This past Sunday morning, David gave a great message on leadership from John 6…the story of the feeding of the five-thousand, of the loaves and fishes. I love that story. I remember hearing it as a child and being amazed. And I still am. A miracle that thousands witnessed…or did they? I think maybe there were just a few who knew a miracle had taken place…Jesus, the 12 disciples, and a little boy. Who was this little boy? The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about him, not even his name. As David mentioned, we don’t know his name…but I do. His name was Mordecai. How do I know that? Because David’s grandfather, as close as a grandfather to me, wrote about this young boy.
Brad Ramsey, Sr. was an amazing writer. I really hope to one day compile all of his writings in a book for others to enjoy. He wrote this particular story…”Mordecai’s Basket”…in the interest of imagining what could have happened on that miracle day. It’s the Bible story expanded, examined and explored. I wanted to share this story with you. It is a bit lengthy, but worth every word. I hope you enjoy it as much as I always have.
A Boy and His Dream
It’s springtime during what is called the Second Period of Jesus’ Galilean Ministry. The place is a little village on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee.
At the end of a lane near the village is a small cottage. The early morning sun shines through a window of the cottage and onto the body of a lad. His name is Mordecai. He lies face down on a cot in the sparsely furnished room.
The warm rays of the morning sun comforts Mordecai’s back. He stirs. The movement brings a stab of pain to the boy’s body, and groan from his lips.
Mordecai instinctively reaches to touch a basket beside his cot. His fingers caress the edges of the basket. It is a tightly woven container, pitched in and out, making it waterproof.
Mordecai’s deceased father was a basket weaver. He had told Mordecai he was a descendent of the basket weavers who made baskets like Moses’ mother put him in to hide him from Pharaoh’s order of death to all Israelite children.
Mordecai’s earliest memories were of the hours he spent in his father’s shop learning to be a basket weaver as his father was.
Inside Mordecai’s basket is a silk lining his mother made so he could carry food without it being contaminated with what else might be in the basket.
While Mordecai lies half asleep, his hands move about the basket, and he wishes for his father as he always does when he hurts.
The boy’s eyes are closed but he is fully conscious of the day. He moves and again there is the pain in his back. He remembers the events of the evening before, and the beating that left his back lacerated.
Mordecai has been fishing along the seashore, and his net has yielded quite a catch. He is in high spirits as he climbs the rocky shore. He can sell some of the fish at the market, and have enough for his and his mother’s supper. But his happiness is short-lived. At the top of the shore he pushes his way through a clump of bushes and steps into the road. He gasps in surprise and fear. He has walked into a band of Roman soldiers!
Mordecai has a deep, burning hatred for Roman soldiers, and for the government they represent.
He has reason for his hatred. Seared into the boy’s mind is the memory of the day near the village, and the Roman troopers had retaliated by taking the lives of some local men. Among those they slew was Mordecai’s father.
Mordecai loathes anything that reminds him of Caesar’s government that rules over his people. He has, many times, spat on the soldiers only to be rewarded with a kick from a heavily-booted foot or a slap across the face.
He has expressed his hatred with such violence that soldiers who patrol the area think it sport to taunt the lad. They call him “the spitting little devil” or “the boy with fire in his belly”.
Mordecai tries to retreat into the bushes, but is not quick enough.
One of the soldiers catches him by the shoulder and whiles him around.
“Where are you going, kid?” he asks.
Mordecai strikes out at the soldier.
“Aha! You’re a spunky little devil, you are!” The soldier strikes Mordecai with such force that he falls face down on the dusty road. His string of fish is thrown into the weeds and before he can regain his footing one of the soldiers grabs the fish and drags them in the dirt.
“You’ve got a good catch here, little boy!” the soldier says and tosses the fish into the bushes. Mordecai swears at the soldier.
“You’re a tough one, aren’t you? How old are you kid?”
Mordecai pulls himself to his full height. “I’ll be thirteen tomorrow. I’ll be a man then!”
“So you think you’re a man, do you? Then you can carry my backpack!” The soldier throws his pack across the boy’s back.
He grabs Mordecai by the arm and begins marching him down the road.
The soldiers soon grow tired of taunting Mordecai. “On your way, kid. Go back to your fish, and quit bragging about your manhood until you know you’ve got the stuff!” a soldier teases.
Mordecai turns and runs, but not until a soldier lays his lash across the lad’s back with such force that it bites into the flesh.
Blood streams down he boy’s back and soaks his tunic.
The lad finds his fish. Soon, tears wash away his anger. He goes down to the sea and washes the dirt from the fish. He removes his clothes, rinses the blood and dirt from them and lays them on a rock to dry. He then wades into the water and washes his wounds as best he can.
When Mordecai is sure the wounds have stopped bleeding he comes out of the water, gingerly puts his clothes on, and sits on a rock overlooking the sea. He will wait until near dark before returning home. His mother will not be so likely to see his bruises by candlelight.
The Day Of Deliverance
It is now morning. Mordecai is lying on his cot. He begins to indulge himself in a fantasy he has built into his mind. The fantasy took root in Mordecai’s thinking soon after his father’s death. He was visiting the synagogue where his mother works as a Temple custodian when he heard the Priest read from the ninth chapter of Isaiah the following: “For unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace!” Mordecai later asked his mother the meaning of the scripture.
“Someday,” she answered, “God will send a Messiah who will deliver His people from their captors. He will be our Savior.”
Mordecai was excited. “Who will he be and when will he come, Mother? he asked.
His mother sighed. “We must be patient, my son. I only know that He will be someone whom God will send. He will be the Anointed One.” This was the birth of Mordecai’s dream. He became obsessed with the belief that, at the appointed time, God would speak to him and say “Mordecai, I have chosen you as the Messiah. The government is in your hands!”
The dream possessed Mordecai’s mind, while he fished or did his chores.
He lay on his cot at nights, building his dream…. When I am the Messiah, I will teach those soldiers who is the Master. I’ll take their own whips and lash them ’til they bleed, then I’ll say, “Throw the whole bunch into the dungeon. Feed them with stale bread and dirty water. They’re nothing but a bunch of hellions.!”
For the last month, Mordecai’s dream had been disturbed. His mother came home one evening with the news that a man named Jesus was going about performing miracles. “They say He cleanses lepers, and gives sight to the bind. Some say he brings dead people back to life.”
“Raises dead people?” Mordecai exclaimed. “I don’t believe anyone can bring a dead person back to life!”
The crushing blow to Mordecai was last night. When he came home his mother was excited. “The man named Jesus is coming to our village tomorrow, Mordecai! You must go see him and hear him teach. I would go if I didn’t have to serve in the temple.”
Now it is early, and Mordecai hears his mother call out, “Come and eat, my child.” Then his mother laughs.
“I shouldn’t call you child anymore, because today you become a man!”
Mordecai is pleased that his mother recognizes his manhood. But he regrets that his father is not living and able to officially declare that he, Mordecai, is a man.
The boy eats and his mother talks. “I’ve prepared a lunch for you in the basket your father made for you Hurry and finish your food. You mustn’t miss this chance to see the miracle worker!”
Mordecai’s mind boils. “Yeah, I want to see what the imposter looks like!”
Mordecai Begins A Life-Changing Journey
Let’s walk with Mordecai, hear the comments of the passing throng, and step into the mind of a lad who is seeking fulfillment of a dream.
With his basket swinging on his arm, and the news of this man Jesus, who threatens to spoil his dream of being the Messiah, Mordecai begins a life-changing journey.
when he comes to the main road, Mordecai is surprised to see the mass of people. Many carry the lame or lead the blind. All are talking about the man named Jesus, and of the wonderful things they have heard he has done. And Mordecai has a rebuttal to every statement.
“They say He’s a carpenter.” “He’s probably never done a day’s work in his life!” Mordecai mutters.
“He gave sight to a blind man” someone said. — “Yeah, He has bunch of fakers that travel with him,” Mordecai claims.
“He turned water into wine at a wedding feast,” someone stated. “Yeah, but anyone knows that drunk people can’t tell the difference from bad wine and good wine,” Mordecai mutters.
“They say a man names Lazarus died and was buried and Jesus just called the man’s name and he came back to life.” And Mordecai muttered to himself, “No dead man has ever been brought back to life.”
Mordecai Sees Jesus
Mordecai moves with the crowd toward a mountain that rises away from the sea. After a long climb, the crowd becomes a milling mass at a large level spot.
Mordecai pushes through the mass of people and is startled when he comes to a break in the crowd. Not more than thirty feet away, a man is seated on a rock by a group of men, as if to protect him from the surging crowd. Yet, when the man’s gaze sweeps the crowd, he seems to reach out to individuals.
When his gaze locks into Mordecai’s vision, it halts for a second and the lad knows the man is Jesus.
A hush settles over the crowd and Jesus begins to speak. At times, people break into his speech and ask questions.
Mordecai is suddenly startled and angered when a soldier asks a question. He is the man who made Mordecai carry his pack.
“What shall we do?” the soldier asks. Jesus looks intently at the soldier when He answers. “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse them falsely.”
Mordecai wants to shout “Hallelujah!” but he can’t believe what Jesus says in the next statement.
“Whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life as ransom for many!”
A fit of anger floods Mordecai’s mind. “I can’t believe this man — people think he’s the Messiah? He says He didn’t come to be ministered to and to give his life for many — how can you be a king and be a servant at the same time? Whoever heard of a king serving others people? That’s unreal.
“Look at those poor trusting people, rushing up to him with their sick and lame — wanting him to heal them — they act like they really think he’s a healer, and Messiah — He can’t be a divine healer — he looks like he’s dead tired — his feet are dirty — kings don’t have dirty feet. If he is a king, he would have someone take better care of him — and I don’t see a royal chariot anywhere. Kings travel in chariots. I’m through with this crazy bunch. I’m going somewhere away from this crowd!”
Mordecai withdraws behind some rocks where he sits and mulls over what he has heard Jesus say. He loses track of time, totally absorbed in his now shattered dream, “Mordecai, the King!”
Hunger awakens Mordecai and prods him to open his basket. Before he can select a morsel, he is startled by a voice.
“What are you doing, lad?”
Mordecai looks up. Towering over him is the tallest man he has ever seen.
“Hello. I’m Andrew, and what do you have in your basket?” Andrew asks.
“My lunch Mother fixed for me.”
“How much food do you have there?” Andrew asks.
Mordecai peers into the basket. “I have five loaves and two fish. Do you want to eat with me?”
“No, but I think the Master would like to talk with you. Come with me and bring your basket.”
“Is he going to take my food?” Mordecai asks.
Andrew smiles. “The Master takes from no one, but I am sure He will want to talk with you about your food.”
Before Mordecai can get his wits together, the big man leads him up a path and around some large rocks. Mordecai is shocked. He sees Jesus sitting only a few feet away – – – People say He can see inside your heart – – – I wonder if He knows what I thought about His dirty feet?!
“Master, this lad has five barley and two fish, but what are they among so many?” Andrew says.
Mordecai is speechless for the first time he can remember.
Jesus brushes aside Andrew’s question.
“Sit down, Mordecai. I want to talk with you.”
Mordecai is shocked – – – How does He know my name?
Jesus looks Mordecai in the eye as He speaks.
“Do you see those people out there? They are hungry and I want to feed them with the food in your basket, Mordecai!”
Conflicting thoughts race through Mordecai’s mind – – – Whups! There goest my lunch. But this is ridiculous. There are thousands of people out there, and I have only five loaves and two fish. who does He think He is? He can’t follow me. He can fake healing the sick and He can have someone claim he’s had his sight restored, but feeding a crowd of people like this is something else! I know what I’ll do! I’ll go along with him and let him hang himself. That will prove to Mamma and to these people that he is not the Messiah!
Mordecai gulps when he sees the sincerity in Jesus’ face – – Hey, this man is serious!
“You gonna take my lunch?”
“No, Mordecai. I don’t take what belongs to others. But I do have to feed these people, and I want to do it with your five loaves and two fish.”
Mordecai is in awe – – – Hey! This man is the Messiah or a great dreamer! If He is the Messiah and can feed this crowd with my fish and loaves, and the word gets out in town, I will be a hero. – – my dream has come true – – I may not be the Messiah but I will be the next best man. I will be partner with the Messiah!
Mordecai is ready to yield his basket when Jesus stops him. “Before I can do anything with your loaves and fish, Mordecai, I want to ask you some questions. Sit down and let’s talk.”
Mordecai finds a seat on a stone facing Jesus.
“Mordecai, I want you to give the loaves and fish to me, but before you make a decision, let me explain something to you. The food in that basket is yours and will remain yours until you give it to me. Once you give the food to me, you no longer own it. I will have control over it, but you will have the joy of knowing your fish and loaves fed a multitude of people.”
Jesus’ words get Mordecai’s full attention. – – Looks like I’m going to lose control here – – I don’t know if I like this deal.
Jesus interrupts Mordecai’s thoughts. “I’m not through, Mordecai.”
Mordecai is suspicious. If he is going to control what I give him, maybe I should slip a fish and loaf out for my own use. I’ve got a feeling that once he gets his hands on my lunch, he won’t cut a deal with me at all.
The next question startles Mordecai.
“Mordecai, are you willing to give all the food, holding back nothing? If you hold back any, I will take none of it.”
Hey! This man must be reading my mind. I don’t know if I like this deal or not. I need some time to think it over!
Jesus has another question. “Mordecai, will you give me the food in your basket now? These people are hungry. What we do must be done soon. I will feed these people. If you don’t give me the food in your basket, I will use other means to work a miracle. I can turn these stones into food if I have to!”
Mordecai is shocked. Turn stones to bread? – – I’ve never heard anyone talk like this man. He’s either got something or he’s out of his mind.
“Mordecai, you have a chance to see me perform a miracle with your loaves and fish, if you are willing to give them right now!”
Mordecai’s mind is whirling. – – There it is again. What will they say about me when I get back to town? I can hear all the kids and the grownups. – – Mordecai’s loaves and fish fed thousands – – that’s going to be great for me!
The boy is ready to jump up and dump the basket’s contents at Jesus’ feet when he is stunned with Jesus’ next statement. “Mordecai, you can’t tell me how to do the multiplying!”
This means I will not have any control once I give the fish and loaves to him. But I will be known as the one giving food to the thousands. This is going to be a great day for me. My name will be known all over the country. I will get credit for feeding a multitude of people!
But Jesus’ next statement stuns Mordecai into silence.
“If I feed this crowd of people, the story of the event will be told thousands and thousands of times, for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Jesus pauses as if to let what he has said sink into Mordecai’s mind, and it does.
Ah! My dream, my dream! His mind goes into orbit. Wherever people talk about this man feeding thousands of people, they will tell about me. Mordecai, giving Jesus my fish and loaves.
But Jesus is talking again. What He says is a jolt to Mordecai’s mind.
“Mordecai, there is one more thing you must understand. If you allow me to use these fish and loaves to feed this multitude, your name will never be connected to this story of the miracle. I will be the star in this story, and no one will ever know your name.”
Mordecai is in shock! What is this man talking about? Does he know what he is asking of me? – – No name, no fame, no glory, not even one mention of me? He must be convinced that he is the Messiah!
Again there is silence. When Jesus speaks, His voice is tender. “I want you to look at me, Mordecai, when I tell you this.”
Jesus puts his finger under Mordecai’s chin and raises his head until the two are looking eye to eye.
Mordecai is amazed at the tenderness he sees in the face of this man called Jesus, and he listens intently.
“I know your dream, my son. You were dreaming again this morning…the dream that you will one day be the Messiah. You have dreamed you will ride down the streets of your village in a golden chariot and you will destroy the Roman government. But Mordecai, I am the Messiah and some day soon, I will be slain so I can overcome death for people who trust me!”
Mordecai mulls over what Jesus has said. I don’t understand this man. He speaks in truth, and then He speaks in riddles. But He knows all about me!
Jesus moves and sits beside the boy.
Mordecai feels an arm encircle his shoulders, with a soothing touch that makes the pain in his back go away. He stares full into the face of Jesus and is overwhelmed with the love he sees.
This man knows my every dream for greatness and he loves me. He touched me and I know I will never be the same.
Jesus tightens his arm around Mordecai and pulls the boy to himself.
“Yes, Son. I know your dream and it is a noble wish. But you are not the Messiah. I am! But you and I can feed this multitude if you are willing to say ‘yes’ to the questions I have asked.”
Mordecai is on his feet before Jesus can finish talking. Gone is the desire for glory. He wants to do the will of this man who knows him and loves him with a tenderness such as he has never felt!
He shoves his basket into Jesus’ hands and shouts, “Here, Lord, take my basket and all that is in it!”
Mordecai watches Jesus take fish and loaves from the basket, and hands it to his disciples who pass it on to the people. He stares in amazement as the food overflows the basket. “Wow! Look at that! I never saw anything like that in all my life. That is a miracle!”
Soon the people are fed, and the disciples are gathering up the loaves and fish that remain.
Mordecai trembles with excitement. He grabs Jesus by the arm. “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my life. I don’t know where you’re going from here, but I sure would like to go with you!”
Jesus smiles. “I understand, but this you should know. I am God in the flesh, but I am also God, the Spirit. The basket you brought fish and loaves in is a physical work of art, woven by your earthly father. That basket will pass away. God, your heavenly father, has today woven within your soul a spiritual being. We call it the New Birth. It will last forever!
“Let me remind you of the questions I asked of you. I asked you to give me ownership of the loaves and fish in your basket. Next I asked you to give me all the loaves and fish in your basket, holding back nothing. Then I asked you to give the food now! The need is now! The people are hungry.
“Finally, Mordecai, and most important of all, you must remember. Your name will never be mentioned as owner or giver of the loaves and fish. Because your answer was affirmative to all the questions I asked, your heavenly father has woven a spiritual basket for you. We say you have been born again.
“Even though I stay here in this body, you will carry me deep in your heart and my love will abide in your heart forever! Now go home to your mother. And bless you, my child.”
Mordecai goes bounding down the mountainside, with his basket filled with loaves and fish swinging from his arm. He is surprised to see the soldier who laid the lash on him the day before, the same soldier who asked Jesus what soldiers should do. He was still seated by the trail.
“Hey, Mordecai,” the soldier shouted. “I’m sorry I mistreated you.”
Mordecai was amazed at the kindness in the soldier’s remarks, and that he himself, for the first time in his life, held no hate for the soldier.
Can it be that my nearness to Jesus has changed my life? he asked himself.
Near the bottom of the mountain, Mordecai looks back. He sees Jesus, standing high on a rock, waving to him. It is the last time for him to see the Master, but he knows he will forever remember Jesus’ healing touch.
Mordecai’s mother is lighting a candle when she hears his voice.
“Singing I go along my way. Praising the Lord, praising the Lord. Singing I go along my way for Jesus has filled my Basket with Love.”
Mordecai bursts into the room. He laughs and weeps while he shows his mother his basket, overflowing with fish and loaves.
“Mother! Today I met Jesus. And Mother, He knows all about me. He knows about father, that he wove this basket. And Mother, you will not believe this. He fed a crowd of thousands of people with my loaves and fish. And He gave me this basket full as a part of what was left over!
“And He touched me, put His arm around me and hugged me. And Mother, He did something to me that made me different. I am not the person I was when I left here this morning.
“I never told you, but I was beaten by a band of soldiers yesterday when I was fishing. That’s why I was getting home late. The pain from their lashing was almost unbearable today, but when Jesus put His arm around me, the pain in my shoulders went away.
“And Mother, something else happened today. One of the soldiers who beat me yesterday was in the crowd. He spoke kindly to me and said he was sorry that had treated me the way they did. I didn’t know soldiers could be kind to anyone.
“Like I said, Mother, I’m in a different world since I met Jesus! He made me into a different person!”
I was once like Mordecai. I had dreams of greatness. But one night, at a little country church, I met the Master face to face…and I have since never been the same.
My life is best described in the words of an unknown poet:
I had walked life’s path with an easy tread.
Had followed where comforts and pleasures led,
When, if by chance, in a quiet place
I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and reared them high
Til their spires had pierced the blue of the sky
I had entered to win in life’s mad race
When I met my Master face to face
I met Him and I knew Him and blushed to see
That His eyes, full of sorrow, were fixed on me
And I faltered and fell at His feet that day
While my castles melted and vanished away
Melted and vanished and in their place I saw
Naught esle but my Master’s face, and I cried aloud
Oh, make me mete to follow the marks of your wounded feet
My thoughts are now for the souls of men
I lost my life to find it again
Ere since alone in that lowly place
My Master and I stood face to face!
© H. Bradford Ramsey Sr./Ramsey House Productions