Do you remember the incident where Jesus fed the five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes? I was that boy that provided the food.
It has been twenty years since that day. I want to share a secret that I have been keeping all these years. Jesus knows it too, but he did not say anything. It needs to be said. I need to share the grace of God and release a burden I have been carrying since then. You are allowed to judge me as I have been judging myself all these years. But I only have to remember Jesus’ face as he looked at me after I did this shameful thing that was so small but so great. He knew, yet there was no condemnation in his eyes. He is good and gracious and I want you to trust and serve him the way I have learned to.
I was a head-strong boy of twelve. My father had died when I was nine, and being the oldest, I was expected to help my mother provide for our family. She constantly pushed me to work harder and there was always more work to be done. I rebelled and ran away. I had been enjoying my freedom for about a week when I heard about all the wonderful things Jesus was doing. I went to find him immediately. I was standing in the crowd when he healed all those people. It was so exciting seeing the miracles he did, so I went with the crowds to the other side of the lake. Jesus started talking to everyone. I did not have the patience to sit and listen for very long, so I went to the lake and started fishing. I caught more fish than I needed so I traded them at a farm for some fresh barley loaves. I kept two of the smaller fish for my own meal.
Then I returned to where Jesus was to see if he could do any more miracles. He was done talking and wanted to feed all the people. One of his disciples came up to me to ask what I had in my bag and if I was willing to share it. I gave him five loaves and the two fish. I acted like that was all I had. I thought it was just for Jesus. I needed to look after myself too. But that was my shameful secret. There was one more loaf that I kept hidden in my bag. Jesus looked at me across the people and I knew that he knew. I could have raced after the disciple and given him the last loaf but I was ashamed that I had lied.
The disciples gave him the food. He told us to sit in groups of fifty to a hundred. While we organized ourselves, a disciple made a fire and cooked the fish. Then Jesus blessed the food and started breaking it in pieces. The disciples started handing it around. Everyone got some food. And then they got seconds. And there was still more. I was so amazed, yet embarrassed by my secret. I ate my one loaf making it look like I had received it from the disciples. It was the one loaf that had not been blessed and I knew it. I did not go up for more food even though I felt very hungry by this time.
The disciples went around with baskets and gathered twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Then Jesus quietly came up to me. Everyone smiled because they thought Jesus was thanking me for supplying the food. I could not even look at him. He asked me to eat some of the bread and fish with him! I looked into his eyes and amazed to realize that he was not hurt or angry with me. I was able to eat and we talked about how great it was to be free to enjoy and explore God’s great creation. He smiled at me when I boasted how easy it was for me to catch fish.
When he left, I got up and raced home, ready to face my punishment for running away. I began to seriously help my mother take care of my family. People commented on how responsible I had become. Some remembered that I was the one that had provided the five loaves and two fishes. But I always brushed it off and changed the subject. I never did see Jesus again. I did not seek him out because I felt a shame I was sure I could run away from.
I was able to work on a fishing boat to support my family and to learn a trade. I heard that Jesus had died. It made me feel sad that such a great man should die. I followed the activities of this new group that called themselves Christians. They insisted that Jesus had risen from the grave after he died for our sins. Because I had met Jesus, their beliefs made a lot of sense to me. They were sure persecuted enough, but that made what they were doing even more interesting to hear about. I was told that I could accept Jesus in my heart and have eternal life. I did not feel ready and started avoiding these people.
One incident really affected me. When they first started talking about the Holy Spirit, these Christians got together and starting sharing everything. This was a beautiful thing to hear about, but then something terrifying happened. One man sold a field and joyfully brought the proceeds of the sale to the disciples. Somehow it was found out that he had kept back some of the money. But when Ananias was questioned about it, he insisted that he had given all the money. He then dropped down dead! Some people removed his body. When his wife came in, they asked her if they had held back any of the money. The wife insisted they had given all the money and she dropped dead too! It shook me up so much. My mother was very concerned when I ran away again for a week. I never did explain to her why I did this.
I came back, this time even more intent on being real good. But it was like I was living my life trying to run away from Jesus. A year ago I finally stopped running and dedicated my life to him. I have repented to him about not giving all I had. Now I feel that I am forgiven and I feel so much peace.
You need to hear this story so you too can know how good, loving, gracious, and compassionate our God is.