“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:9
It had been a long night on the water with very little fish to show for it. He was tired. The muscles in his youthful, skinny back ached from hours of throwing nets and hauling them in over and over again. And he was hungry. Although he couldn’t remember a time in his young life that he hadn’t been hungry. His mother had packed him a few barley loaves, each no bigger than a pita, made with the last of the barley flour, and the men had given him two of the smaller fish in payment for his hours on the boat. He couldn’t eat any of this though. He knew his mother had been hoping for a bountiful catch to help feed their family, and those five loaves and two fish would have to stretch now for all of them. As he trudged up the road, knowing he needed to just take the provisions to his mother, all he wanted to do was go to his special place in the hills and lie down for just a little while. The sun had not yet reached its zenith; surely a short rest wouldn’t hurt anything.
He thought of the wildflowers that would be growing on the hill as he slowly hiked through the rocky ground. Maybe he would pick some to give his mother since he had little else to relieve her worries. He smiled wearily imagining her pleasure in having something beautiful to brighten her day. As he crested the hill, however, it was not wildflowers that greeted him. The entire hillside was packed with people, thousands of people; men, women, and children crowded together. He didn’t understand. This was a remote place, and he had never seen anyone here before. He dropped his basket and rubbed his eyes trying to comprehend what he saw in front of him, but it still made no sense. This was not a feast day, although Passover was not long off. This was an ordinary workday and yet more people kept arriving from every direction. He didn’t recognize very many faces either, although he did see a lame man and several beggars from Bethsaida.
Looking over the crowd, he spotted his mother and little sisters on the next rise not far from a man sitting under the very cypress tree where he had planned to rest. Skirting through the crowd to reach his family took forever, especially since he had to stop periodically to hear what this man was saying. He was talking about God and the kingdom of heaven and forgiveness of sin. As he drew closer, he saw that there were sick people instantly healed by this rabbi’s touch. All around him people were whispering, “It is Jesus. Could this be the Messiah? He says he has come in his Father’s name, that he is the Son of God.” The whispers made no sense to him either. All this young boy knew was the compassion in this man’s voice was arresting and he was drawn steadily towards this voice through the masses. He lost all track of time, his tiredness and hunger gone. He wanted only to see this Jesus. It was a desperate need in him now.
While he was still a distance away, Jesus looked directly at him. There was such love in his eyes, such tenderness. He heard the friends of Jesus tell him to send the people away so they could buy food. Instead, Jesus turned to them and said, “You give them something to eat.” Incredulous, they told Jesus it would take more than eight months wages to feed a crowd that size. Jesus only smiled, never taking his eyes of this boy, telling them to go and see how many loaves they had. Suddenly the boy found himself led to the front of the crowd, where he handed his basket of five small loaves and two small fish to Jesus. Jesus took the gift, blessed it, and the friends of Jesus began to pass out the food to the groups of people clustered on the ground. The boy watched in astonishment as each person took his fill of fish and bread until every single man, woman and child was fed and satisfied. He watched his mother and sisters eat in plenty for the first time he could remember. And when the twelve men came back from feeding the crowd, there were 12 baskets still full of bread and fish. Then he, too, ate. With tears streaming down his face, this boy’s physical hunger was sated, but as he sat in awe at Jesus’s feet, he was full to overflowing with a love and joy that satisfied him completely.
A tired, skinny, hungry boy seeking a quiet rest came face to face with God Incarnate that day. He’d had nothing more to his name that five barley loaves and two small fish, but he encountered Mercy and Grace on that crowded hillside, and he was changed forever.
- When was the last time you came to Jesus, soul-weary and soul-hungry, and simply sat at His feet?
- What “little” is Jesus asking you to relinquish so He can fill you to completion?
- How has the mercy and grace of Jesus impacted your life?
Jesus, thank You that You are the Bread of Life. Thank You for the promise that whoever comes to You will never be hungry. Thank You for Your mercy and grace in my life. Help me to freely give you my “littles” and my “bigs” trusting You to use it for Your glory. Amen. ©