When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

Twelve Baskets of Pieces

At the time of the beheading of John the Baptist, the apostles were on a journey about the country, two by two. Our Lord had sent them to teach as they had heard him teach, and to cast out devils and heal the sick. So they had been walking pleasantly between the green fields, two by this road and two by that, each man with a staff in his hand, speaking in the market-places, going home to dinner and to spend the night, if any good citizen invited them, or, if there were no such invitation, sleeping on the hay in the meadow and quenching their thirst in the cool streams.

Now they came home to tell our Lord how God had blessed them beyond all their expectations, but they brought the bad news with them of the death of the herald. Our Lord saw, too, that they were very tired, for there had been so many people coming and going about them that they had no leisure so much as to eat. So he said, "Come now apart into a desert place and rest a while." For he knew that tired people cannot be of much use to their neighbors. They got into a boat, therefore, and rowed out into the lake. They were both tired and sad. In the death of the Baptist they saw not only the loss of a friend, but the murder of a prophet. John had met the fate of many prophets. Would it be their own fate also?

So they rowed in silence across the narrow lake and landed where there were no houses. There was much grass in the place, and back from the water were low wooded hills. There they sat down to rest. But the people had seen them departing, and they said one to another, "There is the Prophet. He is going with his disciples across the lake. Let us go too." And they made haste on foot, running along the road about the head of the lake; and as they went the crowd increased, for when they hurried through the street of any village everybody came to the doors and windows, crying, "Where are you going? What is the matter?" And they said, "We are going to find the Prophet of Nazareth." And the men and women and even the children cried, "We will go with you!" So there was a great multitude. There were even sick persons among them. As the crowd ran by the house, father Josiah would say to mother Miriam, "The Prophet is yonder in the fields. Shall we not carry our little Deborah, and ask him to make her well?" And away they would go, carrying Deborah on a blanket between them.

By and by, therefore, a distant sound was heard in the beautiful stillness where the Master and the apostles rested in their weariness and sadness. And one said, "It is like the sound of many voices." Another said, "I hear the tramping of many feet." And a third stood up to look, and said, "A great, great crowd is coming." Did our Lord say, "But we are tired and sad; let us go back upon the hills, and hide us from their sight among the trees?" No; the moment he saw the people his heart was filled with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things, and to heal those who were sick among them.

But when the evening came his disciples came to him and said, "This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed. Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves food; for they have nothing to eat." They had come out in such great haste and eagerness that they had brought nothing with them. Our Lord said to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Philip answered, "It would take two hundred dollars to buy enough to give each one even a single piece of bread." Our Lord said, "How much have we? Go and see." And Andrew came back and said, "There is a lad here with five barley loaves and two small fishes. But what are they among so many?" Even now, when there is a great work to be done for man and God, one disciple says, "It is impossible," while another says, "Here is something to begin with." And our Lord still does as he did then; he takes the small beginning and makes it great.

And Jesus said, "Make the men sit down." So the men sat down, by companies of hundreds and fifties, on the green grass, in number about five thousand. And he took the five leaves and the two fishes and looked up to heaven, and blessed and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. So they went forth,—the twelve apostles,—each with a fragment of bread and a bit of fish which our Lord had blessed, and each gave to one man, and then to another man, and then to still another, and behold, there was still enough to give, and so it went till they had all eaten, all the five thousand, and women and children beside. And after they were satisfied, he told the apostles to gather up the fragments that remained, that nothing should be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Every apostle filled his lunch basket full.

Then these men, when they had seen the miracle which Jesus did, said, "This is of a truth that Prophet which should come into the world;" meaning the Messiah. And some said, "Come, he is the Messiah; let us make him our King." And all rose up, all the five thousand, with great shouts, waving their arms, calling him their King. And when he started to go away and to escape them, telling them that he could never be the kind of king they meant, they tried to compel him, even by force. And still he refused and resisted, freeing himself from their hands, sending his disciples away to their boats, and himself going in the gathering dusk into a mountain alone.

That was the turning-point of our Lord's ministry. Up to that time, his disciples had been many, crowds greeted him and followed him wherever he went. There were those, in deed, who greatly disliked him, and sometimes already they had even threatened that they would kill him. But the common people heard him gladly. Now, however, there was a reaction. He had told them plainly that he would never be a king such as they wished; and they would not have him as the King of truth. The next day he spoke in the synagogue in Capernaum, and said things which were so hard to understand that from that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him. He was not quite sure even of the twelve, and said, "Will ye also go away?" But Peter answered for them all, saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."

Then the next day came scribes from Jerusalem, and met our Lord as he walked in the street, and reproved him in the presence of the people, saying that he dishonored God because he did not keep the customs. They said that all men who became our Lord's disciples ceased to be good churchmen. But our Lord reproved them, saying that God was dishonored by their customs. He said that their religion was in their lips and not in their hearts. God, he said, did not care for their petty rules: he is to be served by honesty, and mercy, and truth, and a good life. And he called them blind leaders of the blind.

After that, in Galilee as well as in Judea, our Lord was hated by more and more people, some of whom sought his life. He had to go away, out of his own land, into the heathen countries round about.