My father and I only wanted to go and watch. Listen to the Rabbi. Perhaps see a miracle.
We had heard that He had come to our area trying to escape the crowds. We weren’t quite sure where He was, so we brought a bit of food just in case. It wasn’t much. Barely enough to share. Just a fish each and a little bread. I carried the basket.
He wasn’t hard to find, though. We just had to follow the crowd. They were all chattering and speculating about what He might say or do. By the time we had arrived, there were already people in the crowd saying that He had healed them. I didn’t know any of them, but my father said that he had seen one of them, a cripple, begging on the streets of a nearby village while he was trading there. The man was leaping and dancing at the edge of the crowd.
A hush fell over the crowd like a wave, starting with those closest to Him. The Rabbi was speaking. He said many strange things that I didn’t understand. I wanted to ask Father about them, but the crowd was nearly silent, straining to hear His words, and I didn’t dare.
The harsh afternoon sunshine had mellowed into a golden sunset, and the rustling noises of the crowd were increasing. My own stomach growled, and I began thinking about the bread and fish that I held in my lap.
There were men moving through the crowd. One of them saw my basket and said, “The Rabbi has asked us to find food. Have you brought some?” Without thinking, I nodded. “Will you bring it to Him?”
I thought about my empty stomach and the long walk home. I thought about all the people around us. Surely others had brought more food than we had. We only had enough for ourselves. And what we did have was hardly fit for the Rabbi. It was just our everyday simple, coarse bread. It wasn’t far to the nearest village, where He could buy as much bread as He needed for Himself and His followers. It would be far nicer than anything we could offer Him, even if He had come to our home.
Then I thought about how the Rabbi had come to this place to escape the crowds, yet the crowds – and my father and I – had followed Him. I thought about the man I had seen dancing on his newly strengthened legs. I thought about the Rabbi’s strange words about a new kind of kingdom. Without realizing that I had made a decision, I found myself getting to my feet and walking to the front of the crowd in the man’s wake. I threw a belated glance over my shoulder at my father, but he was following and gave me an approving nod as I approached the front of the crowd.
The other men were crowding around the Rabbi, telling Him that they had found no food, when the man I was following pulled me into the crowd. The Rabbi addressed the man, but His eyes were on mine, when He asked, “And you, Andrew? Have you found food for the crowd?”
I barely heard the man called Andrew reply as my eyes filled with tears. I had thought he just needed food for himself. Our little basket couldn’t possibly feed more than one or two people. The Rabbi couldn’t use what I had brought at all.
I heard Him exchange greetings with my father. Then He knelt down so He could look into my eyes. Embarrassed, I rubbed my hands across my cheeks to wipe away the tears that had fallen despite my efforts to hold onto them. He smiled at me. “You are the only one here who was willing to offer me food.”
Surprised, I looked into His eyes, which I had been avoiding. They were looking directly into mine, filled with kindness and humor, but a little sadness, too. “It’s not much,” I said.
“It is everything that you brought,” He replied. “That is much.”
I held the basket out to Him. “You are welcome to it, Rabbi.”
With another smile, He took the basket from my hand. He held the basket up, giving thanks to God, and He blessed it. Then He reached into the basket and pulled a loaf out. He broke it into several pieces and gave them to some of His followers. I expected them to eat what they had been given, but instead they passed it along to others in the crowd. What were they doing? Even if broken into bite-sized pieces, only a few people would get even a taste. The Rabbi did the same with one of the fish, then more bread and more fish were being passed around. Surely the basket must be nearly empty. The food kept coming, though.
I ended up sitting on the ground between Him and my father, eating what seemed like the same bread and fish that I had carried in the small basket. It couldn’t be the same, though. I was sure that I myself had eaten more than the basket had held, but every time the morsel in front of me disappeared, the Rabbi passed me another, or Father did, or one of His disciples, who were sitting nearby.
I leaned back, my stomach full to bursting with bread and fish. The Rabbi turned to me and said, “Thank you for letting Me use what you brought.” Then He turned to His followers. “Gather the leftover pieces and bring them here. This boy and his father should take them home.”
How could there be leftovers? It was a miracle that there was food for all. But the men started coming back with handfuls of bread and fragments of fish. They piled them into my little basket until it was overflowing. Someone must have found more baskets, or perhaps the Rabbi multiplied those like He had the food. When the men finally stopped going to and fro, there were a dozen baskets lined up in front of us, all filled to the brim with bread and fish. Laughing with joy and confusion after saying goodbye to the Rabbi, the man named Andrew, and the others, I carried my own basket home, while Father carried two larger ones, one under each arm.
© 2012 Marianne Giesecke