Mountains We Have Climbed: Never Climb Alone!
Think about two words with me today as we consider climbing the mountains in our lives: Support and Supplies. You don’t make it to the top of any mountain by yourself. You need support and supplies.
Every climber takes supplies – climbing gear, boots, clothes, food, shelter, tools, ropes, carabiners, and whatever else may be needed for the climb. Even the shortest climbs requires, at the least, good hiking shoes and a bottle of water. Supplies are critical to making it to the top.
But even the best supplies can’t solve every climbing hazard we might face. So, the best climbers know to never climb alone. You climb with others because that is the safe and most effective way to scale a mountain. If you get in trouble on a steep part of the mountain, you’ll need someone to help. If you fall, if you get hurt, if you get sick, if you get lost….you ‘ll need another person to make it.
And even if you could climb the mountain by yourself, you shouldn’t. We are made for companionship. There’s no prize, no fame, no glory for making it to the top by yourself. In fact, there is much more to be gained by having someone else with you. After all, getting to the top of the mountain is a lot more fun and enjoyable when someone is there with you to celebrate.
Jesus seems to have known all this. Just look at some of the mountain stories from his life and ministry. For example, the Sermon on the Mount begins this way:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Notice that Jesus didn’t go up the mountain to deliver his greatest and longest sermon until there were great crowds going with him. Imagine if Jesus had climbed the mountain to preach that sermon by himself. No one would have heard him! He would have preached to himself. This may seem simple, obvious and even silly for me to point out, but it’s true! And we need to pay attention because sometimes we climb the mountain too soon. Sometimes we climb the mountain before we have the people (support) or the resources (supplies) needed for the climb.
But that’s not the only mountain story from Jesus life and its not even the one I really want us to focus on today. Read another mountain story with me. It’s a mountain story better known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand. (Not to be confused with the Feeding of the Five Thousand which comes about a chapter earlier in the book of Matthew!)
After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 15:29-38)
Again, notice what happens:
- Jesus goes up a mountain. He has work to do, ministry to begin.
- Crowds come to Jesus on the mountain. (And they weren’t healthy people with plenty of money and plenty of resources. These were people with plenty of needs, regular folk with struggles of their own, people with their own mountains to climb.)
- Jesus had compassion for the people and healed many of them.
- After awhile, there was a great need before the great crowd. They were all hungry! But no one had enough food to feed everyone.
- The disciples ask the obvious question: Where do we get enough to feed over 4 thousand people?
Now remember the Feeding of 5 thousand had happened just a chapter earlier. In that story the disciples statement was: “We have nothing!” This time their response is different: “Where are we to get food from?” They know the miracle can happen. They just want to know where to start this time since they are in the desert. I don’t think they question that everyone can be fed this time, they just question Jesus about where to start looking.
And Jesus’ answer: What did you bring up the mountain with you? How much do you have? What supplies did you bring?
Well, they had brought little Bread and a few fish. Not really enough to feed themselves, much less several thousand people. But Jesus knew it was enough. At least, enough to start feeding the people.
Where does the rest come from? Maybe God miraculously made more and more appear every time some of the seven loaves and few fishes were pulled from a basket and distributed. Or maybe it was something much more practical than that. Maybe as the disciples shared the little they had, then all the people began to share the little each of them had. And when everyone shared on that mountain, when everyone shared the supplies they brought, then they found that there was really enough for everyone.
The miracle may have been that food magically multiplied. Or the miracle may have been that when a few people shared, all the people began sharing. And miraculously, when we share we find that there is enough for everyone.
Disciples learned a valuable lesson that day. They had a little. But if they had put themselves first, then they wouldn’t even have had enough for themselves. However, by putting others first, they found that there was enough for everyone. Putting others first sets an example of sharing for all the world to see. When we put others first, amazing things happen…miracles happen! We do well to remember that putting others first is the Christian way, the way of Jesus, and doing so is a witness to the world of what kind of people we are and a witness to what kind of God we follow.
This sharing was possible because of two things that Jesus and the disciples brought up that mountain: they brought support and they brought supplies.
Jesus brought the disciples. The crowds came…by the thousands. Husbands brought wives. Wives brought husbands. Children came with parents. Friends no doubt made the trek together. Everyone came up the mountain with someone…thousands of someones. There was plenty of support if everyone would lean on one another while on the mountain.
And while we don’t hear what supplies the four thousand plus people brought, we do know the disciples did not come empty handed. Their mountain climbing gear was, at the very least, bread and fish. And if the miracle is the miracle of sharing, then no doubt most everyone came with something. And that something through the act of sharing caused food to multiply so that everyone was fed.
Support and supplies…together they make sharing possible, they make miracles possible,
Brothers and sisters, big things happen -miracles happen! – when we surround ourselves with good people, when we lean on the skills and gifts of others, when we utilize the strengths and resources of everyone and everything to climb the mountain before us. I pray that whatever mountain you need to climb that you will not go it alone. It’s not safe. It’s not practical. And you may find that you need a miracle along the journey. So, let’s climb together.