JESUS SAT with his disciples on a hillside, teaching the crowds. There were about 5,000 men there, plus women and children. Altogether, the crowd could easily have been 15,000 or more. It was late, and they were some distance from the nearest town. Jesus had been teaching all day, and it was getting later by the minute. The disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could buy food, but the Lord said, “You give them something to eat.”
Unprepared to feed the multitude, the disciples wanted to take stock of what they had to eat, so they could bless the people. While they pondered the situation, Jesus caught the eye of a young lad with some food wrapped in a cloth. He smiled gently at the boy, and the lad looked quickly away. He had heard the disciples and knew there was no food to feed the crowd. He ducked his head and his cheeks grew red. If he gave his meal up, who would have enough to eat? There wouldn’t be enough for two, much less the thousands gathered on the hillside. So he kept his head down and refused to look again at the teacher.
To be sure, the boy had heard of the miraculous signs the teacher had done. In fact, he had actually seen somebody healed. But what had that to do with his lunch? Still the boy refused to look up.
Then he heard the disciples say, “Here, Lord. There was a lad with a few fish and loaves, but what is that among so many?” The boy looked up in surprise and saw the teacher’s face looking sadly at him. Then his eyes turned away from the startled lad’s face, and he saw the teacher look kindly at another boy, who was holding out his own measly lunch to the Lord.
“Have the people sit down in groups of fifty,” said Jesus. The boy sat with the nearest group. Soon baskets were being passed around, and one came near him. To his amazement, the baskets were full of fish and bread. His own lunch looked so small in comparison to what was being passed around.
He looked up at Jesus. The teacher’s eyes were looking directly at him, and the lad knew that Jesus could read the intent of his heart. A single tear slid down his face as the boy took a bite out of his own fish and bread. He was sure that the loaves and fishes in the baskets, while no different than his by sight, were much better. For they had been blessed by the Lord. Then he remembered what he had heard Jesus say once before. “It is better,” he said, “to give than receive.” Then before the basket could be passed on, he dropped what little he had brought into it, thankful that he could be a part of the blessing.