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It was the afternoon of a warm June day. Miss Spratt was sitting in her garden in the shade of the great oak tree, when suddenly the gate swung open and in came her two little friends, Bob and Peter.
"Have you time to tell us a story?" asked Bob.
"Oh, please do," begged Peter.
Miss Spratt seemed to have an endless supply of stories and she was always glad to tell them to Bob and Peter because they were so attentive. As the boys settled themselves on the grass at her feet, Miss Spratt began:
"You have both heard the story in Sunday School about the miracle of the loaves and fishes, haven't you?"
"Yes," said the boys in unison. "Well, this story is one I imagined about a boy the Bible mentions who might have been there when Jesus performed that miracle:
Long, long ago in a far away land lived a lad whom we shall call James. In those days there were no cars, buses, nor street cars and the people walked from one place to another. It was not uncommon for them to join a group and walk for miles to some place of interest.
It was at this time that Jesus was going about the country, talking to the people about God, and healing those who were sick. Many people followed Him; some because they loved Him, others because they wanted to learn from Him or be healed, and others went just to be with the crowd.
James had heard his parents and the neighbors talk of Jesus and the wonderful things He did, and wished that he, too, might see this great man.
One morning as James sat before the house, some people passed and in their friendly way called to the young lad:
"We have heard that Jesus is nearby and we are going to see Him. Won't you come along?"
James was delighted at the prospect of a journey and the possibility of seeing this man of whom he had heard so much. So he ran to his mother and asked if he might go on a holiday with the people from the village. His mother consented and hastily wrapped several barley loaves and two small fishes left from the morning meal, slipping them into James' pocket, well knowing that a small lad might get hungry before he returned home.
With a parting kiss and a joyful heart James ran out of the house and down the road to join the others. It was such fun to be off on an adventure!
All along the way others joined their party until the road was filled, and still they kept coming from every direction. Everyone was talking about Jesus and what He had done. James was so thrilled and happy, that he never thought of being tired or hungry. And now, in the distance, they could see a great gathering of people on the hillside. They hastened their steps to join them, for there was Jesus talking and teaching many things. The words of Jesus were so filled with wonder and interest that the listening crowd forgot about time and food.
But now, it was late afternoon and one of Jesus' disciples suggested that the people be sent away to get something to eat. Jesus said, "They need not go; it is far to their homes. We shall feed them here. Look among them and see how much food they have."
When James heard them talking about food he felt hungry and remembered the lunch his mother had given him. As he took it from his pocket he looked up and saw one of Jesus' disciples going through the crowd, speaking to each one. It seemed that the man was asking the people if they had food, but each one shook his head.
Was James the only one who had brought lunch? What should he do - spread out his few loaves and tiny fishes and eat before all that crowd? He was very hungry. While he was puzzling these questions, Jesus' disciple came up to him and asked if he might have the food to give to Jesus. James felt a sudden desire to cry. He wanted his lunch, and yet he wanted to give it, for hadn't the man said that it was for Jesus? So, without a word he handed the parcel of food to the disciple, then sat down relieved. He was sure he had done what his mother would have wanted him to do. Then he heard the disciples telling everyone to sit down. When all were seated in groups on the green grass, James saw Jesus pick up his loaves and fishes and look toward heaven.
What was Jesus going to do with his lunch? James watched eagerly. Now Jesus was speaking words as He continued to look up - words that sounded somewhat like the prayer James' mother said at mealtime a prayer of thanks.
A thrill went over James as he realized that Jesus was holding his loaves and fishes and giving thanks for them before that great crowd. Oh, how glad he was that he had given the food to the disciple! He didn't even feel hungry now, he was so filled with joy.
How surprised he was when Jesus broke the loaves and fishes and handed them to the disciples who in turn served them to the people not to just one or two, but to everyone. Why, there was plenty of food for all! How could it be? James knew there were only a few loaves and two small fish in his package, and now just see - everyone in that great crowd was eating, and oh, how good it tasted. James was sure that food had never been so satisfying. He longed to hurry home and tell his mother and father about it.
When the people had eaten all they wanted, there was still food remaining: so they picked it up and put it in baskets so as not to waste any. Then Jesus sent the people away, for it was evening and time for them to go to their homes.
James joined the group going his way, but he was not the same lad who had left home that morning. He felt changed inside such a warm, singing feeling. It seemed as though he were walking on air, his feet scarcely touching the ground. Never would he forget this day. Just to think that he had had something to give the great man, Jesus - something Jesus could really use. And though his gift seemed small, because of Jesus' blessing it had increased until all could share it.
"What a wonderful lesson and what a wonderful day," thought James. "I shall remember always to give thanks for what I have, and share it with others."
As he said good-bye to his friends and entered the door of his home, he called, "Mother, I'm back."
James' mother hastened to greet him. Surely her boy must be weary after such a long journey. But she stopped and looked at him with wonder. How happy he was, how refreshed! A new light shone on his face and all about him - it seemed to fill the room. And then, when he told her what had happened that day, she understood and was glad. She knew James was happy because he had given his best.
When Miss Spratt finished her story, Peter said, "I sure wish I could have been there." "I'd be very proud to give my lunch to Jesus," said Bob.
"Do you know," said Miss Spratt, "that there are many ways in which you boys can serve Jesus and help others just as James did? Whenever you smile, or whistle a cheerful tune, or do something kind, you are sharing your good with others. Many people are as hungry for love and joy as those people were for food. When Mother asks you to do something, and you do it willingly and cheerfully, you are giving your gifts to Jesus, just as surely as James did. Jesus came to teach us to love one another and to give freely. And now, I think it's time for two young men to be going home to supper."
"Yes-sir-ee, come on, Bob," said Peter as he jumped up, "and thank you for the swell story, Miss Spratt. We'll remember what you said about how we can give, too."
"Good-bye," called Bob, as he followed Peter out the gate.
Contemporary Mystic Christianity
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