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The way is prepared for the miracle in a somewhat different manner by the three earlier Evangelists, and by St. John. According to them, . When it was evening his disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves meat.' The first suggestion comes here from the disciples ; while in St. John it is the Lord Himself who, in his question to Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these muy eat?' (vi. 5) first contemplates the difficulty. This difference, however, is capable of an easy explanation. Our Lord may have put this question to Philip at a somewhat earlier period of the afternoon; then left the difficulty which He had suggested to work in the minds of the Apostles; bringing them, as was so often his manner, to see that there was no help in the counmon course of things; and when they had acknowledged this, then, and not before, stepping in with bis higher aid.'
St. John, ever careful to avert a misconstruction of his Lord's words (ii. 21; xxi. 22), above all, any which might seem to derogate from his perfect wisdom or love, does not fail to inform us, that He asked this, not as needing any counsel, not as being Himself in any real embarrassment, for He Himself knew what He would do,' but' tempting him,' as Wiclif's translation has it. If we admit this word, we must yet understand it in its milder sense, as indeed our Version has done, which has given it, “to prove him’? (cf. Gen. xxii. 1). It was ' to prove him, and what measure of faith he had in that Master whom he had himself already acknowledged the Messiah, Him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets did write' (John i. 45). It should now be seen whether Philip, calling to mind the great things which
1 For the reconciliation of any apparent contradiction, see Augustine, De Cons. Evang. ii. 46.
2 lletpáśww aúróv. Cf. Augustine (De Serm. Dom. in Mon. ii. 9): Illud factum est, ut ipse sibi notus fieret qui tentabatur, suamque desperationem condemnaret, saturatis turbis de pane Domini, qui eas non habere quod ederent existimaverat.
Moses had done, who gave the people bread from heaven in the wilderness, and the notable miracle which Elisha, though on a smaller scale than that which now was needed, had performed (2 Kin. iv. 43, 44), could so lift up his thoughts as to believe that He whom he had recognized as the Christ, greater therefore than Moses or the prophets, would be equal to the present need. Cyril sees a reason why to Philip, rather than to any other Apostle, this question should be put, namely that his need of the teaching contained in it was the greatest ; and refers to his later words, 'Lord, show us the Father'(John xiv. 8), in proof of the tardiness of his spiritual apprehension.' But whatever the motive which led to the singling of him out for proof, he does not abide that proof. Long as he has been with Jesus, he has not yet seen the Father in the Son (John xiv. 9); as yet he knows not that the Lord whom he serves upon earth is even the same who
openeth his hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness,' who feeds and nourishes all creatures, who has fed and nourished them from the creation of the world, and who therefore can feed these few thousands that are this day more particularly dependent on his bounty. He can conceive of no other supplies save such as natural means could procure, and at once comes to the point: - Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.' The sum he
names, he would of course imply, was much larger than the common purse could yield.
Having drawn this confession of inability to meet the present need from the lips of Philip, He left it to work ;till, somewhat later in the day, the disciples came with their proposal that He should dismiss the assemblage. But the Lord will now bring them yet nearer to the end at which He aims, and replies, “ They need not depart; give ye them to eat :' and when they repeat with one mouth what Philip had
1 Cramer, Catena (in loc.)
before affirmed, asking if they shall spend two hundred pence (for them an impossible outlay) in making the necessary provision, 'He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see.' With their question we may compare that of Moses : Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them ?' (Num. xi. 22; cf. Ps. Ixxviii. 19, 20), for there is the same mitigated infidelity in both; the same doubt whether the power of the Lord is equal to that which his word, expressly or implicitly, has undertaken. In the interval between their going and their return to Him, they purchase, or rather secure for purchase, the little stock which a single lad among the multitude has to sell; so we may explain that in the earlier Evangelists they speak of the five loaves and two fishes as theirs, in St. John as still belonging to the lad himself.2
With this slender stock of homeliest fare, for St. John informs us that the loaves were 'barley loaves' (cf. 2 Kin. vii. 1 ; Judg. vii. 13; Ezek. iv. 12), the Lord undertakes to satisfy all that multitude (Chrysostom quotes aptly here. Ps. lxxviii. 19: 'Shall God prepare a table in the wilderness ?'); “for He commanded them to make all sit down by companies on the green grass,' at that early spring season a delightful resting-place. So the men 4 sat down, in number about five thousand. The mention of this green grass,' or much
1 Instead of ixoúeç, St. John has óvápia, both here and xxi. diminutive of õvov (from p\w, to prepare by fire), it properly means any poopáylov or pulmentum, anything, as flesh, salt, olives, butter, &c. which should be eaten as a relish with bread. But by degrees, as Plutarch (Symp. iv. 4) remarks, oyov and hyáptov came to be restricted with a narrower use to fish alone, generally salt fish, the most usual accompaniment of bread (see Suicer, Thes. s. v. otápov; the Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Antt. s. v. Opsonium; and Becker, Charicles, vol. i. p. 436).
2 Grotius : Apud alios Evangelistas dicuntur habere id quod in promptu erat, ut emi posset.
prostrati gramine molli, Præsertim cum tempestas arridet, et anni
Tempora conspergunt viridantes floribus herbas. 4 'Aropec, John vi. 10, not åvpw tou or people, as in the first clause of the verse; which put this in exact agreement with Matt. xiv. 22 ; see Professor Blunt's Duties of a Parish Priest, p. 62.
grass,' is another point of contact between St. Mark and St. John. The former adds another graphic touch, how they sat in companies, “by hundreds and by fifties, and how these separate groups showed in their symmetrical arrangement like so many garden-plots.' It was a wise precaution. The vast assemblage was thus subdivided and broken up into manageable portions; there was less danger of tumult and confusion, or that the weaker, the women and the children, should be past over, while the stronger and ruder unduly put themselves forward ; the Apostles were able to pass easily up and down among the groups, and to minister in orderly succession to the neces es of all.
The taking of the bread in hand seems to have been a formal act which went before the blessing or giving of thanks for it? (Luke xxiv. 30; i Cor. xi. 23). This eucharistic act Jesus accomplished as the head of the household, and according to that beautiful saying of the Talmud, 'He that enjoys aught without thanksgiving, is as though he robbed God.' Having blessed, He 'brake and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude;'—the marvellous multiplication taking place, as many affirm, first in the
1 IIpagiai, apaciai = areolatim, as in square garden-plots. Theophylact : Πρασιαι γαρ λέγονται τα εν τοις κήπους διάφορα κόμματα, εν οίς φυτεύονται διάφορα πολλάκις λάχανα. Some derive it from πέρας, these patches being commonly on the edges of the vineyard or garden ; others from a párov, porrum, the onion being largely grown in them. Our English in ranks' does not reproduce the picture to the eye, giving rather the notion of continuous lines; Wiclif's 'by parties' was better. Perhaps ' in groups' would be as near as we could get to it in English.
2 In St. Matthew and St. Mark, túlóynot,-in St. Luke, súlóynoev aŭrnúc, sc. Tous åptovs,-in St. John, kai súxapiothnas, which word on occasion of the second multiplying of the bread both St. Matthew (xv. 36) and St. Mark (viii. 6) use, though the latter has in the verse following évoynoas in respect of the fishes. The terms are synonymous : cf. Matt. xxvi. 27, with the parallels, 1 Cor. x. 16; xi. 24; and see Grotius on Matt. xxvi. 26. Origen's view that our Lord wrought the wonder to dóyy kai tři s úloyią, that this moment of taking the loaves into his hand and blessing, was the wonder-crisis, is sustained by the fact that all four Evangelists bring out the circumstance of the blessing, and most of all by St. Luke's words, eða úr noev a úroús: cf. John vi. 23.
Saviour's own hands, next in those of the Apostles, and lastly in the hands of the eaters. This may have been so; at all events it was in such a manner that they did all eat, and were filled'' (Psal. cxlv. 16). There was now fulfilled for that multitude the pledge and the promise of the Saviour,. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matt. vi. 33). They had come taking no thought, for three days at least, of what they should eat or what they should drink, only desirous to hear the word of life, only seeking the kingdom of heaven; and now the lower things, according to the word of the promise, were added unto them.
Here too, even more remarkably than with the water changed into wine, when we endeavour to realize to ourselves the manner of the miracle, it evermore eludes our grasp. We seek in vain to follow it with our imaginations. For, indeed, how is it possible to realize to ourselves, to bring within forms of our conception, any act of creation, any becoming? how is it possible in our thoughts to bridge over the gulf between not-being and being, which yet is bridged over in every creative act? And this being impossible, there is no force in the objection which one has made against the historical truth of this narrative, namely, that there is no attempt by closer description to make clear in its details the manner and process in which this wonderful bread was formed.' It is true wisdom, to leave the description of the indescribable undescribed, and with not so much as an attempt at the description. They who bear record of these
1 Xopráceoal, properly, to fodder cattle, was transferred by writers of the later Comedy to the feeding of men ; see examples in Athenæus (Deipnos. iii. 56), where one justifies himself for using xopraotnvai as = kopeobrva. (cf. Sturz, De Dial. Maced. pp. 200–202).
Thus Hilary (De Trin. iii. $ 6): Fallunt momenta visum, dum plenam fragmentis manum sequeris, alteram sine damno portionis suæ contueris. Non sensus non visus profectum tam inconspicabilis operationis assequitur. Est, quod non erat; videtur quod non intelligitur; solum superest ut Deus omnia posse credatur. Cf. Ambrose, Exp. in Luc. vi. 85.