Punctuality is a virtue in western society. We place a high value on precise timing and not making people wait. We show respect by being on time for our commitments. Don’t be late. Time is money. Make every second count. Don’t waste time. We are people in a hurry!
This is true even in our families. We rush from one activity to the next trying to give our kids a wealth of experiences, but what might we be losing in the process? How many kingdom moments do we miss by our impatience for the next thing?
Considering how Jesus managed his time on earth, we get a very different example for managing our time. Jesus seldom seemed to be in a hurry and he was even chastised for his lateness on occasion. So what was important to Jesus?
So many of the miracles in the Bible happen along the way. Many miracle stories are prefaced with phrases like “while they were going here” or “when they were traveling” or “while they were doing this activity.” The miracles happened in the midst of the activities of daily life. None of these divine appointments was on human agendas, but earthly plans were restructured to reflect God’s kingdom priorities. Does this sound like how you view interruptions?
As Jesus and the disciples traveled, they encountered people with significant needs. Jesus instructed us to care for the least of these, and he demonstrated how to care for hurting people during his ministry. These were people who were grieving, people who needed healing, people who needed encouragement, people who were begging, and people who were just trying to find answers. As parents we can feel overwhelmed by the needs of our kids, not to mention strangers on the road. Jesus took time to engage with children, welcoming the interruption, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). Jesus attended to the needs of others. We can be assured that Jesus understands the challenges of caring for the needs of others.
Jesus modeled how much people mattered in God’s kingdom by how often he stopped his teaching to care for the needs of people. The crowds expected Jesus to preach, but people were important to his ministry and their needs took precedence. Jesus did not step up to meet everyone's expectations and at times people were disappointed in him. Sometimes Jesus lingered in ministry, and he was not always on time to where he was expected, but he demonstrated that people matter in God’s kingdom.
Each interaction was a living demonstration of how loving people with compassion and grace might take precedence over achieving an agenda. These people were not interruptions to Jesus, but rather opportunities to demonstrate what the kingdom of heaven looks like. We too struggle to balance meeting all the needs of those clamoring for our attention. Our kids, jobs, and extended families can pull us in opposing directions. We have to choose daily what is important. We might have to lower our standards and let some things slide. How well do we model Christ’s priorities in our families?
In the Bible, these needy people often came at inconvenient times and places. Nicodemus came to ask his questions at nighttime. The hungry multitudes were far from the nearest grocery store. Crowds even pursued Jesus out to remote places to see if he would do something amazing. Jesus could hardly travel or teach without being interrupted by people wanting his attention. Jesus would have understood the life of a young parent who is followed around by toddlers who cling like Velcro. There is no good time for kids to be sick, and often our kids can ask us hard things when we are exhausted or running out the door. Jesus seized the teachable moments. He stopped his teaching or traveling to care for the needs in front of him.
Jesus was also took time to care for himself. He had to get creative to structure time to get away alone to pray. Everyone needs a break, even Jesus. He modeled for us that importance of prioritizing self-care. Sometimes it was early and at other times it was very late, but Jesus carved-out time to recharge in prayer and solitude. If Jesus placed such a high value on time connecting with the Father, how much more do we need God's encouraging and equipping.
As Jesus cared for all of the people he encountered along the way, people were able to witness God’s power and love. Everyone received a front row seat to God’s kingdom becoming visible. Demons were cast out, fears were relieved, and healing was administered to body, mind, and soul. To witness the miracle you had to put aside your agenda and be open to God’s priorities. Stop what you are doing and tune in to the needs of the people around you. We have the opportunity to usher in God’s kingdom with every act of love that we perform. Every nose wiped and boo-boo kissed is a demonstration of love. Every emotion validated and story heard affirms those around us as God's cherished people. Taking the time to talk about questions of faith or caring for the need of a friend makes God’s kingdom visible.
The needs of our children can often feel like interruptions to our schedule, but I think Jesus would tell us that engaging with children matters. He not only scolded his disciples to “let the little children come to him” but he encouraged his disciples to have the childlike faith of those children. Just like the disciples, we find life in God’s kingdom is upside down from what we often prioritize.
We are people who are ruled by the clock, but we shouldn't let our schedule keep us from encountering those along-the-way blessings. People matter more than achievement. What can we remove from our schedules to allow for better family time? Jesus was not always on time, but he was always right on task. Perhaps as we strive to be more Christ-like, we may need to put away our watches and choose to engage the divine interruptions happening along the way.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra