« PoprzedniaDalej »
IN St. Matthew the Lord's retiring to the desert place where this miracle was performed, connects itself directly with the murder of John the Baptist. (ver. 13.) He, therefore, retired, his hour not being yet come. St. Mark and St. Luke put also this history in connection with the account of the Baptist's death, though they do not give that as the motive of the Lord's withdrawal. St. Mark, indeed, mentions another reason which in part moved him to this, namely, that the disciples, the apostles especially, who were just returned from their mission, might have time at once for bodily and spiritual refection and refreshment, might not be always in a crowd, always ministering to others, never to themselves. (vi. 31.) But thither, into the wilderness, the multitude followed him, proceeding, not necessarily “afoot,” (Mark vi. 33) but “by land,” as contradistinguished from him who went by sea: and this with such expedition, that although their way was much further than his, they “outwent” him, anticipated his coming, so that when he “went forth,” not, that is, from the ship, but from his solitude, and for the purpose of graciously receiving those who thus came, he found a great multitude waiting for him. Though this their presence was, in fact, an entire defeating of the very purpose for which he had withdrawn himself thither, yet not the less “he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” (Luke ix. 11.) St. John's apparently casual notice of the fact that the Passover was at hand, (vi. 4) is not so much with the intention of giving a point in the chronology of the Lord's ministry, as to explain whence these
great multitudes came, that streamed to Jesus: they were journeying towards Jerusalem to keep the feast. There is this difference in the manner in which the miracle is introduced by the three Evangelists, and by St. John, that they make the first question concerning the manner of providing for the needs of the assembled crowds to come from the disciples, in the shape of a proposal that the Lord, now that the day was beginning to decline, should dismiss them, thus giving them opportunity to purchase provisions in the neighboring villages; while in St. John it is the Lord himself who first suggests the difficulty, saying to Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” (vi. 5.) This difference, however, is capable of an easy explanation. It may well have been that our Lord spake thus unto Philip at a somewhat earlier period in the afternoon; and then left the difficulty and perplexity to work in the minds of the apostles, preparing them in this way for the coming wonder which he was about to work; bringing them, as was so often his manner, to see that there was no help in the common course of things, and when they had acknowledged this, then, and not before, stepping in with his higher aid.* The Lord put this question to Philip, 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, —which word if we admit, we must yet understand in its milder sense, as indeed our later translators have done, who have given it, “to prove him.”? (Gen. xxii. 1.) It was to prove him, what manner of trust he had in him whom he had himself already acknowledged the Messiah, “him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets did write,” (John i. 45,)—and whether, remembering the great things which Moses had done, when he 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.) he 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 sufficient to the present need. Cyril sees a reason why Philip, rather than any other apostle, should have been selected to have this question put to him, namely that he had the greatest need of the teaching contained in it; and refers to his later words, “Lord, show us the Father,” (John xiv.
* For the reconciliation of any apparent contradiction, see AugustiNE, De Cons. Evang, l. 2, c. 46.
# IIelpášov airóv. Cf. AugustiNE, De Serm. Dom. in Mon., l. 2, c. 9: Illud factum est, ut ipse sibi notus fieret qui tentabatur, suamgue desperationem condemnaret, saturatis turbis de pane Domini, qui eas non habere quod ederent existimaverat.
8.) in proof of the tardiness of his spiritual apprehension.” But whether this was so or not, Philip does not on the present occasion abide the proof Long as he has been with Jesus, he has not yet seen the Father in the Son, (John xiv. 9,) he does not yet know that his Lord is even the same who openeth his hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness, who feedeth and nourisheth all creatures, who has fed and nourished them from the creation of the world, and who therefore can feed these few thousands that are now waiting on his bounty. He has no thought of any other supplies save such as natural means could procure, and at once names a sum, “two hundred pence,” as but barely sufficient, which yet he would probably imply was a sum much larger than any which they had in their common purse at the moment.f 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, “when it was evening, his disciples came to him” with the proposal, the only one which suggested itself to them, that he should dismiss the crowds, and let them seek for the refreshment which they required in the neighboring hamlets and villages. But the Lord will now bring them yet nearer to the end which he has in view, and replies, “They need not depart; give ye them to eat:” and when they repeat with one mouth what Philip had before affirmed, asking if they shall spend two hundred pence, (for them an impossible thing,) on the food required, (Mark vi. 37,) he bids them go and see what supplies they have actually at command. With their question we may compare Num. xi. 22, “Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them to suffice them 7” for in either question there is a mitigated infidelity, a doubt whether the hand of the Lord can really reach to supply the present need, though his word, here indeed only impliedly, has undertaken it. In the interval between their going and their return to him, they purchase, or rather secure for purchase, the little stock that is in possession of a single lad among the multitude; and thus is explained that in the three first Evangelists, the disciples speak of the five loaves and two fishest as theirs,
* CRAMER's Catena (in loc.)
# The specifying of this sum as inadequate to the present need is peculiar to St. Mark and St. John: another of the many evidences against the view that would make St. Mark's Gospel nothing but an epitome now of St. Matthew's, now of St. Luke's. It is clear he had resources quite independent of theirs.
# Instead of irovoc St. John has opépta, both here and xxi. 9. This word, the diminutive of opov, (from épo, to prepare by fire,) properly means any spoopéytov or pulmentum, any thing, as flesh, salt, olives, butter, &c., which should be eaten as a relish with bread. But by degrees, as Plutarch (Symp, 1.4, c. 4) remarks, the terms &Wow and opáptov came in men's language to be restricted with a narrower use to fish that is, standing at their command, in St. John as rather belonging to the lad himself.” With this slender stock of homeliest fare, the Lord undertakes to satisfy all that multitude, (Chrysostom quotes aptly here Ps. lxxviii.26; “Shall God prepare a table in the wilderness?”) and bids his disciples to make them all recline on the “green grass,” at that season of the year a delightful resting-place, and which both by St. Mark and St. John is noted to have abounded in the place. St. Mark adds another graphic touch, how they sat down in companies, which consisted some of fifty, some of a hundred, and how these separate companies showed in their symmetrical arrangement like so many garden plots.S. In this subordinate circumstance we behold his wisdom, who is the lord and lover of order. Thus, all disorder, all noise and confusion were avoided; there was no danger that the weaker, the women and the children, should be passed over, while the stronger and ruder unduly put themselves for. ward; thus the apostles were able to pass easily up and down among the multitude, and to minister in orderly succession to the necessities of every part. The taking of the bread in hand would seem to have been a formal act going before the blessing or giving of thanks for it. 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.” The words themselves are not given; they were probably those of the ordinary grace before meat in use in Israel. Having blessed the food, he delivered it to the apostles, who in their turn distributed to the different tables, if such they might be called,—the marvellous multiplication taking place, as many say, first in the hands of the Saviour himself, next in those of the apostles, and lastly in the hands of the eaters; yet at all events so that “they did all eat and were filled.” Of that multitude we may fitly say, that in them the promise of the Saviour, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” found a practical fulfilment. They had come taking no thought, for three days at least, of what they should eat or what they should drink, only anxious to hear the word of life, only seeking the kingdom of Hea. ven; and now the meaner things, according to the word of the promise, were added unto them. Here too, even more than in the case of the water changed into wine, when we seek 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 understanding, any act of creation, any becoming f how is it possible in our thoughts to bridge over the gulf between notbeing 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.” But this is the wisdom of the sacred narrator, to leave the description of the indescribable unattempted. His appeal is to the same faith which believes
alone, generally salt fish, that being the favorite or most usual accompaniment of bread. (See SUIceR's Thes, s. v. Öipúptov, The Dict of Gr. and Rom. Antt., s. v. Opsonium, and Becker's Charikles, v.1, p. 436.) * Grotius: Apud alios Evangelistas dicuntur habere id quod in promptu erat, ut emi posset. # The loaves are “barley loaves,” the food even then, for the most part, of beasts and not of men, (vile hordeum; cf. 2 Kin. vii. 1.) Thus in the Talmud one says, “There is a fine crop of barley,” and another answers, “Tell this to the horses and asses.” It was one of the indignities to which a Roman soldier who had quitted his ranks was submitted, that he was fed on barley instead of wheaten bread. (Liv., 1. 27, c. 13; SUEToN., August, 24. See WErstein on John vi. 9.)
+ . . . . . . prostrati gramine molli, Praesertim cum tempestas arridet, et anni Tempora conspergunt viridantes floribus herbas.
John, kai ebraptorjaac, and this is the word which on the occasion of the second miracle of the same kind both Matthew (xv. 36) and Mark (viii. 6) use. There can be no doubt that the terms are synonymous: in further proof, compare Matt. xxvi. 27, with the parallels, 1 Cor. x. 16; xi. 24. See Grotius on Matt. xxvi. 26. The view of Origen, that our Lord wrought the wonder orj Żóyo kai rječāoyia, that this moment of taking the loaves into his hand and blessing, was the wonder-crisis, is sus. tained by the fact that all four Evangelists bring out this circumstance of the blessing, and most of all by St. Luke's words, ei2óymaev at rot, c. * Xoprášouat was applied originally, as its derivation from xàpror shows, to the foddering of cattle. The use of it as applied to men belongs chiefly to the later comic writers, see the examples adduced by Athenaeus, (Deipnos., l. 3, § 56,) where one is justifying himself for using xopraaffval as = kopéctival. # Thus Hilary (De Trin., 8, §6): Fallunt momenta visum, dum plenam frag.