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viding a supply for the necessities of those who came to see and hear Him. He did not ask this question in order to obtain any information, but as the Evangelist remarks, This He said to prove him, for He Himself knew what He would do. He asked the question in order to prove the faith of Philip in His almighty power; but He had previously resolved in His own mind to feed the multitude by a miracle. He would not send them away fasting to their own houses, lest they should faint by the way. Philip was astonished at such a question; and not considering the character of his Lord and Master, with great simplicity answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. This, amounting to upwards of six guineas, was probably a larger sum than the stock-purse of our Lord and His disciples ever contained. And even this sum, large as it was in Philip's imagination, would not purchase enough merely to satisfy the hunger of the people, until they could go and procure more; it would hardly afford them a taste of the cheapest kind of provision.
Just as Philip had made his reply, One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes; but what are they among so many? This appears to have been such a supply as they were accustomed to have
for themselves only. How small it was, we may form some idea by the account given of one of Elisha's miracles. There came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before a hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat; for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord.55 If twenty loaves were considered to be so small a supply for a hundred men, well might Andrew ask respecting the five loaves, which were in all probability of the same size, What are they among so many? as the multitude which followed our Lord Jesus Christ. But small as the quantity was, it was sufficient to answer the end that He had in view.
And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. St. Matthew adds, beside women and children,56 who were probably as many more. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds and by fifties," in each company. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disci
55 2 Kings iv. 42—44. 56 Matthew xiv. 21. 57 Mark vi. 40.
ples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. His giving thanks is mentioned as an example for us to follow. He blessed God for the provision which He had graciously made for the nourishment and sustenance of His creatures. Our food is the gift of God's bounty. By sin we have forfeited every good gift, even a right to the bread that perisheth; so that it is the mercy of God which supplies us with bread to eat, and raiment to put on. When therefore we receive our food, we should thank God for the supply which He has granted us, and pray for His blessing that it may nourish us, and that the strength which it affords us may be devoted to His service and glory. It seems that when the disciples of the Lord Jesus had distributed a piece of bread and of fish to each company of the people; as the victuals were handed from one to another, and each broke off what he needed, the deficiency was imperceptibly supplied, until all had taken as much as they desired. Like the poor widow's barrel of meal and cruse of oil, which were replenished for daily use, as Elijah foretold;58 or the pot of oil belonging to another widow in the days of Elisha, from which all the vessels were filled that she had been able to borrow;59 and which oil was
58 Kings xvii. 14.
59 2 Kings iv. 6.
not stayed until there were no more vessels to be filled. And on this occasion, not only did every one take a little, but they did all eat, and were filled, and left thereof.
And when they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Although the food had been multiplied by a miracle, our Saviour would not have it wasted. Wastefulness of the gifts of His bounty is displeasing in the sight of God. We are not to slight the bounties of Divine Providence, even when we do not immediately stand in need of them.
In obedience to the command of their Lord and Master, His disciples gathered together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Here it appears that a larger quantity remained after the multitude had been fully satisfied, than there was at the beginning. As it was no delicacy which our Saviour had given to these hungry people; for it was only coarse barley bread and dried fish: when they had eaten to their full content, they were, it seems, disposed to throw away what they did not want. One would rather have expected that each person would have carefully preserved any fragment that remained after his hunger had been satisfied. But instead of this, it appears to have been cast away as of no further use. And such
is the general thoughtlessness of mankind, that although they murmur at the privations which they experience, yet they often cast away the blessings of Providence when they have been favoured with them. Present things alone are regarded, and what may be needful for the future is not the object of their anxiety. Thus also the meat which perisheth is more esteemed by multitudes than that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.
But although the people cast away the superabundance of what they had received, they were greatly astonished that a supply had been so wonderfully provided for them in the time of their necessity. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world. And they therefore wanted to take Him by force to make Him a King; to prevent which He departed into a mountain by Himself alone, that they might not know where He was; and that there He might pour out His soul in prayer to His heavenly Father. He had given such full proof of His Divine power by this miracle, that the multitude thought He must be the Prophet of whom Moses had written, the promised Messiah. Moses had declared to the children of Israel, The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken.