Now this story has a little boy, a huge mass of hungry people, five small loaves plus two fish and a grief-stricken Jesus. What could one even remotely have to do with the other?
Jesus, having just learned of the gruesome execution of his beloved cousin John, had been seeking solitude. What a horrible way for John to die, his head delivered to King Herod on a platter. Herod had made a rash, stupid promise to give his stepdaughter anything she wanted after she performed a provocative dance in front of him and all his high officials and military leaders. She requested the head of John the Baptist. This wicked scheme had been meticulously orchestrated behind the scenes by Herod's wife. Matthew's Gospel account tells us after hearing what happened, Jesus and his disciples withdrew by boat privately, crossing over to a far shore of the Sea of Galilee. They climbed a mountainside to a solitary place to get some rest. I think it is fair to say Jesus might have needed some time to process the loss of his cousin.
But not far behind were the multitudes chasing after him. Even though he sought some respite, when Jesus saw them coming, he was moved with compassion for them. After spending an unforgettable day together, they were all hungry. This was a problem, however, because there was no food available in such a desolate spot.
There were at least 5,000 men, not counting women and children. It's easy to read right over the words "not counting women and children." But actually, literally speaking, women and children didn't count in that society. They were viewed as unimportant second-class citizens, having few rights and privileges. That's why they weren't counted.
Now the plot thickens...it's fascinating to note Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do. But he asked the disciples to work something out anyway just to see what they would say. Naturally, their solution was to send the people away to the nearby villages so they could buy food because the disciples certainly didn't have enough money to feed them. This was not an option for Jesus for many reasons. He had just spent hours mingling with these people, comforting them, opening blind eyes, mending crippled, diseased bodies, touching hearts. In an instant, hundreds of lives were changed forever. Emotional bonds had formed between Jesus and this happy crowd.
What did Jesus have in mind? Here is something else that is easy to miss--only one of the four Gospel accounts of this event mentions there just happened to be a little boy present with a basket containing three small loaves and two fish. Jesus took the basket, blessed the food and fed way over 5,000 people with it! He could have done any number of things. Instead he intentionally chose to give a young lad the thrill of his life. And since it is highly unlikely that the child had baked the bread and prepared this basket, his mom now enters the equation. Don't think for a minute that the little guy's mom wasn't equally thrilled to have her meager basket of food singled out and turned into a miraculous picnic for thousands that would be the talk of the town for months to come.
So, who says women and children don't count? They did to Jesus and still do.
Matt. 14: 13-21; John 6:1-15
Read the mom's version of the story of the little boy with the basket of bread and fish. Click onto Talk About Leftovers! under Recent Posts.