Don’t you just hate interruptions? They can be frustration. I mean, it seems like no matter what type of day I have planned, something interrupts. No matter how many precautions I have made, whether it is early-ish in the morning or late in the evening, something comes up. It seems like whenever I truly get engaged into a project; when I get to that point where creativity is flowing, the interruption comes. The phone rings (usually the dreaded telemarketer), someone knocks on my door, an urgent email or test that has to be answered, or in this new era of distant working the dog barks. Something snaps my concentration. Something makes me put the project “on hold”. When I get back to it, it takes me time to remember where I left off. What was the next thing I was going to do? Interruptions can be maddening. Especially, the closer I am to a deadline.
And yet, not all interruptions are a bad thing. Maybe it is a family member calling or texting to give you a long-awaited update. Maybe it is an old friend stopping by because they were in the neighborhood. Maybe the dog is telling you that a package has been delivered (and maybe it is the missing item that your project needs to be complete). And, while the interruption kept you from the task at hand, it was a worthwhile diversion. Even if it takes a few minutes to get back on track. Let’s face it, interruptions are a part of life, And, as you will see, a part of ministry.
If you read the Gospels, it will not take you very long to see that most of JEsus’ ministry occurred due to an interruption. A great deal of his miracles, of his teachings, happened because someone or something interrupted JEsus. And, maybe one thing we ought to learn is to never let a good interruption go to waste.
The reading from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 5:21-43) is often informally referred to as the miracle on the way to a miracle. Taken from a different perspective, it could also be called an interruption on the way to handle an interruption. When JEsus stepped off the boat, my guess is that neither Jairus’ daughter or the Woman were on the agenda. They were not the reason why he crossed over the Sea of Galilee.
But, what if Jesus had not allowed his itinerary to be adjusted? What if he and his disciples had brushed Jairus off because it didn’t fit into their plans? Of course, we do not know the answer for sure. But, what we do know is that because Jesus was open to the interruption, ministry and healing was allowed to happen.
By the time of this episode, Jesus had become so popular that he could not travel anywhere in Israel without a crowd gathering. No sooner had the boat made it to shore that people had begun to gather around Jesus. And the further Jesus stepped from the shore, the more people who began to swarm around him. They came to hear his teaching, to be healed from sickness, to be in his presence.
One of the first persons to meet Jesus is an influential man named Jairus. Jairus usually commanded respect. He was one of the persons in the community who was responsible for the care of the Synagogue. He had the wealth and the time to support its work. Jairus was used to people coming to him for assistance, to bow to his leadership. This for me, emphasizes the urgency of his request. “Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” (Mark 5:22-23, NRSV) Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come and heal his daughter.
I want you to hear the urgency, the desperation in this man’s voice and actions. He was throwing out all decorum, all pretnese, all his self-respect in order to help his daughter. And, Jesus responds to Jairus’ pleas and begins to follow him home. Whatever JEsus had planned to do would have to wait.
And, as Jesus and the crowd began to move, an unnamed woman does something both boler and more timid at the same time. In her own desperation, she has both the audacity to touch Jesus’ cloak and the fear/humility to not make a scene. She reached out quietly in the hope of not making a spectacle.
This woman had been bleeding for twelve years. This meant that she had been unclean in the eyes of the JEwish religion for twelve long years. Anyone she touched, anywhere she sat, anywhere she laid down, were all unclean. She was an outcast from her society.
On top of that, she was poor. She had spent all the money she had trying to be cured. One doctor after another, one remedy after another, nothing had worked. She had nowhere else to turn. So, out of her desperation, she came with the crowd to see Jesus, the Teacher. Could he heal her?
We don’t know why she felt she had no other choice but to reach out for Jesus’ cloak. Maybe it was because the crowd was moving away from her. If Jesus went with Jairus, whould she lose her chance? Maybe it was simply that se didn’t want to be dismissed as unclean if she approached Jesus openly. Whatever the reason, the woman takes a leap of faith.
“Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” (Mark 5:29, NRSV) In the midst of the commotion, in the midst of the crowd, in the midst of following through on one interruption, Jesus stops. Jesus turns and wants to address the woman who’s faith had brought her healing.
There is a part of me that truly believes that Jesus’ actions right now are all about restoration. Did he have to stop? No! Did he have to talk with the woman? No! Did he have to acknowledge what had happened in order for the physical healing to be real? No! So, why did he?
Jesus acknowledges the woman’s actions because it is about more lthan physical healing. He wants her to know that her spiritual health, her belief, her relationship with God are important too. She is not an outcast. She is not unclean. In Jesus’ own words: “He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'” (Mark 5:34, NRSV) This woman was worth more than she realized. She was not an interruption, but a child of God.
Now that the woman was restored, it was now time for Jesus to get back on to the task at hand, the original interruption. But, no sooner had Jesus finished talking to the woman, than members of Jairus’ household arrive with the news that his dughter is dead. These messengers tell Jairus that there is no need to take up any more of Jesus’ time. Let him get back to his plans for the cay. In their opinion, there is nothing more that JEsus can do. Well, at least that is what they thought.
And yet, Jesus knew there was something that he could do. His words to Jairus emphasize the fact that Jesus had something planned. “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe'”. (Mark 5:36, NRSV) If Jairus would continue to trust Jesus, there was still something to be done. And, it was the belief, the trust, that allowed Jesus to bring Jairus’ daughter back to life.
Two miracles, two faith encounters, two opportunities for God’s grace to be shown, all because Jesus was willing to be interrupted. He was willing to change his plans in order to meet people at their point of need.
What about those of us who are followers of Jesus? Are we willing to minister in the midst of the interruption? or, are we too busy doing God’s work that we fail to see those who are huring when they call, when they knock, when they inadvertently interrupt our days?
Our communities are filled with people who think they are in a hopeless situation. People who our society, our social structures, have cast aside. Those who are on the outside looking in. People who have come to the end of their means and are wondering where they can turn.
Quite frankly, people need us to listen. They need us to care. They need us, when we can, to act on their behalf. Maybe it will be to assist them in finding the help they need. Maybe it is to give them the tools to create something new. Maybe it is to reach out and help them from our own resources.
Many of these opportunities will come when we are busy doing other things. Many of those who are hurting the most will come when it is least convenient for us. Many will come in the form of an interruption. The question we have to answer is: Are you ready to go wherever the Spirit may lead? Where the Spirit may interrupt?