But Jesus told them, "You give them something to eat." "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered, "unless we go and buy food for all these people."
I. OUR HOLY SOLICITUDE FOR THE SPIRITUALLY DESTITUTE. There is a note of true sympathy in the language of the disciples (ver. 12; see Mark 6:35, 36). They were concerned to think of that great number of people, among whom were "women and children" (Matthew 14:21), having gone so long without food, and being "in a desert place" where none could be obtained. How strong and keen should be our sympathy with those who are spiritually destitute; who have received from God a nature with immeasurable capacities, with profound cravings for that which is eternally true and divinely good, and who "have nothing to eat"! No solicitude for hungering human hearts can be extravagant; it is only too common to be guiltily and pitifully unconcerned. And if the stage of spiritual hunger and thirst should have passed into that of spiritual unconsciousness, that is one degree (and a large degree too) more deplorable, for it is one stage nearer to spiritual death. We do well to pity the multitudes at home and abroad who might be and who should be living on Divine and everlasting truth, but who are pining and perishing on miserable husks, - on errors, on superstitions, on morbid fancies, on low ambitions, on unsatisfying and perhaps demoralizing pleasures.
II. THE APPARENT INADEQUACY OF THE DIVINE PROVISION. Well may the disciples, not yet enlightened as to their Master's purpose, regard "five loaves and two fishes" as hopelessly inadequate to the occasion. So to human judgment they seemed. Not less strikingly disproportioned must the Divine provision for man's higher necessities have seemed to those who first regarded it. What was it? It was, in the language of our Lord recorded a few verses on in this chapter (ver. 22), "the Son of man suffering many things, being rejected.., and slain, and being raised the third day." A crucified and restored Messiah was to be offered as the Bread of life to a hungering world! Would this satisfy the needs of all mankind - of Jew and Gentile, of barbarian and cultured, of bond and free, of man and woman? Could One that seemed to fail, whose cause was all but extinguished in obloquy and desertion, be the Redeemer of mankind? It was unlikely in the last degree; speaking after the manner of men, it was impossible! And the machinery, too, the instrumentality by which this strange provision was to be conveyed to all human souls everywhere and through all generations, was that not equally inadequate? A few "unlearned and ignorant men," a few earnest and true but obscure and uninfluential women, - could they establish and perpetuate this new system? could they pass on these scanty provisions to the waiting and perishing multitude? How hopeless! how impossible! Yet see -
III. ITS PROVED SUFFICIENCY. As those five loaves and two fishes, under the multiplying hand of Christ, proved to be far more than enough for the thousands who partook of them, so is the provision in the gospel of Christ for the needs of man found to be all-sufficient. In a once-crucified and now exalted Saviour we have One in whom is found:
1. Pardon for every sin and for every repentant sinner.
2. Admission, instant and full, to the presence and favour of God.
3. A source of purity of heart, and excellency, and even nobility, of life.
4. Comfort in all the sorrows and privations of our earthly course.
5. Peace and hope in death.
6. A glorious immortality.
Well does this great Benefactor say, "I am come that ye might have life, and, have it more abundantly. The provision is more than equal to the necessity; there is a marvellous overflow of truth and grace. - C.
Five loaves and two fishes.I. All the people of God are stewards of the household of faith, and to God must they render an account.
II. We are to adopt all lawful means by which to escape impending danger. When our Lord was exposed to danger from Herod, though possessed of all power, he adopted human means to escape that danger. We must not allow any fear of encountering perils to deter us from duty.
III. We ought to esteem no sacrifice too great to be made for Christ and His gospel. The people referred to in the text did not think it too much to leave their comfortable homes; but, forsaking all, went into the desert to listen to Him who spake as never man spake. If called to hazard all, and even our life, for the gospel, let us commit ourselves to God.
IV. Our Lord welcomes all who come to Him by faith. When the people came to Him from the villages round about, He refused none, but healed all who had need.
V. Wherever true Christianity exists in the heart, it will manifest its presence by a spirit of benevolence. The disciples saw the night coming on, and wished the multitude to be dismissed, that they might retire to the comforts they needed. Christianity rejoices not only in our own salvation, but also in that of others.
VI. When human aid fails, Divine power is made manifest. VII. We should so receive and enjoy the blessings of heaven as to glorify God. When our Lord received the food, He returned thanks for it, and pronounced a blessing upon it.
VIII. When the mind reposes by faith on the Saviour, there will be ample supplies of grace and favour. Christ never said to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye My face in vain." Conclusion: In all situations of danger let the people put their trust in Jehovah, remembering that He who is for them is much greater than all who can be against them.
(J. Henderson.)1. We learn from this miracle that it is our duty to do what we can to supply the bodily wants of others.
2. We here learn that those who follow Christ may trust to Him for the necessaries of life.
3. We are here reminded of the duty of what is commonly called "saying grace" at meals This was our Lord's practice, and it is a duty often enjoined in Scripture.
4. From the particular direction our Lord here gave as to the fragments, we draw the general rule that nothing should be lost, or wasted. To waste our substance is a sinful abuse of God's gifts. It is one thing to be generous and hospitable; it is quite another to be thoughtless, extravagant, and wasteful. Such wasting is not only offensive to God, but unjust and unkind to our fellow creatures.
(J. Foote, M. A.)
I. Christ deals with us on principles of a wise economy, builds his supernatural work on our natural resources, and makes a little do the work of abundance.
II. Christ always makes that which we have and bring to Him for His blessing adequate for the needs of the hour. He takes us into partnership with Himself both in His work and its rewards.
III. Weakness made strong in effort for Him.
(John Keble, M. A.)
The Weekly Pulpit.I. THE PEOPLE'S BODY NEED, AND SOUL NEED.
II. GOD'S PROVISION FOR BODY AND FOR SOUL.
III. GOD'S METHOD OF SUPPLY TO BODY AND TO SOUL. Ordinary. Miraculous. Moral.
(The Weekly Pulpit.)I. Christ in MIRACULOUS BENEFICENCE. Omnipotence is ever instinct with love.
II. Christ in SOCIAL ORDER. Not a God of confusion.
III. Christ in FRUGAL ARRANGEMENT. Nothing in nature runs to waste.
IV. Christ in the PATRONAGE OF HOSPITALITY. "Give ye them to eat." Help each other. Conclusion: Follow Christ in all this.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)Mark 6:31). They take passage privately in a vessel to a desert place near to Bethsaida. In vain did they look here for solitude. They had been observed by the eager multitude, who followed on foot, and were at the landing-place before them. The Lord has compassion on them, and is solicitous for their physical as well as their spiritual well-being. On finding that there are five loaves and two small fishes, He gives the disciples directions for the orderly arrangement of the multitude into companies; and when all were in perfect order He took the loaves and the fishes, and blessed and brake and gave the disciples to set before the multitude. As they passed from hand to hand, the loaves and fishes multiplied so as to become more than sufficient for the great multitude. Every year in the harvest we see this miracle repeated.
1. Learn that order is Christlike, is Divine.
2. That economy is Divine. All the evangelists are careful to record that they gathered up the fragments left. Liberal profusion and true economy always go hand in hand.
3. Learn to relieve the wants of others even when we have but little. It is ours also to feed the hungry. Especially with the bread of life.
(D. Longwill.)I. THE PROBLEM OF THE DISCIPLES. The desert place, the night, the multitude without food, presented a problem that might well constitute a reason for anxiety to any who were of a sympathetic nature. The circumstances were new and surprising, and were such as to test the weakness, or bring out the strength, of their confidence in the Master's wisdom and power. We all need to be surprised in life. It is the unexpected that shows us what we are. The disciples were perplexed, and very human they were in their perplexity. For the time they seem to have forgotten several things.
1. That the people had followed their Master and not them, and that they were connected with the people through Him. Had the people followed them there would be nothing to do but to send them away. If the case to-day were between the disciples and the multitude, it would be hopeless.
2. That the Master knew as much, and more, of the multitude than they did.
3. That the Master was moved with compassion towards the people. They had forgotten the most important elements of the problem. They had been looking at the multitude and the night; had been realizing the difficulties very vividly. We, too, look at our multitude, and see the darkness in which they are involved, and tremble as we think of the possible, if not the inevitable issue of what we see. But we do not see the whole when we tremble. God is above the night, and pities all who are in it. God knows, and God pities, and that ought to be enough for our faith, if not for our reason. At length the disciples made their petition, saying, "Send the multitude away." The very fact that He was there to receive their requests ought to have reminded them of some of the many things which they had forgotten. For if they had thought, had not He much more than they?
II. THE SOLUTION OF THE MASTER "Give ye them to eat."
1. The command seemed extravagant, but they knew that it had not been His habit to gather in where He had not scattered abroad. It made them feel how inadequate they were, with the little they had, to obey it. They had only five loaves and two fishes, do as they would, with a multitude to feed. The loaves were, however, just what the people needed. We have all some little which, if wisely used, may be of benefit to our fellows. We have mind, heart, and opportunity.
2. The Master took the five loaves and the two fishes from the disciples, and manifested His great power through that which they gave Him. He brought them into the fellowship of His mystery. He blessed the loaves which they brought. Our first condition of usefulness is to take the little we have to Christ, if we have only the little. That which is blessed by Him is equal to all that life's occasion demands.
3. After the blessing came the breaking, but it does not seem that the loaves appeared to be more than five after they were blessed.
4. Although there is enough and to spare, there is nothing to be wasted.
(J. O. Darien.)
Give ye them to eats
1. To begin at the very lowest point, it is the nature of human strength and fortitude bodily to have an elastic measure, and to be so let forth or extended as to meet the exigencies that arise. Muscular strength and endurance are often suddenly created or supplied by some great emergency for which they are wanted.
2. So, also, it is in the nature of courage to increase in the midst of perils and because of them, and courage is the strength of the heart.
3. Intellectual force, too, has the same elastic quality, and measures itself, in the same way, by the exigencies we are called to meet. Task it, and for that very reason it grows efficient. It discovers its own force by the exertion of force. All great commanders, statesmen, lawgivers, scholars, preachers, have found the powers unfolded in their calling, and by their calling, which were necessary for it.
4. The same thing is true, and quite as remarkably, of what we call moral power. Not seldom is it a fact that the very difficulty and grandeur of a design, which some heroic soul has undertaken to execute, exalts him at once to such a pre-eminence of moral power that mankind are exalted with him, and inspired with energy and confidence by the contemplation of his magnificent spirit. The great and successful men of history are commonly made by the great occasions they fill. As with David, so with Nehemiah, Paul, Luther. A Socrates, a Tully, a Cromwell, a Washington, all the great master-spirits, the founders and law-givers of empires and defenders of the rights of man, are made by the same law.
5. How childish, then, is it in religion, to imagine that we are called to do nothing save what we have ability to do beforehand; ability in ourselves to do. We have, in fact, no such ability at all, no ability that is inherent, as respects anything laid upon us to do. Our ability is what we can have, and then our duty is graduated by what we can have. This is the Christian doctrine everywhere.
6. This doctrine opposed to two opposite errors:(1) That of those who think the demand of the religious life so limited and trivial as to require but little care and small sacrifice; and(2) that of those who look upon them as being so many and so great, that they are discouraged under them.
(H. Bushnell, D. D.)1. The multitude in a desert place was representative to the Saviour's mind of vaster multitudes all over the earth.
2. The bread He supplied for men's bodies was suggestive of the bread He was to supply for their souls.
3. The position of the disciples, then, is the position of the disciples still — we stand between the Lord of life and the famishing multitudes. We may still hear the words ringing in our ears, "Give ye them to eat."
I. IT IS A COMMAND ON BEHALF OF THE FAMISHING MULTITUDES.
1. They have not the knowledge of God.
2. They have not the knowledge of the meaning of life.
3. They have not the knowledge of the gospel.
II. IT IS A COMMAND FROM THE LORD OF LIFE.
1. He has compassion on the multitudes.
2. He has provided bread for the multitudes.
3. It is His prerogative to command to give to the multitudes,
III. IT IS A COMMAND TO DISCIPLES AS STANDING BETWEEN THE LORD OF LIFE AND THE FAMISHING MULTITUDES.
1. We are to sympathize with the multitudes.
2. We are to be the medium of communication between Christ and the multitudes in the distribution of bread.
3. We are to distribute to the multitudes in hope.The day is coming when the Church, turning to its Lord, shall say, "All the famishing multitudes are now fed." And after its task has been accomplished it will feel so strong in the means of extension, that there will be, as it were, twelve baskets over, out of which many more might have been fed.
(R. Finlayson, B. A.)
Christian Journal.— A carpet from the San Francisco Mint was burned the other day, and yielded £505 worth of gold dust, which had fallen in imperceptible particles during five years' use. In life take care of the minute things. These particles of gold seemed little indeed as they floated away, but they made a grand total. So it will be in life if we improve every moment of time, every scrap of knowledge, every, degree of influence, every opportunity of being good, getting good, doing good. A wise economy of the grains of gold brings out massive talents some day. Take care and value apparently mean things. The carpet on which men walked in the Mint was sown with gold, although they knew it not. All our common things, tasks, duties, are full of the dust of gold. That on which men trample would yield crowns for their head if they only knew it and walked wisely. Make the best of a life of trifles, and we shall one day be astonished at the splendid result. God will not let our good doings perish, Small as they may be. He will gather up the fragments to our eternal enrichment. The body will dissolve in the crucible of the grave, the earth be burned up as the carpet was, but the fine gold of true human life shall be gathered up in an eternal weight of glory.
(J. Foote, M. A.)
(Biblical things not generally known.)1. Rationalizing tendency to explain away miracles on natural grounds wrong, but like many wrong things, a perversion of that which is right. It is a right and a reverent thing not to suppose a miracle where natural explanation sufficient. Peculiarity of New Testament miracles, which distinguishes them from absurd stories of apocryphal Gospels, that they all have a worthy purpose, and a purpose which could only be attained by the putting forth a supernatural power. But not everything, even in a miracle, is miraculous, for —
2. Christ multiplied the loaves miraculously, but He distributed the provision thus made by natural means, human instrumentality. Necessity for miracle ceased with rendering supply sufficient.
3. We have in this an illustration of the method of God's working. God does not need human co-operation to enable Him to carry out His purposes. But He chooses that, while the power which makes the provision is of necessity Divine, the instruments of its distribution shall be human. Reason to be found in constitution of human nature and in blessedness of results. Good for recipient that he shall receive from brother-man. More blessed still for distributor.
4. Each disciple would feel it an unspeakable privilege to be made a dispenser of Christ's beneficence. Can you imagine one holding back? How is it now, with us?
5. The personal responsibility involved in this law of human instrumentality. Suppose one of the disciples had begun to argue with himself that it was folly to give away what they might need for themselves, and had hidden away a loaf in the folds of his robe, may we not imagine that in that case the reverse of the miracle would have been enacted? "What I gave I kept," etc.
(J. R. Bailey.)
(A. Cart, M. A.)
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