Beloved Interruptions

Below is the manuscript of a narrative sermon that I delivered for my Expository Preaching class with Dr. Ken Durham last semester.

It had been a rough couple of days for Jesus when the curtain opens on our story, filled with roadblocks and unexpected frustrations. He had just calmed a storm on Lake Galilee that threatened to capsize his boat, driven out a legion of demons, and then been driven out himself by the townspeople. I don’t know what he felt as he crossed the lake once more. But I can imagine that he keenly felt the sting of rejection, the frustration of dismissal, the exhaustion of unceasing demands.  The lake was his only respite, a quiet place in the midst of chaos and people clamoring for his attention.

By the time the boat reached land, the crowd had already begun to gather.  As Jesus steps out of the boat, there falling at his feet is Jairus the synagogue ruler, pleading with him. “My little daughter is dying. Come touch her so she will be healed and live.” So Jesus goes with him.

But as they make their way through the crowd, Jairus turns and sees that Jesus has stopped.  He’s looking around him while a thin woman hangs back at the edge of the crowd. Jairus opens his mouth to speak, to remind Jesus of the urgency of his mission, but Jesus speaks first. “Who touched me?”

She had been sick as long as Jairus’ daughter had been alive. Twelve years of diagnoses and attempted remedies.  Twelve years of uncleanness and isolation.  Twelve years of daring to hope, only to be disappointed, penniless, and left alone again, the bleeding growing steadily worse.  Jesus was her last chance, and suddenly the one she knew she’d been waiting for. And so she found herself pushing through the crowd as he passed.  “If I could just touch his cloak…” His back was to her as she pushed her way to the edge of the crowd and reached out.

Her fingers closed around a handful of fabric, and her body’s response was immediate. She felt it, and she knew. One touch had done what no doctor could do. She was healed. There would be no more suffering.  But as she tries to shrink away and disappear into the crowd, she is arrested by Jesus’ question. “Who touched me?”

I can imagine the momentary relief she felt when Jesus’ disciples answered him incredulously. “Who touched you? Like…everyone. You’re in the middle of a huge crowd. What do you mean, who touched you?” Maybe he would agree with them. Maybe he would shrug and be on his way. Maybe he wouldn’t notice her at all.

Yet he ignores the disciples, scanning the crowd. “Who touched me?” He asks again, but there is no accusation or anger in his voice. In fact, it sounds strangely like an invitation.

The noise of the crowd, the puzzlement of the disciples, the impatience of Jairus, all fade away into the background, and all she can hear is her heart thumping in her chest.  The invitation is only for one. Jesus is calling her.

She steps forward – and although all eyes are fixed on her, the only ones she sees are those of her Savior. She falls at his feet. Hopeful. Afraid. Embarrassed. Amazed. And gloriously whole.

And in a torrent of words, she tells the whole story to Jesus. Not just about the touch. Not just about the healing. She tells him everything. All of the pain. All of the brokenness. All of the rejection and loneliness she had experienced over the past twelve years. But it doesn’t matter that everyone is watching. It doesn’t matter what they think.

Because Jesus listens. He waits. It’s like a shaken snowglobe has settled around the central figures, leaving a sense of deep stillness. Time has stopped for Jesus too, and all that matters is this moment. This story. This woman. She finishes her confession and waits for him to speak.

When he does, it’s almost like the sound of rain on a tin roof, or a fire crackling in the hearth, to one who has been away from home for far too long. “Daughter. Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.”

But the world’s brokenness always seems to invade our perfect, still moments in the presence of Jesus. And this time, when Jesus had barely finished speaking, the sacred was shattered by the abrupt arrival of Jairus’ messenger and the abrasiveness of his news.  “Your daughter is dead. Stop bothering the Teacher.”

Yet hasn’t Jesus made it clear by now that he isn’t bothered by interruptions? “Don’t be afraid,” he tells Jairus. “Just believe.”

And the woman he called daughter stands and watches as he walks away. But the story doesn’t end here. Jesus has another daughter to save. He enters her house, where mourners are wailing. He enters her room, where her body lies motionless on her bed. And as Jairus watches in amazement, Jesus grasps the cold hand of a little dead girl and says, “Get up.” And when the Lord of the universe commands life, life answers.

Two people came to Jesus that day looking for healing.

And that day, two daughters were given new life.

This story paints an incredible portrait of what happens when God interacts with humanity. It doesn’t always work out perfectly. To us, it may seem like the timing isn’t right. It’s awkward and messy. Stories are supposed to be eloquent. Interruptions are jarring and disconcerting.

Typically, we would put interruptions in the awkward category and brush them aside to get to the main point. But what’s interesting here is that the chiastic structure of this story points us to the middle, actually points us to the interruption. The seeming inconvenience becomes the focal point of this story, just as it became the focal point of Jesus’ attention.

Henri Nouwen writes of a meaningful conversation with a Notre Dame professor in which the professor mused, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.” I would venture to say that perhaps Jesus saw it the same way. That interruptions didn’t distract from his ministry, because they were his ministry. Because we are his ministry.

I remember the night, when I was about six or seven, that it occurred to me that because the world is so full of people, there are bound to be times when there are multiple people praying at once – maybe even in different languages.  I wondered how God was able to hear them all at the same time, and if he got distracted by interruptions.  And to be honest, that question has never truly gone away. When we are in our darkest moments of pain, I think it still surfaces for many of us. Does God see my tears? Can he hear me right now? Does one person’s pain even matter when there is so much suffering in the world? I’ve often felt, as the Tenth Avenue North song says, like “one tear in the driving rain, one voice in a sea of pain.”

But to Jesus, no interruption is an inconvenience. Every time someone reaches out for his cloak, he will look for them until they are found, listen until their story is told, and love them with a love that claims them and declares them valuable. To Jesus, every interruption is a son or a daughter.

He wants you to encounter him. So seek him out.  Whether it’s doubt you’ve been afraid to acknowledge, pain you don’t know how to express, or the childish excitement of a spring day – your faith to reach out is the interruption Jesus is waiting for. So reach out, and interrupt boldly. No matter when you come, no matter what your story, he claims you as his own.

“Son…daughter…your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reminds me of a quote by Allen Saunders: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

  2. Christians would do well to remember that quote.

  3. Another great quote: “The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one’s “own” or “real” life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.” ~ C.S. Lewis

  4. As your story points out, Jesus knew and practiced these truths. Thanks for your insights, Lauren.

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