“Reuben, don’t run off without your lunch,” Miriam called. “It might be a long day, and you’ll be hungry.” She grabbed her son and thrust a few small loaves of bread into his shoulder bag.
“Thanks, Mum,” he raised his cheek for a quick peck, then flew out the door, snatching up a couple of dried fish as he passed the kitchen table.
“Stay close to your sister,” his mother called after him, but he was gone, eager to join the crowd to catch the Teacher and hear what he had to say today. This man called Jesus was bringing startling news, telling them all sorts of things about the Kingdom of God and how to live in it. Reuben didn’t understand everything he heard, but the excitement was contagious and he joined the growing crowd who were following Jesus.
He caught up with Rachel and together they hurried up and over the hill, but something was wrong. Instead of the crowd they were expecting, the people were disappearing in the distance.
“What’s happening?” asked Rachel when they caught up with a man leading a donkey.
“Jesus and his followers are in that boat out there,” was the answer. They could see the boat out in the middle of the lake going away from them. “The people are going to go around the lake and catch up with him on the other side.”
Rachel and Reuben looked at each other. They knew if they followed they would be very late home, and Mum might not like that. Today, though, they had the time to follow, another day they would be busy with their chores and not able to go. They began to run.
A steady jog took them around the top of the lake, up and down over the rolling hills. Soon they joined in with others who were streaming from all the little villages, all heading in the same direction. People were eager to hear this radical teacher.
At last they got to where they could see Jesus.
“Edge a bit closer,” whispered Reuben. “When we get settled I’ll share my lunch with you and we’ll have our picnic while we are listening.” They strained to hear the mesmerising words. Jesus was talking about a farmer who went out to sow his seed. Reuben and Rachel could understand that, they helped their father to sow his seed every year. Jesus went on to talk about many other things.
Soon the sun was getting low in the sky and they were still listening, everything else forgotten in the excitement. Sometimes Jesus paused, and people around them discussed what he had just been saying. When he spoke, people listened again. The people were spread over the hill side and Jesus’ words travelled to them clearly.
What was happening now? Jesus was having a discussion with his followers and some of them were not happy. A man came along the row where Reuben was sitting calling “Does anyone have any food? How are we going to feed all these people?”
Reuben remembered the loaves and two little fish in his bag; he had forgotten all about them. He hesitated as he suddenly felt hungry, but then the man came by again.
“You can have mine,” Reuben said, “It’s not much, but it might help.”
“Thanks, sonny,” the man said, and took his lunch away.
“Now you’ve done it,” said Rachel. “Now we’ve got nothing.”
“Never mind,” said Reuben. “These other people are hungrier than us; we’ve got more at home.”
Before they could get up to leave, they saw the man coming back with big baskets full of food. How did that happen?
“Plenty for everyone,” he was calling. “A little boy gave us his lunch, Jesus blessed it, and now there is plenty for everyone.”
Reuben couldn’t believe his ears. This was mine, he thought. I gave it away and now it can feed everyone. They ate their fill, and then headed home.
“Race you,” he shouted back to Rachel who was trying to keep up. “I can’t wait to tell Mum what happened when I gave away my lunch.”
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