KENNER, La. (BP)–In the middle of another masterpiece, Leonardo da Vinci laid down his brushes and oils to answer the knock at the door. There stood a neighbor who was having trouble with the water line at his house. He wondered if the great Leonardo — a genius who seemed to know something about everything — could take a look at it. The artist walked away from his easel, picked up his tools and followed the distressed man home. We assume the pipes got repaired, but alas, to this day that masterpiece stands unfinished.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge is said to have had gifts rivaling Shakespeare. On one occasion in the summer of 1797 while in poor health, Coleridge awakened from sleep with a lengthy poem filling his mind, the verses already worked out and needing only to be written down. He feverishly set himself to writing each line before the poem slipped away. Then, there came a knock at the door. Later in his notes, he refers to his visitor as “a man from Porlock” and gives no clue as to why he came or what took place. He returned to the poem an hour later, only to find that while he still retained a vague recollection of the vision, the rest had vanished like the morning mist. The work is Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”
Interruptions. What to do with them. They are the bane of everyone trying to get his work done — and the means of heavenly visitations when we know how to recognize them.
Therein lies the dilemma: how to discern whether the interruption is an opportunity or an obstacle. Will it take us from our work or bring us to our real work?
One of the best-known interruptions in Jesus’ life occurred when a synagogue official got to the Lord with news of his daughter’s illness. “She lies near death,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her so she may live.” Off Jesus went with him, accompanied by a crowd anxious to see Him produce a miracle. With the child so ill, time was of the essence. But someone else needed Jesus that day.
A woman suffering from a type of hemorrhage for many years, who had paid out all her income to various healers to no avail, and who had heard of Jesus the Master Healer, worked her way through the crowd to get to the Lord. “If I can just touch the hem of His garments,” she said to herself, “I will be healed.” As she reached through the crowd, her hand came into fleeting contact with Jesus’ robe. Suddenly, power flowed from the Master into her body. The woman felt something happening and knew immediately she was healed of her disease. Jesus stopped.
“Who touched me?” He asked. The disciples must have been a little irritated at the delay as they answered, “Who touched you? A hundred people are pressing in on you and you ask who touched you?” Jesus looked around for someone special, someone whose touch was not of curiosity but of faith. As His eyes locked onto hers, the woman dropped to her knees, afraid she had done something wrong. “Master,” she stammered, “I touched you. You see, I’ve had this condition….” When she ended her story, the Lord smiled and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole. Go in peace. You are healed.”
Meanwhile, the synagogue official — who has been trying to be patient, but it’s hard because this is his daughter and she’s dying, whereas that woman has had this condition for 12 years and another hour would not have hurt anything — got the news he had been dreading. “Your daughter has died. Don’t trouble the Master any more.” Jesus overheard the bad news. “Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Just believe.” And they walked on.
That day, Jesus did not heal a little girl of a dreaded disease but raised her from the dead, a far more glorious miracle. The interruption which allowed her to die produced an opportunity for the greater power of the Lord Jesus to be displayed (see Mark 5). But it did not always happen that way.
Early one morning before sunrise, after a long day of teaching and healing and an all-too-brief night of sleep, Jesus had walked into the hills to talk with the Father. His prayer time was interrupted by the disciples who had been scouring the area looking for Him. “Master,” said Simon Peter, “come on to the house. Lots of sick people have arrived. You’ve got your work cut out for you today. We don’t have time for this.”
Jesus declined. “Let’s go to the next town,” the Lord said to the disciples. “I have to preach the gospel there also. That’s why I have come.” They walked away from hundreds of people with legitimate needs in order to stay on course with His purpose. Jesus would not let the needs of others dictate His schedule (Mark 1).
That is one of the hardest tasks in life: to know our job and stay the course. To say “no” to sincere offers and requests that we could handle but which would interfere with our primary mission. To reject the good for the best. To welcome the interruptions sent by the Spirit and reject all those that would pull us off course.
There’s only one way to accomplish this and that’s to know the will of God for our lives so well that our focus is pure, our discipline is consistent and our task understood. Only by this path do we come to a point where we may say as the Lord Jesus did from the cross, “It is finished.”
A thousand chores still lay unmet that day, and millions of people remained in darkness, but Jesus’ work was finished. He had done what He had come to do, to die on a cross as the ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28). Let nothing or no one interrupt us from our appointed rounds in telling the world such good news.
McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., and a regular cartoonist for BP Lighter Side.