This week’s pericope was a long one — John 21:1-19. The disciples are fishing all night long, Jesus waits for them on the beach, there’s a miraculous catch of fish, breakfast, and suddenly we stop talking about the fish and start talking about sheep instead. I needed to whittle down the text to a perspective often glossed over — a view from the charcoal fire.
While I don’t claim to be able to prove beyond a theological shadow of a doubt that Jesus making a charcoal fire represented the time he took to mother his friends, it was a narrative I wanted to explore with Jesus. From what many of us believe about Jesus’ capabilities, he could have called up the perfect cooking fire from the ether at the precise moment the disciples recognised him. It’s a kind of Jesus that highlights our often hidden hope that magic is somehow a part of his genetic makeup.
Instead, I wondered at the miracle of Jesus taking time in the early morning to prepare bread dough, and to get the fire’s coals just so as to bake loaves for his friends. These are deliberate, intentional actions of love and care. He cooks for them, waits for them, calls to them, and feeds them. Like a doting mother, he sees and senses his friends’ exhaustion and frustration and tends to their needs accordingly.
Most of you readers know by now that we lost author and fellow sojourner Rachel Held Evans over the weekend due to complications from an infection. Trying to work on a sermon about Jesus caring for his weary friends while digesting the news of Rachel’s passing felt disingenuous. For all the unnameable cosmic reasons in the universe, it felt wrong. Even if Jesus could come to mother me through the grief, I would still have to wheel around and ask: why not her?
I don’t have an answer.
For now, I can perhaps hover over this scene of Jesus mothering his friends from the beach and wonder at it. Perhaps answers aren’t required in this moment. These long-acting miracles of time and presence practically invite such slow pondering. For that, I’m grateful.