This was one of my favorite stories as a kid. Probably because every time we heard it in Sunday school what started out in the baskets as five stale dinner rolls and two plastic fish “miraculously” turned into enough Saltine crackers and Swedish fish for all of us to snack on by the end of the story.
For this particular sermon, however, the pastor decided to take a different angle on the story. He zoomed in on the little boy whose lunch was the vehicle for the miracle. The pastor extolled the virtues of the little boy who heard that there was a need for food for a giant crowd of people and ran up to one of the disciples, named Andrew, offering to share his lunch of five small loaves of bread and two small fishes.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages[a] would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
As I listened to the sermon, I appreciated that the pastor had gone the extra mile to give us a new perspective on an old story by highlighting the fact that God will often use an “unlikely, regular person, even a young child” to do great works.
My “kick it up a notch” brain, however, took things to the next level and I was struck with the thought “well, who do you think packed that little boy’s lunch?”
It HAD to have been his mom. Who would make sure that the necessary food groups were covered and that a growing boy had enough food to fill his stomach with him when he left the house? It HAD to have been his mom.
What if she had simply rolled her eyes and smiled as she let him leave the hut that morning with nothing more than a jar of honey stashed in his pocket? What if she had spent too much time picking flowers in the field the day before and failed to make it to the market to buy the fish? Worse yet, what if she was tired when the rooster crowed in the morning and she decided not to get up off her sleeping mat and wrap the stinky fish for her son? What if she had or spent too much time the day before chatting with her friends at the well and ran out of time to mix up the dough for the loaves?
But she hadn’t. Her little boy came prepared to spend the day listening to Jesus teach, with enough food intentionally packed and sent to sustain him for whatever the day’s activities necessitated.
The kicker–Jesus knew she wasn’t going to let that little boy down. He knew she was going to be faithful to do her part despite her not knowing she was sending her son prepared to be an integral part of miracle.
It gave me a new perspective and filled me with hope knowing that what often feels like endless planning, preparation, grocery shopping, keeping up with the laundry, wiping down toilet seats and scrubbing toothpaste spittle can have great effect in God’s kingdom.
I wish I could shout words of hope to all the moms–or in our case the dads– out there who gag through spreading mayonnaise, touching slimy lunch meats, and squirting ketchup on bologna sandwiches in the wee hours of the morning so their little ones will be nourished during the schoolday. For making sure the lunch money is there. For not forgetting to get “those bagels” or the bread “without the seeds” so their picky eater won’t go hungry.
I think what touched me about this story and got me so excited to find this total mom text-to-life connection is that it gave me encouragement as a plain, simple, cape-less, medal-less, salary-less, award winning-less, TV show-less, regular ol’ mom.
I know I’m not the only mother out here who gets discouraged by the mundane dailyness of our tasks. I hear it from other moms. A lot. Like a lot, a lot. Why do we feel so unworthy for washing clothes, providing food then cleaning up the messes our families make while consuming it? Washing sheets, applying band-aids, driving and dropping off/picking up, or scrubbing the tub (once or twice a year)?
Yes, I took some artistic liberties making assumptions about this story, but Max Lucado does it too and a lot of people buy his works. The Bible says nothing about a mom packing the little boy’s lunch. But I think that the Holy Spirit guided me down this train of thought to give me, and hopefully you too, some hope and encouragement in the imagining of it.
This story is an inspiration and reminder to me to be faithful in my daily tasks. To remember that every action counts for eternity. And whether you or I ever know it or not, our making yet another “boring” PB&J could end up being as famous as that lunch of five loaves and two fish prepared and packed centuries ago…