When I run errands (or go anywhere, really), I try to find the most efficient route possible. If I have to make multiple stops, I’m going to make sure that they’re completed in the correct order so that I maximize my time and don’t waste extra energy back-tracking or going out of my way when I don’t need to. Because this is the way that I do things, I’m amazed that not everyone follows the same patterns that I do. Some people don’t plan ahead and end up going with the flow. Or they like to use the errand-running or shopping time for moseying—not me.
When I read the Bible, I assume that Jesus traveled the same way that I do. He was on the biggest and most important rescue mission ever, so I believe a lot of strategic planning was done at every stage of his journey. Every move he made was thoughtful and intentional, it just didn’t look how I would’ve done it, and that’s a beautiful thing.
“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria.” John 4:1-4 (NIV)
Geographically, the most efficient route for Jesus to get from Judea to Galilee was to pass through Samaria. Because of the cultural and societal prejudices between Samaritans and Jews, many Jewish people took the long route that added days to their journey just so they could avoid the people they viewed as half-breeds. If they did pass through Samaria, they did it quickly, like ripping off a band-aid.
But Jesus took a different approach. He went through Samaria—he had to go through Samaria—because he wanted to meet a woman who was drawing water from at a well on that fateful day. He wanted to show his love to a people who had been shamed and ridiculed for years. Jesus was ready to restore the identities of those living in this Samaritan town.
It was the middle of the day and she had come out to draw water when no one else was around. Jesus sat down and spoke with her. He had a face-to-face conversation with a woman who was not only shamed by the Jewish people because of her race, but was ostracized by her own people because of her actions. For a Jewish man to sit down and treat her like a human being was an incredible act of grace, compassion, and kindness. And this one conversation changed the entire trajectory of her life. And, because her life was changed, an entire town was changed.
Because the town responded so favorably to the message of Jesus, he spent two days there. His mission to get to Galilee was important, but reaching and restoring the lost was more important than any delay this interaction might have caused. The disciples might’ve thought that this was an odd detour, but Jesus was exactly where he needed to be.
While he was here on earth, Jesus often went out of his way for people. Even when he was on a journey, he would take the time to respond to the needs of the people—giving an encouraging word, hope when they were desperate, and restoration and healing for all who wanted.
But I tend to not go about my day like Jesus did. If something is inefficient or detracts me from my mission, I often get frustrated or annoyed at the interruption. But reading stories like John 4 helps remind me that my to-do list doesn’t trump the needs of those around me. My hope is that as I spend more time with Jesus, I will have the grace to stop and be with people even when I’m on a mission. I have a long way to go in this but, thankfully, he has grace for me as I’m trying to walk this out.
Let’s choose to take a strategic look around us this week and see each interaction (interruption or not) as an opportunity to show grace to those who need it.
Who do you view interruptions?
How has Jesus gone out of his way for you?