The Boy and His Basket
Mark peered into his basket and saw that he had just five barley loaves and two fishes left. Try as he would, he could not get anyone to buy them. The street was crowded with people, it was true, but they were following Jesus of Nazareth out to the fields and seemed to have little time to notice either Mark or his merchandise. They had been awaiting Jesus’ arrival for many weeks and could think of nothing else.
Now Mark, too, wanted to follow Jesus, for who hadn’t heard of His wonderful miracles? Besides, it was said that Jesus loved children very much. If only he could sell his bread and fish quickly, so he could go out with others!
“I’ve waited so long,” Mark said to himself sadly. “And now at last He’s here, and I can’t go to Him.”
At that moment Mark had an idea. Perhaps if he went out among Jesus’ hearers, they would buy his wares. Many of them had come from other places. They must have been following the Master for some time; they should be hungry. Thus he would hear Jesus and do his work, too.
The thought sent Mark skipping out after the crowd. Not satisfied to be just a part of them, he worked his way nearer and nearer to Jesus till he found himself among the men who were known as the Master’s special friends–the Apostles. Surely a small boy couldn’t get in any better spot, thought Mark, immensely pleased with himself.
Suddenly Mark caught the eye of one of the men, who was smiling at him kindly. He quickly flashed a smile in return.
“You’re one of His special friends, aren’t you, sir?” Mark asked with great admiration.
“He has called me to follow Him,” the man answered simply. “My name is Andrew. What is your name, lad, and what have you in that basket?”
“My name is Mark, sir. I have five barley loaves and two fishes in my basket, that I’m supposed to sell before I go home. But I wanted to follow Jesus, and I thought I might perhaps sell them after He has preached to the people.”
All this while the throng had been moving, and now they had come to the foot of a hill.
“Jesus will speak to us here,” said Andrew, and giving Mark a hasty nod he joined the other Apostles, who sat at Jesus’ feet.
Then Jesus began to speak. He told the people to love God above everything else because God’s love and goodness were so great that He could never be loved or thanked enough. He told them to love one another and be kind and helpful instead of quarrelsome and proud. Mark had never heard anyone talk like this before. He sat motionless, his young heart full of the wonderful message.
When Jesus stopped instructing the multitude, He conferred in low tones with His Apostles for a little while. Now Andrew left the group and approached Mark.
“The Master wishes to speak with you,” the Apostle told the boy.
Mark caught his breath. Surely he had not heard correctly.
Andrew nodded. “Come along. And bring your basket with you,” he added, for Mark was so excited that he had forgotten all about it.
In a moment they were in front of Jesus.
“Master, this is Mark,” said Andrew. Mark himself did not dare raise his head. Though he couldn’t have expressed it, he felt he was in the presence of Someone even more wonderful than an Angel.
“Andrew tells Me that you have some barley loaves and fishes,” Jesus said. Mark looked up, trembling, but when he saw the kind eyes and the gentle smile, he trembled no longer. He loved this Man with all his heart.
“I wonder,” Jesus continued, “if we could have your loaves and fishes for the people. Andrew will pay you for them.”
Mark shook his head. “I cannot take money for them,” he said. “I know my mother would want me to give them to You. But Master,” his eyes widened, “I have only five loaves and two fishes. They won’t help much.”
“Thank you, My child,” Jesus said graciously. Then he asked the Apostles to seat the people on the grassy hillside.
As soon as everyone was seated, Jesus took the five barley loaves and blessed them, and after them the two fishes. Then He and His Apostles began passing bread and fish around among the crowd. Everyone was given as much as he wanted.
Mark watched, breathless. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He had heard someone say that there were five thousand people in that crowd. five loaves of bread and two little fishes were feeding five thousand people!
At last the crowd had had enough. They leaned back satisfied. Then Jesus said to the Apostles, “Gather what remains, so that nothing will be lost or wasted.”
Mark saw them go back and forth over the grass picking up crusts and bits of uneaten fish. And when they had finished, there were twelve baskets of fragments left over from his five small loaves and two fishes.
Spellbound, he looked up to see Jesus smiling at him with tender amusement and understanding. And Mark himself understood that this very great miracle had been worked because Jesus had the power of God. He smiled back at Jesus with reverence and love.
Just then Andrew came up carrying Mark’s basket, filled to the brim with large fresh pieces of bread and fish–he had been rewarded a hundredfold. But that wasn’t the only reason why, as he walked home among the people, his heart was singing and he was happier than he had ever been in his life.