There are times when we all hate to be interrupted. For instance, you’ve just sat down to a beautiful prime rib dinner (horseradish and cream on the side, baked potato piled high with all the fixings, and fresh green beans). The phone rings. Caller ID tells you that you should answer—it’s your mother. What do you do? If you’re me, ignore the call. There are few phone calls more important than prime rib.
Let’s face it. We get interrupted all the time, and we often unwittingly interrupt others. There is some truth to the notion that interruptions produce character; at least that’s what I always told my kids when I had a chore for them but they were in the middle of their playtime or better yet, asleep. I figured that as babies they interrupted their mother’s sleep virtually every night for the first two years of their lives (I’m male; I have selective hearing so I pretty much slept through those years). 4 children times 2 years each means my wife was wide-awake at night for 8 years. When the kids were older, it was my turn to interrupt their sleep. Now that our kids have their own small children—and their interruptions—I believe I have set a standard and provided a model for them to follow in years to come. But I digress.
Can you imagine Jesus being interrupted? The nerve! Who would interrupt the Son of God? Mark 4:35-41 is a story of interruptions. It’s primarily about Jesus calming the waves with the disciples’ fear for their lives changing to fear of Jesus, but I’m going to focus on the interruptions.
Jesus had just finished teaching a large crowd near the Sea of Galilee. The normal number of hecklers was probably in the crowd, but he handled them with grace. I do wonder if he was ever tempted to have a heckler’s nose fall off or an ear move slowly to the top of the naysayer’s head. That would have silenced any heckler; but alas, Jesus never did anything like that. By the end of the day he was exhausted from teaching, holding all the kids, the pressing crowd, and answering question after question (“No, I’m not running for the office of High Priest this year!”). He said to his disciples, “Let go to the other side of the lake.” That meant Jesus was tired and needed a break.
Here’s the interesting bit in the story. Mark writes in verse 36 the disciples “took him just as he was.” The first time I read that I stopped right there. I was confused. “They took him just as he was” . . . because they didn’t let him grab his tunic or pick up his sack lunch? I wondered. It struck me as odd the disciples “took him just as he was,” and ironically reminded me of the old hymn, “Just as I am.” I’m sure none of my thoughts were anywhere near what Mark meant. So what did he mean?
Jesus had been working hard with the folks around him. He was ready to move to the other side of the lake for rest. When the disciples put him on the boat “just as he was,” it means they had to interrupt him from further ministry among the people. Jesus was tired, but he continued to give of himself despite his need for rest. And so the disciples, the men of action that they were, grabbed Jesus “just as he was” (I can’t get the tune of “Just As I am” out of my head now), put him on the boat and set across the water. The crowd pushed forward to the water’s edge begging him not to go. “One more blessing,” a lady cried out. “But my son needs you,” said another. “Jesus,” a third yelled out, “is now a good time to sell my Google stock?”
Jesus promptly fell asleep in the back of that little fishing boat. The storm came and the disciples were afraid. We know they were afraid for their lives; Mark tells us, yet Jesus slept. So they interrupted him again, but this time from his well-deserved sleep. I can picture Jesus slowly sitting up, stretching, running his hand through his scalp, looking at the disciples and wondering, “What?” Of course we all know he spoke to the storm and it stopped. “Why were you afraid? Where is your faith?” Jesus’s second question answered his first.
A life interrupted is normal. Life is not the stuff in between the interruptions, as if we should regard the interruptions as distractions; rather life is interruptions. Expect God to work in your interruptions, distractions, and frustrations.