A verse by verse commentary on the Gospel of Mark chapter 8 dealing with Jesus feeding the four thousand and his teaching about the yeast of the Pharisees. It goes on to tell the story of healing of a blind man and the confession of Peter, It ends with Jesus predicting His death.
MARK 8 COMMENTARY
EDITED BY GLENN PEASE
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
1 During those days another large crowd
gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus
called his disciples to him and said,
BARNES, "In those days - While in the wilderness, where he had cured the
Having nothing to eat - Having come unprovided, or having consumed what
they had brought.
CLARKE, "The multitude being very great - Or rather, There was again a
great multitude. Instead of παµπολλου, very great, I read παλιν πολλου, again a great,
which is the reading of BDGLM, fourteen others, all the Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic,
Armenian, Gothic, Vulgate, and Itala, and of many Evangelistaria. Griesbach
approves of this reading. There had been such a multitude gathered together once
before, who were fed in the same way. See Mar_6:34, etc.
GILL, "In those days,.... The Ethiopic version reads, on that day; as if it was on
the same day that the deaf man was healed; and so it might be; and on the third day
from Christ's coming into those parts; and so is very properly expressed, "in those
days"; see Mar_7:31, compared with the following verse:
the multitude being very great: for the number of men that ate, when the
following miracle was wrought, were about four thousand; see Mar_8:9. The Vulgate
Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions add, "again"; referring to the former miracle of
the five thousand, who were fed with five loaves, and two fishes, Mar_6:44.
And having nothing to eat; what they might have brought with them being
expended, and they in a desert, where nothing was to be had, nor bought for money:
Jesus called his disciples to him, and saith unto them; See Gill on Mat_
We had the story of a miracle very like this before, in this gospel (Mar_6:35), and
of this same miracle (Mat_15:32), and here is little or no addition or alternation as to
the circumstances. Yet observe,
1. That our Lord Jesus was greatly followed; The multitude was very great (Mar_
8:1); notwithstanding the wicked arts of the scribes and Pharisees to blemish him,
and to blast his interest, the common people, who had more honesty, and therefore
more true wisdom, than their leaders, kept up their high thoughts of him. We may
suppose that this multitude were generally of the meaner sort of people, with such
Christ conversed, and was familiar; for thus he humbled himself, and made himself
of no reputation, and thus encouraged the meanest to come to him for life and grace.
JAMIESON, "Mar_8:1-26. Four thousand miraculously fed - A sign from heaven
sought and refused - The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees - A blind man at
Bethsaida restored to sight. ( = Matthew 15:32-16:12).
This section of miscellaneous matter evidently follows the preceding one in point
of time, as will be seen by observing how it is introduced by Matthew.
Feeding of the four thousand (Mar_8:1-9).
In those days the multitude being very great, etc.
BARCLAY, "COMPASSION AND CHALLENGE (Mark 8:1-10)
8:1-10 In those days, when there was again a great crowd, and when they had
nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "My heart is moved
with pity for the crowd, because they have stayed with me now for three days,
and they have nothing to eat. If I send them away to their homes still fasting,
they will faint on the road; and some of them have come from a long distance."
His disciples answered him, "Where could anyone get bread to satisfy them in a
desert place like this?" He asked them, "How many loaves have you?" They
said, "Seven." He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. He took the
seven loaves and gave thanks for them and broke them, and gave them to his
disciples to set before the people. So they set them before the crowd, and they
had a few small fishes. So he blessed them and told them to set them before them
too. So they ate until they were completely satisfied. They gathered up what
remained over of the broken pieces--seven baskets. There were about four
thousand people there. So he sent them away, and immediately he embarked on
the boat with his disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha.
There are two things closely intertwined in this incident.
(i) There is the compassion of Jesus. Over and over again we see Jesus moved
with compassion for men. The most amazing thing about him is his sheer
considerateness. Now considerateness is a virtue which never forgets the details
of life. Jesus looked at the crowd; they had been with him for three days; and he
remembered that they had a long walk home. He whose task it was to bring the
splendour and the majesty of the truth and love of God to men might have had a
mind above thinking of what was going to happen to his congregation on their
walk home. But Jesus was not like that. Confront Jesus with a lost soul or a tired
body and his first instinct was to help.
It is all too true that the first instinct of too many people is not to help. I met a
man once at a conference and was discussing with him the dangers of a certain
stretch of road on the way to the town where we were. "Yes," he said. "It's a
right bad bit of road. I saw a crash on it as I drove here today." "Did you stop
and help?" I asked. "Not me," he said, "I wasn't going to be held up by getting
mixed up in a thing like that." It is human to want to avoid the trouble of giving
help; it is divine to be moved with such compassion and pity that we are
compelled to help.
(ii) There is the challenge of Jesus. When Jesus had pity on the crowd and
wished to give them something to eat, the disciples immediately pointed out the
practical difficulty that they were in a desert place and that there was nowhere
within miles where any food could be got. At once Jesus flashed the question
back at them, "What have you got wherewith you may help?" Compassion
became a challenge. In effect Jesus was saying, "Don't try to push the
responsibility for helping on to someone else. Don't say that you would help if
you had only something to give. Don't say that in these circumstances to help is
impossible. Take what you have and give it and see what happens."
One of the most joyous of all Jewish feasts is the Feast of Purim. It falls on the
14th March and commemorates the deliverance of which the Book of Esther
tells. Above all it is a time of giving gifts; and one of its regulations is that, no
matter how poor a man is, he must seek out someone poorer than himself and
give him a gift. Jesus has no time for the spirit which waits until all the
circumstances are perfect before it thinks of helping. Jesus says, "If you see
someone in trouble, help him with what you have. You never know what you
There are two interesting things in the background of this story.
The first is this. This incident happened on the far side of the Sea of Galilee in
the district called the Decapolis. Why did this tremendous 4,000 crowd
assemble? There is no doubt that the healing of the deaf man with the
impediment in his speech would help to arouse interest and to collect the crowd.
But one commentator has made a most interesting suggestion. In Mark 5:1-20,
we have already read how Jesus cured the Gerasene demoniac. That incident
also happened in the Decapolis. Its result was that they urged Jesus to go away.
But the cured demoniac wished to follow Jesus, and Jesus sent him back to his
own people to tell them what great things the Lord had done for him. Is it just
possible that part of this great crowd was due to the missionary activity of the
healed demoniac? Have we got here a glimpse of what the witness of one man
can do for Christ? Were there people in the crowd that day who came to Christ
and found their souls because a man had told them what Christ had done for
him? John Bunyan tells how he owed his conversion to the fact that he heard
three or four old women talking, as they sat in the sun, "about a new birth, the
work of God in their hearts." They were talking of what God had done for them.
It may well be that there were many that day in that crowd in Decapolis who
were there because they had heard a man telling what Jesus Christ had done for
The second thing is this. It is odd that the word for basket is different in this
story from the word used in the similar story in Mark 6:1-56 . In Mark 6:44, the
word for basket is kophinos (Greek #2894), which describes the basket in which
the Jew carried his food, a basket narrow at the top and wider at the foot, and
rather like a water pot. The word used here is sphuris (Greek #4711), which
describes a basket like a hamper, a frail is the technical term; it was in that kind
of basket that Paul was let down over the wall of Damascus (Acts 9:25); and it
describes the basket which the Gentiles used. This incident happened in the
Decapolis, which was on the far side of the lake and had a large Gentile
population. Is it possible that we are to see in the feeding of the multitude in
Mark 6:1-56 the coming of the bread of God to the Jews, and in this incident the
coming of the bread of God to the Gentiles? When we put these two stories
together, is there somewhere at the back of them the suggestion and the forecast
and the symbol that Jesus came to satisfy the hunger of Jew and Gentile alike,
that in him, in truth, was the God who opens his hand and satisfies the desire of
every living thing?
COFFMAN, "Topics which make up the subject matter of Mark 8 are: the
feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9), the Lord's refusal to give the Pharisees the
kind of sign they wanted (Mark 8:11-13), questions concerning the leaven of the
Pharisees and of Herod (Mark 8:14-21), healing the blind man of Bethsaida
(Mark 8:22-26), Peter's confession of Christ (Mark 8:37-30), and the first
announcement of his Passion, resurrection, and second coming (Mark 8:31-38).
THE FEEDING OF THE FOUR THOUSAND
This miracle, recorded only by Mark and Matthew (Matthew 15:29-39), is
similar to that of feeding the five thousand which was recorded by all four
evangelists; and yet there are very significant differences. As Cranfield noted,
the ground of our Saviour's compassion in the first miracle was "the fact that the
people are like sheep without a shepherd"; whereas, in this, "it is the fact that
they have been so long without food." Trench called attention to the fact that
the multitude here had been with the Lord three days; whereas, in the other, no
such time lapse had occurred. He also stressed that "the numbers fed are fewer,
the supply of food larger, and the number of baskets of fragments left over is
less" than in the former miracle, drawing the significant conclusion that
"Legend grows; the new outdoes the old; but here it does not even stand on an
equality with it." Bickersteth pointed out that the people Jesus here fed were
commanded to sit down "on the ground, not on the `green grass' as before. It
was a different season of the year." Pertinent as are all of these differences,
one has to go back to Augustine for perhaps the most significant difference of all,
namely, that the people fed in this miracle were Gentiles in the principal part,
whereas those fed in the other were principally Jews. This key fact explains why
two such miracles were performed, showing God's fairness in dealing with
Gentiles as he had dealt with the chosen people; and it also explains the apostles'
reluctance to suppose that Christ would do such a thing, especially in the light of
their having witnessed the other miracle so recently. The entire pattern of the
Lord's ministry at this point demanded this second miracle of feeding the
multitudes. He had just abolished distinctions between clean and unclean meats
and extended mercy to the daughter of the Gentile woman of Syro-Phoenicia,
despite the apostles' reluctance to allow it; and in this marvel of feeding the four
thousand, Christ wrought a wholesale wonder for the benefit of a whole Gentile
multitude, just as he had done for Jews in the other case. The fact that both
miracles were done on the same side of Galilee but with such diversity in the
character of the multitudes benefited came about because the Jews were in that
vicinity by reason of following Jesus from the west; but the Gentiles had followed
from the Decapolis area in the east.
The significance of this miracle lies in the rich meaning of it for the Gentiles.
Christ is the bread of life for all, not merely for Jews alone. The great overtones
of the wonder which identified Christ as that Prophet like unto Moses and
required all men to see in Jesus the very God himself - all these implications are
as rich for the Gentiles as for the Jews.
 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to St. Mark (Cambridge: The
University Press, 1966), p. 255.
 Richard Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (Old Tappan, New
Jersey: Fleming R. Revell Company, 1943), p. 387.
 E. Bickersteth, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William
B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16, p. 331.
In those days, when there was again a great multitude, and they had nothing to
eat, he called unto them his disciples and said unto them. (Mark 8:1)
Here is another notable difference from the former miracle. In this instance, it is
Christ who provided the initiative.
CONSTABLE, "Verses 1-3
Jesus and His disciples were still in the Decapolis region east of the lake. Three
days had passed and the crowds were now hungry, having exhausted the
provisions they had brought with them. Perhaps Jesus waited three days to see if
the disciples would ask Him to feed this crowd as He had fed the former one
(Mark 6:31-44). They did not. Jesus' compassion for the multitude led Him to
articulate their plight. Still the disciples did not ask Jesus to meet the need. Even
the similar surroundings did not jog the disciples' memories.
SBC 1-9, "We have here—
I. A picture of the forsaken Church of Christ. (1) Much people were gathered round
the Lord. Many are gathered round Him today. Few, if we think of the immense
multitude of those who are called into the Church of Christ; many, if we think of the
small number of the chosen in all ages, and especially in our own day. (2) They have
nothing to eat, said the Lord in our Gospel about the four thousand hearers. The
same words must be said of the people of Christ now. The soldier needs food, if he is
not to grow weary and perish with hunger; the Christian soldier needs both physical
and spiritual nourishment. He is in the wilderness. Where shall he find it?
II. The Lord takes pity on His Church. He knows the condition and the need of His
own; He knows it even before they themselves are conscious of it, and before they cry
to Him He gives them enough and to spare. They gather up the fragments, and find
that through His blessing they have become more than the original provision. Fear
not then, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.
R. Rothe, Nachgelassene Predigten, vol. i., p. 40.
BI 1=9, "In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat.
Christ knows and supplies our need
A little lad, during the American war, was his widowed mother’s comfort and joy.
One day, as the poor woman was trying to scrape the flour from the sides and bottom
of the barrel to help out the day’s supply, the lad cried, “Mother, we shall have some
more very soon, I know! “Why do you say so, my boy?” asked the mother. “Why,
because you’ve got to scraping the barrel. I believe God always hears you scraping the
barrel, and that’s a sign to Him you want another.” And before the day was over the
fresh supply had come.
Feeding the people
I. Now we read that some of our foremost scientists-men of learning and research,
and I am not here to say one word against them or their noble labours-have, as it
were, if not formally, tacitly agreed to banish God from His own creation. They
continually declare we have nothing to do with God. He is the Unknown, and must
remain forever Unknowable; we are Agnostics, we know nothing of Him. We
summarise in a few words the net results of the development theory as applied to the
food of man. Within the last ten years special investigations have been directed to the
origin and growth of corn. I cannot now indicate the course and scope of these
researches more than to say that we have two ways or prosecuting the inquiry-by the
records of history, and by the deposits of geology. And their teachings in fine amount
to this. Wheat has never been found in a wild state in any country in the world, nor in
any age. It has no development, no descent. It has always been found under the same
conditions as it is now-always under the care and cultivation of man-never existed
where man did not cultivate it. Moreover, it has never been found in a fossil state. So,
if we hearken to the teachings of geology, man existed long before his staff of life. The
most minute investigations into the origin of wheat have failed to find it under any
conditions in the least different from what it is with us today. The oldest grain of
wheat in the world is in the British Museum, and this has been microscopically
examined and subjected to the most searching analysis, but it is found to be in all
respects exactly the same as the wheat you secured a fortnight ago in this parish in
the Vale of Clwyd. So there has been no development within the records of history,
and it has no existence in the deposits of geology. Again: the power and the means of
perpetuating its own existence have been given to every living and growing thing,
animal and vegetable, and this is carried on from age to age, without any interference
on the part of man. The only great exception to this grand and beneficent law is the
corn-the food of man. A crop of wheat left to itself, in any latitude or country, would,
in the third or fourth year of its first planting, entirely disappear. It has no power to
master its surrounding difficulties so as to become self-perpetuating. Thus it does not
come under the law of the “survival of the fittest.” And what is still more singular-we
have never more than a sufficient supply for some fourteen months or thereabouts,
even after the most bountiful harvest, and it has been calculated that we are often
within a week of universal starvation should one harvest totally fail. And how near
this awful catastrophe we may have been this year even, God only knows. A shade too
much, or a shade too little; and oh how little, and it might have been! And science
informs us that the wheat has untold millions of enemies peculiar to itself. And no
wonder it is a matter of universal rejoicings when another harvest has been scoured,
and the farmer’s anxious labours have been crowned with success.
II. Man must work. And this is nowhere more evident than in the harvest. Man must
plough and harrow, and sow and reap, and bind and gather into barns, and thresh
and grind, and knead and bake, and the hundred and one other little things allotted
as his honourable share in this grand concern; otherwise his body, with its
mysterious relations to earth and sky, to time and eternity, to matter and spirit, will
not receive the nourishment intended for its growth and work, though all the cycles
of immensity were kept to shed their benign influences on field and meadow and
homestead. And on the other hand, man may do all his part, and yet not one single
grain could he gather into barn or rick if our heavenly Father did not cause the earth
to revolve, the planets to move, the inconstant moon to wend its way along the star-
bespangled firmament, the river to roll on its pebbly bed, the myriad laughing ocean
in its cradle to ebb and flow, the entrancing landscapes of the sun-tinted clouds to
sail in the balmy air, and the barriers of the dawn to be loosened that the golden rays
of the lord of day may dance on the petals of the flowering wheat, and kiss the dew
from the lips of the lily. Now sublimate this thought into the domain of the gospel,
and you will have our part-our bodily and mental part, little though it be-in the
spiritual and eternal life. For instance, you have power over your own limbs to come
here to God’s house, to bow the knee, to blend your voice in psalm and litany, to
kneel before the holy table and receive the visible symbols of His Divine presence,
and demean yourselves in bodily and mental posture as men who feel that God is
amongst you; but after all you will go away empty if the Holy Spirit be not here to
carry the words from the lips of the preacher to the heart of the hearer, and your
Holy Communion will be an ideal ceremony if God’s presence be not here to bless
and satisfy the faithful worshipper. In one and the truest sense, all is of God, but He
will not take you to heaven in spite of yourselves. “Work out your own salvation with
fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His
III. These miracles are characteristic of our Lord Himself, His life, His work.
Contrast this miracle of feeding the multitudes with our Lord’s refusal, at Satan’s
bidding, to convert the stones of the desert into bread for His own sake. Our Lord’s
temptations and sufferings and death were all for the sake of others-of us-of me a
sinner-of the human family. (D. Williams.)
God’s food the only satisfaction
“And they were filled.” No true wealth except the harvest. All the gold and silver are
simply means of exchange: they have a purchasing power; nothing is true wealth but
the harvest. The harvest alone enriches, the harvest alone satisfies. If the harvest
once failed, your gold and precious stones would soon become only so much dross to
be flung away. Riches, pleasure, fame, empires even, do not satisfy; these things only
increase the hunger of the soul, created to have its enjoyment and satisfaction in God
alone. The food in which God is present alone satisfies. If God be here you will not go
away empty. The Divine presence gives eternal satisfaction. “Labour not for the meat
which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.” (D. Williams.)
The apostles-the agents who were chosen to distribute amongst the multitudes the
food which Jesus blessed-were privileged to gather the fragments. Oh, what precious
fragments all who help to administer bread to the perishing souls receive back
themselves! The preacher, the teacher, the district visitor, if their own hearts be in
the right place, what lessons of encouragement, self-discipline, and mutual love!
what precious fragments in the respect, gratitude, and affection from those amongst
whom they minister, do they not receive! Virtue is its own reward. Do good, and the
basket of fragments is yours. The less the material, the greater the number fed, the
more fragments. Strange arithmetic! But it is the rule of three and practice of God.
This is true of all lives. Those who have large means, and do but little, bare no
fragments to gather. (D. Williams.)
How many loaves have ye
The miracle was made less startling, less striking, by the actual manner of performing
it. The moment of its beginning was veiled. The first recipients took common bread.
The multiplication was imperceptible. It was only reflection which would convince.
The transition was so gradual from the natural to the supernatural, from the
common into the miraculous, that careless or superficial observers might rise from
the meal half unaware that a Divine hand had been working. In all this we see much
that is Christlike. As no man (Prophecy said) should hear His voice in the streets, so
no man should be forced to track His path in the self-manifestation of His glory.
There was nothing glaring or for effect, nothing (as we should now say) sensational,
even in His signs. Christ sought rather to show how alike, how consistent, are all
God’s acts; those which He does every day in Providence, and those which He keeps
commonly out of sight in grace. When that which began in eating common bread
changed imperceptibly into eating food multiplied by miracle, that was a type of
God’s “two worlds,” the one seen, the other unseen, yet each the counterpart and
complement of the other, and separated each from each by the thinnest possible veil
of present mystery. Christ might have wrought this miracle without asking for,
without making use of, the seven loaves. But He did not. In like manner, Christ might
now, in His Church and in His world, dispense with everything that is ours; might
begin afresh. Instead He asks for the seven loaves that we have. The applications of
this truth are many and various.
I. We see it in inspiration. When it pleased God to give us a book of light, it was in
His power to have made it all His own. But the human element mixes with the
Divine. Bring forth all your gifts, such as they are, of understanding and culture and
knowledge and utterance; bring them forth, all ye holy and humble men of heart,
Moses and Samuel, David and Isaiah, Ezra and Ezekiel, Paul and John, Luke and
Mark, Matthew and Peter; and then Christ, taking them at your hands, shall give
them back to you blessed and blessing, to be to generations yet unborn the light of
their life and the consolation of their sleep and of their awakening.
II. That which is true of the Book is true also of the life. “How many loaves have ye?”
Christ puts that question to the young man, whose course is not yet shaped definitely
towards this profession or that, and who would fain so pass through things temporal
that he finally lose not the things eternal. Christ bids him to ponder with himself
each particular of his character and of his history; gifts of nature and of education,
gifts of mind and body, gifts of habit and inclination, gifts of connection and
acquaintanceship, gifts of experience and self-knowledge; and to bring these, like a
man-not standing idle because he has not heard or felt himself hired: not excusing
himself from obeying because his loaves are but seven, or because they are coarse or
stale or mouldy-but to bring them to Him who made and will bless. How many loaves
have ye? Nothing? Not a soul? not a body? not time? not one friend, not one
neighbour, not one servant, to whom a kind word may be spoken, or a kind deed
done, in the name, for the love, of Jesus? Bring that-do that, say that-as what thou
hast; very small, very trivial, very worthless, if thou wilt: yet remember the saying,
“She hath done what she could.” There are others but too confident in their gifts and
in their doings. It is not without its risk, even a life of charity, even a life of ministry.
Are you quite sure, that, bringing out your seven loaves, you brought them to Christ
for that blessing which alone gives increase? Nothing works of itself-nothing by
human willing or human running-but only by the grace of Him who giveth liberally,
and who showeth mercy. Most of all, that which would help Christ’s own work-to
seek and to save that which is lost. “How many loaves have ye?” The question is
asked of the man-it is asked also of the community. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
Wherever there is anything new, unusual, or exciting going on, there the crowd is
sure to collect. These people were in distressing bodily want. It seems a little singular
that this multitude should have so forgotten themselves, as to hurry out thus
unprovided into the empty wilderness. We should never see half the distress we do, if
people were only a little more considerate and thoughtful. But it was to the credit of
these people that the distress they suffered was incurred by what was commendable.
With a right appreciation of Christ, it would be no unwisdom to perish in following
after Him, rather than to live in ease by forsaking Him. There was no relief for the
multitude in the common course of things. But man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.
And what a picture is thus given us of the tenderness and goodness of our Lord!
Jesus pities people in want of bread for the body, as well as those in want of food for
their souls. He enters into our temporal as well as spiritual needs. Nor was His
compassion a mere empty sentiment. It stimulated to action. It exhibited itself in
deed. It set to relieve the distress that stirred it. It would not be right to expect such
interpositions as a common thing. God has His own ways for dealing out to men their
daily bread, which must be regarded; but his resources are not limited. But there is
method in this marvellous relief. “So they did eat.”
1. There were directions given which had to be obeyed. And so there are
commands to be observed in order to get the bread of life. There must be a
coming down, a sitting in the dust at Jesus’ feet, a humiliation of self to His
orders ant institutes.
2. He took what the people had, and added His power and blessing to it, and thus
furnished the requisite supplies. They had seven cakes and a few small fishes.
Grace was never meant to supersede nature, but to work upon it, to help it, bless
it, and augment it. God is a frugal economist. He never wastes what already
exists. He is never prodigal in His creations. We have eyes, and ears, and hearts,
and understanding wills, which can be of good service in our salvation. All that
they need is to be brought to Christ, submitted to His handling, bathed in His
words of blessing, and filled with His power, to serve most effectually.
3. But the food He furnished was given to these hungry ones only through second
hands. The bread and the fishes He “gave to His disciples to set before them, and
they did set them before the people.” Christ has appointed a ministry-an office
which is filled by men, who, by His authority and command, are set apart and
ordained to officiate between Christ and their fellows. And where there has been
no ministry, there has been no salvation. The bread of life no man can have, until
it is ministerially conveyed to him. Be it through the living voice, or the written
page, or the solemn sacrament, that voice implies a speaker, that page a writer,
that sacrament an administrator, who is God’s appointed agent for the carrying of
it to him who gets it. (J. A. Seiss, DD.)
Faith in Christ helpful against hunger
There be those who make sport of the thought that faith in Christ can help against
the pangs of hunger, or the pinchings of bodily need. That a religious sentiment
should serve to put bread in the mouths of the destitute, is to them ridiculous. And
even unfledged apostles are often in such unfaith as to be in perplexity and doubt if
He who saves the soul can also feed the body. The world, in its wisdom, does not
know Christ, and so it doubts Him, and laughs at trust in Him. Well-meaning people
get wrong in their Christology, and it sets them wrong at every other point. Let men
learn that Jesus is the Saviour of bodies, as well as of souls; that He is the Lord of
harvests and of bread, as well as of moral precepts and spiritual counsels; that He
lives not only in a system of doctrines and religious tenets, but also in sovereign
potency over all the products of land and sea, as well as over all the hidden principles
of production; that He is not only a marvellous prophet of truth who lived in the time
long past, but also an enthroned king of the living present, swaying His potent
sceptre over all worlds, all nations, and all affairs, and dispensing His comforts,
blessings, and rebukes untrammelled by laws in nature or the economies of earth;
and doubt will cease as to whether faith in Him may not bring bread to the destitute,
as well as pardon to the guilty, or hope of heaven to the dying. (J. A. Seiss, DD.)
A picture of man’s life
In the desert of this world he is in continual want, hungering and thirsting in the
midst of its transitory delights, and longing to be filled with food. Sin offers itself,
and the world tempts him with its barren show, but these cannot satisfy. Only when
he follows Christ, knowing that he is sick, and owning that he is blind in soul, and
maimed in will, and attesting by his stedfastness in continuing with his Saviour the
earnestness of his desire for the help which comes from above, will Christ give him
that water which whosoever drinketh thereof shall never thirst, and that bread, even
Himself, which came down from heaven. In this miracle we are taught-
1. The promptness with which Christ succours us. We see this in His providing
bread before the multitude hungered, and in His care lest afterwards they should
faint by the way.
2. The motive causes for all God’s mercies to us, viz., our needs and our dangers.
3. The true effects of God’s mercy-what He gives us is that true food which really
satisfies, and which alone can satisfy, the whole nature of man. (W. Denton, M.
The multitude fed
Christ came into personal contact with human wants and woes.
I. Some characteristics of this miracle as contrasted with others.
1. The desire to grant this blessing originated with Christ Himself. How
comforting to know that He does not mete out His mercies in the scant measure
of our prayers.
2. A striking instance of prevention, rather than cure. From how many ills
unthought of, dangers unseen, woes unimagined, are we daily delivered by the
preventing grace of God.
3. Human intervention employed. Christ the source of supply; the disciples
privileged to dispense His bounty.
4. Unbelief in the innermost circle of disciples.
5. A vast multitude were benefited.
II. The miracle itself.
1. Illustrates Christ’s care for the bodies of men.
2. The abundance of God’s bounty. The more we feed upon Christ, the Bread of
Life, the more there is to feed upon.
3. The need of daily feeding on Christ. The miracle falls short here. To feed once
for all is not sufficient. It is because they think it is that so many are spiritually
sickly and weak. (R. W. Forrest, M. A.)
On the encouragement which the gospel affords to active duty
I. One singular feature in the character of our Lord-His superiority to all the selfish
passions of our nature. This miracle demonstrated His power over nature, and taught
those who witnessed it that if His kingdom were of this world He possessed the
power to maintain it. They would naturally wish to assemble under such a Leader. It
is at this moment, when all the vulgar passions of hope and ambition were working in
the minds of the multitude, “that He sends them away;” to show them that His
kingdom was spiritual.
II. The character of His religion. The systems of pretended revelation which prevail
in the world encourage either superstition or enthusiasm, and have often separated
piety from morality. They have drawn men from the sphere of social duty to
unmeaning devotions. Christ assembles the multitude that He may instruct them.
III. We are the multitude described in this passage of the Gospel. We have heard that
there was a great Prophet come into the world tot the purpose of spiritual
improvement. He has spread before us, in the wilderness of human life, that greater
feast, of spirit and of mind, which may save us “from fainting on our way.” The
services we are called to perform in the cause of humanity. “That they who had eaten
were about four thousand.” The number who have this day approached the same
Lord, and heard the same accents of salvation, are countless millions of the family of
God. (A. Alison, LL. B.)
Satisfaction for the food in the wilderness
I. Satisfaction. Is not the Church tired out, fainting? Is not the world a wilderness to
you? Does not the Spirit of God make you feel the nothingness of everything upon
earth? Christ the only satisfaction.
II. The thing that satisfies a man. Bread.
III. The place where these individuals were to have that satisfaction. (J. J. West, M.
Second miracle of feeding the multitude
It could hardly have been without some special reason that the same miracle should
have been worked twice by Christ with scarcely any variation of detail, and twice
recorded with so very great attention to detail. In each case, too, Christ Himself drew
from the miracle teaching of the highest importance. Notice these points of
I. In each case Jesus, beholding the multitude of people, has compassion on them.
That is the origin and source of help for man. Because of His compassion-
1. He came from heaven to earth to bring to famishing men the Bread of Life.
2. He sends to us His Church, by and through the ministry of which He gives us
all the means of grace. He takes just what we have, water, bread, wine-all
insufficient of themselves-and by His power makes them more than sufficient for
3. He looks at us not in the mass, but one by one. It is the individual soul which is
the factor in the mind of God.
II. In each case, before working the miracle, He draws from the disciples a
declaration of their inability to supply unassisted that which was needed.
III. In each case He takes, nevertheless, that which they have, and makes it
sufficient. “How many loaves have ye?” “Seven.”
1. The gift of baptismal grace-the germ of all graces.
2. The seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit, bestowed in confirmation.
3. The Holy Communion.
4. All the means of grace. The Word of God. Opportunities of public worship.
5. The power of repentance.
6. The gift of prayer.
7. The ministry of the Church.
So that we have, after all, a great deal: if we use these gifts faithfully, by God’s
blessing they will more than suffice for the wants of our souls.
IV. In each case He commanded the multitude to sit down. We must come to receive
God’s blessing obediently, quietly, calmly. Need of this lesson in a busy, energetic
age, so restless and so excited. We need more repose of mind and character. It is
good to be “up and doing,” but there are times when it is well for us to sit still. The
life most free from feverish excitement is the life most likely to profit by God’s gifts.
1. “Sit down” before you say your prayers, if you would really have them
answered. Recall your thoughts, be patient and quiet and humble, try to
remember to Whom you are about to speak, and what it is you are going to ask,
what you really need.
2. “Sit down” before your acts of public worship. Let there be more restfulness
about your worship, more repose of thought, more concentration of thought on
what you are about to do.
3. “Sit down” before each communion you make (1Co_11:28).
(1) Let me calmly, honestly, and thoughtfully look into my past life, especially
examining that part of it that has been lived since my last communion.
(2) Let me see where I am, and what I am.
(3) Let me try my best to see my sins as they really are, and as they are
recorded in God’s book.
(4) Let me truly repent of past sins, and make my humble confession to God,
honestly purposing amendment of life.
V. In each case, either at His command or with His approval, the fragments are
gathered up. God’s gifts, whether temporal or spiritual, are never to be wasted. He
gives with a splendid liberality, but only in order that His gifts may be used. Gather
1. Fragments of time.
2. Fragments of opportunities.
3. Fragments of temporal goods.
4. Fragments of prayer, repentance, worship, grace. (Canon Ingram.)
Divine law of increase
Usually a single man needed three of these loaves for a meal, and here were more
than a thousand supplied by each loaf. Nobody can tell how it was done, any more
than we can understand how God began to make the world when there was nothing
anywhere. It may be objected that the Lord does not feed us now in this way; that, if
we want bread, we must work for it. But think about it, and you will see His power
and kindness just as plainly in giving us food in reward for our labour. We plant
single kernels of grain, and God makes each one grow into a great many. What is this
but another way of multiplying the loaves? How hard and dead the seed looks when
we put it into the ground. The rain and the sun find it there, and the yearly wonder
begins. The seed swells and bursts; a wee pale root comes out and goes down into the
earth; another shoots up to the surface. They look very tiny and weak, but a
microscope shows that the tender cells are protected by tough coverings, sometimes
even by particles of flint along the edges, so that they can push their way through the
earth. One acre of soil, three inches deep, weighs a million pounds, and all that is
stirred and lifted by these growing fibres. Up come the stalks, straight and slender,
yet so tough and elastic that when the wind blows they can bend clear to the ground,
and then spring back again, as the strongest tree can hardly do. Soon a spike of tiny
flowers appears on top, then a cluster of kernels, and at last the whole gets yellow and
ripe. Is not this work of God’s stranger and more beautiful than turning one piece of
bread into a thousand just like it? (C. M. Southgate.)
So they did eat, and were filled
In the original it is, “They were fed to satisfaction.” That such a result followed, was
the consequence of their being fed by Him alone who satisfies the empty soul, and
filleth the hungry soul with gladness. There is need to be reminded of this in an age
when men are pointed to other sources of satisfaction-to education, to culture, and to
refinement, and bidden to find their highest enjoyment in these and such-like
pursuits. If they bear no reference to Him towards whom all that is noblest and best
in nature and art is designed to lead us, they will turn out to be but broken cisterns
that hold no water. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
Help in extremity
May we not learn from this miracle how Christ will exercise acts of special providence
to help and succour those who are following Him? Dean Hook mentions a striking
instance of this. There was an individual who gave up a profitable employment,
acting under advice, and not from the mere caprice of his own judgment, because he
thought, taking his temptations into account, he could not follow it without peril to
his soul. And after many reverses he was reduced to such a state of distress that the
last morsel in the house had been consumed, and he had not bread to give his
children. His faith did not, however, forsake him; and when his distress was at its
height, he received a visit from one who called to pay him a debt he had never hoped
to recover, but the payment of which enabled him to support his family until he again
Man’s food supply
The question of the disciples has been the natural question of all thinkers at all times.
The foremost difficulty to be encountered everywhere is the difficulty of getting daily
bread for self or others in this wilderness, this land of thorns and thistles. We,
indeed, raised above our fellows by centuries of civilization, only partially feel the
direct pressure of bodily hunger, only occasionally realize the paramount necessity
which governs the life of man-the necessity of procuring food. But, in fact, a vast
proportion of all human effort and anxiety is directed to this one point; whatever else
is left undone, this must be bone: only if there is any time and vigour over when daily
bread is secured can it be spent on other things, on comforts and adornments for the
body, on learning and improvement for the mind. There is, perhaps, no animal that
has to spend so large a part of his time in procuring the food he needs as man. And
when he has got it, it will not satisfy him as their daily food will satisfy the other
creatures. No sooner is he filled than he finds out that man cannot live by bread
alone; that he cannot be satisfied from any earthly stores; that he wants something
more, and has another kind of hunger. This is, of course, because God has made him
with a soul as well as a body, and has so made this soul and body that each requires
its own proper food. Indeed, we must acknowledge that we are the most dependent of
all creatures; we cannot go a few hours without suffering pangs of hunger, which
must be stilled at any cost or risk, or else we die; and when this craving is appeased,
then the hunger of the soul awakes, and it demands to be satisfied with something-it
knows not what, perhaps; for God has made us for Himself, mede us to be satisfied
with nothing less than Himself, made us to be entirely dissatisfied and discontented
without Himself. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
This world a wilderness
Men often talk about this life as being a wilderness, and they are right; but do you
know why, and in what sense? What is the wilderness to which our earthly life is like,
the wilderness in which our Lord worked this and other miracles? Is it a great
howling expanse of sand and rock, with nought but blazing earth below and blazing
sky above? Is it the vast and terrible desert, where fiery death pursues the steps of the
unhappy traveller, where doleful creatures cry, and whitening bones lie all about? If
this were the wilderness, then would our life be very unlike one. The wildernesses of
Palestine, like “the bush” in Australia, are not by any means always barren, or ugly,
or desolate: often they are very beautiful, and very productive; only, their beauty and
productiveness are so uncertain, so unreliable, so disappointing, that no one can live
there or make his home there-unless, indeed, he receives his supplies from
somewhere else. Now, our life is lust like the wilderness in this sense: very often it is
full of beauty, of grace, of life, of promise; there are times when every element of
hope and contentment seems present in abundance. But all this beauty and promise
will not satisfy the soul of man, however much it may please his fancy and his taste.
Suppose you found yourself in the wilderness among the grasses and flowers, could
you feed on them? Could you sustain life on them? No; however lovely and luxuriant
they might be, however grateful as elements in a landscape, they would not appease
your hunger; your limbs would grow weak, your eyes would fail, your head would
swim, and you would fall and starve and die amongst the dewy grasses and the many-
coloured flowers. Even so would it be if you tried to satisfy your immortal souls with
the pleasures and beauties, and joys and riches, of this life. We should be other than
human if we did not like them, we should be very ungrateful if we did not give thanks
for them-but, all the same, we cannot be satisfied with them; the old craving would
return-we should feel ourselves discontented, miserable, perishing, amidst all the
abundance of this world. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
God alone can satisfy
It is easy enough to please people in the wilderness it you go at the right time; the
beauty of the landscape, the buoyancy of the air, the exhilarating sense of freedom
and expanse-all these are delightful. It is easy to amuse people in the wilderness, with
so many new things to be looked at and admired; it is easy to lead them on further
and further from home, into a region where there are no barriers and few landmarks.
But to satisfy them-that we cannot do; that can only be done, in the wilderness, by
the Divine power of Christ, He only can feed the myriads of famishing souls which,
even in listening to His words, have only felt their hunger growing keener. He can
and will, and it makes no difference to Him how many the people, how few the
loaves, they shall all be satisfied and go home in the strength of that food; He can and
will, and it makes no difference to Him how many millions of souls are waiting upon
Him for spiritual food-how feeble, apparently, and paltry the means of grace by
which He designs to feed them. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
Scattering yet increasing
Good husbandry does not grind up all the year’s wheat for loaves for one’s own
eating, but keeps some of it for seed, to be scattered in the furrows. And if Christian
men will deal with the great love of God, the great work of Christ, the great message
of the gospel, as if it were bestowed on them for their own sakes only, they will have
only themselves to blame if holy desires die out in their hearts, and the consciousness
of Christ’s love becomes faint, and all the blessed words of truth come to sound far
off and mythical in their ears. The standing water gets green scum on it. The close-
shut barn breeds weevils and smut. Let the water run. Fling the Seed broadcast. Thou
shalt find it after many days-bread for thy own soul. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The conditions of increase
The condition of increase is diffusion. To impart to others is to gain for oneself. Every
honest effort to bring some other human heart into conscious possession of Christ’s
love deepens my own sense of its preciousness. If you would learn, teach. You will
catch new gleams of His gracious heart in the very act of commending it to others.
Work for God if you would live with God. Give the bread to the hungry, if you would
have it for the food of your own souls. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
BURKITT, "This chapter begins with the relation of a famous miracle wrought by our
Saviour; namely, his feeding of four thousand persons with seven loaves, and a few
And here we have observable, first, the tender care which Christ took of the bodies of
men, to provide all necessaries for their support and comfort; he giveth us richly all
things to enjoy. The great housekeeper of the world openeth his hands, and filleth all
things living with plenteousness. How careful was our Saviour here that the bodies of
poor creatures might not faint, nor be over weak and weary by the way! Therefore he
would not dismiss them without refreshment.
Observe, 2. The original source and spring from whence this care that Christ had of
the multitude did proceed and flow; namely from that sympathizing pity and tender
compassion which the merciful heart of Christ did bear towards persons in distress
Learn hence, That the tender pity and compassion of Christ is not the spring and
fountain of spiritual mercies only, but of temporal blessings also; I have compassion
on the multitude who have nothing to eat.
Observe, 3. How the disciples, not seeing any outward, visible means for the people's
support, conclude it impossible for so many to be satisfied with the little supply they
had; namely, seven loaves and a few small fishes.
Learn thence, That a weak faith soon grows thoughtful, and sometimes distrustful at
the sight of difficulties. Whence say the disciples, can these men be satisfied with
bread? Not considering, that the power of God in blessing our food, is far above the
means of food. It is as easy for him to sustain and nourish us with a little as with
much; Man liveth not by bread, but by the blessing of God upon the bread he eats.
Observe, 4. That although Christ could have fed these four thousand without the
loaves, yet he takes and makes use of them seeing they may be had.
Learn hence, That Christ did not neglect his own appointed ordinary means nor do
anything in an extraordinary way, farther than was absolutely necessary. Christ was
above means, and could work without them, and when they failed, did so; but when
the means were at hand, he made use of them himself, to teach us never to expect
that in a way of miracle, which may become at in a way of means.
Observe, 5. From our Lord's example, that religious custom of begging a blessing
upon our food before we sit down to it, and of receiving the good creatures of God
with thanksgiving. How unworthy is he of the crumbs that fall from his own table
who with the swine looks not up unto, and takes no thankful notice of, the hand that
Observe, 6. The certainty and greatness of the miracle: They did all eat and were
filled. They did all eat, not a crust of bread, or bit of fish, but to satiety and fulness.
All that were hungry did eat, and all that did eat were satisfied, and yet seven baskets
remain; more is left than was at first set on. It is hard to say which was the greatest
miracle, the miraculous eating, or miraculous leaving. If we consider what they ate,
we may wonder that they left anything; if what they left, that they eat anything.
Observe lastly, Our Lord's command to gather up the fragments, Teaches us, That we
make no waste of the good creatures of God. The fragments of fish-bones broken
bread must be gathered up; the liberal housekeeper of the world will not allow the
loss of his orts. Frugality is a commendable duty. God hath made us stewards, but
not absolute lords of his blessings. We must be accountable to him for all the
instances of his bounty received from him.
HOLE, "Verses 1-38
WHEN THE FIVE thousand were fed, as recorded in Mark 6:1-56, the disciples took
the initiative by calling their Master’s attention to the needy condition of the crowd.
On this second occasion the Lord took the initiative, and drew His disciples’
attention to their need, expressing His compassion and concern on their behalf. As
on the first occasion so again now the disciples have simply man before them, and
think only of his powers which are wholly unequal to the situation. They had not yet
learned to measure the difficulty by the power of their Lord.
Hence the instruction which was conveyed by the feeding of a huge crowd with
earthly resources of the tiniest order, was repeated. There were slight differences,
both as to the number of the people and the number of the loaves and fishes used,
but in all the essentials this miracle was a repetition of the other, as once more He
fulfilled Psalms 132:15, and displayed the power of God before their eyes.
Having fed the multitude, He dismissed them Himself, and immediately after
departed with His disciples to the other side of the lake, just as on the previous
occasion. On His arrival certain Pharisees came with aggressive intent requesting a
sign from heaven. He had as a matter of fact just been giving very striking signs from
heaven in the presence of thousands of witnesses. The Pharisees had no intention of
following Him, and hence had not been present so as to see the sign for themselves,
still there was ample witness to it if they cared to listen. The fact was of course that
on the one hand they had no desire to witness any sign that would authenticate Him
and His mission, and on the other hand they had no ability to see and recognize the
sign even when it was plainly before their eyes. Their utter unbelief grieved Him to
In verse Mark 8:34 of the previous chapter, when He was confronted with human
weakness and disability of a bodily sort, He sighed: here confronted with blindness of
a spiritual sort, He sighed deeply in His spirit. Spiritual incapacity is a far more
serious matter than bodily incapacity. They were blind leaders of a blind generation
and groping about for a sign. No sign would be given to them, for to blind men signs
are useless. This was the occasion when, as recorded at the beginning of Matthew
16:1-28, the Lord told them they could discern the face of the sky, but not the signs of
Let us not dismiss this matter as being something which only concerns the Pharisee:
in principle it also concerns ourselves. How often has the true believer been troubled
and disheartened, thinking God has not spoken, or acted, or answered, when really
He has, only we have not had eyes to see. We may have continued beseeching Him
for more light, when all the time all that was wanted was a few windows in our house!
The motive actuating these Pharisees was wholly wrong, since their object was to
tempt Him. So the Lord abruptly left them and departed again to the other side of the
lake, which He had left but a short time before, and the disciples were without bread.
Thus for the third time they were face to face with the problem raised in the feeding
of the five thousand and the four thousand, only on a very small scale.
Alas! the disciples no more met the problem in the strength of faith when it was on
the small scale than when it was on the great scale. They too had not so far had eyes
to see the power and glory of their Master, as displayed twice in His multiplication of
the loaves and fishes. True faith has penetrating vision. They should have discerned
who He was, and then they would have looked not to their paltry loaves or fishes but
to Him, and every difficulty would have vanished. In the small crises that mark our
own lives are we any better than they were?
The Lord’s charge about the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is not explained to
us here, as it is in Matthew, but we must note its significance. He referred to the
doctrine of the two factions, which worked like leaven in those who came under the
influence of the one and the other. That of the Pharisees was hypocrisy. That of the
Herodians was utter worldliness. In Matthew we read of the leaven of the Sadducees,
and this was intellectual pride which led them into rationalistic unbelief. Nothing
does more effectually blind the mind and understanding than leaven of these three
The blind man of Bethsaida, of whom we read in verses Mark 8:22-26, exactly
illustrates the condition of the disciples at that time. When the blind man was
brought to the Lord, He took him by the hand and led him out of the town, thus
separating him from the haunts of men, just as previously He had turned His back
upon the Pharisees and those with them (verse Mark 8:13). Outside the town the
Lord dealt with him, performing His work in two parts—the only time, as far as we
remember, that He acted thus. As the result of the first touch he saw, “men as trees,
walking.” He saw, but things were badly out of focus. He knew that the objects he saw
were men, but they looked much bigger than they were.
Thus it was with the disciples—man was too great in their eyes. Even as they looked
at the Lord Himself it would seem that His humanity eclipsed His Deity in their eyes.
They needed, like the blind man, a second touch before they saw all things clearly.
The presence of the Son of God amongst them in flesh and blood was the first touch
that reached them, and as a result they began to see. When He had died and risen
again and was ascended to glory, He laid His second touch upon them in shedding
forth His Spirit, as recorded in Acts 2:1-47. Then they saw all things clearly. We may
well earnestly pray that our spiritual vision may not be near-sighted and out of focus,
lest the great trees, we think we see, turn out to be merely feeble little men strutting
about. Such a state is possible for us, as 2 Peter 1:9 shows, and there is no excuse for
us, since the Spirit has been given.
The blind man, when cured, was not to go into the town nor testify to any in the
town; moreover the Lord Himself now withdrew with His disciples to Caesarea
Philippi, the most northerly town within the confines of the land, and very near the
Gentile border. Clearly He was beginning to withdraw Himself and the testimony to
His Messiahship from the blind people and their yet more blinded leaders. Here He
raised the question with His disciples as to who He was. The people hazarded
differing guesses, but all imagined Him to be some old prophet revived, just a man,
and none had sufficient interest to really find out.
Then Jesus challenged His disciples. Peter became the spokesman and answered
confessing His Messiahship, but this only produced a rejoinder which probably
astonished them greatly, and may astonish us as we read it today. He charged them
to be silent as to His Messiahship, and began to teach them as to His approaching
rejection and death and resurrection. Any testimony that had been rendered to Him
as the Messiah on earth was now formally withdrawn. From this point He accepted
His death as inevitable, and began to turn the thoughts of His disciples to that which
was impending as the result of it. This was the orderly progress of things on the
human side; and it does not contradict nor clash with the divine side— that He knew
from the outset that which was before Him.
Moreover, the disciples were as yet hardly fit to bear further testimony, had it been
needed. Peter indeed had some measure of spiritual sight, for he had just confessed
Him as the Christ; yet the intimation of His approaching rejection and death raised a
vehement remonstrance from this very man. In this Peter’s mind was being swayed
by Satan, and the Lord rebuked this spirit of evil who was behind Peter’s words.
Peter’s mind was set on “the things that be of men,” and so he answered very aptly to
the man of whom we have just read, who saw men as trees walking. Though he
recognized the Christ in Jesus, he still had men before him, and in this the other
disciples were no better than he. So how could he go forth as an effectual witness to
the Christ whom he recognized? No wonder, after all, that at this point He charged
His disciples that they should tell no man of Him.
We may pause here, each to face the fact that we cannot effectually go forth in
testimony unless we really know the One of whom we testify, and also know and
understand the situation that exists, in the face of which the testimony has to be
In the closing verses of our chapter the Lord begins to instruct His disciples in the
presence of the people as to consequences that would follow from His rejection and
death. They imagined themselves to be following a Messiah who was to be received
and glorified on earth; and the fact was, He was about to die and rise again and be for
the present glorified in heaven. This entailed an immense change in their outward
prospects. It meant the denying of self, the taking up of the cross, the losing of life in
this world, the bearing of shame as identified with Christ and His words, in the midst
of an evil generation.
The force of “deny himself” is hardly expressed by “self-denial,” which is the denying
oneself of something. What the Lord speaks of is not that but the denial, or the saying
of “no,” to oneself. Also, “take up his cross” does not mean bearing trials and troubles
merely. The man who in those days took up his cross was being led to execution. He
was a man who had to accept death at the hands of the world. To say “no” to oneself
is to accept death internally, on one’s own spirit: to take up one’s cross is to accept
death externally at the hands of the world. That is what discipleship must mean,
since we follow the Christ who died, rejected of the world.
This thought is expanded in verses Mark 8:35-37. The true disciple of Christ is not
aspiring to gain the whole world; he is ready rather to lose the world, and his own life
in it, for the sake of the Lord and His Gospel. The perfect Servant, whom Mark
depicts, gave His life that there might be a Gospel to preach. Those who follow Him,
and are His servants, must be prepared to give up their lives in preaching the Gospel.
If they should be ashamed of Him now, He would be ashamed of them in the day of
2 “I have compassion for these people; they
have already been with me three days and have
nothing to eat.
BARNES, "I have compassions - I pity their condition. I am disposed to relieve
CLARKE, "Having nothing to eat - If they had brought any provisions with
them, they were now entirely expended; and they stood in immediate need of a
GILL, "I have compassion on the multitude,.... Christ is a compassionate
Saviour both of the bodies and souls of men: he had compassion on the souls of this
multitude, and therefore had been teaching them sound doctrine and he had
compassion on the bodies of many of them, and had healed them of their diseases;
and his bowels yearned towards them all;
because, says he,
they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat; for if they
brought any food with them, it was all spent, and they were in a wilderness, where
nothing was to be got; where they had no house to go into, nor bed to lie upon, and
no provisions to be bought; and in this case they had been two nights and three days;
which showed great affection and zeal in these people, and a close attachment to
Christ, in exposing themselves to all these difficulties and hardships, which they
seemed to bear with much patience and unconcernedness. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac,
Persic, and Ethiopic versions prefix the word "behold" to this clause, as expressing
admiration at their stay with him so long in such a place.
HENRY, "2. Those that followed him, underwent a great deal of difficulty in
following him; They were with him three days, and had nothing to eat, that was
hard service. Never let the Pharisee say, that Christ's disciples fast not. There were
those, probably, that brought some food with them from home; but by this time it
was all spent, and they had a great way home; and yet they continued with Christ,
and did not speak of leaving him till he spoke of dismissing them. Note, True zeal
makes nothing of hardships in the way of duty. They that have a full feast for their
souls may be content with slender provision for their bodies. It was an old saying
among the Puritans, Grown bread and the gospel are good fare.
JAMIESON, "I have compassion on the multitude — an expression of that
deep emotion in the Redeemer’s heart which always preceded some remarkable
interposition for relief. (See Mat_14:14; Mat_20:34; Mar_1:41; Luk_7:13; also Mat_
9:36, before the mission of the Twelve; compare Jdg_2:18; Jdg_10:16).
because they have now been with me — in constant attendance.
three days, and have nothing to eat:
JOHN MACDUFF, ""I have compassion on the multitude."—Mar_8:2.
What a pattern to His people, the tender compassion of Jesus! He found the
world He came to save a moral Bethesda. The wail of suffering humanity was
everywhere borne to His ear. It was His delight to walk its porches, to pity,
relieve, comfort, save! The faintest cry of misery arrested His footsteps—stirred
a ripple in this fountain of Infinite Love. Was it a leper—that dreaded name
which entailed a life-long exile from friendly looks and kindly words? There was
One, at least, who had tones and deeds of tenderness for the outcast. "Jesus,
being moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him." Was it
some blind beggars on the Jericho highway, groping in darkness, pleading for
help? "Jesus stood still, and had compassion on them, and touched their eyes!"
Was it the speechless pleadings of a widow's tears at the gate of Nain, when she
followed her earthly pride and prop to the grave? "When the Lord saw her, He
had compassion on her, and said, Weep not!" Even when He rebukes, the
rainbow of compassion is seen in the cloud, or rather, that cloud, as it passes,
dissolves in a rain-shower of mercy. He pronounces Jerusalem "desolate," but
the doom is uttered amid a flood of anguished sorrow!
Reader! do the compassionate words and deeds of a tender Savior find any feeble
echo and transcript in yours? As you traverse in thought the wastes of human
wretchedness, does the spectacle give rise, not to the mere emotional feeling
which weeps itself away in sentimental tears, but to an earnest desire to do
something to mitigate the suffering of woe-worn humanity? How vast and world-
wide the claims on your compassion!—now near, now at a distance—the unmet
and unanswered cry of perishing millions abroad—the heathendom which lies
unsuccoured at your own door—the public charity languishing—the mission
staff dwarfed and crippled from lack of needful funds—a suffering district—a
starving family—a poor neighbor—a helpless orphan—it may be, some crowded
hovel where misery and vice run riot—or some lonely sick-chamber, where the
dim lamp has been wasting for dreary nights—or some desolate home which
death has entered, where "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not," and where some
sobbing heart, under the tattered garb of poverty, mourns, unsolaced and
unpitied, its "loved and lost." Are there none such within your reach, to whom a
trifling pittance would be as an angel of mercy? How it would hallow and
enhance all you possess, were you to seek to live as a dispenser of Jehovah's
bounties! If He has given you of this world's substance, remember it is bestowed,
not to be greedily hoarded or lavishly squandered. Property and wealth are
talents to be traded on and laid out for the good of others—sacred trusts, not
selfishly to be enjoyed, but generously to be employed.
"The poor are the representatives of Jesus, their needs He considers as His
own," and He will recompense accordingly. The feeblest expression of Christian
pity and love, though it be but the widow's mite, or the cup of cold water, or the
kindly look and word when there is neither mite nor cup to give, yet, if done in
His name, it is entered in the "book of life" as a "loan to the Lord;" and in that
day when "the books are opened," the loan will be paid back with usury.
"Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind."
COFFMAN, "Matthew's fuller account relates the countless miracles of healing
which took place in the three days, thus explaining how it came about that so
many people would remain in a desert place without food. What they were
receiving from Christ was valued by them above food itself. See my Commentary
on Matthew, p. 233.
I have compassion ... This is one of the great words regarding Jesus Christ. His
compassion was the source of every blessing, even that of his coming into the
NISBET, "FULLNESS OF GRACE AND GOODNESS
‘I have compassion on the multitude.’
Let us take the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude as showing the fullness of
His grace and goodness (Philippians 4:19).
I. The greatness of the multitude (Mark 8:1).—We might think that this would
interfere with the blessing, but in Christ God provides for the world (John 3:16).
Though many have come to the Gospel feast, still the invitation says, ‘Yet there is
room’ (Luke 14:22).
II. The greatness of the necessity (Mark 8:1-2).—But the greatness of man’s
extremity is necessary to display the greatness of God’s grace (Isaiah 59:16).
Israel learned this at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10); the disciples when they had
been without Jesus the three days He was in the grave (John 20:20-28). There
were only seven loaves, which were quite insufficient to satisfy so many. And is
not this the case with all human things? Will human wisdom satisfy? (1
Corinthians 1:20); will human riches? (Matthew 19:22); will pleasure?
(Ecclesiastes 2:1). The soul longs for immortality—this alone will satisfy it
III. The greatness of the Divine compassion (Mark 8:2).—The first thought of
their want, you see, springs from Jesus Himself (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15;
Hebrews 5:2). He is full of compassion, and ready to supply the comfort that is
needed (Psalms 145:8; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5). This reminds us of the father seeing
the prodigal a great way off, and running to him (Luke 15:20).
IV. The greatness of the Saviour’s bounty (Mark 8:6-9).—By His word and
blessing four thousand souls are fed; and this miracle was repeated, showing that
His favours are renewed to correspond to our necessities (Lamentations 3:23;
Isaiah 33:2; Psalms 34:9-10).
Thus in this simple narrative do you learn the fullness of Christ (Colossians
1:19), that ‘God is able to make all grace abound toward you’ (2 Corinthians
—Bishop Rowley Hill.
‘Because this miracle closely resembles one which preceded it by no considerable
interval of time, some have asserted them to be one and the same. But this could
not be, as the scene of the two miracles was different; the time, also, at which
they were wrought was different, and the number of the multitude was different,
as was the food provided for them. Moreover, the chiding of Christ of His
disciples afterward sets the matter beyond all dispute or doubt (Mark 8:19-20).
There are, it is true, many points of likeness, but there are also some points of
unlikeness. In the duplicate miracle the numbers fed are smaller, the supply of
food is larger, while the fragments remaining are fewer. The miracles, therefore,
are separate acts of omnipotence. That the feeding of the multitude should be
repeated, and that two evangelists should record both instances, is an emphatic
confirmation of the thoughtful and generous kindness of the Divine Bread-Giver
and a decided testimony to the instructive nature of His action.’
‘MAN’S EXTREMITY IS GOD’S OPPORTUNITY’
Such was their zeal that they continued with Him three days. To them His
gracious words were esteemed more than their necessary food. But the time had
now come when they must either be sent fasting to their own homes, or else a
miracle must be wrought to meet their pressing need. Their extremity was verily
I. Christ’s compassion was touched.—His heart always moved before His hand;
and the latter ever responded to the former. He did not think of Himself, albeit
during that time, with but little interval, He had been either preaching to them
or healing the sickly among them, denying Himself both refreshment and rest.
II. The unbelief of the disciples.—As usual, the disciples were full of unbelief;
and they were as embarrassed at the thought of making provision for such a vast
multitude as was Moses for the six hundred thousand footmen (Numbers
III. Every need supplied.—The miracle was so broad that it embraced every one
of them; it was exercised toward them regardless of the varieties of their moral
character; it was directed to their lowest and highest need; and it was a sublime
demonstration of His infinite love which would lavish the best blessings on sinful
men both in time and eternity. And just as His disciples distributed to the people,
so Christ now employs His ministers, who know the same wants and need the
same blessings, to distribute them to others through the Sacraments and
ordinances of His Church.
‘Where shall they go who very long have stood
Hearing the news of joy?
Where in this town, that village, gather food
For woman, man, and boy!
Rumour had told that once before He fed
Five thousand in the wild,
And satisfied the hungry soul with bread,
And all their fears beguiled.
Can He, indeed, with such poor scanty store,
For all that crowd provide—
The bread and fish still growing more and more,
Till none are unsupplied?
Yes; He can press within a moment’s space
The image of the spring,
Seed-time and harvest in one act embrace,
And home the full sheaves bring.
Our souls were faint; we deemed no helper nigh,
When lo! He gave us bread;
Calm breezes lulled the waters surging high,
And all our terrors fled.’
THE COMPASSIONATE SAVIOUR
Our Lord experienced our human emotions. Note:—
I. The occasion of Christ’s compassion.—His heart was touched by
(a) The spectacle of human want and suffering.
(b) The wide diffusion of the need.
II. The qualities of Christ’s compassion.—It was
(a) Tender and sympathising.
(b) Practical and not sentimental.
III. The proof of Christ’s compassion.
(a) He interested His disciples in the state of the hungering multitude.
(b) He provided a supply suitable and sufficient for the wants of the thousands.
(c) He satisfied every hungering soul.
IV. Application.—See here a picture of
(a) The needs of the world.
(b) The grace of the Redeemer.
(c) The ministry of the Church.
(1) ‘We distinguish a twofold object in the miracles of Christ. The first a material
one—the meeting of some immediate emergency, of some want of man’s earthly
life which His love urged Him to satisfy; the other and higher one—to point
Himself out to the persons whose earthly necessities were thus relieved as the
One alone capable of satisfying their spiritual wants; to raise them from a single
exhibition of His glory in the individual miracle to a vivid apprehension of the
glory of His entire nature. Nay, it was to be a sign to all others, that they might
believe in Him as the Son of God.’
(2) ‘May not the three days imply an earnest craving in some at least of this great
multitude for spiritual food, so that in their eagerness to feed their souls, they
forgot their bodily needs? But Jesus did not forget. They sought first the
Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and that which was needful for the body
was added unto them.’
3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse
on the way, because some of them have come a
CLARKE, "For divers of them came from far - And they could not possibly
reach their respective homes without perishing, unless they got food.
GILL, "And if I send them away fasting to their own houses,.... Greek, "to
their own house", or home; but all the Oriental versions render it as we do, in the
plural, "their own houses", or habitations; and it seems from hence that they were
now tasting, and at least had had no food all that day, whatever they might have the
day before, which it not certain.
They will faint by the way; for want of food their strength will be exhausted, their
animal spirits will fail, their nerves will be loosened, they will not be able to perform
their journey, or get to the end of it:
for divers of them came from far; perhaps some had followed him from the
coasts of Tyre and Sidon, from whence he came last; and others from Decapolis,
through the midst of the borders of which he passed hither; and others from
different parts, who had heard of his coming; See Gill on Mat_15:32.
HENRY, "3. As Christ has a compassion for all that are in wants and straits, so he
has a special concern for those that are reduced to straits by their zeal and diligence
in attending on him. Christ said, I have compassion on the multitude. Whom the
proud Pharisees looked upon with disdain, the humble Jesus looked upon with pity
and tenderness; and thus must we honour all men. But that which he chiefly
considers, is, They have been with me three days, and have nothing to eat. Whatever
losses we sustain, or hardships we go through, for Christ's sake, and in love to him,
he will take care that they shall be made up to us one way or other. They that seek the
Lord, shall not long want any good thing, Psa_34:10. Observe with what sympathy
Christ saith (Mar_8:3), If I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will
faint by the way, for hunger. Christ knows and considers our frame; and he is for the
body, if we glorify him, verily we shall be fed. He considered that many of them
came from afar, and had a great way home. When we see multitudes attending upon
the word preached, it is comfortable to think that Christ knows whence they all come,
though we do not. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, Rev_2:13. Christ
would by no means have them go home fasting, for it is not his manner to send those
empty way from him, that in a right manner attend on him.
JAMIESON, "And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they
will faint by the way — In their eagerness they seem not to have thought of the
need of provisions for such a length of time; but the Lord thought of it. In Matthew
(Mat_15:32) it is, “I will not send them away fasting” - or rather, “To send them away
fasting I am unwilling.”
COFFMAN, "These words were plainly spoken by the Lord in a move to arouse
pity in his apostles and to elicit from them a petition for the Lord to relieve the
increasingly critical emergency.
Some of them come from far ... Throughout the cities of the Decapolis, as far as
Damascus, the people had come; but the fact of their being Gentiles would
appear to have blinded the apostles to the urgency of their plight. In Mark 8:17,
Christ asked them, "Have ye your heart hardened?"
The apostles, having so recently seen Jesus feed an even greater multitude,
should have requested Christ to do the same thing here; and the viewpoint of this
interpreter is that they would have done so except for the Gentile character of
that multitude. In the light of such an obvious truth, how ridiculous are the
allegations of skeptics that the reluctance of the apostles is the ground for
denying that two miracles occurred.
4 His disciples answered, “But where in this
remote place can anyone get enough bread to
GILL, "And his disciples answered him,.... The Syriac version renders it, "say
unto him"; and the Persic and Ethiopic, "said unto him"; forgetting the late miracle
of feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, when they had now a less
number, and more provisions:
from whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the
wilderness? from what place, and by what ways and means can it be thought, that
such a quantity of bread can be got at any rate in a desert, as to satisfy so large a
number of hungry men? See Gill on Mat_15:33.
HENRY, "4. The doubts of Christians are sometimes made to work for the
magnifying of the power of Christ. The disciples could not imagine whence so many
men should be satisfied with bread here in the wilderness, Mar_8:4. That therefore
must needs be wonderful, and appear so much the more so, which the disciples
looked upon as impossible.
5. Christ's time to act for the relief of his people, is, when things are brought to the
last extremity; when they were ready to faint, Christ provided for them. That he
might not invite them to follow him for the loaves, he did not supply them but when
they were utterly reduced, and then he sent them away.
6. The bounty of Christ is inexhaustible, and, to evidence that, Christ repeated this
miracle, to show that he is still the same for the succour and supply of his people that
attend upon him. His favours are renewed, as our wants and necessities are. In the
former miracle, Christ used all the bread he had, which was five loaves, and fed all
the guests he had, which were five thousand, and so he did now; though he might
have said, “If five loaves would feed five thousand, four may feed four thousand;” he
took all the seven loaves, and fed with them the four thousand; for he would teach us
to take things as they are, and accommodate ourselves to them; to use what we have,
and make the best of that which is. Here it was, as in the dispensing of manna, He
that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.
7. In our Father's house, in our Master's house, there is bread enough, and to
spare; there is a fulness in Christ, which he communicates to all that passes through
his hands; so that from it we receive, and grace for grace, Joh_1:16. Those need not
fear wanting, that have Christ to live upon.
8. It is good for those that follow Christ, to keep together; these followers of Christ
continued in a body, four thousand of them together, and Christ fed them all. Christ's
sheep must abide by the flock, and go forth by their footsteps, and verily they shall be
JAMIESON, "From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread
here in the wilderness? — Though the question here is the same as when He fed
the five thousand, they evidently now meant no more by it than that they had not the
means of feeding the multitude; modestly leaving the Lord to decide what was to be
done. And this will the more appear from His not now trying them, as before, by
saying, “They need not depart, give ye them to eat”; but simply asking what they had,
and then giving His directions.
COFFMAN, "Whence ...? Whence indeed are the supplies to feed any man or all
men, if not from the Lord? The prejudice of the apostles is showing in this reply.
They were not concerned at all with meeting the dire human need of the hungry
multitude; they were Gentiles; so they dismissed the Lord's question with what
amounts to a flippant remark that there was no place around there to buy bread
for so many. However, Jesus had no intention of permitting such an attitude to
CONSTABLE, "Why did the disciples not catch on? Probably several months
had passed since Jesus fed the 5,000. People tend to forget even great events.
Moreover depending on Jesus rather than relying on self is a very difficult lesson
to learn, especially when one has a limited perception of who Jesus is.
Furthermore Jesus' reluctance to perform miracles may have discouraged the
disciples from asking Him for help. [Note: Cranfield, p. 205.] Their question
revealed their blindness. Rather than thinking about sending the crowds away,
they despaired of finding enough bread to satisfy everyone in that wilderness
(Gr. eremon, cf. Mark 6:32). At least they referred their question to Jesus this
time (cf. Mark 6:37).
NISBET, "BREAD IN THE WILDERNESS
‘From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?’
These words were the question of the disciples which drew forth the answer of
beneficent miracle. These same words, in a deeper spiritual sense, are the
question which the world has asked in all ages from the same Divine Compassion
in regard to man’s pilgrimage through the wilderness of life.
I. The beneficent miracles.—The miracles of feeding the five thousand and the
four thousand are, as miracles of the quasi-creative power, absolutely
incomprehensible to us.
(a) They stand out, perhaps beyond all others, as wonders; while their meaning
as signs of a Divine compassion and beneficence comes most easily home to us.
(b) They produced a wider and more startling effect than usual upon the mass of
men. The multitude hailed Him with enthusiasm as the promised Messiah; they
were (John 6:15) prepared to take Him by force to make Him their king.
(c) The spiritual significance of these miracles is brought out with especial
clearness by John in connection with the feeding of the five thousand. In our
Lord’s subsequent discourses to His disciples and to the Jews (John 6:26-65) He
draws out the whole tenor of that significance.
II. The wilderness of life.—How can men be supplied in this wilderness of
pilgrimage with the bread which, like the angel’s food given to Elijah (1 Kings
19:6-8), shall sustain them in their journey to the mount of God’s unveiled
(a) We may not exclude from our thoughts the ‘daily bread,’ of ‘all things
needful for our souls and bodies’ here, for which our Lord bade us pray.
(b) But it is on the spiritual sense that the miracle, as interpreted by our Lord’s
own teaching, would bid us lay stress. It is a ‘spiritual food and sustenance’
which He gives, or rather which He is to us; or, to use St. Paul’s fuller
description, it is in Him that we ‘all eat the same spiritual meat, and all drink the
same spiritual drink’—the meat for ‘the strengthening,’ the drink for ‘the
refreshing’ of our souls. This great truth we realise in its fullest sense in the Holy
Communion. Not only by faith, but by spiritual experience, we know that
through it we have the indwelling of Christ in us, which is our eternal life.
(c) It is to all human life that His promise applies. ‘He that cometh unto Me shall
never hunger, and He that believeth on Me shall never thirst.’
‘“It is well known,” so runs the Homily, “that the meat we seek for in this
Supper is spiritual food; the nourishment of our soul; a heavenly refection and
not an earthly; an invisible meal and not bodily; a ghostly substance, and not
carnal; so that to think that without faith we may enjoy the eating and drinking
thereof, or that that is the fruition of it, is but to dream a gross carnal feeding,
basely objecting and binding ourselves to the elements and creatures.… That
when thou goest up to the reverend Communion to be satisfied with spiritual
meats, thou look up with faith upon the holy body of thy God, thou marvel with
reverence, thou touch it with the mind, thou receive it with the hand of thy heart,
and thou take it fully with thy inward man. Thus, we see, beloved, that, resorting
to this table, we must pluck up all the roots of infidelity, all distrust in God’s
promises, that we make ourselves living members of Christ’s body. For the
unbelievers and faithless cannot feed upon that precious body. Whereas the
faithful have their life, their abiding in Him, their union and, as it were, their
incorporation with Him.”’
THE BREAD OF LIFE
The multitude are an emblem of humanity, the wilderness of the world, and
Christ’s miracle of the provision amidst the world’s barrenness and emptiness of
the Bread of Life, eternal life.
I. The powerlessness of the world to supply the deepest wants of men.
(a) There are needs and pangs of spiritual hunger.
(b) The wilderness is silent to man’s appeal.
II. Satisfaction through Christ.—Coming into the world He satisfies these wants,
and enriches the poor and hungering souls of men.
(a) The true Bread of Life is not from or of the wilderness, but is nevertheless in
(b) Christ, as the living bread, communicates Himself to our souls.
(c) They who in the wilderness eat of this bread are satisfied.
(d) To eat of this provision in the wilderness is a foretaste of the feast above.
‘A lifeless body has no power of assimilating food. A feeble, living body can only
assimilate a little, administered by degrees. But a body with the pulses of life
beating strong and quick within it, a hungry and craving body, can assimilate it
thoroughly and easily, and grow thereby. And the soul resembles the body. With
a feeble, spiritual pulse we can apprehend Christ but feebly in the Holy
Communion; but if there be a strong hunger and thirst after righteousness, a
strong craving for the Bread of Life, a strong sense of spiritual poverty and
indigence, a strong resolve formed in reliance on God’s grace, a strong faith
which pierces the veil of things sensible and material, great will then be the
comfort received from this Holy Communion, and in the strength of that meat we
shall go forward, like Elijah of old, to the mount of God, the end and goal of our
5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
GILL, "And he asked them, how many loaves have ye?.... See Gill on Mat_
and they said, seven. Matthew adds, "and a few little fishes", which are here
JAMIESON, "And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they
said, Seven — It was important in this case, as in the former, that the precise
number of the loaves should be brought out. Thus also does the distinctness of the
two miracles appear.
NISBET, "HUMAN AGENCY AND GOD’S WORK
‘He asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.’
Why did Christ ask that question? He Who could change the water into wine by
a wave of His hand, by a whisper of His voice might have created and spread a
banquet upon that grassy slope! But He would not. Why? Because a great
solemn lesson would have been lost for all time.
I. God Himself depends upon human resources.—God will not save men by a
miracle independently of themselves; He says to every single soul to-day, ‘What
have you got? Bring what you have got, and I will stretch out My hand of
blessing upon it.’ Do not we forget that this is God’s message?
(a) We go to God in prayer, and we forget that the first thing God says to us as
we kneel down to pray is, ‘How many loaves have ye?’ What have you brought to
those prayers of yours? What earnestness, what faith, what trust in God, what
patience that can help you to wait for an answer? ‘How many loaves have ye?’
(b) We come to Holy Communion, and the same voice meets us there. We ask to
be fed with the Divine food, but first God says, ‘How many loaves have ye?’
What faith, what repentance, what love and charity, what preparation for the
Holy Feast? ‘How many loaves have ye?’
(c) And so through all life it runs: God always asks that question first. He will
save no man independently of that man’s own personal effort.
II. The spirit of the miracle.—What was that spirit? for it speaks straight to the
(a) The spirit of a wonderful tenderheartedness. ‘I have compassion on the
multitude.’ That voice of God has never ceased to sound; there is not a single
human being, at this moment, of whom He is not saying it. ‘I am so sorry for you
in your sorrow, in your sin, in your struggles with temptations, in your home
trials and burdens; I know them all, I have compassion still.’
(b) The spirit of hopefulness. The hopefulness of Christ was the very inspiration
of the ministry of Christ. He never despaired of His task; He never despaired of a
single soul, however dark that soul might be. The whole world might turn away
from it, the whole world might condemn it, but Christ rose, from that glorious,
beautiful hopefulness of His, above the darkest things of the world, and He saw
in each one the possibility of rescue.
(c) There is the message of consecration: ‘Bring them hither to Me.’ That voice,
too, has never ceased to sound; there is not one of you over whom it is not
sounding: ‘Bring him—bring her to Me.’
—Bishop F. E. Ridgeway.
‘There are many people who are holding themselves back from the service of
God because they will not hear the Saviour’s voice. “I have so little faith, so little
holiness, I have so little time for service, I have so little money for alms, it is not
worth my giving the time, the service, the money that I have.” And all the time
the voice of Christ is rebuking us. Bring what you have got, don’t stop to think of
how much more you might have; bring what you have got—your tiny fragment
of faith, and repentance, and love, and desire for service, and prayer, and
sacrifice—bring what you have, for God depends upon human resources. “How
many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.”’
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.
When he had taken the seven loaves and given
thanks, he broke them and gave them to his
disciples to distribute to the people, and they did
GILL, "And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground,.... See
Gill on Mat_15:35;
and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake them; See Gill on
and gave to his disciples to set before them, the multitude,
and they did set them before the people; in which they were obedient to their
Lord's commands, though they were so forgetful, unbelieving, and stupid.
NISBET, "THE DIVINE ECONOMY
‘He took the seven loaves.’
The narrative is full of incident, and is most instructive to any Christian believer.
It shows the sympathy of Christ, His generosity, His compassion. But what I
want to direct your attention to to-day is rather the Divine economy.
Why did He take the seven loaves? Is He not Lord of heaven and earth? Does He
not feed the multitudes—the whole world? Why should He take the few loaves
that the disciples had put together for their own nourishment? He did not want
them. And so we have this instance of the Divine economy—that out of the past
comes the present; that the Lord does not Himself act with spontaneity, but He
takes that which has been and makes that which is.
I. In nature.—Notice this economy regarding the fruits of the earth. Where does
the harvest come from? The remains of the last year’s harvest. The Lord takes
the seven loaves of last year, or the harvest before, and gives us the seven loaves
II. In man.—And what is true in nature is also true in the nature of man.
Whence come the great men of the ages nowadays? Do they drop out of heaven
like an aerolite by chance? No; they are the product of the age—of the time.
When the art of printing gave the opportunity, there sprang to its existence
literature—the finest literature of the English land—but it was the seven loaves
that had passed.
III. In the Christian Church.—Well, then, what is true of nature and of men
must be true of the Christian Church also? Certainly. Do we not sing in our
evangelical canticle, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel?’ Is Israel’s God our
God? Yes; the same God. We bless the God of Israel. The Lord never came to
destroy the Law but to fulfil it, and our altars do not run with the blood of
beasts, because the Lamb of God has been slain to take away the sins of the
world; but we love the old.
IV. In our spiritual experience.—And we go back and we say, Yes, we see the
seven loaves in our spiritual experience. Have you never found the seven loaves
in your spiritual experience? What about Judah and the slavery and the tyranny
of sin? Have you never known that? What about the Red Sea and the passing to
liberty through blood? Have you never known that? What about the weariness
of the wilderness? Have you never known that? What about the manna that
came down from heaven, so that we may eat angels’ food? Is that out of your
experience? What about the seeing of the promised country? Have you never
climbed the hill and looked at the valley of time, and seen the heavens open?
What about the rolling of Jordan? Have you never thought of the river of
Jordan, and how you and I have got to pass through the flood? What about the
heavenly Jerusalem that is the Mother of us all? Seven loaves!—spiritual
Rev. A. H. Stanton.
‘We must never allow ourselves to doubt Christ’s power to supply the spiritual
wants of all His people. He has “bread enough and to spare” for every soul that
trusts in Him. Weak, infirm, corrupt, empty as believers feel themselves, let them
never despair while Jesus lives. In Him there is a boundless store of mercy and
grace laid up for the use of all His believing members, and ready to be bestowed
on all who ask in prayer. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness
dwell” (Colossians 1:19).’
7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave
thanks for them also and told the disciples to
CLARKE, "And they had a few small fishes - This is not noticed in the
parallel place, Mat_15:36.
GILL, "And they had a few small fishes,.... Which they also acquainted Christ
with, and brought out unto him:
and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. It looks, by
this account, as if the fishes were blessed, and brake, and distributed separately, alter
the blessing, breaking, and distribution of the bread; and so the Syriac version
renders it, "upon whom also he blessed"; and the Persic thus, "and he also blessed
the fishes"; but, according to Matthew they were both blessed, and brake, and
distributed together, as it is highly reasonable to suppose they were both ate
together; See Gill on Mat_15:36.
COFFMAN, "One may only deplore the comment of a scholar like Cranfield
who saw in this verse nothing more than awkwardness on the part of the sacred
narrator. He said that the verse was "added rather awkwardly as an
afterthought." The fact of our Lord's blessing the fish, however, proves that
he had not already done so, and that, for some reason, these had not been
available at the initial giving of thanks. Perhaps, when the apostles saw what the
Lord was doing, they warmed up a little for the occasion and brought out the
fish also! It is impossible to understand this miracle without regarding the twin