And Jesus departed from there, and came near to the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.…
Matthew puts side by side with miracles of healing this miracle of feeding the four thousand, as if inviting us to read them in the light they reflect upon each other.
1. The first point of contrast is that, while the healing originated in the desire of the multitude who sought our Lord's help, the feeding originated with him, he being the first to notice the faint looks of many of the people. It were much to receive at Christ's hand all we ask for; but, in fact, we receive a great deal more. This miracle is a concrete proof that God knows what we have need of before we ask him, and that the Creator cares for his creature with a tenderness and sympathy which no human relationship rivals.
2. As the one class of miracles exhibits Christ's power to cure, the other reveals his power to prevent, human suffering. As it is a lowered vitality that gives disease its opportunity, so the only preservative against any form of sin is a strong spiritual life. Perhaps the gospel has come to be looked on too exclusively as a remedial scheme, and too little as the means of maintaining a healthy condition of spirit. It is men who have thirsted for righteousness all their lives who have served their generation best; and while we should not do less for the reclamation of the abandoned, we should rectify the balance by doing more to preserve the young from the misery of a wasted life. For every one our Lord healed, he fed ten. He presents himself not only and always as Medicine, but also as Food - as the Bread that nourishes true and eternal life. Bread a fit symbol, as showing -
I. THE UNIVERSAL NEED OF CHRIST AND HIS APPLICABILITY TO ALL. From the first God saw that so surely as we should all hunger and need bread, so surely should we need Christ if our souls were to live. In all that Christ calls us to, he is not putting a strain on our natures, but simply recalling us to that condition in which alone we can live with the ease and comfort of health, and in which alone we can finally and permanently delight.
II. CHRIST GIVES LIFE TO THE WORLD THROUGH HIS DISCIPLES. He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down. It is a very grave truth that every one of us who has himself received spiritual life from Christ has thereby in possession what may give life to many human souls. We may give or withhold, but it is given not only to be consumed, but to be distributed. It is not the privilege of any one class of disciples, but of all.
III. FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST AS THE SOURCE OF LIFE IS REQUISITE BOTH FOR RECEIVING AND IMPARTING SPIRITUAL LIFE. That bread was offered was nothing; each man must use it for himself. Had any scoffed at the idea of our Lord's feeding the multitude with the few loaves he had before him, or refused to believe that bread so produced could have any nourishment in it, they must have remained unfed and faint. And it must have been trying to the disciples to do as they were bid, and advance each man to his separate hundred with his morsel of bread. But if they gave cautiously and sparingly to the first, they must soon have felt rebuked and their hearts enlarged. However slender our attainments or our power of influencing others, let us not be afraid of attempting to nourish some other soul; it is not what we have, but what Christ makes of it, that is to do good.
IV. CONSIDER THE ABUNDANCE AND THE ECONOMY OF CHRIST'S PROVIDING. Many might have despised to gather up the broken bread and bits of fish; have thought they must be hungry indeed who would use such food. Yes, and it is only the hungry soul God promises to satisfy. His food is plain, but it is nutritious, and they who must have fresh food or will take none will be disappointed.
V. THE CHARACTER IN WHICH CHRIST HERE APPEARS IS ONE WHICH WE MAY REMEMBER ALWAYS. Now, as then, he is considerate of our wants, mindful of our infirmities, quick to calculate our worldly prospects, and provide for us; simple, practical, earnest in his love. In his presence none need lack any good thing. "Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.