Did you see that video of the college kids taking selfies at a baseball game?
Chances are pretty good that you did – it’s been all over social media – Facebook, Twitter, and the like – for several days. The video is good for a chuckle, and perhaps some reflection on the nature of our culture and the ubiquity of technology that distracts us from what’s going on around us.
Still, as I watch that video of a bunch of folks so engrossed in their phones that they are completely missing the baseball game being played right in front of them, my thoughts have wandered to a question about my own priorities: With all of the distractions that surround me every day, what am I missing?
I’m not talking about baseball, of course. I’m talking about life – my interactions with others, the opportunities for ministry and service that God gives me each day. Am I really “dialed in” to what God has for me at any given moment, or am I too absorbed in my own little world to see God’s plans for my life?
There’s a story in Mark 5:21-43 that deals with this very issue.
Jesus is approached by a man named Jairus, whom Mark describes as “one of the synagogue rulers.” We can infer from this that the man was a powerful and influential member of the faith community – precisely the sort of person that generally held Jesus in disdain. On this day, however, his attitude was not what you would expect (vv. 22b-23):
Seeing Jesus, he fell at His feet and pleaded earnestly with Him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put Your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
It’s telling that Jairus, at his moment of greatest need, would seek out Jesus for help. Crises tend to help put the events of our lives into focus, and that’s what we see here – faced with the prospect of the death of his daughter, this influential man throws away any pretense of disrespect toward Jesus and literally begs Him to intervene.
Jesus, of course, agreed to help, and began to follow Jairus back to his home. And, Jesus wasn’t alone – there was a whole crowd of people who had been following Jesus, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the miracles that had made Jesus so famous. As this massive group travelled, they were crowding and jostling each other, and the whole scene was rather chaotic.
Then, someone else came to Jesus who needed help. This is how Mark describes her (vv.23-25):
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
Read that last sentence again: “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” Doesn’t that describe all of us, at some point in our lives?
I’m not really talking about a health condition, but rather a spiritual condition. How many of us have found that we were incomplete and unfulfilled spiritually and tried to fix that condition on our own, trying everything that our world tells us should be satisfying to us – relationships, achievements, acquisition of wealth or fame – only to discover that none of it filled the longing of our souls? How many of us have spent ourselves in pursuit of worldly satisfaction, only to find that it is spiritual satisfaction that we truly crave?
The truth is, almost all of us have found ourselves there at one point or another. Only Christ can ultimately bring satisfaction and peace, but for many it takes years upon years of struggles and questions to come to that conclusion. All around us, people are searching for that truth, but are we prepared to help them find it?
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
Once she had touched Jesus, she was healed – His miraculous power was sufficient to free her from her disease. The story could easily have ended there. But, Jesus didn’t just walk away – He took a moment to interact with her directly (vv. 30-32)
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” His disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?'”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.
Jesus knew that His work with this woman wasn’t done. She had been healed, yes, but she still had a need that Jesus wanted to address.
His disciples, though, had their eyes on what they surely must have thought was the bigger prize – healing Jairus’ daughter! Think of what that act would mean! If Jesus could convince Jairus, this powerful, important man, of His divinity, then surely doors would open and Jesus’ message would be accepted far and wide. Now was not the time to stand around asking silly questions about who touched whom in the chaos of this massive crowd – there were more important things to do!
But, Jesus was insistent. Why?
Because He knew that there was more that needed to be done, right there and then, with the woman who had touched Him. He understood that her problem wasn’t merely physical, but spiritual.
So, Jesus stopped in His tracks until the woman came forth and identified herself. Look at what He says to her (v. 34):
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Notice, quickly, the three important things that Jesus says here. First, Jesus says that her faith has healed her – this in spite of the fact that she believed that the act of touching Jesus’ clothes was sufficient. Jesus is teaching her something very important – far from being some mystical healer, He is God Himself, and her healing came about through divine intervention in her life rather than some sort of mystic powers held by his cloak.
Second, Jesus tells her to go in peace – something that had almost certainly been lacking from her life during her long years of affliction. The peace that comes through faith, as many of us have discovered, is the only true peace that there is.
Finally, Jesus tells her to be free from her suffering. This freedom – to leave behind what had tormented her for so long, to leave behind the years of pain and stigma that had come about as a result of her disease – would have been unthinkable for her just minutes before. But, because of her faith, she has been freed not only from her physical ailment, but from the baggage of her past.
Isn’t that what we all need, in one form or another? We need faith and the divine power of God that comes with it. We need peace, true peace, that only Christ can bring. And we need freedom from our daily struggles and from the pain and guilt of our past.
Jesus saw that need, and He stopped to fulfill it. He didn’t let himself get distracted by the “bigger picture” – when an opportunity presented itself to speak love and peace into the life of a woman who desperately needed it, he dropped everything else and took it.
And here, finally, is my point – thanks for hanging in there for over 1,200 words so that I could get to it!
If we are to be agents of change in our world – if we are to be the conduits of God’s love into a culture that desperately needs it – we must be prepared to act in God’s sense of timing rather than our own. We must be alert, ready, watching for opportunities to interact with others in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Are we paying attention to the needs around us?
It is remarkably easy to miss those needs, even when we have the best of intentions. We are just so busy, inventing new and innovative ways to serve God, that I think we sometimes miss the little interactions, the simple conversations, the everyday opportunities that God puts in our path. In striving to serve God every day, are we allowing God any room to use us? Or, are we too distracted with all of the good we are doing in the world to see the needs right in front of us?
You know the rest of the story, of course – Jairus’ daughter, who had been clinging to life, has died before Jesus makes it to the house. The disciples, I would imagine, were despairing of opportunities lost, but Jesus did what only He could do – He raised her from the dead and healed her completely.
God had a plan, and His plan involved Jesus performing two miracles, not one. That plan was too much for the disciples to see, but Jesus was faithful to act on the opportunities that God placed in His path.
Would we do the same? Are we paying attention?
Do we consider the needs of those around us? Do we see opportunities to bring peace, love, and grace into the lives of those who need it? Do we take the time to help those dealing with pain and difficulty, pointing them to the saving love and everlasting peace of Jesus?
We are distracted so easily. What are we missing?