|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:13-21 When Christ and his word withdraw, it is best for us to follow, seeking the means of grace for our souls before any worldly advantages. The presence of Christ and his gospel, makes a desert not only tolerable, but desirable. This little supply of bread was increased by Christ's creating power, till the whole multitude were satisfied. In seeking the welfare of men's souls, we should have compassion on their bodies likewise. Let us also remember always to crave a blessing on our meals, and learn to avoid all waste, as frugality is the proper source of liberality. See in this miracle an emblem of the Bread of life, which came down from heaven to sustain our perishing souls. The provisions of Christ's gospel appear mean and scanty to the world, yet they satisfy all that feed on him in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving.
Verses 13-21. - The feeding of the five thousand. Parallel passages: Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13. The miracle was deemed so characteristic of our Lord's work, in his care for men and his power to sustain them, and more especially in its being a parable of his readiness to supply spiritual food, that it was recorded not only by each of the three evangelists who used the framework, but also by the one who depended entirely upon his own materials. But though St. John's account of it is on the whole independent, yet even this has expressions which are certainly due to the influence of the source used by the synoptists, or, less probably, of one or other of our present Gospels. The evangelist relates
(1) the occasion of the miracle (vers. 13, 140;
(2) the preparation of the disciples (vers. 15-18);
(3) the miracle itself (vers. 19, 20);
(4) a summary statement of the numbers fed (ver. 21). Verse 13. - When Jesus heard of it (cf. ver. 12b, note), he departed. (For the form of the sentence, see Matthew 4:12; Matthew 12:15.) Thence by ship; in a boat (Revised Version); Matthew 8:23. Into a desert place apart. Defined in John 6:3 as "the mountain;" in Luke 9:10 as "a city called Bethsaida." The spot appears to have been in part of the plain El-Batiha, which is at the northcast corner of the Sea of Galilee on the Gaulonitis side of the Jordan, and in which stood Bethsaida-Julias. Mark 6:45 implies that there was a second Bethsaida on the western side of the lake, which, though not alluded to by Josephus, is expressly spoken of in John 12:21, and is probably referred to in all the other passages of the New Testament where the name Bethsaida occurs. And when the people (the multitudes, Revised Version) had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. The fact that it was near a feast time (John 6:4, the Passover, if the text be right; and cf. infra, ver. 19, note) perhaps accounts for the multitudes being so large. Some at least would be on their way up to Jerusalem.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
When Jesus heard of it,.... Of the death of John, and of the cruel usage he had met with; and particularly, that his fame had reached the court of Herod, and that he was talked of there, and said by Herod himself to be John the Baptist, that was risen from the dead;
he departed thence by ship, into a desert place apart; to avoid Herod, though not through fear of death; but because his time was not yet come: which may teach us, that it is lawful to shun dangers, when there is an opportunity; which may be done, without betraying truth, or sacrificing a good conscience. The other evangelists, Mark and Luke, assign another reason of this departure of Christ's, that it was upon the return of his disciples to him from their embassy; when having given him an account of what they had done, and taught, he judged it proper they should retire, and get some refreshment and rest; and both may very well be thought to be the reasons of this recess. At the same time that John's disciples brought him the news of their master's death, Christ's disciples return to him, with the account of the success of their ministry; who might not only be weary, and want refreshment, but be discouraged in their minds, at this instance of cruelty; wherefore Christ thought it necessary to retire, partly for his own safety, and partly for their ease; and that he might have an opportunity of fortifying their minds against all trials and persecutions they were to meet with: the place from whence he departed, was either Capernaum, his own country and city, or Nazareth, where we have lately heard of him; or some other place in Galilee, where he was, when John's disciples came to him: the place whither he went, was "a desert place"; and, as Luke says, "belonging to the city called Bethsaida", the city of Andrew and Peter, which lay on the other side of the sea of Galilee, or Tiberias; over which he went by ship, John 6:1.
And when the people had heard thereof; of his departure, and whither he went,
they followed him on foot out of their cities; such as Nazareth, Capernaum, Tiberias, and others; and passing the bridge at Jordan, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, they outwent the ship, and got thither before them, as Mark relates. This showed their great affection and zeal for Christ, and their diligence in attending on him.
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