...A vessel sailing from Capharnaum to the north of the lake could easily be followed from the shore. We have seen how the crowd gathered, how it made its way along the bank; if the wind were light or contrary, it would easily reach the spot before the ship. At the north-east corner the little boat put in. From the deck out at sea the disciples had not noticed the excitement on the land; they were with Him, absorbed in Him, serving Him, and that was enough. When then they turned their course towards the landing-place, what was their surprise to find, already lined up along the beach, an almost countless multitude!
Men were gesticulating, calling to them, signing to them where to land, talking much to one another, while no one heeded what another said, delighted only to be noisy, officiously preparing to receive the boat and its occupants, laughing at their cleverness in thus forestalling and recapturing their fugitive Jesus. Whence had they come? The disciples were not long left in ignorance. Soon they recognised many of their friends from Capharnaum, and understood. But what was next to be done? They looked at their Master in dismay. He had brought them to a desert place for a day of rest with Him alone, and this had happened. Would He dismiss these people, or would He yield to them and deprive His Twelve of their holiday? Alas! They knew how it would be. They saw Him arise from His place in the stern; He looked across the ship to the crowd waiting for Him, to be with Him, because they believed in Him thus far. He was pleased, He was gratified, He must show His gratitude; he loved them, He pitied them, He must go to them as they had come to Him.
The Apostles read it in His face before He spoke; when at length He murmured something about 'Sheep having no shepherd', they knew the day was lost. Submissively they put in to the shore and let Him land.
'And Jesus coming forth saw a great multitude and he received them and had compassion on them because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things of the Kingdom of God and healed them who had need of healing'
He came ashore among them. Proudly they received Him, effusively they made the way for Him. They would welcome Him, they would do Him honour; that they tried Him with their demonstration did not occur to or concern them; He was Jesus, and He must submit. And He did. He received their attentions; they might pull Him to and fro as they chose; they knew no better and they never would. But they were not wholly to blame. They ought to have been guided, and their guides had failed them; worse than that, of late these guides had made great efforts to lead them astray. While He could He would be with them. He would help them, he would teach them anything he could, but chiefly of the Kingdom of God. He passed up the passage through the crowd that had been made for Him. Here and there, as He went along, a cripple boy was seen, a beggar with some sore. He paused at each, He stooped down and put His hand on each; He looked into sufferer's face and he was healed. He led the way across the green plain beneath the hill; the crowd closed in and followed. As for the Twelve, they could wait; before evening was come they would not be sorry they had sacrificed their day of rest.
Through the long hours they sat together, Jesus and the common multitude, on that green plain below the hill above the water's edge. Men came and went; and He spoke to them all, and rested at intervals, and some came around him and they just talked together. Time passed away unnoticed; the sun began to bend over the western Galilean hills. Almost suddenly it dawned upon the Twelve that unless they were careful the day might end in trouble. Their Master, good man, was again forgetting; so lost he was in His work that he did not notice how the time was fleeting. The sun would soon be dawn and the darkness be upon them. They were all far from home, two hours at least from Capharnaum, and all were in need of food and rest. They held a consultation together; he must be reminded. They made bold, as the had often done before, and came to Him. They interrupted His discourse with the warning:
'This is a desert place and the hour is now past. Send away the multitudes that going into the towns and villages round about. They may lodge and buy themselves victuals'.
He seemed not to mind what they said. He seemed to be in one of His careless moods, when love got the better of Him and he was unreasonable. What other impression cold they receive from His reply?
'They have no need to go, give you them to eat'.
this, surely, was too much. He knew very well that they had nothing with them; in any case to expect them to find food for five thousand people and more was an extravagance. But perhaps he meant that they should go and buy what was needed. How much money had they? Judas looked into the purse; at most there were two hundred pence. It was the best they could do; they could spend the money on bread and see how far it would go. So 'They said to him. Let us go and buy bread for two hundred pence and we will give them to eat'.
Meanwhile Jesus had risen from where he sat and was moving to a spot higher up the mountain-side. Here again He sat down and turned his eyes on the crowd gathered in the plain below. At first the sight seemed as if he were doubtful of being able to feed such a number. Philip was by His side, gentle, accommodating Philip.
'When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great multitude cometh to him, he said to Philip whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? And this he said to try him for he himself knew what he would do.'
To the meaning of this, as he thought he understood it, Philip agreed. Two hundred pence! For five thousand men and more! The food supply of more than one village would be needed.
'And Philip answered him. Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them that everyone may eat a little.'
Did Philip guess something at least of that which was about to happen? Did it occur to him that He who had turned water into wine might, if He so chose, turn stones into bread? Did he remember how the Master had but lately said that should they ever be in need their heavenly father would feed them? Did he recall the Manna in the desert, and how bread had been sent down from heaven, merely, as it were, to humour the people of God? From his words one suspects it; form other things we know of His simple faith we believe it...
Jesus looked at Philip no more. He fell back into one of these inspiring moods when He instilled peace around Him, and certainty, and trust; when men of goodwill obeyed Him, though he might command what seemed impossible or absurd. So it had been at the marriage feast at Cana; so with the ruler and his son; so in these last days when he sent out His Twelve to preach, and in the strength of His command they had succeeded. Such a mood was on Him now. He seemed to live outside the world around Him; and Philip, here as elsewhere, was the first to catch the spirit that was on Him. To the rest Jesus turned, and quietly, almost carelessly, asked them:
'How many loaves have you?'
To them, then, it seemed that He was still living on false hope. Loaves they had none among themselves;...They moved about among those who were near. They found a little boy with a basket; in it were five loaves of common barley and two tiny fishes, more than he could need for himself....he was all the twelve could find; they came to report the failure.
'And when they knew one of his disciples Andrew the brother of Simon Peter saith to him. There is a boy here, that has five barley loaves and two fishes. But what are these among so many?'
No; there was nothing else to be done. They would be compelled to go into the town, and buy what they could with the money they possessed.'Unless perhaps we should go and buy victuals for all this multitude';...All this time had Jesus waited. Deliberately He had waited, that quide clearly beforehand the exact facts might be made known to all. There were so many men; there was just this amount of food and no more. Even what was to follow must be done in strict order, so that from first to last there should be no room for mistake or misinterpretation. Never before or after was Jesus more careful or exacting in the working of a miracle. On this occasion, more than on any other, he acted like a king, and would be obeyed, down to the smallest detail.
'And he said to his disciples. Make the man sit down by fifties in a company upon the green grass.' It was so done.....There were fifty such groups gathered and seated on the grass that evening before the Pasch. Jesus had taken good care that the number should be known for ever....Then when all was ready, with the Twelve standing about Him from below, slowly and carefully He took the little boy's five loaves and two fishes on His knee. He held them in His hands and looked up to heaven; for a moment he was lost to earth. He placed a hand upon the bread and fishes and blessed them; there was an uttered prayer of thanksgiving to the Father who would give to His children their daily, their substantial bread. He broke the loaves in parts, then the tiny fishes. With the broken pieces on His knee, He called His Twelve yet nearer. To each He gave a part; five loaves and two fishes divided amongst twelve men, scarcely a meal for themselves, let alone for the multitude below. But it was not for them; they were to take what He gave them to others. So He bade them, and they could only obey. The Twelve did as they were told. They came to their respective groups. With their fingers, as He had done, they broke their portions into smaller pieces. These they handed out; they put their hands into their wallets for more, and there was something always over. Again, they broke, again they gave, again they found something in the wallet. At first it may be they did not noticed, but soon the truth grew upon them. They gave more freely and abundantly, so abundantly that some had more than they could eat; and still their wallets never emptied. They passed down all the lines, they came to the end; each of the Twelve has served the groups allotted to him. There was not a man there who was not satisfied, and still there were still portions left.
'And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, looking up to heaven He blessed and broke the loaves and when he had given thanks he gave the loaves to his disciples to set before them and the disciples to the multitudes that were sat down. In like manner also the two fishes he divided among them as much as they would and they did all eat and were filled.'
But Jesus had not finished yet. He had given them the gift of bread, 'Full measure and pressed down'; but before He had done it must be 'Flowing over.'