Jesus - was moved with compassion - Εσπλαγχνισθε, he was moved with tender compassion, so I think the word should in general be translated: see the note on Matthew 9:36. As a verb, it does not appear to have been used by any but ecclesiastical writers. It always intimates that motion of the bowels, accompanied with extreme tenderness and concern, which is felt at the sight of the miseries of another.
And when Jesus heard of it, he departed - He went to a place of safety.
He never threw himself unnecessarily into danger. It was proper that he should secure his life until the appointed time had come for him to die.
By a ship into a desert place - That is, he crossed the Sea of Galilee. He went to the country east of the sea, into a place little inhabited. Luke says Luke 9:10 he went to a place called Bethsaida. See the notes at Matthew 11:21. “A desert place” means a place little cultivated, where there were few or no inhabitants. On the east of the Sea of Galilee there was a large tract of country of this description rough, uncultivated, and chiefly used to pasture flocks.
Was moved with compassion - That is, pitied them.
Mark 6:34 says he was moved with compassion because they were as sheep having no shepherd. A shepherd is one who takes care of a flock. It was his duty to feed it; to defend it from wolves and other wild beasts; to take care of the young and feeble; to lead it by green pastures and still waters, Psalm 23:1-6. In Eastern countries this was a principal employment of the inhabitants. When Christ says the people were as sheep without a shepherd, he means that they had no teachers and guides who cared for them and took pains to instruct them. The scribes and Pharisees were haughty and proud, and cared little for the common people; and when they did attempt to teach them, they led them astray. They therefore came in great multitudes to him who preached the gospel to the poor Matthew 11:5, and who was thus the good shepherd, John 10:14.
The time is now past - That is, the day is passing away; it is near night, and it is proper to make some provision for the temporal wants of so many.
Perhaps it may mean it was past the usual time for refreshment.
Jesus said They need not depart; give ye them to eat - John adds John 6:5-6 that previous to this Jesus had addressed Philip, and asked, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? and that he “said this to prove him; for he himself knew what he would do;” that is, he said this to try his faith; to test the confidence of Philip in himself.
Philip, it seems, had not the kind of confidence which he ought to have had. He immediately began to think of their ability to purchase food for them. Two hundred pennyworth of bread, said he, would not be enough, John 6:7. In the original it is two hundred denarii. These were Roman coins amounting to about fourteen cents (7d.) each. The whole two hundred, therefore, would have been equal to about twenty-eight dollars. In the view of Philip this was a great sum, a sum which twelve poor fishermen were by no means able to provide. It was this fact, and not any unwillingness to provide for them, which led the disciples to request that they should be sent into the villages around in order to obtain food. Jesus knew how much they had, and he required of them, as he does of all, implicit faith, and told them to give them to eat. He requires us to do what he commands, and we need not doubt that he will give us strength to accomplish it.
We have here but five loaves - These loaves were in the possession of a lad, or young man, who was with them, and were made of barley, John 6:9
It is possible that this lad was one in attendance on the apostles to carry their food, but it is most probable he was one who had provision to sell among the multitude. Barley was a cheap kind of food, scarcely one-third the value of wheat, and was much used by poor people. A considerable part of the food of the people in that region was probably fish, as they lived on the borders of a lake that abounded in fish.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down - In the original it is “to recline” on the grass, or to lie as they did at their meals.
The Jews never sat, as we do, at meals, but reclined or lay at length. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. Mark and Luke add that they reclined in companies, by hundreds and by fifties.
And looking up to heaven, he blessed - Luke adds, he blessed “them;” that is, the loaves. The word “to bless” means, often, to give thanks; sometimes to pray for a blessing; that is, to pray for the divine favor and friendship; to pray that what we do may meet his approbation. In seeking a blessing on our food, it means that we pray that it may be made nourishing to our bodies; that we may have proper gratitude to God, the giver, for providing for our wants; and that we may remember the Creator while we partake the bounties of his providence. Our Saviour always sought a blessing on his food. In this he was an example for us. What he did we should do. It is right thus to seek the blessing of God. He provides for us; he daily opens his hand and satisfies our wants, and it is proper that we should render suitable acknowledgments for his goodness.
The custom among the Jews was universal. The form of prayer which they used in the time of Christ has been preserved by their writers, the Talmudists. It is this: “Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who hast produced this food and this drink from the earth and the vine.”
And brake - The loaves of bread, among the Jews, were made thin and brittle, and were therefore broken and not cut.
And they did all eat, and were filled - This was an undoubted miracle.
The quantity must have been greatly increased to have supplied so many. He that could increase that small quantity so much had the power of creation; and he that could do that could create the world out of nothing, and had no less than divine power.
Twelve baskets full - The size of these baskets is unknown. They were probably such as travelers carried their provisions in. They were used commonly by the Jews in their journeys. In traveling among the Gentiles or Samaritans, a Jew could expect little hospitality. There were not, as now, public houses for the entertainment of strangers. At great distances there were caravansaries, but they were intended chiefly as lodging-places for the night, and not to provide food for travelers. Hence, in journeying among strangers or in deserts, they carried baskets of provisions, and this is the reason why they were furnished with them here. It is probable that each of the apostles had one, and they were all filled. John John 6:12 says that Jesus directed them to gather up these fragments, that nothing might be lost - an example of economy. God creates all food; it has, therefore, a kind of sacredness; it is all needed by some person or other, and none should be lost.
Five thousand men, besides - Probably the whole number might have been ten thousand, To feed so many was an act of great benevolence and a stupendous miracle.
The Saviour devoted more time and labor to healing the afflicted of their maladies than to preaching. His last injunction to His apostles, His representatives on earth, was to lay hands on the sick that they might recover. When the Master shall come, He will commend those who have visited the sick and relieved the necessities of the afflicted. CH 34.1
The tender sympathies of our Saviour were aroused for fallen and suffering humanity. If you would be His followers, you must cultivate compassion and sympathy. Indifference to human woes must give place to lively interest in the sufferings of others. The widow, the orphan, the sick and the dying, will always need help. Here is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel—to hold up Jesus, the hope and consolation of all men. When the suffering body has been relieved, and you have shown a lively interest in the afflicted, the heart is opened, and you can pour in the heavenly balm. If you are looking to Jesus and drawing from Him knowledge and strength and grace, you can impart His consolation to others, because the Comforter is with you. CH 34.2Read in context »
Christ had retired to a secluded place with His disciples, but this rare season of peaceful quietude was soon broken. The disciples thought they had retired where they would not be disturbed; but as soon as the multitude missed the divine Teacher, they inquired, “Where is He?” Some among them had noticed the direction in which Christ and His disciples had gone. Many went by land to meet them, while others followed in their boats across the water. The Passover was at hand, and, from far and near, bands of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem gathered to see Jesus. Additions were made to their number, until there were assembled five thousand men besides women and children. Before Christ reached the shore, a multitude were waiting for Him. But He landed unobserved by them, and spent a little time apart with the disciples. DA 364.1Read in context »
It was just after the return from their first missionary tour that Jesus bade His disciples, Come apart, and rest awhile. The disciples had returned, filled with the joy of their success as heralds of the gospel, when the tidings reached them of the death of John the Baptist at the hand of Herod. It was a bitter sorrow and disappointment. Jesus knew that in leaving the Baptist to die in prison He had severely tested the disciples’ faith. With pitying tenderness He looked upon their sorrowful, tear-stained faces. Tears were in His own eyes and voice as He said, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31. MH 56.1
Near Bethsaida, at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, was a lonely region, beautiful with the fresh green of spring, that offered a welcome retreat to Jesus and His disciples. For this place they set out, going in their boat across the lake. Here they could rest, apart from the confusion of the multitude. Here the disciples could listen to the words of Christ, undisturbed by the retorts and accusations of the Pharisees. Here they hoped to enjoy a short season of fellowship in the society of their Lord. MH 56.2
Only a short time did Jesus have alone with His beloved ones, but how precious to them were those few moments. They talked together regarding the work of the gospel and the possibility of making their labor more effective in reaching the people. As Jesus opened to them the treasures of truth, they were vitalized by divine power and inspired with hope and courage. MH 56.3Read in context »