One of the hardest things for me to deal with on a regular basis is interruption. As in: I have a plan for the day, and it’s going to look a certain way, but then something (or someone) comes along and interrupts that plan. And I have to either let go of my plans and pivot or I have to fight hard against the interruption in order to return to my original plans (and usually fail). I typically end up frustrated and flustered.
What would Jesus do?
This made me think about how Jesus would handle interruptions. I love how God works because literally the day after I was wondering about this, I happened to read this story in Matthew 14. It’s right after John the Baptist (Jesus’ cousin) gets beheaded, and Jesus is attempting to go away to a solitary place (presumably) to mourn. And, He gets interrupted…
Read along with me to see how Jesus handled his plans of solitude going up in smoke.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.Matthew 14:13-21
Can you think of a more frustrating interruption? Jesus is in the midst of mourning His cousin, attempting to get away to a private place, and the crowds are following Him, clambering at Him.
Inconvenient doesn’t even begin to cover it.
But how does He react? Verse 14 says that when He saw them, He had compassion on them.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not my first reaction when someone interrupts my plans for the day.
When I wake up early to read my Bible, and the moment I sit down with my tea I hear Finn scream from his room: “MAMA! MAMA!” My first reaction is not compassion. It’s annoyance.
When I have plans to get a lot of writing done during nap time and one (or both) of the boys decide they’re not going to nap, it’s frustrating.
If I’m trying to work through some deeper issues in my heart and mind, and my kids are clambering all over me, it’s overwhelming.
But I don’t see any of these reactions from Jesus in this story. So, why did Jesus have compassion on them?
Jesus considered the people more important than Himself
First of all, we know that Jesus is completely selfless. He was so filled up by God’s love that it overflowed to the people around Him. This is what God calls us to do as well.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”Philippians 2:1-4
Jesus truly values us as more important than Himself – that’s why He laid down His life for us. And He calls us to do the same for each other.
In many ways I value my time, my comfort and my own self too highly because if someone impedes any of these things I react with frustration and annoyance. If this is the case, it’s probably because I’m not overflowing with God’s love – perhaps because I’m not connecting deeply enough with my Father or because I’m so distracted with my own self!
In order to value others above myself, I need to value my time with God above all else.
We know that this was already a habit of Jesus’ – to get away early in the morning to connect with His Father and get filled up for the journey ahead (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).
If you’re feeling easily angered, overwhelmed by others’ needs or annoyed at the prospect of doing anything outside of your comfort zone, it’s time to evaluate your time with God. Are you filling yourself up deeply with the Lord? Are you overwhelmed by your circumstances or are you overflowing with His love?
If you want to read more deeply about God’s love, head to this study on Ephesians 1.
Another reason Jesus had compassion on the crowd:
He saw their true spiritual state.
He saw they were harassed and helpless.
Another verse earlier in Matthew shows us what He saw when He looked at the crowds:
Jesus had compassion because He saw the people for what they were: distressed, weary, troubled, wandering.
They were like sheep without a shepherd. They needed guidance, sustenance, protection and comfort.
Does this sound like anyone in your life who’s prone to interrupting you?
Sometimes, we look at the shallow aspects of people’s needs and fail to see the deeper ones.
The disciples saw clingy, hungry crowds whereas Jesus saw people desperate for spiritual sustenance.
What do you see when your children interrupt you? Or when your husband messes up your schedule? If we just see a clingy, fussy child or a hungry, grumpy husband, let’s look a little deeper. Perhaps there’s a spiritual need that God is calling us to meet.
We know that Jesus always looks at the heart – He knows what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling, and what we’re going through. I think this is why He so often treats people with compassion, because He knows their struggles. And He knows our struggles.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, we are all being harassed by Satan – and we should be cognizant of that as we interact with others around us.
Jesus saw the crowds and knew that Satan was after them. And they were coming to Him. They needed Him.
So He allowed His plans to be interrupted so He could guide them, feed them, and love them.
As we move forward with a day that will inevitably be filled with distractions and interruptions, let’s pray to overflow with God’s love and to have the eyes of Jesus so that we can meet the needs of those around us.