Pack a lunch

The young boy’s mother didn’t have much to pack for him that day, but she put all she had in a basket. She looked at him as she put the food into the basket and saw something shining in his eyes she’d never seen before. “Son, tell me more about this man you’re going to see,” she said.

The boy, a scrawny lad of no more than ten, looked up at her with his bright, dark eyes, but said nothing for several seconds. Then he looked out the door toward the sea. Their small house was not far from the sea where his father went every day to fish. His catch had not been enough to feed their small family recently, but the boy knew that if he could only meet this man they called Jesus, everything would be all right.

Finally, the boy answered her. “I am going to meet Jesus today. I want to give him our bread and fish so he can help Papa catch enough fish to feed us this year.” His mother smiled and handed him the basket. “Go then. Who knows? God go with you, son. But be home before dark to help your father with his nets.”

The boy took the basket and ran out the door toward the mountain in the distance. As his mother watched him, she saw people coming from every direction. She began to worry that her boy would be caught up in some terrible mob, and she cried out for him to come back, but the wind from the sea carried her voice away. She watched her son running toward the mountain with the others until she could see him no longer.

The boy was so excited as he ran up the grassy slope at the base of the mountain. He had glimpsed some of the men he knew walked with Jesus. He worked his way through the crowds until he found one of them, a man called Andrew who he’d met one day in the village. The boy tugged on Andrew’s sleeve until he turned to look down at the boy, saying impatiently, ‘What do you want?”

“I have these barley loaves and fish to give Jesus,” the boy answered as he tried to catch his breath. Andrew took the boy by the arm and made his way through the crowd to the place where Jesus sat with the rest of his men. Andrew knew that Jesus wanted his followers to feed the crowd, but he realized that all they had combined was not nearly enough to begin feeding the thousands of people who had come to meet Jesus that day. The boy felt a wonderful warmth of love when he saw Jesus looking at the multitude of people. Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9)

The boy watched, astonished, as Jesus took the basket from him, patted him on the shoulder, and blessed him for his offering. Jesus instructed his men to have the crowd sit down. When the multitudes finally settled down, “Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” (John 6:11)

The boy sat with the others, eating the food Jesus had blessed. He was happier than he’d ever been before. The bread and fish tasted better than ever, and he had a feeling of peace that he had no words to express. When he finished all he could eat, he ran up to Jesus to ask if he could help clean up. Jesus sent him with eleven of His followers to gather the leftovers. “Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over from those who had eaten.” (John 6:13)

When the boy came home late that afternoon, his mother was anxiously watching for him to return. She finally spotted him among the crowd coming away from the mountain. She was stunned when he retuned her basket filled to overflowing with fragments of bread, so much more than what she’d packed for him. She smiled but looked puzzled as she shook her head, kissed her boy, took the basket from him, and watched him run toward the sea to meet his father coming to shore in his fishing boat.

The mother watched her son help his father pull the boat onto the shore. Through the crashing of the waves and cries of the seagulls, she heard her son tell her husband all about the miracle Jesus made happen that day. She did not understand any of it but thanked God for giving her something to pack for her son to give Jesus that day.

(I imagined this story as the backdrop to the account in John 6:1-14. I pray it blesses you with a new perspective.)

Testimony (proof, evidence, witness, proclamation of personal experience)

When I was 13, no longer a child but in that in-between, awkward phase of trying to learn how to be me, I met Jesus for the very first time.

Having been raised in a church, I had heard about Jesus all my life, although it seemed to me that we were supposed to be mostly interested in God. God was the creator, and all those old testament stories warned us not to make him mad. When the preacher mentioned Jesus, he just seemed like an afterthought, a side story that really was too messy and complicated to focus on. In fact, everything about Jesus made me (and apparently everyone else) uncomfortable.

When I was 12, I went to church camp, not because I wanted to get closer to God, but to be with my girl friends for a week-long sleepover, and much more importantly, to meet cute boys. We had chapel each day, and along with most of the other kids, I told the leader that I had given my heart to Jesus. Soon after returning home, I and the others who had been “saved” at camp were baptised in water. I barely remember any of it because it just wasn’t that important to me. I see now that I was only doing what I thought was expected.

Sometime in the following year, I got involved with a youth praise group doing a production of “Pass It On,” a musical with lyrics I could relate to. I didn’t think about it at the time, but singing praises to Jesus began to open my heart to a yearning for something to love outside of my own self-absorbed focus. Also, the true love some of the kids had for Jesus made me curious. I see now that their sincere praises, sung out to Him, brought the Holy Spirit among us, like an enticing fragrance I couldn’t identify but wanted more of.

After we finished performing the Pass It On shows, I went with our youth group to another church for a revival service. Again, I didn’t go to be revived spiritually. I went to be with my friends, no doubt intending to make fun of anyone else I thought wasn’t as cool as me. I had no idea that God had a completely different experience in store for me that night.

The preacher told us the simple gospel account of Jesus, how He chose to leave His perfect home in heaven with His Father, to come to earth, knowing He would be despised, rejected, and ultimately die a horrific death on the cross. When I heard the preacher’s words, something shifted deep inside my spirit. I realized the truth: Jesus had died for me! He made the choice to come to earth knowing He would die in place everyone who has ever lived on earth, knowing that most of us would reject Him totally. In that moment, I understood that Jesus had already, once and for all eternity, died for me. His death on the cross was a done deal. And He had given me complete freedom to either reject His sacrifice or accept it. What pierced my heart was realizing that by rejecting Jesus, by brushing Him off as irrelevant to me, I could not erase His sacrifice. Whether I chose to care or not, He died for me!! Jesus’ heart of sacrifice for me, knowing how self-centered and rebellious I was, broke my wicked, selfish heart. I couldn’t run fast enough to the altar to fall on my knees in humble adoration of the Savior I’d never known before then.

From that day on, I have always known He was with me, especially in my loneliest, toughest times. It is my relationship with Jesus that sustains me and gives me the courage to do what I know to be right. Jesus is not only my Savior, not only Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing; Jesus is my constant, never-changing friend, always ready to listen to my cries, answer my questions, protect me, and comfort me. Jesus laughs with me when I am amused. He gets my jokes, doesn’t mind my off-key singing, and He loves me even when I don’t love myself. When I was younger, I often tried to run from His love, thinking that I had better things to do than draw close to Him. But He was always patiently waiting for me to come back to Him. Over time, I have realized more and more, that coming back to Him is the only way I ever find any real peace.

Jesus died for each one of us. His sacrifice is an eternal, unchangeable fact. Everyone who hears the good news, that Jesus died to save each of us from a life separated from our Father God, has a choice to make: accept Jesus’ sacrifice, His free gift of life, or throw it away and find your own way to eternity. Either way, He is there waiting to give you the peace that surpasses understanding. The choice is yours….