24: Miracles and Interruptions (10:45am Traditional Worship)

24: Miracles and Interruptions (10:45am Traditional Worship)

Series: 24: A Day in the Life of Jesus
Title: Flying Pigs, Raising the Dead and other miracles
Date: Recorded on the 27th June, 2021 for ONLINE worship on the 4th July
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Mark 5:1-43

Click here for sermon slides PDF

Continuing our sermon series about an incredibly intensive 24 hours in the life of Jesus from Mark chapter 3 and 4. This Sunday we cover the first 8 hours of the 24 hour day when Jesus launches into a full-on time of teaching – covering such topics as the sower and the seed and not hiding your light. Even though Jesus was already tired, it is funny how doing things that we are passionate about can give us extra energy. How does this experience of Jesus (and the teaching of Jesus) help us in our work / life balance?

We are up to the last sermon in this four sermon series looking at this crazy, intensive 24 hours – midday to midday – in the life of Jesus.  As we read in Mark 3, the lead up to this day was already physically and emotionally draining when … as this simple illustration shows – Jesus experiences a non-stop 24 hours of teaching, explaining, travelling, engaging and healing. 

Jesus being the compassionate and caring person that he is, just keeps pushing himself, responding to the needs and requests of people … until as we heard last week, late into the evening Jesus hits the wall and in a totally exhausted state suggests to his disciples to escape the crowds by sailing to the other side of lake Galilee and immediately falls asleep on the boat.  Unfortunately, it was broken sleep as Jesus was woken up to perform the miracle of the calming of the sea. 

Are there people here who are having or have had periods of broken sleep and know the impact that broken sleep can have.  I am.  Not now – one of the advantages of being exhausted is that I sleep well – but when my kids were born, Marion and I knew how hard broken sleep can be.  All three of our kids are lovely, but they were terrible sleepers between the age of 0 and 2.  For 6 years straight, Marion and I were woken up 2 to 3 times a night and particularly for the girls, they took some time to settle again.  And it just wears you down. If you are currently experiencing broken sleep for whatever reason … my heart goes out to you.

I don’t know if you have noticed the graphics that I have found for this sermon series, but I love the one for this week.  It is a great picture … not only because it shows that the intensive 24 hours just keep going but have a look at Jesus face.  I think the artist has got it perfect.

It is like that Jesus is going … yep, I’m tired, I didn’t get the good night sleep I needed, but I’m still going … just … but I am still going.

So let’s have a closer look at the last 8 hours of this 24 hour day.  After the overnight storm, what should have been a two hour boat ride was much longer.  Obviously the boat has been blown off course and Jesus and the disciples finally reach the outer side just as dawn is breaking. 

And they are met there … not by the crowd but rather just an individual person – whom Mark describes as demon possessed or crazy.  I wish I had more time to unpack this story of exclusion vs inclusion, fear vs caring and pigs jumping in the lake … but I don’t.  Maybe I need to come back and do a whole sermon on it because I want to focus a bit more on the next part of the reading… but a quick observations that connect with our reflecting on work/life balance.

I found it funny that although Jesus did a great thing here – he helped a person that was struggling with mental health and inner demons for years, you would think that the locals would be excited.  You would think that just like the crowds on the other side of the lake that the local here would be lining up to bring to Jesus their sick and needy and yet that not what happened.  Look at the text … they were “afraid” and then pleaded with Jesus to leave the region.  Why is that?  Ok … I get the afraid because Jesus just did a supernatural miracle … but if healing this man was a good thing, why ask Jesus to leave?

I have a theory.  Often when we are busy and tired one of the things we fear the most is … change.  When things change we have to deal with a whole bunch of new things and that can be even more draining … so sometimes it is just easier to remain in the status quo. 

So, I wonder whether in this case … rather seeing the good that Jesus offering, the townsfolk were only seeing the complications that Jesus brought such as “pig-a-lanche” and the now non-crazy man.  And I wonder rather than taking the time to embrace the possibilities that Jesus was bringing them, they are being overwhelmed by the disruption to the status-quo and prefer Jesus to just leave so things could hopefully get back to normal.

Do we ever fall into that trap… that in our busyness and jugging so many balls in the air that when Jesus is trying to do something new in our lives or situations, we are tempted to say, “Not now.  Maybe when things settle down, I’ll be open to a new thing but I can’t handle the change at the moment – even if the change is good”.

Hmmm… let’s move onto the main part of the passage for today, the story of the miracle on the way to a miracle … because it highlights an important point that we need to include in our work / family / life balance discussion … the issue of interruptions.

So, Jesus has been asked to leave the region on the other side of the lake and instead Jesus and the disciples sail back to where they came from.  Remember it’s a 1-2 hour boat ride and best guess – they arrive at the other side around 10am. 

 … and guess what was waiting when they arrived?  The Crowd.    

As the crowd presses in, Jairus – one of the religious leaders – approaches Jesus, pleading for help for his daughter.   Jarius was most likely one of the religious leaders who was calling Jesus the spawn of Satan the day before … but now that his daughter is dying he desperately approaches Jesus, asking for help.

And how does Jesus respond?  There is no sarcasm or spite but rather with compassion and grace.  Jesus immediately goes with Jarius to his house.  We don’t know what plans that Jesus did have for the morning, but the immediate need of Jarius and his daughter took precedent.  Jesus changes his plans and responds. 

But the crowds continue to surge – surrounding Jesus as he walked.  I really want to focus in on the amazing courage and faith and perseverance of this unnamed woman but unfortunately her part of this narrative doesn’t quite align with the direction I have taken in this series.  But please hear me that I think this woman is amazing.  Her understanding of who Jesus is and what Jesus can do for her, and her ability to reach out and receive this healing … amazing.

But it is verse 30 that I wanted to zoom in on.  At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him … and asked who touched me.

In the light of what we have been talking about … running ourselves down and not having much left in our internal tank … I find that line about the power going out of Jesus really interesting.  Yes, it could be some spiritual power sensor that Jesus has that goes off each time he does a miracle … but maybe because Jesus had been running on empty for the last 24 hours, he noticed that the little he had in the tank had just been drained.

Putting all that aside, I want to focus on one particular aspect of this narrative … on the how Jesus dealt with the interruption.   Remember that Jesus is walking with a purpose, to get to Jarius’ home to save a little girl from dying.  Jesus’ is focused and on a mission … and along comes an interruption.  An important, worthy interruption – but an interruption, nevertheless. 

Once again, Jesus’ compassion and caring kicks in and he stops.  He stops and looks around, and keeps looking for person who in faith reached out to him.  And then when she comes forward, Jesus takes time to hear her story – the whole truth.  We don’t know how long this interruption went for, but it was Jesus was talking to her that Jarius’ servants come and tell Jarius that it’s too late, his daughter has died.  Jesus engaging with the woman resulted in the daughter dying.

Yes, we could argue that Jesus knew that he was going to raise Jarius daughter anyway so it was ok to be interrupted … but we do not have that luxury of knowing the future.   In relation to our life/family/work balance discussion this raises a difficult question … how do we deal with interruptions?

You all know what I am talking about, don’t you?  Surely we have all had this situations where we are focused on doing one thing and then something each reaches out and grabs our focus.  How do we respond?  Do we keep focused on the task at hand or do we allow the interruption to … interrupt?

It is hard because it all depends on what the interruption is.  I was trying to write this sermon on Friday and was interrupted so many times – trying to work out the implications of the COVID restrictions … but I also knew that I needed to finish the sermon so I could might be able to prerecord the 10:45am service.  It was a catch 22.  Both were important.

I assume you have heard the many theories about the difference between the urgent and the important?  Things like The Eisenhower Decision Matrix or other frameworks?

They are tools to help us make decisions about whether we allow interruptions (ie, the urgent) take priority over the important (the larger focus we are working on).   

Urgent things are tasks that demand our immediate attention.  These are the thing that shout “NOW” and often put us into a reactive mode.  Important things can also be urgent but typically they are about working towards the bigger-picture, longer-term values or goals.   We know that important things are important … but we also can fall into the trap of thinking that the important things can wait a little while we deal with the urgent.

Modern technologies like our phones, instant messaging, etc treats all information as urgent and pressing.  We find ourselves living in an “always on” mode and this desensitising us to be able to discern between the truly important and the merely urgent.

I find that this, combined with my personality, has led me to develop this really bad habit of focusing on whatever is in front of me – whether it is important or urgent … I seem to focus on the immediate.  For example, if I am getting ready to visit someone in the hospital, and a person comes to my office and asks whether I had a moment for a chat … I will say yes because they are there … I can always get to the hospital later.  I don’t seem to do much valuation of whether the interruption is important – I just respond.  And I don’t think that this is always wise.  

So how did Jesus know that the interruption of the woman was an important interruption that was worth stopping and investing time into?  That’s what I want to know so that I can do this too.  How can we work out in the many things that get tossed to us daily, what are the best things, the most important things to focus on?

Well I think that tools such as The Eisenhower Decision Matrix can help (google it) but in Jesus case, I think that even in his tired, run-down state he had an openness to the prompting of the Spirit. 

You see, I don’t think that Jesus needed to know that the woman touched him.  The woman just wanted to stay in the background anyway.  It wasn’t important for Jesus to stop … she was already healed.  Instead, I wonder if Jesus had a prompting from God (his father) to stop.  I wonder if that feeling of power going from Jesus was simply God’s way of hinting to Jesus that it was important to stop and talk with this woman.

One commentary I read highlighted that this woman due to her bleeding problems would have been excluded from all religious and many social activities because of the religious laws about being clean and unclean.  But by Jesus stopping, by asking the woman to come forward, he was not only recognising her faith and courage … he was telling everyone else that she is not to be excluded anymore.  And that would have been really important.  Important enough to stop.

Jesus was open to the prompting of God, and was willing to stop for the interruption and in doing so blessed her with affirmation and inclusion … but the time invested in the interruption meant that Jairus daughter died and required an even greater miracle – that of raising the dead – to make things right again.

And the clock strikes midday … and the 24 hour period ends.  Mark chapter 6 starts with Jesus going home (to most likely crash for a few days) and in verse 2 the Sabbath came.  So the crazy 24 hours has ended.

So what did we learn?  What was the key point that you have taken away from these four weeks?  Just keep pushing as hard as you can go and somehow it all works out in the end?  No?

There has been some good wisdom.

  • We need to discern the right balance between the expectations of our work, our family, of others and even what we need ourselves – because when we get things out of balance, we can run ourselves down.
  • And we shouldn’t run ourselves down too much because you don’t know what is around the corner or when a storm might hit
  • And we need take time to rest when you can … taking time for your body to physically recover but also to do things that refill your inner well.  Be still.
  • And if the storms do hit – call on the one who has the power to calm the storms.  That in a way that is beyond our understanding, Jesus can bring us peace in the midst of the storms.

And from today …

  • Are we too busy to embrace the new things that God is wanting to do in our lives?
  • And how do we discern the difference between important and the urgent?  Between good interruptions and things that are just distracting?

Maybe it is down to the last point.  We need to have space to listen to the still, small voice of the spirit who is willing to guide and prompt us in our decision making.

Whatever is the message that God has stirred within you this series, it is my prayer that we in the midst of whatever the world and/or our lives bring; whether our sea is calm or we are in the middle of the storm … that we might be like Jarius or the woman of faith and know that we can always reach out to Jesus for help.  After all he is the one who can teach us about life, listen to our questions, tell our storms to be still, bring peace to our troubled minds, heal with a touch and even bring life to the things that we think are dead.