A Boy and a Basket
Just as the Lord provided bread for the Israelites in the wilderness, so He provided food for the multitudes on the shore of Lake Gennesaret (Mark 6:35-44). Two hundred denarii would not have been enough to feed the people, but Jesus had a stock that went beyond human resourcefulness.
At His command the multitudes were divided into companies and told to recline on the green grass (cf. Psalm 23:1). Our text says that “all” who ate were filled – despite the vast size of the crowd (5,000 men). Once their hunger had been fully satisfied, the scraps that had fallen on the ground were gathered.
These fragments were collected in small wicker baskets that every Jew carried with him as a part of his daily outfit. Each of the twelve disciples returned with a full basket. Interestingly, the word Mark uses to describe these baskets is kophinos. A kophinos was used to hold a light lunch. These small baskets were not the same as the large rope baskets that are mentioned after the feeding of the 4,000 in Mark 8.
It was this type of lunch basket that we ran across while Becky and I were visiting the Falasha (Jewish) village near Gondar, Ethiopia, last November. We were the only tourists this rural village had seen in days, and the merchants were eager to sell us their wares. The “salesman” in the first hut we entered was a boy whom we guessed to be about 10 years of age. As he felt his way from table to table, proudly handling his merchandise, we could see that he was very nearly blind. Becky was so impressed with his congeniality that she ended up purchasing one of his baskets, and he, for his part, was so delighted to meet us that he gave us a second basket for free.
Before leaving the village I snapped some photos of the village children, including this one. Standing next to Becky is the jovial young salesman, and in Becky’s hands are the baskets. Something prompted the boy to ask us for our name and address, and we, in turn, asked for his.
This boy, as you must know by now, is none other than Bereket. The Lord laid it upon Becky’s heart to follow up with this young man (he turned out to be 14 years old!) and the rest, as they say, is history. Since our departure from Ethiopia, Bereket has come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, has had one eye surgery, and is now back in his village awaiting the call to return to the hospital for his corneal transplant.
As I think about Bereket, our son in the faith, one lesson keeps going through my mind: the absolute necessity of being guided and operated by a Higher Power. The secret of the early church was simply that it was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. Throughout the Book of Acts we read that “The Holy Spirit said…” and Christians obeyed. That day in Gondar, neither Becky nor I were very excited about touring the Falasha village. All of us in our party were tired after days of long hours driving on dirt roads. But something told us to get up and get going. The result was more than a couple of goat skin baskets. A parched soul came to the only One who can satisfy man’s thirst. And today he is overflowing to the glory of God and to the blessing (“Bereket”) of others.
As we return to the land of Becky’s childhood, the danger is to draw up our program and then seek divine endorsement instead of seeking first the divine plan. God’s idea of faithful service is often utterly different from ours. If we seek guidance in the ashes of our poor hearts we will surely be disappointed. The simpler our faith, the better. Our days in Ethiopia belong to Jesus – all of them. We are not our own; we are bought with a price.
If buying a basket from an Ethiopia boy has taught us anything, it is that Christian living is expensive. Discipleship will cost us everything we have. Our Lord does not offer us bargains; He never marks down His prices. We must be willing to say, “Lord, whatever, wherever, whenever.” And then we must be willing to launch out into the deep.
May 26, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.