For a few years, we’ve read a story (or a portion of a story) from the Jesus Storybook Bible to our boys before bedtime. In that span of time, we have journeyed through that entire Bible story book over and over. Some of the stories sound so familiar that I can disengage from listening–sometimes thinking instead about what I need to do after my children go to sleep–and then check back in when it’s time to pray.
But recently, one of those stories gripped my heart, the one about the miracle Jesus performed with a few loaves and fish to feed thousands of hungry people.
As my husband read the story to our boys the other night, with one son sitting on each of our laps, I began to wonder if any other people had brought food with them that day. Surely somebody had–surely some of the adults had snacks with them, for themselves or their children. Parents tend to look out for their kids; moms look out for their families. But we don’t read that anybody else approached Jesus with food to share on that day, when the disciples despaired of acquiring enough to feed everybody. I wondered why.
Maybe they didn’t expect Jesus to be able to multiply the small measure of food they had; maybe they had no idea that Jesus could or would use the meager portion that they brought in order to help thousands. Maybe–as G.K. Chesterton said about us human beings–they had sinned and grown old and no longer could envision something so astonishing as Jesus (the very miracle worker whom they came to see and hear) producing something from hardly anything. Maybe, too, they kept whatever they brought to themselves, afraid to release their provisions even to this One who had healed sickness and after sickness, restored person after person to health. Maybe out of fear, maybe out of small faith…maybe–as author and activist Shane Claiborne might say–they lacked “prophetic imagination.”
But that little boy who brought his offering–small indeed but (from what we can see) all that he had–dared to hope that Jesus could take those bits of food and do more than any mere human could accomplish. He dared to hope that Jesus would take notice of his offering. He dared to hope that Jesus could use him. He dared to believe he had something meaningful to offer.
I think it’s no coincidence that a pivotal figure in this story is a child. A child who dared to imagine beyond anything he’d ever seen or experienced before…
I long to be like that boy in this story, the one who stepped forward and gave of himself–who shared without fear, who risked with hope. Not fixing my eyes on the small-ness of what I have to offer but, instead, on the big-ness of the God who can make something out of nothing and then give it to us as a gift.