He left the next day for open country. But the crowds went looking and, when they found him, clung to him so he couldn’t go on. He told them, “Don’t you realize that there are yet other villages where I have to tell the Message of God’s kingdom, that this is the work God sent me to do?”
-Luke 4:42-43 (MSG)
A few days ago I was doing a long trail run up in a nature preserve along the Pennsylvania/Delaware state line. It's a popular area for biking too. It's not uncommon for me to see mountain bikers along my routes, and because I am out there for a few hours, sometimes I see a biker more than once. This time, I encountered a man biking in the morning on a long Pennsylvania climb a few miles into my run. About an hour passed and I hopped onto a different trail system, this time in Delaware. And here comes the same guy, this time biking towards me on the gravel from the opposite direction. As he neared me, I don't think he expected to see someone on foot a second time during his long ride. I gave my customary "hey again" nod as we passed. But in the 3 seconds we shared, he found enough time to offer a quick statement, almost like an out-of-breath greeting of sorts:
"Jesus, you get around."
And then he was gone. I admit that my first response was one of pride, enjoying anytime that I impress a mountain biker. But about 30 seconds later, I started ruminating on the deep theological truth that my new biker friend had just stumbled upon.
"Jesus, you get around."
I mean, he does, right? Jesus gets around all over the place. And understanding that can keep us full of humility and expectation.
In the original Jesus movement 2000 years ago, I think there were a lot of people that probably said, Jesus, you get around!
Jesus was constantly moving to new places. Not in a frenetic way, but intentionally. He traveled miles and miles throughout his days, traveling to villages and synagogues, to homes and leper colonies. He spoke with a blind beggar one day, and interacted with a political leader like Pilate on another. One moment he's talking with a religiously elite Pharisee, and the next he's having a dignified (and scandalous!) conversation with a Samaritan woman. He went from the backcountry towns of Galilee all the way to the epicenter of Jerusalem. The distances that he regularly traveled were impressive in their own right. But it was the variety of people that he interacted with, and the variety of ways in which he did it, that left such a remarkable legacy. In just a few years, he impacted so many people in so many contexts. He healed. He freed. He fed. He taught. He forgave.
Jesus was always popping up in both expected and unexpected places (but nearly always in unexpected ways).
Jesus. The man gets around.
It was true in the time of Jesus, and I believe it is still true today. When Jesus breathed his spirit on his disciples and promised them that he would be with them always, it was a reminder that he was going to continue showing up all over the place as they did the work of extending God's love, mercy and compassion with their world.
In fact, Jesus multiplied his presence in that moment. But that can be hard to see sometimes, particularly because we have difficulty imagining Jesus at work in people, places, and ways that we aren't familiar with. We tend to act like Jesus is only at work in our church, our country, our sanitized and approved areas.
But Jesus has never worked like that. He gets around. And when we start to believe that, then we start to look for him in surprising places. The other day, I saw Jesus in a new friend- and I have no idea if they even identify as a Christian or not. I saw Jesus in a sunrise, with the reminder that the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. I saw Jesus in a story shared during our church gathering. I even heard Jesus in frustrating rant about systems of injustice from a friend suffering a loss.
Jesus shows up again and again. And in each of those moments, we have the opportunity to let Jesus move beyond our fences. And to be reminded that God's grace is spacious.
Jesus, you get around.
We don't need to have Jesus figured out. We don't need to understand exactly how the holy spirit works to trust that the range of Jesus is bigger and broader than we realize. And maybe that sort of awareness will lead us toward fresh hope and love as a result.
Jesus, help me notice the many places you show up.