"Give Ye Them to Eat"
[This chapter is based on
Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13.]
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.
From the hillside He looked upon the moving multitude, and His heart
was stirred with sympathy. Interrupted as He was, and robbed of His
rest, He was not impatient. He saw a greater necessity demanding His
attention as He watched the people coming and still coming. He "was
moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having
a shepherd." Leaving His retreat, He found a convenient place where
He could minister to them. They received no help from the priests and
rulers; but the healing waters of life flowed from Christ as He taught
the multitude the way of salvation.
The people listened to the words of mercy flowing so freely from the
lips of the Son of God. They heard the gracious words, so simple and so
plain that they were as the balm of Gilead to their souls. The healing
of His divine hand brought gladness and life to the dying, and ease and
health to those suffering with disease. The day seemed to them like
heaven upon earth, and they were utterly unconscious of how long it had
been since they had eaten anything.
At length the day was far spent. The sun was sinking in the west, and
yet the people lingered. Jesus had labored all day without food or rest.
He was pale from weariness and hunger, and the disciples besought Him to
cease from His toil. But He could not withdraw Himself from the
multitude that pressed upon Him.
The disciples finally came to Him, urging that for their own sake the
people 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 buy food. But Jesus said, "Give ye them to eat,"
and then, turning to Philip, questioned, "Whence shall we buy
bread, that these may eat?" This He said to test the faith of the
disciple. Philip looked over the sea of heads, and thought how
impossible it would be to provide food to satisfy the wants of such a
crowd. He answered that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be
nearly enough to divide among them, so that each might have a little.
Jesus inquired how much food could be found among the company.
"There is a lad here," said Andrew, "which hath five
barley loaves, and two small fishes; but what are they among so
many?" Jesus directed that these be brought to Him. Then He bade
the disciples seat the people on the grass in parties of fifty or a
hundred, to preserve order, and that all might witness what He was about
to do. When this was accomplished, Jesus took the food, "and
looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His
disciples, and the disciples to the multitude." "And they did
all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the
fragments, and of the fishes."
He who taught the people the way to secure peace and happiness was
just as thoughtful of their temporal necessities as of their spiritual
need. The people were weary and faint. There were mothers with babes in
their arms, and little children clinging to their skirts. Many had been
standing for hours. They had been so intensely interested in Christ's
words that they had not once thought of sitting down, and the crowd was
so great that there was danger of their trampling on one another. Jesus
would give them a chance to rest, and He bade them sit down. There was
much grass in the place, and all could rest in comfort.
Christ never worked a miracle except to supply a genuine necessity,
and every miracle was of a character to lead the people to the tree of
life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The simple food
passed round by the hands of the disciples contained a whole treasure of
lessons. It was humble fare that had been provided; the fishes and
barley loaves were the daily food of the fisher folk about the Sea of
Galilee. Christ could have spread before the people a rich repast, but
food prepared merely for the gratification of appetite would have
conveyed no lesson for their good. Christ taught them in this lesson
that the natural provisions of God for man had been perverted. And never
did people enjoy the luxurious feasts prepared for the gratification of
perverted taste as this people enjoyed the rest and the simple food
which Christ provided so far from human habitations.
If men today were simple in their habits, living in harmony with
nature's laws, as did Adam and Eve in the beginning, there would be an
abundant supply for the needs of the human family. There would be fewer
imaginary wants, and more opportunities to work in God's ways. But
selfishness and the indulgence of unnatural taste have brought sin and
misery into the world, from excess on the one hand, and from want on the
Jesus did not seek to attract the people to Him by gratifying the
desire for luxury. To that great throng, weary and hungry after the
long, exciting day, the simple fare was an assurance not only of His
power, but of His tender care for them in the common needs of life. The
Saviour has not promised His followers the luxuries of the world; their
fare may be plain, and even scanty; their lot may be shut in by poverty;
but His word is pledged that their need shall be supplied, and He has
promised that which is far better than worldly good,--the abiding
comfort of His own presence.
In feeding the five thousand, Jesus lifts the veil from the world of
nature, and reveals the power that is constantly exercised for our good.
In the production of earth's harvests God is working a miracle every
day. Through natural agencies the same work is accomplished that was
wrought in the feeding of the multitude. Men prepare the soil and sow
the seed, but it is the life from God that causes the seed to germinate.
It is God's rain and air and sunshine that cause it to put forth,
"first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the
ear." Mark 4:28. It is God who is every day feeding millions from
earth's harvest fields. Men are called upon to co-operate with God in
the care of the grain and the preparation of the loaf, and because of
this they lose sight of the divine agency. They do not give God the
glory due unto His holy name. The working of His power is ascribed to
natural causes or to human instrumentality. Man is glorified in place of
God, and His gracious 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 and to glorify Him for the working of His power. He desires us
to recognize Him in His gifts, that they may be, as He intended, a
blessing to us. It was to accomplish this purpose that the miracles of
Christ were performed.
After the multitude had been fed, there was an abundance of food
left. But He who had all the resources of infinite power at His command
said, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be
lost." These words meant more than putting the bread into the
baskets. The lesson was twofold. Nothing is to be wasted. We are to let
slip no temporal advantage. We should neglect nothing that will tend to
benefit a human being. Let everything be gathered up that will relieve
the necessity of earth's hungry ones. And there should be the same
carefulness in spiritual things. When the baskets of fragments were
collected, the people thought of their friends at home. They wanted them
to share in the bread that Christ had blessed. The contents of the
baskets were distributed among the eager throng, and were carried away
into all the region round about. So those who were at the feast were to
give to others the bread that comes down from heaven, to satisfy the
hunger of the soul. They were to repeat what they had learned of the
wonderful things of God. Nothing was to be lost. Not one word that
concerned their eternal salvation was to fall useless to the ground.
The miracle of the loaves teaches a lesson of dependence upon God.
When Christ fed the five thousand, the food was not nigh at hand.
Apparently He had no means at His command. Here He was, with five
thousand men, besides women and children, in the wilderness. He had not
invited the large multitude to follow Him; they came without invitation
or command; but He knew that after they had listened so long to His
instruction, they would feel hungry and faint; for He was one with them
in their need of food. They were far from home, and the night was close
at hand. Many of them were without means to purchase food. He who for
their sake had fasted forty days in the wilderness would not suffer them
to return fasting to their homes. The providence of God had placed Jesus
where He was; and He depended on His heavenly Father for the means to
relieve the necessity.
And when we are brought into strait places, we are to depend on God.
We are to exercise wisdom and judgment in every action of life, that we
may not, by reckless movements, place ourselves in trial. We are not to
plunge into difficulties, neglecting the means God has provided, and
misusing the faculties He has given us. Christ's workers are to obey His
instructions implicitly. The work is God's, and if we would bless others
His plans must be followed. Self cannot be made a center; self can
receive no honor. If we plan according to our own ideas, the Lord will
leave us to our own mistakes. But when, after following His directions,
we are brought into strait places, He will deliver us. We are not to
give up in discouragement, but in every emergency we are to seek help
from Him who has infinite resources at His command. Often we shall be
surrounded with trying circumstances, and then, in the fullest
confidence, we must depend upon God. He will keep every soul that is
brought into perplexity through trying to keep the way of the Lord.
Christ has bidden us, through the prophet, "Deal thy bread to
the hungry," and "satisfy the afflicted soul;" "when
thou seest the naked, that thou cover him," and "bring the
poor that are cast out to thy house." Isa. 58:7-10. He has bidden
us, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature." Mark 16:15. But how often our hearts sink, and faith
fails us, as we see how great is the need, and how small the means in
our hands. Like Andrew looking upon the five barley loaves and the two
little fishes, we exclaim, "What are they among so many?"
Often we hesitate, unwilling to give all that we have, fearing to spend
and to be spent for others. But Jesus has bidden us, "Give ye them
to eat." His command is a promise; and behind it is the same power
that fed the multitude beside the sea.
In Christ's act of supplying the temporal necessities of a hungry
multitude is wrapped up a deep spiritual lesson for all His workers.
Christ received from the Father; He imparted to the disciples; they
imparted to the multitude; and the people to one another. So all who are
united to Christ will receive from Him the bread of life, the heavenly
food, and impart it to others.
In full reliance upon God, Jesus took the small store of loaves; and
although there was but a small portion for His own family of disciples,
He did not invite them to eat, but began to distribute to them, bidding
them serve the people. The food multiplied in His hands; and the hands
of the disciples, reaching out to Christ Himself the Bread of Life, were
never empty. The little store was sufficient for all. After the wants of
the people had been supplied, the fragments were gathered up, and Christ
and His disciples ate together of the precious, Heaven-supplied food.
The disciples were the channel of communication between Christ and
the people. This should be a great encouragement to His disciples today.
Christ is the great center, the source of all strength. His disciples
are to receive their supplies from Him. The most intelligent, the most
spiritually minded, can bestow only as they receive. Of themselves they
can supply nothing for the needs of the soul. We can impart only that
which we receive from Christ; and we can receive only as we impart to
others. As we continue imparting, we continue to receive; and the more
we impart, the more we shall receive. Thus we may be constantly
believing, trusting, receiving, and imparting.
The work of building up the kingdom of Christ will go forward, though
to all appearance it moves slowly and impossibilities seem to testify
against advance. The work is of God, and He will furnish means, and will
send helpers, true, earnest disciples, whose hands also will be filled
with food for the starving multitude. God is not unmindful of those who
labor in love to give the word of life to perishing souls, who in their
turn reach forth their hands for food for other hungry souls.
In our work for God there is danger of relying too largely upon what
man with his talents and ability can do. Thus we lose sight of the one
Master Worker. Too often the worker for Christ fails to realize his
personal responsibility. He is in danger of shifting his burden upon
organizations, instead of relying upon Him who is the source of all
strength. It is a great mistake to trust in human wisdom or numbers in
the work of God. Successful work for Christ depends not so much on
numbers or talent as upon pureness of purpose, the true simplicity of
earnest, dependent faith. Personal responsibilities must be borne,
personal duties must be taken up, personal efforts must be made for
those who do not know Christ. In the place of shifting your
responsibility upon someone whom you think more richly endowed than you
are, work according to your ability.
When the question comes home to your heart, "Whence shall we buy
bread, that these may eat?" let not your answer be the response of
unbelief. 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 away into the villages to buy food? So now, when
the people are destitute of the bread of life, the Lord's children
question, Shall we send for someone from afar, to come and feed them?
But what said Christ? "Make the men sit down," and He fed them
there. So when you are surrounded by souls in need, know that Christ is
there. Commune with Him. Bring your barley loaves to Jesus.
The means in our possession may not seem to be sufficient for the
work; but if we will move forward in faith, believing in the
all-sufficient power of God, abundant resources will open before us. If
the work be of God, He Himself will provide the means for its
accomplishment. He will reward honest, simple reliance upon Him. The
little that is wisely and economically used in the service of the Lord
of heaven will increase in the very act of imparting. In the hand of
Christ the small supply of food remained undiminished until the famished
multitude were satisfied. If we go to the Source of all strength, with
our hands of faith outstretched to receive, we shall be sustained in our
work, even under the most forbidding circumstances, and shall be enabled
to give to others the bread of life.
The Lord says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you."
"He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that
soweth with blessings shall reap also with blessings. . . . And God is
able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all
sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work; as it is
"He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor:
His righteousness abideth forever.
"And He that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food,
shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits
of your righteousness: ye being enriched in everything unto all
liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God." Luke
6:38; 2 Cor. 9:6-11, R. V., margin.
[ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]