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Sermonic Glances at the Gospel of
As our purpose in the treatment of this Gospel is purely the development, in the briefest and most suggestive form, of Sermonic outlines, we must refer our readers to the following works for all critical inquiries into the author and authorship of the book, and also for any minute criticisms on difficult clauses. The works we shall especially consult are:-"Introduction to New Testament,” by Bleek; “ Commentary on John,” by Tholuck; “Commentary on John,” by Hengstenberg ; " Introduction to the Study of the Gospels,” by Westcott; "The Gospel History,” by Ebrard ; “Our Lord's Divinity,” by Liddon; “ St. John's Gospel,” by Oosterzee; “Doctrine of the Person of Christ," by Dornor; Lange; &c., &c.
Subject: The Beneficence of Christ.
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this He said to prove him : for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes : but what are they among so many ? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with
the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.”—John vi. 1-14.
There are four independent accounts of this miracle. They beautifully agree in substance, though they differ in style, according to the peculiarities of each writer. Matthew shows that our Lord's retirement to the wilderness was immediately after the death of John the Baptist. Mark and Luke also speak of this. John adds the circumstance that the passover was at hand, which accounts for the great multitudes which were streaming to Jesus on their way to Jerusalem. For the other accounts see Matt. xiv. 13-22; Mark vi. 30–44; Luke ix. 10-17. EXPOSITION.—Ver. 1.—" After these things.” This does not mean, after
the charge of blasphemy against Christ and His defence, as recorded in the preceding chapter; but after the death of John the Baptist, etc., as recorded by Matthew. Upwards of a year had elapsed between this miracle and the things recorded in the preceding chapter. The third passover was at hand, and another year would bring the life of Jesus to a close. “ Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias”; called after the name of an ancient city on the west side ; and so called by John for the benefit of those who are unacquainted with the geography of Palestine. Its shape is oval, thirteen miles long, and six broad. In the neighbourhood of this sea our Lord spent the greater portion of His public life. Nine cities stood on its shores, amongst which was Capernaum, “ His own city.” It was
the most densely populated place in all Palestine. Ver. 2.- And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His
miracles which He did on them that were diseased.” The mere wonders in themselves would not necessarily attract many. Had they been malignant and destructive, they would have repelled ; but
being beneficent they attracted, they drew men after Him. Ver. 3.-" And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.” It should be read, the “mountain.”
The whole sea is skirted by a chain of hills on both sides, and the particular mountain cannot be ascertained. He ascended the mountain, probably to avoid the crowd and to enjoy the elevated delights of quiet thought
and holy devotion. Ver. 4.—"And the passover, a feast [the feast] of the Jews, was nigh.”
This is probably the third passover of our Lord's ministry. A great Jewish festival, causing at this time perhaps the gathering of the
great multitudes. Ver. 5.-" When Jesus therefore lifted up His eyes and saw a great
company, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?" Being now in the region of Bethsaida Julius, of which
Philip was a native, the question was naturally addressed to him concerning provisions for the famishing multitudes. “ Whence ?" The object was to call attention to the great quantity that would be required. The question is put, not because He felt any difficulty, but
because He sought to awake their interest and their thoughts. Ver. 6.—" And this He said to prove him : for He Himself knew what He
would do.” By the question He wished to test and strengthen Philip's
faith. Ver. 7.—"Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not
sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.” The money here amounts to about six pounds of our currency. This, it would seem, was all the money they had; and he felt its utter in
sufficiency. Ver. 8, 9.—“ One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith
unto Him, There is a lad here [a little lad] which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes ; but what are they among so many ?” Andrew was one of the first of our Lord's disciples, but seemed to have no more faith than Philip. Although both of them, in all probability, had seen Christ healing the nobleman's son (John iv. 46), giving the draught of fishes (Luke v. 1), healing the demoniac, the paralytic, and the leper (Mark i. 21; Matt. viii. 2 ; Luke v. 19), restoring the man at Bethesda pool (John v. 5), healing the withered hand (Matt. xii. 9), and the centurion's servant (Luke ii. 7), and raising the widow's son at Nain (Luke vii. 11), they did not seem to realize the fact that He who put the question—their Master— was fully able to meet the
difficulty. Ver. 10.-"And Jesus said, Make the men (people] sit down.” According
to Mark and Luke, they sat down in ranks or companies. “ Now there was much grass in the place." The ancient Hebrews were in the habit of sitting on skins on the ground to eat their food. These five thousand sat down now on the fresh grass that had sprung up through the
fertile rains of the season. Ver. 11.-" And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks,
He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down.” Bread and fish in this miracle proved Him Master both of earth and sea ; and His giving thanks to His Father pointed their minds
to Him from whom all blessings flow. Ver. 12.-" When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up
the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”. The Lord” says one, “is lavish of His bounties, at the same time careful of His
gifts.” Ver. 13.-" Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets
with the fragments of the five barley loaves which remained over and above unto them that had eaten." Here is a stupendous miracle, but such a one as is going on in nature constantly. A miracle, not of creation, but of multiplication. Nature gives baok to the husbandman in harvest manifold more than he committed to the earth in spring.
Ver. 14.-" Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus
did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world." John alone records this effect of the miracle. It falls in with his design, to show the divinity of our Lord. Here therefore he gives the testimony of those who saw it wrought. " That prophet.” The prophet like unto Moses; they meant undoubtedly the Messiah.
HOMILETICS.-As we have elsewhere* made remarks on this miracle as recorded by Matthew, our observations now will be brief. We take the miracle as suggesting certain remarks concerning the beneficence of Christ. Christ was not only benevolent, disposed to do good, but beneficent, always doing good. “He went about doing good."
I. HIS BENEFICENCE IS A POWERFUL ELEMENT OF ATTRACTION IN HIS CHARACTER. “A great multitude followed Him because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.” And then in the fifth verse it is said, that “He lifted
and saw a great company." What attracted these multitudes ? Not, as we have said, His wonders; for although wonders will ever arrest attention and excite curiosity, they will not attract unless they are beneficent. Had His miracles been works of wrath, devastation, death, and terror, they would have driven the multitudes in panic from His presence. The terrible wonders on the brow of Sinai, did not tempt the millions at the base to climb to the summit; on the contrary, they were terrified exceedingly. It was the beneficence in Christ's miracles that drew after Him the multitudes. All His miracles were works of love. And this in His character is the great moral magnet that will one day draw all men unto Him. Beneficence always attracts. With what beauty and stirring force Job describes the influence of his own beneficence upon the men of his age amongst whom he lived. " The young men saw me, and hid themselves," etc. (Job xxix. 8-25). Ah! if what is called the
) Church of Christ on earth had, instead of indulging in acrimonious controversies cradling morbid and sanctimonious sentiments and childishly attending to trumpery rites and ceremonies, exhibited Christly beneficence, how great the multi
* See “ Genius of the Gospel," first edition, page 337.
tudes who would have followed after her. The captives would have looked to her for liberty, the poor for bread, the afflicted for healing, the naked for clothing, the oppressed for justice, and the sad everywhere for comfort and consolation. Why do not the multitudes follow the Church ? Nay, why do they turn from her ? This is a question that grows more pressing every day. II. HIS BENEFICENCE WAS EVER INSPIRED BY THE TENDEREST
It is said in the other records of this miracle, that He “had compassion on the multitudes.” This multitude was famishing for hunger. Though Christ crossed the sea in a vessel, they had to walk round on foot. It is probable they had journeyed all night, and when they reached Him on the other side they would be famishing for food. His compassion was moved as He beheld them. There are what are called beneficent acts that are done from vanity. The doer seeks applause in his work. Such acts are sometimes done from avarice. The doer seeks to win clients, patients, customers that will enrich his coffers, and administer to his greed. And indeed such acts are not unfrequently worked by superstition. The doer seeks to win heaven and avoid hell by his benevolent deeds. In sublime contrast to all this stands the beneficence of Christ. He was full of compassion-full, free, boundless compassion. Alas! how little of this compassion man has for
In most cases man treats his brother with heartless indifference, and indeed in many cases with a ruthless and savage cruelty. There is a fact recorded of Napoleon which may be taken as typical of that cruel class of men that abound
ages. Flushed with his victories, he sailed with a numerous fleet and army to the East. Everywhere the enemy fell before his triumphant troops. He came to Jaffa—the ancient Joppa—a town in Palestine. On the fourth of March, 1799, he assailed it: two days after, it was taken. Terrible was the carnage
that took place. In the midst of the slaughter 4000 men took shelter in an old caravanserai, and called out from the windows that they would surrender on condition that their lives were spared. Napoleon's aides-de-camp agreed to