Thousands of people are pushing you along as the masses press forward. Even though you've not eaten for many hours, you want to follow. You've seen people healed of incurable illnesses. You've heard astounding preaching. You've observed tender compassion. Finally, you see that the Disciples begin to ask if anyone has food with them. A young boy offers five small loaves of bread and two fish. You chuckle at the naivety of children. But Jesus smiles and accepts the tiny lunch. He talks to the disciples and they gather everyone into groups and begin distributing foodlots of food! This could not be coming from that one little lunch the child had, could it?
After everyone has had all they want, the disciples come with baskets gathering leftovers. You watch as they take the baskets to Jesus and are stunned to see that there are 12 baskets full of bread and fish.
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be there and see the multiplication of the bread and fish? Would there have been some magical little puff as it expanded? Would that bread suddenly have become a huge pile or did it multiply slowly as it was served? I guess we'll never know exactly how it happened. We probably sigh thinking that those kinds of things never happen today. Well, keep reading because they do happen today!
During spring break, some of the students from Black Forest Academy where we teach in Germany went on trips to needy parts of the world. One group went to Poland to build a Habitat for Humanity home for three orphans who needed to leave an orphanage because of their age. Many of our students went to other locations to help repair churches and schools and teach vacation Bible school. Although they went to serve, they came back with stories of how much God taught them. One student had a particularly riveting story.
Natalie and her group went to a school in Tanzania. They painted classrooms and helped teach vacation Bible school. As they began an art project on their last day there, Natalie started giving six crayons to each student from the supply they had brought. Too soon she realized that there were only 10 crayons left in her bag and several more children waiting for crayons. She considered going back to the first children to take some of theirs away. She thought of giving less crayons to the remaining children, but she didn't like either option. As she pondered this she reached into her bag and pulled out six crayons for the next child. She then looked into her bag and saw that she still had 10 crayons. She reached into the bag again and gave the next child six crayons. She looked into her bag and saw that there were 10 crayons left. She continued around the room giving six crayons to each child. Only when she had given the last child six crayons did she see that her bag was empty.
What can we learn about the character of God from these stories? In the story of the loaves and fish, Jesus demonstrated compassion for the people. "Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.' " (Matthew 15:32)
When our students went to Tanzania, the creator and sustainer of the universe saw to it that each small child in a needy area had six crayons. What else can we call that but compassion? May we be challenged by these examples to grow in our compassion toward others. "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12)
Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.