On the Way Serving
I was talking to another minister the other day when he told me about hearing a speaker recently talk about serving others “on the way.” (I don’t remember the speaker’s name, so if any of you recognize this and are bothered that I am not giving credit here, that’s why.) My friend said the speaker talked about Jesus often serving others as he was on his way somewhere else to do something else. It wasn’t (or did not appear to be) his primary purpose. Look at these examples.
Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10)
Mark reports a stop by Jesus and his entourage in Jericho . . . but nothing he said or did there. On his way out of town (presumably to make his way to Jerusalem because the opening of Mark 11 is the story of his parade-like entry into Jerusalem at the end of his public ministry), Jesus encountered Bartimaeus, who was blind. At Bartimaeus’ plea, Jesus restored his sight.
Jesus was on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem when he healed Bartimaeus. The story reads like an unexpected encounter. Knowing what we know about where Jesus was headed and what sort of danger awaited him in Jerusalem, it is reasonable to see Jesus focused on those events rather than a poor blind man beside the road. Even so, he stopped to engage the man.
Over the objections of some of Jesus’ followers, Bartimaeus insisted on speaking with Jesus. Jesus had compassion on the unseeing man and healed him on the spot. Jesus had a serving mindset that noticed and responded to the needs of others.
Samaritan woman at the well (John 4)
Jesus and the disciples were on their way from Judea to Galilee when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well. Outcast and lonely, the last thing the woman expected that day was to meet the Messiah. If anyone in her region had made a list of the people most likely to meet the Messiah, her name would have been near the bottom of that list. And that’s precisely why Jesus met her—to give her the grace she so desperately needed and, of course, it completely changed her life and her village.
I am not about to suggest it was never Jesus’ plan to meet up with this woman. It most certainly was his plan. That none of the disciples were around to interrupt their conversation or otherwise to spoil that sacred dialogue was planned too. In fact, I believe that woman was precisely why Jesus chose to go through Samaria on his way from Judea to Galilee—not because it was the most direct route, but because there was someone there who needed him. In this case being on the way means it was not unexpected even if Sychar was not Jesus’ destination.
Woman with a hemorrhage (Luke 8)
Luke 8 tells the story of a miracle in a miracle. In Galilee (possibly Capernaum) a Jewish leader named Jairus implored Jesus to come to his home and heal his daughter who was at death’s door. On his way to Jairus’ home, a woman who suffered from an ongoing medical issue approached him stealthily and touched his cloak and at once was healed. No plea to be healed like Bartimaeus. No request like Jairus. Not even words of healing from Jesus. Just on the way healing, serving.
On the way serving is . . .
Unanticipated. It happens when a need arises or is noticed. It is unseen one minute but seen the next. I say in the book Compassionaries: Unleash the Power of Serving that seeing a need is one of the principle characteristics of a compassionary. How do we develop our ability to see needs? A serving mindset helps. So do humility and compassion.
On the way serving is . . .
The result of a serving mindset. A serving mindset is a way of thinking and seeing and behaving. It’s the way we see the world around us as part of us and we as part of it. Our lives are intertwined so that when we encounter a person in need, we feel compassion for him/her, not separate from the other person but with him/her.
On the way serving is . . . how Jesus did it, and that is part of the model of serving others he provided. As we contemplate how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus, being open to and, in fact serving on the way is part of it. We are all on a journey through life. We choose the destinations toward which we move but it is what we do along the way that often makes the difference . . . in our life and the world in which we live.
What has been your experience of on the way serving? How has your on the way serving been different from other types of serving? Reply to this blog with your story.