Remember in the old fairy tales when a young man sets out on his journey and then snubs the old, haggard beggar woman by the side of the road? We later discover the beggar had a secret identity and because the ‘hero’ was only focusing on himself and his great plan, he ignored her at his peril.
One of the wonderful things about Jesus is that no-one is too ugly, too old or too ‘insignificant’ are they?
You may recall that on the way to help Jairus’s daughter (who was very close to death), Jesus was delayed because a woman who was behind him in the huge, thronging crowd, touched his clothes. (Mark 5: 21-43). She believed that by doing this she would be cured of the chronic affliction she was suffering from. Her illness was an embarrassing and unpleasant one wasn’t it? Who wants to be admitting to something as personal as that in front of a crowd of people? She may have thought that Jesus was in such great demand that he wouldn’t have time for her, so she’d just get in as close as possible, undetected, and then as subtly and swiftly as possible, touch his garment. What she hadn’t reckoned on though, was the fact that Jesus did notice. He stops abruptly, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ The woman is terrified – she’s been caught in the act! She doesn’t want to admit it, but Jesus isn’t going to let the matter drop!
You would have thought that being on such an urgent mission to help a very sick little girl, Jesus would have just ‘let it go’ rather than halting in his tracks and demanding that the ‘culprit’ must reveal herself! How much time does this interaction take up (or ‘waste’ as I’m sure some of the disciples were probably thinking!). The woman was cured after all, and nobody needed to know anything about it, she could go home and live a normal life, a life no longer blighted by constant bleeding. Jesus would have got to Jairus’s daughter in time, before she died.
But Jesus demands to know: ‘Who touched me?’
The disciples, interestingly, haven’t seen her and think he’s gone a bit mad – the crowd is vast and jostling; it could have been anybody! But Jesus won’t be put off; he knows that someone in that crowd has not touched him by accident – this person is in fact desperate for his attention; she has been suffering for a very long time and needs more than just a ‘cure’, she needs to know that there is a God and this God cares very much indeed. Her life matters! He cares about each and every person – nobody has a greater priority over anyone else. Astonishingly, even a dying little girl did not have priority over a woman who had a chronic illness.
And yet, we know, don’t we, that the girl too was saved. Not only was she saved but raised from the dead! Of course he hadn’t forgotten her!
This story is multi-layered but the thing that really struck me was this: do not get side tracked by the so-called ‘mission’, it is not the end goal that matters but the individuals you come across along the way. This ‘mission’ can come in many forms. Perhaps you have started a new job and are trying to learn the ropes and do the best you can, or maybe you’ve been asked to represent your church at a special service or are involved with running an activity or fund-raising event of some kind. It could even be something really simple like you’re on your way to the supermarket or the dentist! You see someone ‘along the way’, someone who is in distress and needs some words of kindness – they need you to notice them, but you, in your haste and conviction that you’ve got to focus solely on the task you’ve set out to do, barely acknowledge them. But imagine if that was an opportunity to share the love of Christ to someone who needed it – someone who was perhaps desperate and at the end of their tether – someone longing to know that this world isn’t a pointless waste of time.