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Pardon the Interruption


Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.
Mark 1:40-45

In his book How to Talk so that People Listen, Steve Brown tells the story of Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise who was asked to speak at an anti-Nazi meeting in Brooklyn. As a result of his acceptance, he received numerous threatening letters. Some of the writers told him he would be killed if he attended, or sought to address the rally. When the day finally came, Wise mounted the podium, and said this: "I have been warned to stay away from this meeting under pain of being killed. If anyone is going to shoot me, let him do it now. I hated being interrupted."

That is funny, and true to life! Few people like to be interrupted. We dislike road works, bad Internet connections, unexpected guests, sudden snowstorms, and missed appointments. The compulsive, and the committed among us especially view interruptions as a nuisance at best, and a criminal act at worse! Criminal, in that interruptions can rob us of precious time, cheat us out of sustained focus, and steal away our productivity. All in all we regard interruptions as unpleasant, and unprofitable. While they are part of life they seem to get in the way of real life.

But is that true? A study of Mark's Gospel might point to something rather interesting as it relates to interruptions. In Mark's account, Jesus' ministry points to the fact that amazing and glorious things can happen in the thick of interruptions. They are not the things that break up life as much as they are the things that make up life. A second look at the biblical record will tell you that some of the most telling moments in Jesus ministry begin as an interruption. You see it in the story of the leper who stops the Lord Jesus on the road (Mark 1:40-45); the paralytic who is let down through the roof (Mark 2:1-12); the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6); the woman with the chronic blood disease who touches His garment (Mark 5:25-34); the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26); the father with the epileptic boy (Mark 9:14-29); the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-31); and blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). These things proved not to be interruptions to Jesus' work, they were His work. Jesus made a career of taking interruptions, and leveraging them for God's glory. Jesus perceived a holy choreography to these seeming random meetings. The unexpected proved again and again to be a divine assignment. Therefore Jesus rolled with every turn of event. He showed wonderful patience. He expressed an unflappable trust in the providence of God. He manifests an inexhaustible love for people. Jesus pardoned the interruption believing that opportunity often comes disguised as an inconvenience. Surely, Jesus' example is a challenge?

The next time we face an interruption let us remember that people matter most, that God may be lurking in the shadows of this unplanned moment, that we have need of patience, and that every interruption is an invitation to humility. C. S. Lewis advised, "The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's own or real life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life – the life God is sending day by day." Good advice!