Catching Jesus' Bad Habits: Jesus Procrastinated

 Mark 5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.

 And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Mark 5:35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

 I was always taught that procrastination was a bad thing, right? Ben Franklin said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” When I was a kid, my mom was a hawk about procrastination. If I’m being honest, procrastination was such anathema to my mom, I confess that there were times when I would procrastinate just to make her bonkers. So I can imagine teen-age me being very excited to learn that Jesus procrastinated—“See Mom! Jesus procrastinated! It must be a good thing.” Even so, there were some things I instinctively knew were not to be messed with—going to church on Sunday, weddings, funerals, trips—and for those we just had to make it happen. It’s one thing to procrastinate when it’s a homework that’s not graded, and it’s another to procrastinate when someone else’s life depends on you. Maybe that’s why Jesus’ approach to procrastination really bothers me. At least twice, Jesus procrastinates as He’s going to heal people and they die because of it, including the little girl in our story today. Why would we want to learn procrastination from Jesus?

First, Jesus lives on God’s time. New Jersey Governor, Tom Kean, used to tell the story of William F. Allen who did something miraculous. Kean writes, “Until high noon on October 18, 1883, every rail line ran on its own time. Every train station set its own clocks by the sun. So when it was noon in New York, it was 11:58 in Trenton and 11:56 in Camden, and so on. Pure chaos. Allen was chosen to sort out this mess, and after eight years he convinced the nation to adopt the time zones that we have today.”[1] In fact, Allen’s approach was later adopted by the rest of the world in the 20th century. Jesus knows what time zone He’s living in, and it has nothing to do with Greenwich Mean Time. You see, Jesus knows that God made time, that for God, every moment just is. In fact, when Moses asks God what God’s Name is, God says, “I am.” That’s what Jehovah or Yahweh means, “I AM.” God’s time zone is called “eternity” and Jesus lived to do things at just the right time, God’s time. Also, because Jesus is God, Jesus knows things we don’t—is the little girl dead before he starts towards her house? And Jesus knows that God’s power is greater than our problems, so just because the little girl is dead doesn’t mean she’s beyond God’s power. Leonard Sweet writes, “Humans are reactive to time; God is proactive with time. We operate within it; God operates outside of it. Jesus accomplished his mission in [God’s] time, not theirs or ours.”[2] To live on God’s time allows us to live a life of trust in the Lord Who made us.

Second, Jesus makes time for what matters. One of the things about Jesus that I notice in our passage is that he is not feeling time pressure. In fact, when I re-read the passage, when he stops in the middle of the road, waiting for the healed woman to come forward, I want to scream and Jesus is calm. Part of what makes Jesus extraordinary is that there are some things he encourages us to make time for:

·      seeking and giving forgiveness,[3]

·      working it out when you’re angry,[4]

·      doing quickly what you know God wants you to do[5]

In the case of the woman with the chronic bleeding, I wonder if Jesus stops because He knows the healing is not complete. She has taken the healing for herself, not received it as a blessing. It matters that she knows it was God’s doing—not her own—and after all the ways she has been let down and excluded and misled, it matters that she knows she was worth Jesus’ time. Jesus knows there’s still time to make things right with Jairus and his little girl, because that matters too.

Jesus procrastinated, and in later years, I apologized to my mom for giving her a hard time. These days, I usually procrastinate because I am avoiding some kind of pain. Jesus always faced His pain even though it meant a cross, going through the suffering of the Cross, because Jesus knew we couldn’t ever make it back to God without it…and Jesus knew what was on the other side—abundant life not just for Himself, but for all of us. Jesus did, however, procrastinate so that He was in rhythm with the Father, because Jesus knew that the God of the universe is often “just in time” and loves us “all the time.” So how can we get into the rhythm of God, to live in the Eternal Now with Jesus as our guide? It begins with seeking God and learning from God. We take time out of our lives, so that God can make His time work in us. As we listen and learn from God, we begin to know what matters to God, begin to do what God would want us to do. We begin to live a life like Jesus did. That’s where it gets exciting! Because as those who are living like Jesus did, we can often find ourselves going where we never meant to go, meeting people we never meant to meet, doing things we never meant to do, and so we discover what God meant for us. Like Jesus, we too begin to live with less anxiety because we know what we need will come to us at just the right time. As we live like Jesus, we discover that along the way we find the wholeness and healing God knows we need. All because we have allowed our hearts to beat in time with God’s.

[1]Quoted in Leonard Sweet’s The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us How to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong (2016), p. 17.

[2]Bad Habits, p. 16.

[3]Matthew 5:23–24.

[4]Ephesians 4:26.

[5]Luke 14:21.