Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.…
After the group of miracles, we have our Lord next conferring the power of working miracles upon the twelve. This was miraculous power in its highest form. It is important to work well one's self; but it is a still greater feat to get all about one's self into working order too. Jesus was training his disciples to be workers like himself. Let us, then, consider -
I. THE CONDITIONS OF THE MISSION OF. THE TWELVE. (Vers. 1-6.) And here we have to notice:
1. The power delegated was healing and exorcising power. That is to say, their miraculous power was to change the sick and the insane into able-bodied members of society. The aim of our Lord's philanthropy and of theirs was to enable men to become useful workers. When men can help themselves, then are they in the happiest of all conditions. This is infinitely better than spoon-feeding and pauperizing people.
2. The disciples were not to use miracle to make themselves independent of the hospitality of the people. Christ never used miracle to make life easier for himself; nor did he allow his delegates to do so. it would seem to some a wiser arrangement to make them independent of random hospitalities. But it was better for all parties that hospitality should be looked for. Rabbis were hospitably entertained, and so should these disciples be. They were also to accept of hospitality as it came, and not to be choosers of the grand and pretentious houses which might be opened to them. There may be as much magnanimity in accepting hospitality as in extending it.
3. In case of rejection, they were simply to symbolize their separation by shaking off the dust of their feet against them. This was the symbol of hostility and war; but there was no further outward act to be undertaken. The war was spiritual, and the judgment of the rejectors must be left with God. Toleration was thus made consistent with faithfulness to their convictions; and was freed from all laxity.
4. Their career of preaching and of accompanying philanthropy was continued throughout the towns of Galilee. The gospel they brought to men was one of trust in the Saviour who had come and of devotion to him. It was a gospel of work inspired by that faith which operates through love. Hence it carried philanthropy with it, and this philanthropy was of the most useful and stimulating character.
II. HEROD'S FEARS AND CURIOSITY. (Vers. 7-9.) The mission of the twelve had proved sufficiently influential to attract the notice of Herod. It led him to consider his sin and danger in murdering the Baptist. The miracles of which he heard, however, were merciful, and not wrathful; and so, though he was perplexed about the Saviour, he was curious to see him. Most likely he thought he would get Jesus into his power, as he had got John. But John's ideas about the kingdom and its coming were essentially different from those of Jesus. Hence Herod is left in isolation; his curiosity and desire to see Jesus are alike unsatisfied.
III. THE RETIREMENT INTO WHICH JESUS TAKES THE DISCIPLES AFTER THEIR CAREER OF SUCCESS. (Ver. 10.) The disciples, as we learn from the other Gospels, returned with joy, highly elated with their success. It was on this account doubtless that our Lord deemed retirement so needful for them. There is nothing, so wholesome for us when dangerously elated as solitude and prayer. In thin way the true character of success is appreciated, and all undue elation about it overcome.
IV. THE INCONVENIENCES OF POPULARITY. (Ver. 14.) The seasons of retirement so salutary for public men are apt to be invaded, and more work forced upon them than they would themselves desire. The disciples and Jesus had most likely secured some fellowship with God before the popular invasion; for our Lord anticipated both friends and foes, and wrought out his beautiful plan in spite of interruption. So when the people came crowding around him, he was able to receive them with unruffled spirit, and to give them the counsel and the healing they needed. It was the same policy which the disciples had pursued by his directions which he here pursues. Miracle is used to heal and render useful, but not to minister to self-indulgence or render life easier to men. He made the multitude hopeful through his preaching, and healthy through his miraculous power.
V. THE FEEDING AND DISMISSAL OF THE PEOPLE. (Vers. 12-17.) This miracle is narrated by all the evangelists. The sending of the multitude away is urged by the disciples. They have got the healing, and should expect no more. As for hospitality, the five thousand should have entertained Jesus and the disciples, rather than be entertained by them. But our Lord would go beyond his previous limitations, and become the Host instead of the Guest of men. For after all, he is really men's Host, and we all sit at his board, though he condescends to be our Guest and to take of what we provide. Hence he shows by this miracle how all men really depend upon his bounty and are fed from his hand.- The multiplication of the five loaves and two fishes, that is, of cooked food, cannot be assigned to any natural law, and could only have been miraculous. It was not quantitatively so great a miracle as the feeding of the Israelites with the manna for forty years; yet it was a sufficient miracle to show that the Sustainer of the world was among them. Upon him they should depend, and, if they fed by faith on him, they would always be strengthened. It was at the same time sufficiently moderate in its size and duration to show that he was not going to keep lazy men in idleness by spreading a gratuitous feast for them every day. They are dismissed by him that very evening, that they might not be able to go through the selfish ceremony of making him a king. He did not want to be a king over idlers, over men who would like to eat without the trouble of working; and so he defeated their worldly plans. His lesson of frugality also was most significant. He wanted no waste in his kingdom. He would not prostitute miraculous power to minister either to idleness or to wastefulness. Very clear light is thus cast upon the economy of Jesus. He kept miracle in its place. It ministered to usefulness; it was not allowed to minister to idleness or waste. It would be well if all learned the wholesome lesson which Christ thus conveys. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.