With the crowd all seated in groups now, Rachel had a much easier time making her way back to where her siblings and friends were waiting. From partway across the field she could see a disturbance, and as she drew nearer she realized it was clustered around the rock where Miriam had been seated. She quickened her pace until she came close enough for Imma to notice her.
“Rachel! Miriam’s pains– they just stopped! One moment we were trying to find a midwife and the next moment she was perfectly fine! Did you– did you talk to the Teacher?”
A feeling of wild wonder was surging through Rachel at that moment, and she gasped with the joy of it. “He healed her.” The words were all she could manage. She had known He would, known from the moment she had looked on His face with all its rich compassion. But to see it– to see Miriam standing there with a wide smile on her face that just moments ago had been pale and beaded with sweat– it was glory. Rachel raised her face toward heaven and breathed out thanksgiving.
“Rachel!” It was John, there at her side. “Where were you? I got back here and you were gone!”
“I had to speak to the Teacher. Miriam’s baby was coming too soon. But she’s fine now.”
“I gave my lunch to that disciple but then it took a long time to get back here. Everyone was acting all crazy.”
Rachel spontaneously threw her arms around her brother, who stood awkwardly for a moment before patting her gingerly on the back. “I’m so glad you’re safe. I saw Jesus holding your lunch. I think– I think something amazing is about to happen.”
“This whole day has been amazing! Did you see James the Cripple, running around like all the other boys?”
Rachel couldn’t keep the delight out of her voice. “I know!”
A tug at her sleeve made Rachel realize that she and John, deep in their animated conversation, were the only two people left standing up in their group. Everyone was seated, expectantly facing the front. Flushing, Rachel turned, dropping as quickly as she could onto the cool grass and raising her eyes to where Jesus stood, slightly up the mountain. Even from so far away she could make out the little loaves he held in his big carpenter’s hand, and the little dried fish.
The Teacher lifted his eyes to heaven and once again his voice somehow carried to every ear as he thanked God for the loaves and the fish. My loaves and fish, Rachel thought with a start. She didn’t understand how He could possibly use that little bit of food to feed all these thousands, but as she glanced over at Miriam, seated contentedly on the grass with her hand resting on her belly, she knew that this man was able to do whatever he chose to do. Her stomach let out an expectant growl as Jesus began to break her little loaves into pieces.
“Rachel, what are we doing?” Little Sarah had crawled over, climbed into Rachel’s lap, and placed her chubby hands on either side of Rachel’s face. “I thought we were going home.”
“We will, but first we get to eat some food.”
“Oh good! I’m soooooooo hungry!”
“Me, too. The Teacher’s helpers are going to be bringing us some food in just a few minutes.”
“Rachel, that crippled boy can walk now. Did you see that?”
“Yes, I did.”
“How did that happen? I thought his legs were all twisted. I didn’t think he was ever going to be able to walk.”
“The Teacher made his legs strong again.”
“How did he do that?”
“I don’t know. I think he has special power from God.”
“How did he get that?”
“I don’t know. Some people say he is the promised Christ. Remember the stories about Elijah? He could do miracles too– amazing things like healing sick people. Maybe the Teacher is a prophet like Elijah.”
“I wish I had special power. Then I could keep the boys from teasing me. I would just touch them and ZAP them and they’d leave me alone.”
“I don’t think that’s what God gave Jesus this special power for, Sarah. He only uses it to help people. Like he helped James the Cripple, and like he helped Miriam not have her baby too soon.”
“Oh. Well I bet if he had big brothers he would maybe just now and then give them a ZAP.”
Rachel laughed at her little sister, drew her closer and hugged her. The joy and hope of this day made her feel like laughing, like dancing. All these people around her– all of them experiencing this amazing gift, seeing the miracles, hearing the words of Jesus. Her breath caught in her throat as unexpected tears welled up. Her heart was just so full. She had been a part of this beautiful day– had seen the face of the Teacher, had had her request answered.
Rachel was brought suddenly out of her reverie by a voice saying her name. She looked up, and it was Bartholomew, the disciple that had brought her to the Teacher. In his hands he held a basket filled with pieces of bread and fish. “Would you like something to eat?” He asked, his eyes twinkling. “I hear the woman who baked the bread is quite remarkable.”
“How did you–”
“The Teacher told me. He said to be sure to thank you.”
Rachel felt a flush spread over her face. “I’m sure it’s a little stale. It’s not very fresh . . . ”
“Try it now,” Bartholomew responded with a smile. Rachel reached a tentative hand toward the basket and took a small piece of bread. It felt as soft as if she had baked it that very afternoon. Popping it into her mouth, she felt her eyes widen as she chewed and swallowed.
“It tastes just like how Mother’s used to. I always make it the same way, but it never tastes quite right, somehow.”
“I have learned this about the Teacher. No matter what he starts with, he always ends with something good.” Bartholomew smiled. “You’d better take some more and pass it on. Your sister there looks like she’s pretty hungry.”
Rachel took the basket from his hands, served her little family, and passed the basket on to Imma. Making sure everyone had their food and was content, she lifted her eyes again to the front of the crowd, where Jesus was still breaking her loaves into pieces.
Again that sense of wonder and peace filled Rachel’s heart, and the words of the Psalmist came unbidden to her lips.
Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
Surely this man was the Son of God.