The Loaves and Fishes

"Grandpa?" "Yes, Aber." "Tell us ‘bout
The time you got in trouble out
Behind Bethsaida hills, when you
Were just a kid. Okay?" "Me too,
Grandpa! Can I stay up and hear
It too?" "Well, Barnabas, I fear
It's sort of late for you, young man."
"But I can stay awake! I can!
I listened last year from my bed . . .
I mean . . . Last night when mama read
I stayed up. Please, Grandpa!" "Well, let
Me see. I'll tell you what. You get
Grandpa a pillow for his feet,
And snuggle here and be real sweet,
And I'll just try to keep it short.
We'll call this Grandpa's ‘Short Report.'"

Some sixty years ago when I
Was nine, I thought I would defy
My father's word." "Defy? Grandpa,
What's that?" "Defy? Well, little Ba,
It's just plain disobey, that's all.
My father warned me not to fall
For lies." "What lies, Grandpa?" "O, lies
Like:

God's no fortune, God's no prize
God's got boredom in his eyes.
Come with us, we'll make you wise:
Stolen bread is sweet to eat,
Stolen fish is easy meat."

"D'you make that up, Grandpa?" "No sir!
Along the western shore there were
Some kids back then who got their kicks
From stealin' bread and playin' tricks
On fishermen. And every time
I went to market with my dime
For bread and fish, they'd chant their song,
And try to make me go along:

Stolen bread is sweet to eat,
Stolen fish is easy meat.
Then you take your father's cash,
Make yourself a little splash.

My father warned me not to play
With them, or steal or lie. He'd say,

A boy that's got to steal for fun
Has never seen what God has done.
A boy that needs to steal a cake
Has never seen what God can make.

And he was right. My eyes were blind,
Until one day I saw the kind
Of thing that God can do. I snatched
A baker's bag and then I matched
It with a fisher's sack." "You mean
You stole ‘em, Grandpa?" "Stole 'em. 'Tween
These very fingers. Then I flew
Like crazy to the hills and through
Bethsaida vale. And there I found
A welcome sight: a crowd around
Ten thousand strong, a perfect place
To hide. No one would know my face,
Or what I'd done. That's what I thought,
At least.

But then the Teacher caught
My eye." "You mean, Jesus, Grandpa?"
"Yes, Barnabas, the very Son
Of God. I thought at first I'd run.
He knew exactly what I'd done.
His eyes were like a trumpet blast
Of truth. He knew from first to last.
(The Lord can read a boy the way
A boy reads books.)" "But did you stay,
Grandpa, or did you run?" "I tried
To run, but couldn't. Something died
Inside. And even when I saw
Him point, I simply stood in awe,
That he could know.

His servants came:
‘Hello, young man, you got a name?'
‘My name is John.' ‘Well, John, the Lord
Would like to use the lunch you've stored
There in your sacks.' ‘My lunch? O, these!
Yes, sure! Here take them all, O please!
I'll be just fine. Please take them all.'
‘Let's see. Five loaves, two fish. You're small
For such a hefty lunch. I 'spose
You meant to share.' ‘The Teacher knows,'
I said.

And so the Lord took bread
That I had swiped, and prayed and fed
Five thousand men before my eyes.
And as the sun went down, the skies
Turned somber with the stormy clouds
And Jesus sent away the crowds,
And walked up in the hills alone
To pray. He knelt down by a stone."
"Grandpa, how do you know he knelt?"
"I followed him. Because I felt
That maybe he could make it right.
He heard me stumbling in the night
And called, ‘John, come, I'm over here.
It's pretty late. Have you no fear
To roam the hills at night?' ‘I do.
But I just had to talk to you.
How did you know that it was me?'
‘I prayed that you would come.' ‘Really?
You know I stole the bread?' ‘I know.'
‘And fish.' ‘Yes.' ‘Where else could I go?'
‘What would you like to have tonight?'
‘I thought perhaps you'd make it right.
Is there a chance for me to be
A righteous man some day, and free
From all my sins, and used by God
For good, perhaps like Aaron's rod?
I robbed an old man by the sea.
Can you do anything with me?'

‘Did you not understand the sign?
Did not ten thousand people dine
Today? If I can take your bread,
And see ten thousand people fed;
If I can take a boy that's dead,
And lift him from his coffin bed;
If I can still a storm tonight,
Then, John, I can make all things right.

A boy that's got to steal a cake
Has never seen what God can make.
But now you've seen it with your eyes:
That God's a fortune, God's a prize.'"

"What happened then, Grandpa?" "It's late
Aber, I think we better wait..."
"GRANDPA! What happened?" "Jesus walked
Out on the sea and simply talked,
And all the wind and skies obeyed,
Just like the bread — and boys — he made.

Light candle one now, Abraham,
And don't wake up this little lamb.
Burn bright and quiet as you sleep
And let the lesson sink in deep."

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org