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THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
THE MULTITUDE FED ON FIVE BARLEY
John vi. 14.
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.
The miracles of Christ were intended to convey spiritual instruction, as well as temporal benefit, to those who were relieved by them. He acted in the character of a Prophet, or of a Teacher come from God, when He wrought miracles, as well as when He opened His mouth and taught the multitudes. He was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. We are therefore to look upon the record of His miracles, not merely as we
regard other historical facts, but as means of conveying instruction to our minds respecting that which is more important to us than any mere record of past events. When our Saviour had fed the multitudes, in the manner described in the Gospel for this day, and they followed Him because He had supplied their bodily wants; He exhorted them to labour most earnestly not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man would give unto45 all them who applied to Him for it.
This is a point to which it becomes us to direct our attention in an especial manner at this season, when families meet together for a kind of annual festival. On such occasions a favourable opportunity is afforded for parents to impress upon the minds of their children the supreme importance of eternal things; and the necessity of giving diligence to secure the salvation of their souls, or to make their calling and election sure ; 46 and to admonish them not to put off the consideration of eternal things to the time of sickness, and the apparent approach of death; but to remember their Creator in the days of their youth,47 that He may be their Guide and their Counsellor through life, their God and their portion for ever. Happy is that people, that family,
45 John vi. 27.
46 2 Peter i. 10.
47 Ecclesiastes xii. 1.
that individual, whose God is the Lord Jehovah : 48 to whom He says, I will be to you a God.49 May this happiness be our portion; and then we shall be blessed in life, in death, and in eternity.
The miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ were mostly performed for the purpose of relieving the necessities and distresses of mankind; they are therefore so many proofs of His boundless compassion and loving-kindness; and are calculated to afford encouragement to the sinful children of men who apply to Him for His aid in the time of their need. The miracle that is related in the Gospel for this day is the only one which is recorded by all the four Evangelists. This shows it to have been one which was likely to produce a great effect, and which might be applied for the most beneficial purposes to all those who should be made acquainted with it.
From a comparison of the narratives of the other Evangelists with this account, it appears that it was immediately after the death of John the Baptist, and the return of the twelve apostles from their mission to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick 50 in various parts of the country, that Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. After He had left Nazareth, He took up His residence at Capernaum, one of the towns or villages on the border
of the lake of Galilee; and as several of His disciples were fishermen, He went with them frequently on the lake. It is supposed that on this occasion He crossed over that part of the lake which was between Capernaum and Bethsaida. He seems to have gone on the water in order to have a little respite from the thronging of the people around Him. For a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased. The multitude kept so close to Him, some importuning Him to heal them of their diseases, others being anxious to see His miracles, and to hear His parables and discourses, that Jesus and His disciples had no leisure so much as to eat. They therefore departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.5 That He might do this the more conveniently, He went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. He sat down, as it was customary in those days for teachers to do, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God. 52
51 Mark vi. 31-34,
52 Luke ix. 11.
The Evangelist marks the season of the year at which this event took place. The passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. This might partly account for a greater number of people than usual being assembled at this time. It was one of the three great festivals at which all the male population were commanded to appear before the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem.53 Some left their homes earlier than others, wishing to arrive at their place, of destination before the commencement of the feast; and it may be supposed that the report of our Saviour's miracles might have induced some of these persons to stop for two or three days by the way, instead of pursuing their journey.
At the time here mentioned, when the day was now far spent, it being about three o'clock in the afternoon, the multitude of people increased in number, instead of being diminished. His disciples, therefore, came unto Him and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed ; send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.54 But instead of doing this, when Jesus lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat. Thus He intimated His design of pro
53 Deuteronomy xvi. 16.
54 Mark vi. 35, 36.