MATTHEW 15:29-39 THE KING GIVES ANOTHER BANQUET
29. And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
He was always on the move: he “went about doing good.” He had gone to the border of the land: he was soon back again to headquarters. He wastes not a moment. He does not stay to be congratulated upon his success, but hastens to other work; and so we often read, “And Jesus departed from thence. ” How he loved the mountains and the sea! By the lake of Galilee he again chooses out a rising knoll, selects a standing place with ground around it for an assembly, and opens another session of his ministry of mercy. He sat down there, for he had set his heart upon blessing the people on that convenient spot. In imagination we see him taking his seat, and then speaking ex cathedra, from the rising ground, “nigh unto the sea of Galilee. ” The mountain’s side was free to all, and none could complain of trespass, and it was far enough from busy towns to escape the noise of necessary labor. See how the people crowd! Our Lord’s presence will not long be unnoticed, though no sound of churchgoing bell gave notice of a service. As a preacher he never lacked a congregation. Where he sat down the people came: if he “went up into a mountain ” they climbed after him. If we preach Jesus in the most out-of-the-way village, in a region almost inaccessible, we shall not be left without hearers.
30, 31. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.
Still the same story. The magnet always attracts. The crowd in increased in volume. “Great multitudes came unto him. ” They seem to spring up from the earth, and swarm from the sea: they are so soon about our Lord that there is no interval wherein he might rest. The sickness which they bring before him is still more varied than in former times. What a list of patients!
What a gathering of miseries to one spot! The expectation of the people remains at flood-tide; they have the sick with them, and they “cast them down at Jesus’ feet ”: leaving them with him in full confidence. The healing power continues to flow in full force: that one sentence is a grand summary of his marvelous cures: “He healed them .” This time the result is a greater degree of wonder among the crowd, attended by a gracious savor of praise to Israel’s God: “They glorified the God of Israel. ” It was evident to them that Jehovah had remembered and visited his people, and was healing their sicknesses, and so for the moment they gave him glory. What must it have been to be an eyewitness of such a scene of healing and of worship! What an education for the apostles! What stay for their faith in trying days after their Master was taken from them!
Lord, when we experience a revival of true religion, we behold the greatness of thy healing power in the spiritual world, and we, therefore, glorify the God of Israel — the God of the covenant, the God of wrestling prayer, the God of all grace.
32. Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting lest they faint in the way.
History repeats itself. We shall be wise to note the variations. What Jesus has done once he can and will do again and again, should need arise. In fact, one mercy is the promise of another. Our Lord is here the first to speak upon the way of dealing with the vast famishing crowd: the disciples do not come to him about the business, but he begins the conversation. In every case his heart is first, and in this case his speech is so. “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him. ” They, are to be co-workers, and so he consults them, making them members of his privy-council. He has all tenderness, and can truly say, “I have compassion on the multitude. ” Whether he moves in a matter of distress or not, his heart is always compassionate, and he thinks of the people’s present fasting, and possible fainting. His compassion is the spring which sets his power in motion. The crowds had continued following him, and he could not but pity the need which arose out of their perseverance in listening to his teaching. These people had endured a three days’ fast, or at least scantiness of food, to hear him preach. What preaching it must have been! But the great Teacher cares for their bodies as wolf as for their souls. and will not feel content to feed their minds only. From the usual point of view their lack of provision was their own concern: they had gathered of their own accord, and they could not reasonably look to him to give them both board and instruction for nothing; but his great heart could not consent to let them faint: he would not even innocently be the cause of injury to one of them. He solemnly declares, “I will not send them away fasting. ” He would not have his servants indifferent to the sufferings of the poor, even as to the bread which perisheth. We may be doubly sure that he will not long allow any earnest hearer to faint through spiritual hunger. He may make us wait to awaken appetite; but he will not in the end dismiss us unfed. He loves not to let the hungry famish; he fears “lest they faint in the way. ” If any of us are coming near to that state, he perceives it, and will interpose. Let us cultivate an appetite for heavenly food, and Jesus will supply its cravings.
33. And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
On this second occasion we might have hoped for better things from the disciples; but they are in the old rut; as doubtful as ever, and as much guilty of forgetting their Lord’s power. He said, “I will not send them away fasting”, and they answer his gracious declaration with a hard and chilling question. Note how they forget whatHE would do, and dote upon what they cannot do. “Whence should we have so much bread? ” Who said anything about “We”? The only good point in their speech is their associating themselves with their Lord at all; but even there they take too prominent a place. They think of their own poverty, of the wilderness, of the “so much bread, ” and of the “so great a multitude ”; and they forget their “so great ” Lord. Are we not too much like them? Are we sure that we are even as wise as they were? We fear not.
34. And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
The Lord accepts their association, and says, “How many loaves have ye? ” Small as their store was, and utterly insignificant for the work proposed, he allows them to contribute it towards his grand design. They make a rapid inventory, and they speak of it in mournful tones: “Seven loaves, and a few little fishes. ” Much like our own poor stock-in-trade for holy service. The loaves were by no means such masses of food as we intend by the English word; they were merely thin cakes. The fishes were few and little; more bones than anything else. So are our abilities slender, and marred with many disabilities; yet we must put all that we have into the common stock, and it will be enough in the hands of him who worketh all things.
35. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
The people are prepared for the festival by willingness to obey. What they had seen of our Lord’s miraculous power awakened expectation, and created readiness to follow his lead. There is generally a preparedness of mind when Jesus is about to work his wonders of grace. Lord, cause our people to be ready “to sit down on the ground ” at thy feast of grace!
36. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
He did as aforetime. His way is perfect, and so there was no need for altering it. “He took the seven loaves and the fishes. ” They only made one handful for him. This shows us that our slender abilities must be placed at his disposal, and in his wonderworking hands. He does not disdain to carry the bread and the fish, though he bears up both heaven and earth. His giving thanks at an outdoor meal should teach us not to eat without thanksgiving. The breaking teaches that there must be expenditure of talent, and that there should be a crumbing down of truth to suit human mouths. His giving the provision into many hands shows that nothing is to be retained in store, but all must be distributed among the many. Our Lord Jesus again honored his disciples by making them the servitors by whom he reached the multitude. Lord, use us: for if we have neither loaf nor fish, we have grilling hands.
37. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
The feast was carried out in a manner so orderly, and with provision so bountiful, that all ate to satisfaction: even little children had their bread and fish. The remainder, the broken food, was too good to waste, and so it was taken up in baskets for future use. The God of abundance is yet the God of frugality. We. want not, but also we waste not. Baskets are always to be had: the difficulty is to fill them. Here the baskets corresponded to the number of the loaves; in the former banquet they corresponded to the number of the apostles. The blessing which rewards service may bear a relation to the workers or to the original supply which they contributed, according to the manner of comparison. In both cases of feeding the multitude, that which was in store after use was greater than that which was at first possessed. The more we give the more we have. May not some of us be poor because we have given so little away? Might not the most gifted have had more gifts by this time if they had unselfishly laid out what hat they have for the good of others?
38. And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
Here is no desire to swell out the number, to make the wonder greater. In some religious statistics the tale would be soon told if the women and children were left out, for they are the bulk of the attendants. In the Bible we find the people counted by the number of the males, and Matthew when he took taxes was accustomed so to levy them: that plan is followed here There is no reason why the women and children should be omitted in our enumerations nowadays, since the whole method of census taking has been altered, and both sexes are now included. As the men were the greatest eaters, and the most conspicuous persons, they are counted; and though the rest of the guests were not numbered they were all nourished, which is the main matter.
39. And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magadala.
Our Lord was ever earnest to send the crowds home: he desired not to detain them from their daily labor. He does not want them to attend him as a guard of honor, or as enthusiastic processionists: he speeds away from their praises. He took ship. Like a shuttle through the loom, he crosses and recrosses the lake. He comes “into the coasts of Magdala. ” Was he seeking out Mary of Magdala? He had some errand of mercy there. It was soon accomplished, for he was off to sea again. Our Lord was largely a seafaring man. Let sailors run up Christ’s colors, and sail under his command. O Lord Jesus, I would traverse the sea of life with thee as my pilot, owner, and captain!