a haunting ring as they were carried eerily on the wind.
Andrew grabbed at John’s arm, “We have to check on him.”
Hesitating, John looked first at the open door and then back at the pathetic figure. The conflict raging inside him was vividly etched across his face until it cleared as a decision was made, “there isn’t time. He’s just a bum. Campus security will take care of him.” Andrew gave a long look backwards but then followed John inside. They fell into their seats. The clock showed they were two minutes late, but Professor Graham wasn’t here yet. They were okay.
As if on cue, a dignified man who no one would guess was anything but a professor, walked agitatedly into the room. He dropped his briefcase and a stack of papers onto the desk as students settled into quiet submission.
He walked over to the window and stared out across the street. He had an excellent view of the actor he had strategically placed across the street. James was with him, helping him to his feet. Professor Graham smiled briefly and thought to himself, “ah, it would be James – faith without action is dead.” He breathed in deeply and turned to his class.
Solemnly, he placed a single sheet of paper face down on the desk in front of each student. They waited for his signal to turn them over and begin.
Returning to the front of the room, he asked, “Did any of you see the man across the street?” A couple of hands slowly went up as students looked around nervously at each other.
Professor Graham shook his head irritably. “Let me rephrase the question. Did any of you… not see… the man across the street?”
The room was disturbingly quiet. Furtive glances were exchanged but most just stared down at their books. No hands were raised.
Professor Graham stood wordlessly for a few moments, his gaze wandering from student to student, his eyes betraying his disappointment. His words broke the stillness and were left hanging in the air when he turned and quickly left the room, “All of you just failed this exam.”
Confused and bewildered, John looked to Andrew for some clue as to what just happened. He dazedly turned over the paper. There were no questions, just the simple gospel text titled “The Good Samaritan.”
John stared at the paper for a long moment. And then miserably dropped his head into his arms, as comprehension gushed through him. This was a lesson he would never forget.
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