Breaking bread with Saint John of the Mall

Nancy and I needed to do some Christmas shopping. We decided to head to the food court at the mall for supper and then shop. There’s a new Thai place, so we shared a plate with two entrees and rice.

“You eat like you haven’t had anything for a couple days,” said the person at the next table. I looked up. I had been so focused on our meal that I hadn’t noticed Saint John. He had a cup of water and a small piece of bread or roll.

“It’s from the sub place,” he said. “They often share a bit of food with me. I don’t eat much.”

“That broken piece of bread in the middle of a crowd,” I said.  “It seems familiar.”

Nancy agreed. “Everyone seated in family groups. People in the same place looking for something that will give themselves or someone else meaning. In a pretty chaotic culture.”

John smiled at us. “So, how many people do you think there are here? A thousand?”

I shook my head. “I have no sense of numbers of people. But maybe. There’s enough noise for a thousand people or more.”

“Imagine several times this many people sitting around on the ground, and Jesus teaching. The only noise is his voice, and then the whispered sound of people passing on what they heard.”

Nancy smiled. “That many people concentrating that hard on hearing what Jesus said. The sense of community must have been amazing.”

John shook his head. “I’d love to let you think that, but the people in that crowd weren’t all in agreement with Jesus. In fact, there were many little clusters hoping that he agreed with them. Just like the people sitting around us. Some are hoping their gift will restore a relationship. Others are hoping it will make someone jealous. Some are looking for the least they can give to keep the peace.”

“That sounds pretty cynical,” I said. I was pretty sensitive to Christmas skepticism. I have years of practice.

“I’m just being accurate,” John said. “Within a couple days, most of that crowd was going to walk away from Jesus. He didn’t fit with their idea of a leader. He had his own plan and wasn’t planning to fit with theirs.

“But some were paying attention. The twelve were pretty focused on what he was saying.”

I pointed to the hunk of bread in front of him. “I thought that there was some debate about how to feed the crowd.”

John smiled. “There was. Andrew, my friend from the day John pointed toward Jesus, he was willing to entertain the idea that Jesus might be able to provide for the whole crowd even faster than Chick-fil-a could cater. The rest of the group wasn’t so sure. But when we passed out the food and in didn’t run out, and then when we each ended up with a big basket of leftovers, we were pretty focused.”

“I’m guessing that you weren’t focused on the food?” I asked.

“When you are part of the process of a miracle, you don’t focus on the outcome,” he said. “You focus on the one who blessed the bread. And your hands.”


This book has been out for five years. I think it’s still helpful for an Advent reader. Saint John of the Mall