The God of Interruptions
JANUARY 12, 2023
by Sean Nolan
I must’ve read “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” a thousand times between my four kids. The plot is more and more relatable in our distracted age.
I go to the kitchen for a glass of water and notice the garbage is full; I take it out and realize I left the car window down; I roll it up and find a book I was missing in the car; I see a half-drunk cup of coffee and realize I’m thirsty.
Back to the kitchen for the glass of water that initiated the whole ritual.
Life is full of unexpected interruptions.
Jesus’s life was no different. Matthew records an interruption within an interruption.
Jesus is in the middle of pronouncing how the New Covenant that he was inaugurating was better than the old (Matt. 9:14-17) when he is interrupted by a religious leader mourning the recent death of his daughter (v. 18). The man’s faith is remarkable in that he believes a single touch from Jesus will resurrect her.
Yet, before Jesus can perform the requested miracle—he is interrupted yet again—this time by a woman who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years. She believes her discreet touch of only his robe will stop her hemorrhaging (v. 20-21).
Any publishers reading this, have your people call my people if you’re interested in my children’s book pitch: “If You Ask A Savior For A Resurrection.”
OUR EVER-INTERRUPTIBLE SAVIOR
For our purposes, I’m not interested in their faith—but, Jesus’s patience. He is not inconvenienced by their requests. The destitute and desperate daughters of this passage are a welcome interruption to Jesus’s plan.
But what about us? Do we still harbor the defeating belief in Jesus as a distant and detached deity who is too busy running the world to care for our problems?
At moments, I know I do, and it never works out in my favor.
Perhaps I’m projecting.
I serve as a pastor in a church plant and at times it feels like the to-do list will never end. I want to emulate Christ and be available for others, but I’m haunted by the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan who passed by the man in need (Luke 25:31).
I find him all too relatable. I imagine his to-do list was as long as mine.
Not so with Jesus. He is ever interruptible. And the interruptions he allows to come upon our life are not inconveniences but tangible expressions of his love.
I think of a time I was interrupted by a hungry man who needed dinner and I abandoned my plans for sermon prep to buy him an impromptu dinner and share it with him. If there was a hero in that story, it certainly wasn’t me. I think about it often and believe myself the one who was blessed. Did I entertain an angel without knowing it (Heb. 13:2)?
Surely being interrupted is a strange grace to us. We do well to have open handed plans.
HIS EVER-OPEN HANDS
I can’t help but assume that the interruptible Jesus in this account wasn’t interrupted at all but had planned it all along.
His seemingly open-handed plans were those that were exceedingly pleasing to the Father (John 8:29).
His nature so inviting to the desperate and destitute that they were drawn to his gentle and lowly nature that would strengthen and lift them up.
If the Bible were a book of fortune cookie like advice here is where I would write: “be like Jesus, keep your plans ‘open-handed.’” But I’d be missing the mark.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is not just that he welcomes and invites our interruptions (he does!) but that he so delights in us that he’d allow his plans not just to be open-handed but that his plan all along was to allow his hands to be pierced so that we could experience restoration and fullness.
Sean Nolan is a former punk-rocker and atheist still being blown away by the radical grace of Jesus that gripped him 18 years ago. He’s a husband, father of four, and the pastor of Engage Albany in New York.