Interruptions or Opportunities?
Jesus took the apostles “with him…so that they could be alone. But the crowds found out about this and followed Him. He welcomed them.” (Luke 9:10b-11a [GW])
During these days of economic and social uncertainty, many folks carry heavy loads of concerns and worries. Life seems to get busier with each passing day. We have work to do, phone calls to make, children to shuttle from one thing to the next, and a myriad of other responsibilities that pull us in every direction. It is often overwhelming as we seek to care for our own needs, but also desire to care for those around us.
No one can deny that Jesus had a busy schedule as well. He devoted Himself to mentor twelve men in living as obedient believers and leaders. He taught regularly in the synagogues, the temple, on the beach, on the mountains and in the streets. His healing ministry caused crowds of people to gather around Him, if only to touch His robe and be healed of their infirmities.
In addition to that, Jesus walked from town to town to share the Good News of the kingdom. His ministry spread over many miles and touched countless people. He seemed to be constantly moving, and noted at one point that He had “no place to lay His head.”
The twelve Christ chose as apostles were in training. As they began to be more involved in ministry, Jesus recognized their need for rest and time alone. After an especially exciting time of preaching the kingdom and curing the sick, Jesus “took them with Him to a city called Bethsaida so that they could be alone” (Luke 9:10b). Jesus knew that the excitement and demands of ministry were great and provided for their refreshment.
This was a great plan—until the crowds found out about it. In the middle of this important retreat throngs of people starting showing up to hear from Jesus and be healed by Him. They had many needs, and they knew that Jesus was the answer to their problems. They could hear the Good News to nourish their souls, be cured of their diseases to fix their bodies, and if they were lucky they might have a picnic lunch provided by Christ and the apostles!
Each time I read this story I am surprised at the response Jesus has to these demanding, self-interested crowds that come at the most inconvenient of times: He welcomes them! He opens His heart and draws them into His love. Unlike my automatic response of irritation at the inconvenience, His consistent response is to reach into their lives. He talks to them about the kingdom of God, He cures their sickness, and in this instance in Luke—provides lunch!
Not only is this NOT inconvenient for Jesus, it’s as though this was His plan all along. Although we know His plan really was for the apostles to be alone for a while to rest, His overarching desire to bring God’s love into the world causes Him to respond out of a gracious heart in every situation.
This brings me back to the busy lives that we lead today. We all need a break from the grind of daily responsibilities, and often the rest that we plan for a weekend gets interrupted by someone. We lie down for a short nap, and the phone rings. We sit in our favorite chair to read a book or the newspaper, and our spouse wants to talk (or a friend, or son, or daughter).
Even in our ministry we might have a tight schedule for our rehearsal, or for a planning meeting. Our agenda is full and we can’t afford any interruptions. We must get on task, stay on task, and complete the task! Then it’s on to the next thing.
Yet, in the midst of this busy-ness we find people with needs. How might we respond in a more Christ-like way when inconvenienced by someone? How much greater effect could our ministry have if we listened for a few extra minutes when someone was hurting? What if we are the one that has a need, but everyone around us is so busy or having “alone time” that our need goes unmet?
Of course, we must rely on the Holy Spirit’s prompting to respond appropriately in each situation. We know that our plans must move forward, and fulfilling our responsibilities is important. Maybe part of our planning should be some extra time to respond and, like Jesus, be aware of the people around us. We have something they need—Jesus! Let us give freely of Him with an open and loving heart.
Father, I pray that Your Spirit would guide me as I become more aware of the needs of people around me. Give me a heart of love like Jesus. Give me wisdom to know how to balance my “to do list” with the people in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.