When they were filled, he said to his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.…
(see R.V.): — The general notion, I suppose, is that the "fragments" are the crumbs that fell from each man's hands as he ate, and the picture before the imagination of the ordinary reader is that of the apostles carefully collecting the debris of the meal from the grass where it had dropped. But the true notion is that the "broken pieces which remain over" are the unused portions into which our Lord's miracle-working hand had broken the bread, and the true picture is that of the apostles carefully putting away in store for future use the abundant provision which their Lord had made, beyond the needs of the hungry thousands. And that conception of the command teaches far more beautiful and deeper lessons than the other.
I. We have that thought to which I have already referred as more strikingly brought out by the slight alteration of translation, which, by the use of "broken pieces," suggests the connection with Christ's breaking the loaves and fishes. We are taught to think of THE LARGE SURPLUS IN CHRIST'S GIFTS OVER AND ABOVE OUR NEED. Whom He feeds He feasts. His gifts answer our need, and over-answer it, for He is able to do exceeding abundantly above that which we ask or think, and neither our conceptions, nor our petitions, nor our present powers of receiving, are the real limits of the illimitable grace that is laid up for us in Christ, and which, potentially, we have each of us in our hands whenever we lay our hands on Him.
II. Then there is another very simple lesson, which I draw. This command suggests for us CHRIST'S THRIFT (if I may use the word) IN THE EMPLOYMENT OF HIS MIRACULOUS POWER. Christ multiplies the bread, and yet each of the apostles has to take a basket, probably some kind of woven wicker-work article which they would carry for holding their little necessaries in their peregrinations; each apostle has to take his basket, and, perhaps emptying it of some of their humble apparel, to fill it with these bits of bread; for Christ was not going to work miracles where men's thrift and prudence could be employed. Nor does He do so now. We live by faith, and our dependence on Him can never be too absolute. Only laziness sometimes dresses itself in the garb and speaks with the tongue of faith, and pretends to be trustful when it is only slothfuh "Why criest thou unto Me?" said God to Moses, "speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." True faith sets us to work. It is not to be perverted into idle and false depending upon Him to work for us, when, by the use of our own ten fingers and our own brains, guided and strengthened by His working in us, we can do the work that is set before us.
III. Still further, there is another lesson here. Not only does the injunction show us Christ's thrift in the employment of the supernatural, but it teaches us our duty of THRIFT AND CARE IN THE USE OF THE SPIRITUAL GRACE BESTOWED UPON US. Christian men I be watchful stewards of that great gift of a living Christ, the food of your souls, that has been by miracle bestowed Upon you. Such gathering together for future need of the unused residue of grace may be accomplished by three ways.
1. There must be a diligent use of the grace given. See that you use to the very full, in the measure of your present power of absorbing and your present need, the gift bestowed upon you. Be sure that you take in as much of Christ as you can contain before you begin to think of what to do with the overplus. If we are not careful to take what we can and to use what we need of Christ, there is little chance of our being faithful stewards of the surplus. The water in a mill-stream runs over the trough in great abundance when the wheel is not working, and one reason why so many Christians seem to have so much more given to them in Christ than they need is because they are doing no work to use up the gift.
2. A second essential to such stewardship is the careful guarding of the grace given from whatever would injure it. Let not worldliness, business, care of the world, the sorrows of life, its joys, duties, anxieties, or pleasures — let not these so come into your hearts that they will elbow Christ out of your hearts, and dull your appetite for the True Bread that came down from heaven.
3. And, lastly, not only by use and by careful guarding, but also by earnest desire for larger gifts of the Christ who is large beyond all measure, shall we receive more and more of His sweetness and His preciousness into our hearts, and of His beauty and glory into our transfigured characters. The basket that we carry, this recipient heart of ours, is elastic. It can stretch to hold any amount that you like to put into it. The desire for more of Christ's grace will stretch its capacity, and as its capacity increases the inflowing gift greatens, and a larger Christ fills the larger room of my poor heart.
IV. Finally, A SOLEMN WARNING IS IMPLIED IN THIS COMMAND, AND ITS REASON "THAT NOTHING BE LOST." Then there is a possibility of losing the gift that is freely given to us. We may waste the bread, and so, sometime or other when we are hungry, awake to the consciousness that it has dropped out of our slack hands. The abundance of Christ's grace may, so far as you are profited or enriched by it, be like the .unclaimed millions of money which nobody asks for and that is of use to no living soul. You may be paupers while all God's riches in glory are at your disposal, and starving while baskets full of bread broken for us by Christ lie unused at our sides.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.