Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. John 6:5-13
The feeding of 5000. It’s a story everyone has heard. It’s a story of how God multiplies what we give, of how the disciples learned an incredible lesson about God’s economy. It’s a story of God’s ability to take a little and bless it and multiply it beyond anything we could ever imagine.
But there’s a figure in the story that has always intrigued me: the boy whose lunch was used to feed the multitudes.
We don’t know much about him. We don’t know his age or why he was there. We don’t know where his lunch came from. We don’t know if that’s all he had or if he had been munching on it throughout the day.
As a mom, I can imagine how some of it came about. Indulge me for a few minutes as we use our sanctified imagination at the beginning of that day…
“Mom,” the ten-year-old boy exclaimed. “He’s coming! He’s coming to town today! Can I go?”
“Who is coming?” the mom asks, trying to understand her son’s excitement.
“Jesus! Jesus from Nazareth! The whole town is talking about it. He’s here, and I want to go. Can I please? I’ll get my older brothers to go with me! Please?!?!”
“If your brothers go with you, I guess it will be fine. Just make sure you stay close to them. And let me pack a lunch for you to take.”
“Thanks, Mom! You’re the best!”
As the mom packed a lunch for her boys, she never imagined she was about to be a small part of a huge miracle, a miracle that has lived on forever. She was only doing what any good mom would do.
So off the boys went, the youngest talking excitedly along the way. He had heard so much about this Jesus, and now he gets to see it all for himself.
The boys arrive where the crowd is gathering, growing. They are a small part of the crowd nearing 20,000 people (when you include women and children). They find a shady spot on the hill where they can see everything, hear the words spilling from Jesus’ mouth. They listen throughout the day, amazed at the wisdom of this young prophet.
As they listened, they pulled out the lunch and munched on it, satiating their hunger. They noticed no one else had food. They were thankful for the forethought of their mother.
Then, the disciples began walking through the crowd, asking if anyone had bread. The older boys tried to stash away their lunch, hoping the disciples wouldn’t see it, wouldn’t ask them to share. After all, what would their small lunch do for a crowd this size?
But little brother, always eager, jumps up and shouts at the disciples, “We have bread! Peter, over here! We have five loaves of bread!”
The disciples approached the brothers. “Jesus is asking for bread,” Peter says. “Will you share your bread with the Master?”
The older brothers begin to hedge, trying to find a way out of the mess little brother was getting them into. At least the disciples are only asking for bread, they thought. Maybe we can at least hide the fish.
“Oh!” the little boy exclaims. “You can have all of our bread! Five loaves! And we have two fish, too! Take them all to Jesus!”
The disciples gathered up the lunch, lovingly packed by the boys’ mother and took it to Jesus.
And that is what Jesus used to feed a crowd of 5000 men.
As I read this story in my quiet time this morning, my mind flashed to the young boy. I hope I have the same faith as this boy! Here’s what I see in the unnamed hero of this story:
He was willing to give up “mine” for Jesus. The boy didn’t have to give up his lunch. He could have held tight, clinging to the small amount he had. After all, what would five loaves and two fish do for a crowd this size?
But instead, the boy had a generosity mind-set. He wasn’t greedy, wasn’t selfish. If Jesus asked, he was willing to give and see what Jesus would do with his small offering.
He gave more than Jesus asked. Jesus never said anything about fish. Jesus only asked about bread (v 5; see also Mark 6). And yet, this young boy offered up more than what Jesus asked for. He not only offered up his bread, but he also offered his fish.
Isn’t that what God wants? Isn’t that what God honors? He wants hearts that are fully devoted, fully yielded. He wants followers who give above and beyond what He asks. He wants lives that are sold out, all in.
He made a difference with his offering. I think so often we think our small gifts are worthless, that we don’t have enough to make a difference. But in reality, it was his small gift Jesus used to bless thousands!
Think about it. If that was the only food in the crowd and the boy had not given it to Jesus, what would have happened? Wouldn’t it have changed the entire story? Rather than multiplying what we have, Jesus might have made food materialize out of nowhere. The disciples would not have had the blessing of seeing the food multiply as they passed it out. I have no doubt Jesus could have and would have met the needs of the people, but it was the sacrifice of a pure heart that was the set up for one of the greatest miracles of all time.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be more like this young boy. I want my faith to be so firm, my heart so pure, that I give everything. I want to be the one who hears God tell me to give one, and instead I give two. I want to be so excited about my Savior, about hearing His voice, that I jump at the opportunity to sacrifice for Him. I want to have the faith of a child, of this child.
Lord Jesus, thank you for this young boy who so willingly gave everything he had, more than you asked. Thank you for the example he is to us of what you can do through one who is fully devoted, fully committed, fully trusting. I pray you would help my heart to be as pure, as generous, as this young boy. I pray you would take my offerings, my gifts, and multiply them as you did his. Show me how to let go of all worldly possessions, all things, and hold only to you. You are my only desire. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.