In the Gospel we just heard, it says: “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Jesus, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are those for so many?’” Remember that?
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Hmmm. Who is this boy? What’s his name? What is he doing there with five loaves of barley bread and two whole fish? We don’t know.
But we can imagine. We can speculate. We can give what is known as a “midrash”, a filling in of some details, provide some background and context, for this story.
This Gospel story is set in Galilee. That was the area, or state, where Jesus grew up, where he was from, from Nazareth of Galilee. So this boy was a Galilean, just like Jesus. You are a Texan, because you grow up in Texas. This boy was a Galilean, from Galilee.
Let’s give him a name. We don’t know what his name really was, but we will call him Joseph, or Joe for short. So, Joe from Galilee, and he has five barley loaves and two fish.
Barley loaves are a type of bread, but not like the white bread you have for your sandwiches. This was a coarser bread, a cheaper bread, the bread of the poor. Rich people ate white bread made from wheat, and the poor ate cheaper bread made from barley and oats. Like what we feed to horses today.
Joe also has two whole fish. Maybe Joe had been fishing. Maybe his Mother gave the fish to Joe. But two whole fish seems like a lot for one boy to eat. I think that instead, Joe was enterprising. Joe was an entrepanuer. Joe was a budding business man. And when Joe saw the large crowd following Jesus, and knew they would be with Jesus for a while, Joe got the bright idea to sell bread and fish to the crowds and make some money.
So Joe took his savings, all his allowance and what he had earned doing odd jobs around the town, and went and bought all he could, which was just five barley loaves and two whole fish. It was not a lot, but to Joe it represented all he had, and he figured he could double or triple his money, because he knew people would be hungry and he would have no competition. Joe planned on making a killing. Joe the bread and fish king!
Joe started to think about what he could do with his profits, daydreaming about a new robe, and maybe brand new sandals, not like the hand-me-downs he wore when he didn’t have to go barefoot.
That was Joe’s plan. But when he got there, the Apostle Andrew saw him, and brought him to Jesus. And everything changed for Joe.
Joe had never seen or met anyone like Jesus. Jesus just radiated Peace. And acceptance. And love. It did not seem to matter how you were dressed; if you were an important person or just a peasant; or even just a mere child like Joe. Jesus just loved.
With Jesus there was acceptance and something very different for Joe: unconditional love. It made Joe very happy, but also kind of uneasy. It was so unusual. Joe didn’t know what to make of it, didn’t know what to do.
Then Jesus turned to Joe, smiled at him, and reached out His hand. Then Joe knew what he had to do. Joe dropped his dreams of profit, of a new robe, even of brand-new sandals that nobody else had ever worn, and simply handed his five loaves and two fish to Jesus.
Jesus nodded to Joe in gratitude, then Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven, gave thanks, and began to break the bread and pass out the fish. But the strangest thing happened. The more Jesus gave out, the more there was. Then the Apostles started helping to share, and the bread and the fish just kept coming. Thousands and thousands of people ate their fill of the five barley loaves and two fish.
Joe also ate until he was stuffed. Never had he had such delicious bread, such tasty fresh fish! It was a meal he would never, ever, forget. And it made Joe very, very happy that he had given his bread and fish to Jesus. He felt good, and satisfied, and proud. He knew he had done the right thing, and that was better than the best robe or the most expensive sandals.
After a while the crowd started to disperse. It was getting late and the people were heading home, full of the five loaves and two fish that Joe had brought. Joe felt happy that they were so satisfied with his bread and fish. He was all warm inside.
As the Apostle were gathering up the leftovers, the fragments left over, Andrew the Apostle came over to Joe. “Thank you, Joe, for sharing your fish and bread with us” said Andrew. “Oh, that’s OK” said Joe. He suddenly found it hard to talk.
Andrew said to him. “We have twelve wicker baskets full of fragments of bread and fish from what you had brought. We will never use that much. Here, take this basket full of left overs to your home.”
Joe joyfully took the basket of fragments of bread and fish. And he knew what he wanted to do with them. Not sell them for his own sake, but share them with his family and neighbors, because now Joe knew the true value and worth of sharing. And Joe was very happy indeed.