We were at the festival in Jerusalem when we came upon Jesus. There was quite a crowd around him, so we stopped to look and listen. It was really my wife’s idea; I just wanted to keep moving. But we had heard about the stir he caused at Bethesda (Who hadn’t?), and I guess was curious too, so we stopped.
I’ve got to tell you, once you started listening and watching, you couldn’t turn away. He spoke with clarity on things that learned men don’t understand, and the healings. Leper after leper, the lame, the blind, and the diseased all came and he healed them one by one. Some of these people we had known, or at least seen before, so we knew it wasn’t just a show. Besides, there were far too many of them for it to all be an act.
When he started to move on, I was disappointed to see him go, but it would be good to get back to our routine for the festival. But my wife wanted to go along and she would not be dissuaded. If you’ve got a wife, and you love her, you know when to stand firm and when to give in, so we went. Even the kids seemed drawn to him and had been well behaved as we watched.
We had gotten away to a remote place and he was still teaching and healing. There were people everywhere, thousands of them. We were all exhausted and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for managing to hold out a few loaves and a couple of fish for our family. Most families would be in trouble. They hadn’t brought anything and would have to go get some food in the villages nearby.
Jesus had stopped for a moment and wad conferring with his disciples when he suddenly and purposefully made his way toward us. It was as if he was deliberately walking in our direction, almost as if he needed something from us. I would have sworn he briefly looked me right in the eye. As he grew nearer, I could hear him talking with his guys, they were discussing dinner plans, actually, about feeding the whole crowd. They were quite near and had stopped just a stone’s throw away. It seems Jesus expected his men to feed the crowd and they had nothing. Silly fools, caught unprepared. Of course with a crowd this size, as one of them pointed out, it would take a lot of food.
It was then that I noticed Joshua, my oldest at 11. He had our basket in his hand, looking up at me. He had heard the teacher talking. “Daddy,” he said to me, “we could share our lunch.”
“Joshua, there’s no way our little lunch would make a dent in the appetite of this large crowd. Let’s not bother the teacher, besides we must take care of our own, your sister and mother and I came prepared. It sounds like he and his disciples did not. Come, let’s find a shade tree and eat.
“But Papa, it wouldn’t be nice for us to eat while all these people go hungry. He made all those sick people well, maybe there’s something he can do.”
My wife was looking up at me and I knew I wasn’t going to win this one, you know, when to stand, when to back down. It was a silly idea, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to make an offer. I’m sure they’ll smile at him and send him back to us. “OK, go on and offer our basket.”
He beamed at me and skipped off to the teacher and his group. One of the men stooped down to listen, gazed over at the basket, smiled and shoed him on his way. Good, that’s that. But Joshua wouldn’t be deterred. He tugged again on the man’s tunic. He threw his hands up in desperation, and approached the teacher. I could see him pointing back at Joshua and the basket and talking with the teacher. The teacher smiled, waked over to Joshua, bent down and hugged him, and then Joshua came running back – without the basket.
“He want’s us to sit down.” he said.
“But now what are we to eat!” I grumbled. He was motioning the crown to sit on the ground. He held our loaves and fish high and blessed them. Then he gathered twelve of his men around him. They all had baskets; I still don’t know where they came from. He divided our measly little lunch among them and sent them out.
I watched as these twelve men circulated through the crowd, handing out food. At first they seemed embarrassed, but as family after family after family reached into those baskets and pulled out fish and bread, they were clearly astonished. The man Joshua had spoken too came by our family as we sat there, his name turned out to be Andrew. He thanked Joshua and offered him some for our family.
“Not too much Joshua, save some for the others!” I said, instinctively, although it seemed silly now. But Joshua either didn’t hear or realized how ridiculous my instructions were based on what we were seeing. After all, Andrew himself had already handed out more than our basket had contained. Joshua reached in and pulled out one large loaf and a huge fish fillet, I swear it was larger than either of the fish we had given. Off Andrew went, offering and giving food to dozens, no hundreds more.
We had eaten and were satisfied and those twelve were still at it, handing out food. Actually, we had leftovers, and they came back around and filled those baskets back up again with what was left over. They made their way back to where the teacher was, but he was busy with the people. They sat down, obviously worn out from their waiting tables. They didn’t talk, instead each of those twelve men sat there, looking at their baskets, smiling in disbelief. It was a sight to see.
Later, Andrew came back by with his basket, rather our basket. He thanked us quite a lot and left the basket with us. It had been ’emptied’ several times over that day, yet returned to us heavier than before. He thanked us again with a smile and ran back to the master.
“See Papa, I knew he could help. Thank you for letting me go!”
I just grinned. And to think, if I had gotten my way, we wouldn’t have followed this silly man out to the wilderness. And I would have missed out. And if it weren’t for the foolish faith of a boy, there wouldn’t have been a miracle that day.
We went on our way, back to Jerusalem for the feast. The day stuck with me as time went on. We heard more rumblings about that Jesus for a while, but it died down. I never did hear what happened to him. It wasn’t until years later, when a man named Paul came to the synagogue that it all came together for me and I truly understood what I had been a part of that day.