Normally my mother wouldn’t have let me go off like that, but she was busy with the new baby and just wanted some peace and quiet. So when she knew I was going to be with the neighbours, and had made me promise not to wander off on my own, she gave me some lunch and sent me on my way.
Now, let’s be honest, listening to preachers isn’t my favourite thing to do (synagogue on Sabbath is normally quite enough, thank you) but there’s something about the excitement of being in a big crowd that gets under your skin and makes you feel all prickly waiting for something to happen. And when I actually started listening to the teacher instead of just watching everyone else, I was surprised. I found I actually wanted to listen to him. Not that I understood everything, mind you, but as I listened to him, I started getting ideas that I’d never had before. The rabbis always taught us a list of rules for pleasing God, which they called the Law. But when I listened to Jesus I no longer saw the law as a boring dreariness that wanted to suck all the fun out of life, but as something like an egg. This egg is pure and perfect and white, and very easy to break, but it was never meant to be polished and shiny and sitting on a shelf. An egg treated like that grows cold, and the life inside it dies. Eventually it is rotten, but people spend their whole time tiptoeing around it at a distance, for fear of knocking it down from its shelf and shattering it. The stench is terrible when that happens.
But that is not what it is for. An egg is meant to be kept warm, close to the heart, so that it can nourish life. And then, at just the right time, it hatches, and out of it comes the light and life and love of God, enough to fill the whole world. And this teacher, Jesus, was the hatching of the egg, but so many people couldn’t see it because they wanted their egg, I mean the Law, just the way it had always been.
The day wore on, and people were starting to get restless and hungry. I could see Jesus quietly talking to his disciples out the front, and, being only small, I slipped between people to find out what was going on. When I got close I realised that they were talking about how to feed so many people. Suddenly I knew what I should do. It seemed ridiculous, when I took it out and looked at it, one boy-sized meal, two dried fish and five little loaves. What use could it possibly be? And did this mean I would go hungry? For a moment I thought of slipping off and eating it myself, but I remembered what Jesus had been talking about, and the picture in my mind of love and life and glory, and I wanted to be a part of that, so I offered up my lunch.
After that, things happened fast. We were all seated in groups on the ground, Jesus gave thanks to God for the food (my lunch!!) and then the disciples started handing it out . It seemed ridiculous, maybe a few people could have some if they had only a mouthful each, but it wasn’t even enough to feed Jesus and all his disciples! Except it was. I still don’t understand how it worked, but Jesus did something amazing, because there was plenty of food for everyone. I got my lunch back again, all I could eat, but I could hardly eat in the excitement of watching my lunch stretch to feed so many people. It was like the feast of Heaven. And sometime in the middle of it all Jesus looked at me with a smile so big that it held all the wonder and love and life he’d been talking about. I knew that even though I was just a little boy, I had understood him properly.