There was nothing particularly striking about the boy. I don’t know his name. In fact, all I know is that at one time he owned five barley loaves and two small fish. And if it weren’t for John, this boy would go through history completely unknown.
One time, a great multitude of more than five thousand people followed Jesus on foot because of the signs and miracles He performed for the sick. They followed Him across a sea. They even followed Him up a mountain! And this little boy was one among the multitude.
When it was dinnertime, the disciples asked Jesus to send the people away to seek food on their own. Instead of agreeing, Jesus tested Philip by telling him to give the people food to eat.
Philip reasoned with Jesus, “Two hundred denarii [200 days’ wages] worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little!”
Most of the disciples had humble occupations, which they had abandoned to follow Jesus. It was unlikely for them to have much money, much less to spare. And even if they did, as Philip pointed out, it would not be enough to satisfy a multitude’s worth of hunger.
Jesus had tasked them with what seemed like mission impossible.
It was Andrew who found the boy and brought him to Jesus. He announced, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish!” Then he added, “but what are they among so many?”
Seriously, if two hundred denarii can’t make a dent, what can five barley loaves and two small fish do? What are they among so many people? But Jesus responded as if he were on cue and commanded, “Make the people sit down.”
The rest of the story is a well-known miracle. From the five barley loaves and two small fish, five thousand men plus women and children ate to their hearts’ content until they were satisfied. The leftover fragments were gathered filling twelve baskets.
Jesus had waited for the little boy to emerge from the multitude. What the little boy had was insignificant. He had five barley loaves and two small fish. Barley was food for the poor; in fact, it was food for the animals. And the fish? Well, they were small.
However, the little boy and what he had were not inconsequential. Jesus accepted his offering. He turned what was insignificant into abundance with much to spare. The people who witnessed and took part in the miracle proclaimed confidently, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
The five barley loaves and two small fish from a little boy not only fed stomachs; they showed people who Jesus was.
This story speaks to me. It tells me what Jesus can do with bits of human offerings. If all He needs is what we have—however small we are or how little we have—then there are miracles yet to be seen and people yet to know Jesus.
We are tasked to evangelize to the world and edify and love our fellow brothers and sisters. We know well that there are still many people who do not know Christ and we have friends who need encouragement. We probably think that we are tasked with mission impossible.
The comforting news is that with Jesus nothing is impossible. He is probably just waiting for the little boy to appear.