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them, When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto Him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.22 St. John informs us, that on the first of these occasions, which is the subject of the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the people were so much gratified, that they were desirous of taking Him by force to make Him a King;23 they wished to proclaim Him to be their Messiah, and to enlist themselves under His banner. But as His kingdom was not of this world, 2+ He refused to take the advantage which worldly ambition would have eagerly embraced in such circumstances to promote its objects. These miracles were not wrought for the purpose of making a display, but from compassion to the necessities of the multitudes which resorted to Him for healing and instruction.
St. Matthew mentions the reason of the great concourse of people on the occasion before us. He says, Great multitudes came unto Jesus, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them.25 The miracles and the discourses of our blessed Lord so interested the people, that they were unwilling to depart to their homes until the provisions which they had brought with them were consumed. Such were the circumstances of the case, when, as St. Mark relates in the Gospel for this day, In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way; for divers of them came from far. There was no ostentation in this conduct of our blessed Saviour. It was His compassion for the people, His desire that they might not sustain any injury from their attendance upon His ministry, which led Him to speak of supplying them with the means of subsistence for a season, that they might be able afterwards to reach their homes in comfort. Many had come from a distance, and were likely to have fainted with fasting and fatigue, had He not been pleased to supply their necessities.
22 Mark viii. 19,20. 23 John vi. 15. 24 John xvii.36. 25 Mat.xy.30.
His disciples were greatly astonished at His speaking to them in this manner; and answered Him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness ? Notwithstanding He had, on a previous occasion, fed a greater multitude than that which now attended Him, His disciples seemed to have no idea of His ability to do the same thing again; which showed that they had very limited conceptions of their Master's character. As they thought only of the incompetence of their own store of provisions to supply the wants of the multitude, He asked them, How many loaves have ye? and they said, Seven. When they had informed Him of the amount of their whole stock, He commanded the people to sit down on the ground, as they had done on the former occasion, when they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.26 He then took the seven loaves and gave thanks to Him, who giveth food to all flesh, because His mercy endureth for ever ;97 and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes : and He blessed the Giver of all good for them likewise, and commanded to set them also before them. And, behold! as each person took of the bread or the fish, he was enabled to break off or divide what was sufficient for himself, and to hand the remainder to his neighbour, who did in like manner, until the whole of each company was served; when, as the widow's pot of oil stayed after all the vessels were filled, the bread ceased to be multiplied. So they did eat, and were filled, their hunger was entirely satisfied. And as the food thus given for the supply of their necessities was of the commonest kind, and no delicacy; when they
had taken what was sufficient, they left the remainder. Some in their eagerness had taken more than they were afterwards able or inclined to eat, and threw away what they did not want. But although the food had been increased by a miracle, He, who had thus manifested His Divine power in feeding the hungry multitude, did not choose to have it wasted. He therefore commanded His disciples to collect the fragments together; and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full, or more in quantity than the seven loaves were at first. And they that had eaten were about four thousand. St. Matthew adds, besides women and children, who were in all probability as many more. And He sent them away, or desired them to disperse and go to their own homes, now that they were able to do so, without danger of fainting with hunger by the way.
What a deep impression of the mighty power of the Lord Jesus must have been produced upon the minds of these people, when it was seen that He could provide for the wants of so great a multitude, without any visible means, in the time of their need. No wonder that they should wish to make Him their King, when they saw that He could supply their wants in this manner.
28 Matthew xv. 38,
It has been observed, that the food which our Saviour supplied was of the commonest kind; such as He generally had for His own use; coarse barley bread, and dried fish. This should teach us to be contented and thankful for even mean fare, since our blessed Redeemer in the days of His flesh condescended to be satisfied with it. Most of us would perhaps think that we were but poorly provided for, if not that we were hardly dealt with, should we be unable to obtain any
better food than that of which our Saviour usually partook. How bountifully are we supplied, in comparison with the state of poverty in which the Lord Jesus was on earth. Having food and raiment, then, let us be therewith content, 29 as the Apostle exhorts us to be. And if any persons be not supplied with dainties, let them implore the blessing of God on what they are able to procure by honest industry, and that will make them enjoy the commonest fare more than the rich enjoy their abundance. And let those who are in need of the bread that perisheth, seek for the exercise of the Saviour's compassion towards them, casting all their care upon Him;30 while they make use of the means which are within their reach for obtaining it honestly; and they will find that, in the course of His overruling Providence, He will supply their necessity. To His
29 1 Timothy vi. 8.
30 1 Peter v. 7.