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AN UNEXPECTED PICNIC

 

(Another in our ‘Young Readers’ series)

 

All Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK)

 

Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,

but how far will they go among so many?

― John 6: 9 ―

 

A BUZZ OF EXCITEMENT stirred the air that Spring morning as the young lad left home and joined the crowds of folk making their way out of town, following a footpath through open country, leading to the hillside slopes north-east of the Sea of Galilee. People were talking excitedly of the expected visit of a man called Jesus, a remarkable preacher who could hold the attention of his audience for hours, and who was able to cure people of their sicknesses and infirmities.

 They were not disappointed. The Preacher stood at a high point, commanding a view of the approaching crowds, and His twelve Apostles were close by, ready to maintain order and follow the instructions of their Master. The boy, whom we will call ‘Tim’, worked his way right to the front and settled cross-legged at a comfortable spot, a small tamarisk shrub giving a little shade to his knapsack. He had planned to stay out all day and had sensibly remembered to bring his lunch with him.

 Men and women crippled or blind, deaf and dumb, afflicted in any way, were being brought to Jesus. And as they were blessed by His marvellous healing power He impressed upon them the need to repent of their sins, because sin is a greater evil even than being sick or crippled. Tim, not wanting to miss anything, sat there for some hours and forgot to eat his lunch, never even noticing that he was getting hungry.

 Time for a Break

It was approaching mid-afternoon when Jesus’ disciples realised they were hungry and needed a rest. But ― how did it happen? ― nobody had brought any food! Perhaps they had expected that the Master’s work would be done by midday, when people would make their way home and Jesus and His disciples could relax for a while and find some refreshment down at the shore of Galilee, where they had many friends in the fishing communities.

 But the people seemed reluctant to leave, and late in the afternoon the Apostles said to Jesus ‘send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food. Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat”’ (Matthew 14: 15, 16). The twelve looked at one another in consternation. There was no food, and Jesus knew that perfectly well. They regarded Him with puzzlement, and one of them, Philip, ventured to point out what it would cost to feed so many ― well over five thousand people. (Imagine the cost today to buy burgers for so many!)

Tim, witness to the discussion, was suddenly hungry and reached for his lunch bag, and Andrew, one of the twelve, noticed and had a quick word with him. Turning to Jesus he said ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? (John 6: 9). Tim, sure that something very remarkable was about to happen, gave his simple lunch to Jesus.

 A Historical Event

Jesus instructed the disciples to get the people seated in groups and to leave pathways between them, and to come back to Him when they were organised (Mark 6: 39, 40). The twelve hastened to follow Jesus’ instructions, and the crowd grew silent, sensing that something unexpected was about to happen. They were right. Jesus, holding the bread and the fish in His hands, raised them up and thanked the Heavenly Father for providing the necessary food for His people, asking that it might be blessed.

 Then He began to break the loaves and fishes in half and fill the small wicker baskets normally used for carrying food when on a journey, sending each in turn to distribute his basketful among his section of the waiting crowd. Tim stared in amazement as the baskets were filled again and again, until all of that vast crowd were satisfied. The light was fading and, pleased with their day’s experiences, families began to make their way home, among them many in renewed health and strength after their day with the great healer.

 And what about the surprise picnic? Is the story literally true? Did Jesus actually stand there creating out of one boy’s modest lunch enough bread and fish to satisfy more than five thousand hungry people? Of course it is literally true. The record of the event rests on the joint testimony of twelve reliable men who were there at the time and saw it happen. Perhaps most of the people had no idea of that extra miracle, thinking that the provision of food had been planned beforehand by the disciples.

 But the boy whose lunch had been borrowed knew without any shadow of doubt that he had witnessed that day a demonstration of Divine power, an experience he would never forget as long as he lived

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Copyright August 2009, ukbiblestudents.co.uk

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