“Well, it’s time I told you my story. You probably wouldn’t guess that the turning points in my life were always things I just stumbled on.” The man’s eyes focused intently on his listeners.
“It’s not so many years ago when I was just a kid, following my dad around, learning the trade. There was no doubt I would join him in the business. I remember when I was, oh, maybe three years old, watching my father and grandfather with their crews hoisting the heavy nets into the boats as they set out to sea. Even then I wanted to go with them; even then I knew I would grow up to manage the family fishing business.” The dim light could not hide the glimmer of his smile.
He continued, “Once I had learned how to swim, my dad figured it was safe enough for him to take me on his runs. I helped where I could, or stayed out of the way if things got dangerous. One day when they hauled an especially big catch on shore, my dad thought it better if I kept out of the action, so he gave me a few barley loaves and a couple of fish he had roasted the day before.
“I wandered inland to find a secluded spot to eat my lunch. But there wasn’t even a space to sit. There were people everywhere! I couldn’t believe that many people lived in all of Galilee.
“It was awfully quiet for so many people; the only sound was the voice of a man speaking to them. There were eleven or twelve men behind him. I couldn’t hear everything he was saying, so I decided to wiggle my way in closer.”
He paused, visualizing himself back in the scene as his listeners shifted on the hard stone floor. “Being a fearless kind of kid, I wove through the crowd and stood only a couple yards away from the man. I listened for a while. He sounded like one of the rabbis in our synagogue except he talked about the ‘good news of the kingdom of God.’
“In the quiet, I was afraid they would hear my stomach growl, so I pulled one of the loaves of bread out of the sack my father had given me.
“I started eating when a couple of the men began arguing with the man who had been speaking, saying eight months’ pay couldn’t begin to feed them all. Another one of them came up to me and asked how much food I had.
“He pulled me over to the one everyone had been listening to and said, ‘Here’s a boy with some loaves of bread and a couple fish. But what use is that with so many to feed?’ Exactly what I was thinking!”
He moistened his mouth with a few drops of the foul water they’d been provided. He nodded his head. “Of course, you have heard the story from some of his disciples who were there. Yes, the speaker was Jesus. I gave him my lunch; he smiled and thanked me, and then thanked God. And that day, he turned my child-sized lunch into a feast for thousands.” His listeners nodded in response; yes, they knew the story. They hadn’t known that the friend who shared their cell was that little boy.
“After everyone ate, I ran back to tell my father. He just laughed and shook his head. He thought I’d fallen asleep and dreamed it all. He had to finish up and get all the fish to market, so we left.
“It was a year or two later that I stumbled into another crowd in Galilee, a much smaller crowd, but they were listening to the same man, Jesus, who fed all those people with my meager lunch. I was puzzled, because I had heard he was dead. I was amazed to hear he had actually risen from the dead. And there was the proof right in front of me!”
“Of course, you know the rest. That’s why we’re in this Roman prison. It’s been a privilege to work with you in spreading the ‘good news.’ And a bigger privilege to die with you.”
Then they joined their manacled hands for the last time and gave thanks for the great things Jesus had done with their unremarkable lives.
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