The Boy From the House of Bread image

The Boy From the House of Bread

I'm on sabbatical at the moment, but today sees the launch of my new book, The Boy From the House of Bread. It's the story of Jesus seen through the eyes of an African boy, and/or a biblical theology of bread, depending on whether you're 3-7 or 30-70. See if you can guess who Alex is before the end. (He's mentioned in the Gospels, but very fleetingly.) It goes like this:

My name is Alex. I’m eight and a half,
And I come from an African town in the Med.
But most of this story is not about me.
It’s the tale of a boy who was born in a shed—
The boy from the house of bread.

I first heard of Jesus from Rufus, at lunch.
“You see that guy over there teaching?” he said.
I saw where my brother was pointing and looked.
“They say He   brought two children back from the dead:
A widow’s young son, an important man’s daughter.
They say He heals blindness and walks on the water.
They say He was born when His Mum wasn’t wed
In the town they call House-of-Bread.”

I stared at the teacher. He didn’t look much—
No rippling muscles, no crown on His head.
So I started to listen to what He was saying.
“The kingdom of God is like this,” He said.
Then He told us some stories of scattering seeds
And harvesting crops and pulling up weeds. 
He kept on describing the kingdom of heaven
With stories of flour, of wheat, and of leaven,
And feasting, and everyone poor being fed.
They all seemed to be about bread.

Once, around teatime, my brother and I
Were part of a crowd in a ravenous mood
When Jesus’s helper came over and asked,
“Did you boys remember to bring any food?”
“Just a fish sandwich,” I said with a grin.
“Perfect,” he said. So I gave him my tin.

He took it to Jesus, who offered a prayer
Then broke the bread loaves before starting to share.
The food just kept coming . . . so much fish and bread
That it made an incredible, edible spread
With nobody hungry and five thousand fed.
“I have never seen anything like it,” I said.
“A man who can multiply bread!”

The trouble began a bit later that summer:
They captured His cousin and cut off his head.
They started to plot about how they could kill Him.
They couldn’t get over the things Jesus said,
Like “I am the Light in a world that’s asleep,”
And “I am the Shepherd who dies for His sheep,”
And “I am the Saviour who raises the dead,”
And “I am the life-giving Bread.” 

I didn’t see Jesus again till the Spring.
Things were beginning to come to a head.
The word on the streets of Jerusalem was
That the priests and the leaders all wanted Him dead.
Dad was concerned. It didn’t look pretty;
Jesus had angered the local committee,
And thousands of pilgrims were filling the city
For the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I woke up that Friday. The morning was chilly
As Dad told my brother to get out of bed.
“We have to get going right now,” whispered Dad.
“They’ve captured the man from the house of bread!
He knew it was coming. He said not to fight.
They all had a Passover supper last night.
He said He’d be captured before it was light
But that, in the end, it would all be all right.
He said not to fear but to trust Him instead—
And He left them with wine and bread.”

We ran to the edge of the city in tears.
“Don’t worry, they’ll put Him on trial,” Dad said.
But when we arrived, it was less like a trial
And more like a mocking parade instead.
They made Jesus dress in a bright purple gown
And twisted together a prickly crown.
I watched as He carried His cross out of town,
So weak that He couldn’t stop falling down.
I stared as a soldier, in silver and red,
Took Dad by the arm and pointed ahead;
“You carry His cross!” he said.

Dad had to carry the old, rugged beam
To the hill called “the Skull.” He couldn’t refuse.
Rufus and I kept ourselves out of sight
As they hoisted the man they called King of the Jews.
I looked at the man on the cross as He bled.
The afternoon sky became darker, like lead.
He finally shouted and bowed His head:
“My mission is finished!” He said.

It felt like the end of the world. It was.
We walked back in silence, and went to bed. 
Saturday came, and I cried all day long.
They’d murdered the man who could multiply bread,
And the hope of the world was dead.

I woke up on Sunday before it was morning.
Some women were chattering out on the street.
They said they were heading for Jesus’ grave.
I decided to follow them all, in bare feet.
As Jerusalem’s sunrise was piercing the gloom,
The women arrived at the tomb. 

You probably know graves are closed off with stones—
But this one was open. No body. No bones. 
“How could this happen?” the women all cried.
Two shining strangers stood off to one side.
“Why look for life in a graveyard?” they said.
“You’re after the man from the house of bread?
He’s not here. He has risen, just like He said.
Your King is alive, not dead!”

That week was a blur. The city was buzzing.
The friends who had seen Him were starting to preach.
But I didn’t see Jesus until, two weeks later,
He barbecued breakfast for us on the beach.
I loved it. He made us my favorite dish:
Freshly baked rolls served with charcoal-grilled fish.
“What happens now, Master?” somebody said.
He paused as He finished a mouthful of bread.
“Harvest,” He answered. “Go into my field,
And feed hungry people, and see the sick healed.
Tell all the world I’m alive and not dead,
And I will be with you wherever you tread.
Now go and teach everyone all that I said,
And invite them for wine and bread.” 

So that’s what I did. I went home that summer,
Back to my town in the African Med. 
But the rest of my life wasn’t really my own.
It belonged to the boy who was born in a shed,
Who walked on the water and rose from the dead:
The King from the house of bread.

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