How did people figure out
where we would be?
One minute it was just the 13 of us and then out of nowhere people started streaming into the field. There were scores of people; it felt like a festival. Some were sitting down while others were pressing in trying to see Jesus and others demanded that he touch them and heal them.
And he did. He seemed to shake off the news about John as he worked his way through the crowd, a word here a touch there. Eyes were opened and twisted limbs were made straight. A child who had never spoke turned and asked her parents for a drink.
And it was just accepted, that’s what Jesus did, he healed. The people expected it and almost demanded it. But soon the sheer numbers prevented him from going deeper into the crowd.
Jesus found a knoll, the highest spot in the field and began to speak. I always marvelled at how his voice carried and how captivating he was to listen to. Soon the crowd, and by then there must have been thousands in the field, settled down and listened. It never failed to amaze me how the carpenter could do this, even the little kids played quietly as Jesus taught.
His theme that sunny afternoon was all about forgiving those who had done you wrong and not seeking revenge. I was pretty sure he was preaching to himself as much as to the crowds. His message seemed to be colored by the dark events of the previous day.
He spoke about the load you carried when you refused to forgive, about the damage it would do to your soul. How forgiveness led to grace and grace to love.
And the crowd grew, and time flew. Before we knew it, the sun was beginning to dip. Andrew mentioned to Jesus that folks were getting hungry and maybe it was time to send them home. Which seemed like the sensible thing to do.
Instead Jesus said, “If they are hungry, we should feed them.”
“We’ll feed them? Come on Jesus. There must be four or five thousand men here by now and that isn’t even counting the woman and kids. If all thirteen of us worked for a month, we couldn’t feed them.”
“Simon, it always works out when you have the faith to believe me. How much bread can you find?”
I turned to Andrew and told him, “Get the rest of the guys together and find out who has enough food to feed this group. Jesus figures somebody does.”
And so we worked our way through the crowd. Asking, begging, and cajoling. Soon it became clear that there was no magic hamper full of food anywhere in the group. People hadn’t come prepared to spend the afternoon, so no one had brought supper for themselves, let alone thousands of their closest friends.
Eventually we all ended up back at the knoll, empty-handed except for Andrew. He had a kid with him who looked no more than ten or eleven years old.
“Simon,” Andrew started “The best I could do is to find Jacob here, he has five rolls and a couple of small fish that his mother packed for him. He said we could have it, so Jesus would have something to eat.”
I whispered to Jesus that while we didn’t find enough to feed everyone; we had enough for him.
Jesus came over and bent down and spoke to the boy. “Hi Jacob, thanks for offering me your lunch.”
“That’s okay,” came his reply “Mom always packs way too much for me anyway, she’s afraid I’ll go hungry and people will think she’s a bad mother.”
“Perfect, do you mind if I share it?”
Jacob gave Jesus a strange look, “There’s not much there, but you can do whatever you want with it.”
Thomas was a little less charitable. “Share it? There’s not enough for you Rabbi, let alone the rest of us.”
“No, I didn’t mean share it
between us. I meant share it with everyone.
Simon, if you had found a wagon full of food then everybody might have a little to eat. But God would never have been thanked. Even if He provided the wagon.
Trust me, there will be lots for everyone. Find me some baskets and let’s get people ready to eat.”
And so we asked people to sit it groups. There were fifty here and a hundred there. Some were neighbours and friends; others were strangers who had never met before. And as we organized the crowd, Jesus continued to teach.
He spoke about how much God loves each one of us, and how God would take care of our needs, if we would only trust Him. Jesus said faith would never ask us to do more than believe, and then he paused and thanked his Father for the food he had provided for us.
Nathaniel had found a maker of a basket maker who had been on his way to the market with samples of his work. He said he was happy for Jesus to have twelve of his bigger baskets. Only last week, he told us, Jesus had healed his son of a fever and the gift of baskets was the least he could do.
I looked at the crowd and then down at the dozen empty baskets and thought of the rolls and fish. I shook my head and interrupted Jesus and told him we were ready, whatever that meant.
And it happened I don’t know how so I won’t try to explain it. Jesus reached over and picked up an empty basket and when he handed it to me it was full of food, just like that.
And he smiled and said, “Don’t just stand there with your mouth open, get the others to help.”
And the food just kept coming; we’d take a basket to a group and regardless of the size there was just enough fish and bread for everyone. We must have made a dozen trips each, but the day was sunny, people were happy, and time flew.
When everyone had enough, we collected the leftovers and the twelve baskets were full of food as fresh as if it had just been prepared.
Judas suggested that we sell the food that was left over, and Jesus laughed, “Give a basket to young Jacob to take home so his mother will know he didn’t go hungry. Then ask others to take the rest to the poor in their village.”