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10; and another, that the grass was green,* Mark vi. 39.
Our Lord continued his instructions till the shades of evening began to gather around, when the disciples reminded him that the day was on the decline. Besides, they were in a desert place; | the thousands who were attentively listening to his words, were far from their homes, and the disciples add, “ The time is now passed"—the time of supper, the chief meal of the Jews, which 1 in that country was commonly after the heat of the day began to abate. It was necessary that the company should be dismissed, that they might find food and rest for the night, in the towns and villages. The compassionate Saviour knew that, in their present exhausted state, they were likely to faint by the way, and he intended that they should sup with him before they departed. “Whence shall we buy bread, that all these may eat ?" he inquired of Philip, who was a native of this part of the country, and who might be supposed to know where to procure food. The disciple, astonished at the question, replied that it would take two hundred pennyworth of bread to feed them all. This to them was a large sum; for the
1 Roman penny, or denarius, was equal to sevenpence halfpenny in our money, so that the sum required was equal to about six pounds five shillings; and taking into account the relative
1 " This mount was called by my guide, · The Multiplication of Breail,' or, as I had heard others denominate it, “The Table of our Lord.'. It is remarkable, that at this day there is, much grass in the place. Near it I was joined by a miserable ragged! soldier, who had been stationed at the foot of the hill by his pacha, to protect the grass from the depredation of travellers." Rae Wilson's Travels in the Holy Land, vol. ii,
values of food and money, as compared with modern times, the real amount would be of much greater value.
Our Lord only added, “ Give ye them to eat." It is not my will that this multitude should return, at this hour of the evening, unfed to their homes. The twelve were still ignorant of their Master's design, and inquired if they should go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread : from which it may be inferred, that this was about the sum that Judas, who acted as treasurer to our Lord and his disciples, had in “ the bag.” Andrew was now sent among the people, to inquire what food they had; when it was found that they had left their homes without provision, except a lad, who had five barley loaves, and two small fishes. We may suppose the dismay of Andrew when he returned and informed his Master, that this was the whole supply which could be found among the numerous and hungry multitude who surrounded them. “ How is it possible,” Andrew may have been ready to inquire, “ to feed five thousand men with such a scanty supply? And then, look at the women and children! they amount to many hundreds also!” Jesus listened to his disciple's report, and calmly directed that the loaves and fishes should be brought to him. The multitude had been crowded together; but now, to obtain order in the distribution of the food, the people were commanded to sit down on the grass, by“ hundreds and fifties :" by which may be meant, fifty ranks, each containing one hundred men, or five thousand in the whole. The people obediently submitted to these directions, and formed themselves into order, though the thought may have been in many
hearts, " What can this mean? For what purpose are we thus placed ?” while the more pious among
have recalled to mind the miracle of Elisha, when he fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves, 2 Kings iv. 42 : yet who can supply this large multitude in a desert place?
The disciples perceived that he was about to display his Divine power; and they had witnessed so many proofs of it already, that they made no more objections, but ranged the people as carefully as though they were about to share the plenty of a royal feast.
What a scene was now beheld! The ranks of guests rising in lines, up the slopes of the mountain, and reclining, after the manner of the Jews, at their meals. Their canopy is the evening sky; their table, the grassy earth. Order and silence prevail. There stands the Master of the feast, majesty and benevolence beaming in his countenance, as he looks around on the gathered throng. Before him are laid the five barley loaves and two small fishes. By his side, stand the disciples, with their eyes directed to him, awaiting his commands. In the distance, a few fishing boats are gently making their way across the lake. And now the Saviour takes the scanty and humble provision into his hands before them all, and lifts his eyes to heaven. He first gives thanks to his Father for the supplies of his providence; and then blesses the bread with a peculiar blessing.
The loaves are broken into smaller portions, and the disciples begin to distribute them to the waiting company. They pass in order down the ranks, and with 'unsparing hand give to every one,
and return to their Lord for a new supply. The fish are likewise divided, and carried round to the people. With what delight do the disciples fulfil their office! while the minds of the multitude are filled with silent wonder.
It is in vain to conjecture the manner in which the loaves and fishes increased, whether the food multiplied in the hands of our Lord, or in those of his disciples; or whether, as one writer* has supposed, it increased in the hands of the multitude. On this point the Scriptures say nothing to gratify a vain curiosity, but simply declare the fact, They eat as much as they would, and were filled.”
The evening meal now ended, Jesus directed,
Gather the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost;” and, in obedience to his word, the disciples went among the company, and filled twelve baskets, each disciple a basket, with the fragments of the feast.
This miracle is recorded by all the four evangelists, and has been considered as among the most convincing of those wrought by our Lord. Five thousand witnesses could not be deceived, for the miracle was done openly, and was easy to be observed. The want of food was known to them all; they were in a desert where it could not be obtained ; there was no delay to allow the disciples to buy it in the distant villages; and no secret supplies could have been obtained without detection. The senses of the people convinced them it was real: they saw the small provision enlarged more than a thousandfold; they heard the blessing given; they felt it in their hands ; • Macknight, in his “ Harmony of the Gospels."
they tasted it, and were satisfied that what they received was real fish and bread. And such was the effect that the miracle had on them all, that they rose, and sought by force to make him a king. Under a Captain who could perform such wonders, they concluded they should soon be able to overthrow their Roman masters. But Jesus sought not this honour from men, and to avoid tumult, he desired his disciples to prepare the ship for their departure.
i. This miracle teaches us confidence in the providence of God. “It is a greater miracle, says Augustine, "to govern and provide for the whole world, than to feed five thousand men with five loaves of bread.” What immense supplies are needed every hour of the day! Who can calculate the quantity of food brought into existence every year, for the use of innumerable living creatures, as well as man?
2. Let us show our gratitude for daily food. Our Lord asked a blessing on the provision, and gave thanks before he distributed it to the people; and therein taught us to praise Him from whom we receive all our mercies, and who gives us health to enjoy them. It is his blessing that makes our food nourishing; and a little received in the fear of the Lord, is better than all the dainties of the rich with an unthankful heart,
Ten thousand, thousand precious gifts,
Should daily thanks employ;
That tastes those gifts with joy, 3. Christ has set us an example of relieving the wants of others. He had “compassion” on the multitude; and, as it was in his power to supply their wants, he cheerfully relieved them. It