In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him, and said to them,…
There was again a great multitude, and they had nothing to eat. Again Jesus had "compassion." Again are the disciples perplexed. "Whence shall one be able to fill these men with bread here in a desert place?" Speedily, of "seven loaves" and "a few small fishes" "about four thousand men, beside women and children, did eat and were filled," and "broken pieces remained over" to the extent of "seven baskets." Jesus left the miracle to give its own teachings - the great work to sink down into their hearts, while that he sought relief and rest, entering into the boat and coming "into the borders of Magadan." Perversely, the Pharisees, now joined by the Sadducees, came tempting him, putting him to the proof, "seeking of him a sign from heaven." They knew not that he had already put them to the proof by the signs already wrought, which, had they had eyes to see, would have led them to believe. He had, without words, proved that the veil was on their hearts. Had they been children of truth, how soon would they have acknowledged the truth! But now, with words, he would carry home to their hearts a conviction of their blindness in presence of spiritual things. "A sign from heaven," would ye? Quick are ye to discern the signs in the reddened sky of the morning or evening. See ye no red "signs of the times?" Do the passing clouds of heaven foretoken storm or calm? and do not the passing incidents of earth in the political or the social sphere, or the sphere of the individual life? Look around. Was it ever so seen in Israel as it is now seen? Your fathers did eat manna in the desert - is it not so now? Are not the words of the prophets finding their exact fulfillment in these hours? Are not "signs" abundant in the healed ones and in the wonderful words? Would ye have "blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke" ? Would ye have the sun "turned into darkness... the moon into blood" ? Verily the sun shall be darkened; verily the sign of blood shall be in the heavens and upon you. Alas! having eyes they saw not, and having ears they heard not. Then "deeply" from the heart of compassion and sorrow a sigh arose mingling with his words of astonishment and inquiry, "Why doth this generation seek a sign?" followed by the stern condemnation, "There shall no sign" such as they desire "be given;" though God's own sign - "the sign "- will not be wanting, nor be unseen by the watchers. Why will men "seek a sign?" Why "cannot" men "discern the signs" - even those which are always the peculiar and appropriate "signs of the times" ? The questions admit of one reply, for that age and this, and for every age. The answer is found -
I. In the prevalent spirit of unbelief. The strange closing of the eyes and shutting of the ears and hardening of the heart. And if the light abound the closed eye cannot see, and if the air be filled with angel-songs, or the voice of the Teacher lade the air with heavenly truth, the closed car admits it not. And though the hand of the Lord be present, the hardened heart receives not its impress. It is unmoved, untouched.
II. But why do not men believe? Is it that they cannot or that they will not believe? Alas! both. Some cannot because they have not been solely or sufficiently attentive to the Word, from the hearing of which cometh faith, or for a time they labour under the soul-hindering perplexity which some unresolved sceptical difficulty has involved them in. But these, being seekers of the faith, "shall find." They must be patient; for with our partial views of things we cannot suddenly quadrate all our truth with every suggested opinion, or point out the fallacy of that opinion. But some will not believe. In a foolish, even stupid - yea, wicked - resistance of evidence, they shut out the force of conviction; while others are hindered, being "slow of heart to believe," and therefore "foolish men."
III. Moral conditions affect the power of faith. Jesus showed this when he said, "How can ye believe which receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?" And the self-seeking and world-loving, the evil and the sensual, the disobedient, and all who have "refused to have God in their knowledge," must gain both an indisposition and an inaptitude of mind to receive God's testimony in that spirit of faith which implies faithfulness to the truth when known. These are the "wicked and adulterous" to whom "no" special "sign shall be given;" for, refusing the many signs that are around, they will not be "persuaded, if one rise from the dead." But to all one! "sign" shall "be given" - "a sign which is spoken against," but which remains ever the one "sign" in heaven and in earth and in all "times," "the sign of Jonah the prophet." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,