I am an outdoor person. I absolutely love to camp. I got this from my parents, they are big campers. They have, of course, graduated in their retirement from more extreme tent camping trips to a luxurious camper. They now do what we call, “glamping”, aka glamorous camping.
But once upon a time, in our old school camping days we were in Colorado for our annual camping trip and we went on the worst hike of my life. I was about 12 and my brothers would have been 15 and 16. My dad had just got this new cool water bottle that had a built in filter, so you could filter water directly from streams and lakes. So of course, for our big hike, we only needed one water bottle because we could just keep refilling it.
The plan was a loop. We packed just enough food for a couple of snacks and a lunch meat sandwich for lunch. We would hike to this lake, eat lunch, then the second half of the loop would bring us right back to the car. Easy peasy, right? We would be back mid-afternoon.
Have you ever tried to read a topographic map of a mountain? It’s really hard to distinguish how far something is with the little thumb size measurement in the corner. This far is approximately a mile.
Needless to say, we were off… by like a lot. This casual 4 hour trip turned into a day long, waterless, remote, hot August hike in the scorching sun. Even the crew on Gilligan’s Island had more to work with than we did. Our one water bottle only worked if there was water near by. There wasn’t. Apparently the second half of our loop wasn’t just circling back to the car like we thought, it was going up and over a mountain.
Angry and dehydrated, we were all fine. In the moment when we couldn’t have made it another step, we crested another ridge to see a beautiful shining green van that meant our salvation had come at last.
That afternoon, I just kept thinking, “Man, it would be nice if a stream appeared out of nowhere, or a kind stranger who was a lot smarter than us would come over that ridge with water to spare. Maybe we should be one of those normal families that just goes glamping in a wifi enabled KOAs for the week.”
I imagine that the crowd that showed up to hear Jesus speak on that beach was not expecting the day they had. They probably thought, well, we will stop by for a bit, maybe he will talk for like 30 minutes or so, then we can be on our way back to town.
Maybe they thought he would merely wave at them from the boat. They just wanted to see him, they have heard so much about him, by this point he’s becoming a local celebrity.
Maybe they thought the water bottle they brought would be enough to hang out there for an hour or so.
But then, Jesus started speaking and time just flew by. You know that feeling when you get so engrossed in something that you have no idea that time is even passing? And before you know it, it's several hours later and you forgot that you were hungry, you forgot that you were thirsty because you were so focused? Every gamer knows what I'm talking about.
But as it always comes back, reality sets in, and you realize that you are mega hungry. You realize that your toddler is “hangry”.
You are in trouble, you are 30 miles until the next exit that has a restaurant sign.
And then Jesus does the thing he does. He turns a disastrous situation on a beach into glamping with one blessing.
The thing that no one ever seems to expect, but that inevitably he always does.
The thing that we often times forget to even ask for because it seems like it's just too good to be true.
The thing that even the disciples are surprised by every single time he does it.
He provides exactly what they need, when they need it.
Jesus shows up in this way that is often so unexpected that we forget to even look for it. Jesus shows up, period.
See Jesus isn’t even having a very good day. Like he just found out that his cousin just died. John the Baptist and Jesus were approximately the same age, their mother’s were close according to the Gospel of Luke, we can only presume that they knew each other well.
So this person who was his kin, who was his friend, was just brutally executed by the Empire… Yeah that evil galactic empire. Why you ask? For telling Herod it was unlawful to sleep with his brother’s wife. Well, actually that just got him imprisoned. He was beheaded as a birthday present to the brother’s wife’s daughter, whom asked for it on behalf of her mother.
So that’s super messed up. And Jesus just found out about it. So he actually gets into that boat because he needs a little alone time. Jesus needs time to process and grieve.
Process what does this mean for him? His ministry is in more danger now than ever. And to grieve his friend, his kin. This man who preached the good news alongside him, who baptized him, who would have played with him as a child. He has been unjustly killed.
So… Jesus isn’t having a very good day. And a crowd swarms around him while he is trying to grieve. I don’t know about you, but I probably would not have had the social grace to carry on like Jesus did. Let alone go and preach the good news so long that people have lost track of all time. But he does.
He does the thing that Jesus does. The thing that is so unexpected. The thing that we often forget that Jesus always does. Jesus provides. Jesus provides exactly what we need, when we need it.
Because Jesus sees the people every time. See the disciples see the issue, they see that they do not have enough food for this crowd, not by a long shot. We often find this with the disciples' response in the gospels. They always point out what is wrong, what the problem is, but have you realized they never seem to have a solution?
Jesus brings the solution to each and every problem as this, “giving the people what they need, when they need it.” Always.
Despite himself, despite his feelings, despite the doubt of the disciples, and despite the limitations of physics, Jesus provides.
We never know what this will look like, we never know when or where, but Jesus always shows up. Shows up with grace and mercy, with food and water, with wine and bread. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Reflection song of the week: