Send the multitude away, that they may go - and buy - The disciples of Christ are solicitous for the people's temporal as well a spiritual welfare: and he is not worthy to be called a minister of Christ, who dues not endeavor to promote both to the uttermost of his power. The preaching of Christ must have been accompanied with uncommon power to these people's souls, to have induced them to leave their homes to follow him from village to village, for they could never hear enough; and to neglect to make use of any means for the support of their lives, so that they might still have the privilege of hearing him. When a soul is either well replenished with the bread of life, or hungry after it, the necessities of the body are, for the time, little regarded.
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.
In this miracle, Christ received from the Father; He imparted to the disciples, the disciples to the people, and the people to one another. So all who are united to Christ will receive from Him the bread of life, and impart it to others. His disciples are the appointed means of communication between Christ and the people. MH 49.1
When the disciples heard the Saviour's direction, “Give ye them to eat,” all the difficulties arose in their minds. They questioned, “Shall we go into the villages to buy food?” But what said Christ? “Give ye them to eat.” The disciples brought to Jesus all they had; but He did not invite them to eat. He bade them serve the people. The food multiplied in His hands, and the hands of the disciples, reaching out to Christ, were never unfilled. The little store was sufficient for all. When the multitude had been fed, the disciples ate with Jesus of the precious, heaven-supplied food. MH 49.2
As we see the necessities of the poor, the ignorant, the afflicted, how often our hearts sink. We question, “What avail our feeble strength and slender resources to supply this terrible necessity? Shall we not wait for someone of greater ability to direct the work, or for some organization to undertake it?” Christ says, “Give ye them to eat.” Use the means, the time, the ability, you have. Bring your barley loaves to Jesus. MH 49.3Read in context »
Parents and teachers should aim so to cultivate the tendencies of the youth that at each stage of life they may represent the beauty appropriate to that period, unfolding naturally, as do the plants in the garden. Ed 107.1
The little ones should be educated in childlike simplicity. They should be trained to be content with the small, helpful duties and the pleasures and experiences natural to their years. Childhood answers to the blade in the parable, and the blade has a beauty peculiarly its own. Children should not be forced into a precocious maturity, but as long as possible should retain the freshness and grace of their early years. The more quiet and simple the life of the child—the more free from artificial excitement and the more in harmony with nature—the more favorable it is to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength. Ed 107.2
In the Saviour's miracle of feeding the five thousand is illustrated the working of God's power in the production of the harvest. Jesus draws aside the veil from the world of nature and reveals the creative energy that is constantly exercised for our good. In multiplying the seed cast into the ground, He who multiplied the loaves is working a miracle every day. It is by miracle that He constantly feeds millions from earth's harvest fields. Men are called upon to co-operate with Him in the care of the grain and the preparation of the loaf, and because of this they lose sight of the divine agency. The working of His power is ascribed to natural causes or to human instrumentality, and too often His gifts are perverted to selfish uses and made a curse instead of a blessing. God is seeking to change all this. He desires that our dull senses shall be quickened to discern His merciful kindness, that His gifts may be to us the blessing that He intended. Ed 107.3Read in context »
All day the people had thronged the steps of Christ and His disciples as He taught beside the sea. They had listened to His gracious words, so simple and so plain that they were as the balm of Gilead to their souls. The healing of His divine hand had brought health to the sick and life to the dying. The day had seemed to them like heaven on earth, and they were unconscious of how long it had been since they had eaten anything. MH 45.1
The sun was sinking in the west, and yet the people lingered. Finally the disciples came to Christ, urging that for their own sake the multitude should be sent away. Many had come from far and had eaten nothing since morning. In the surrounding towns and villages they might be able to obtain food. But Jesus said, “Give ye them to eat.” Matthew 14:16. Then, turning to Philip, He questioned, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” John 6:5. MH 45.2Read in context »
Saved to Serve
His disciples came to him, saying, ... Send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, ... Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me.... And looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.... And they took up of fragments that remained twelve baskets full. Matthew 14:15-20 ML 223.1Read in context »