After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.…
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE SIGN "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Now, notice what a lovely glimpse we get there into the quick rising sympathy of the Master with all forms of human necessity. Before we call He answers. But, farther, He selects for the question Philip, a man who seems to have been what is called — as if it were the highest praise — an "intensely practical person"; who seems to have had little faith in anything that he could not get hold of by his senses, and who lived upon the low level of "common sense." "This He said to prove him." He hoped that the question might have shaped itself in the hearer's mind into a promise, and that he might have been able to say in answer, "Thou canst supply; we need not buy." So Christ does still. He puts problems before us too, to settle; Lakes us, as it were, into His confidence with interrogations that try us, whether we can rise above the level of the material and visible, or whether all our conceptions of possibilities are bounded by these. And sometimes, even though the question at first sight seems to evoke only such a response as it did here, it works more deeply down below afterwards, and we are helped by the very difficulty to rise to a clear faith. Philip's answer is significant. He was a man of figures; he believed in what you could put into tables and statistics. Yes! And, like a great many other people of his sort, he left out one small element in his calculation, and that was Jesus Christ. And so his answer went creeping along the low levels, dragging itself like a half. wounded snake, when it might have risen on the wings of faith up into the empyrean, and soared and sung. So learn that when we have to deal with Christ's working — and when have we not to deal with Christ's working? — perhaps probabilities that can be tabulated are not altogether the best bases upon which to rest our calculations. Learn that the audacity of a faith that expects great things, though there be nothing visible upon which to build, is wiser and more prudent than the creeping common sense that adheres to facts which are shadows, and forgets that the one fact is that we have an Almighty Helper and Friend at our sides. Still further, under these preliminaries, let us point to the exhibition of the inadequate resource which Christ, according to the fuller narrative in the other Evangelists, insisted upon. Christ's preparation for making our poor resources adequate for anything is to drive home into our hearts the consciousness of their insufficiency. We need, first of all, to be brought to this: "All that I have is this wretched little stock; and what is that measured against the work that I have to do and the claims upon me?" Only when we are brought to that can His great power pour itself into us and fill us with rejoicing and overcoming strength. The old mystics used to say, and they said truly: "You must be emptied of yourself before you can be filled by God." And the first thing for any man to learn, in preparation for receiving a mightier power than his own into his opening heart, is so know that all his own strength is utter and absolute weakness. "What are they among so many?" And so the last of the preparations that I will touch upon is that majestic preparation for blessing by obedience. Sit you down where He bids you, and your mouths will not be long empty. Do the things He tells you, and you will get the food that you need.
II. THE SIGN ITSELF.
1. As to the first, there is here, I believe, a revelation of the law of the universe, of Christ as being through all the ages the sustainer of the physical life of men. What was done then once, with the suppression of certain links in the chain, is done always with the introduction of those links. It was Christ's will that made this provision. And I believe that the teaching of Scripture is in accords,nee with the deepest philosophy, that the one cause of all physical phenomena is the will of a present God, howsoever that may usually conform to the ordinary methods of working which people generalize and call laws. The reason why anything is, and the reason why all things change, is the energy there and then of the indwelling God, who is in all His works, and who is the only will and power in the physical world. And I believe, further, that Scripture teaches us that that continuous will, which is the cause of all phenomena and the underlying subsistence on which all things repose, is all managed and mediated by Him who from of old was named the Word; "in whom was life, and without whom was not anything made that was made." Our Christ is Creator, our Christ is Sustainer, our Christ moves the stars and feeds the sparrows.
2. And so, secondly, there is in the sign itself a symbol of Him as the true Bread and food of the world. Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us, and we feed on the sacrifice. Let your conscience, your heart, your desires, your anticipations, your understanding, your will, your whole being, feed on Him. He will be cleansing, He will be love, He will be fruition, He will be hope, He will be truth, He will be righteousness, He will be all.
3. And notice finally here, the result of this miracle as transferred to the region of symbol. "They did all eat, and were filled"; men, women, children, both sexes, all ages, all classes, found the food that they needed in the bread that came from Christ's hands. If any man wants dainties that will tickle the palates of Epicureans, let him go somewhere else. But if he wants bread, to keep the life in and to stay his hunger, let him go to this Christ, who is "human nature's daily food." The world has scoffed for eighteen centuries at the barley bread that the gospel provides; coarse by the side of its confectionery, but it is enough to give life to all who eat it. And more than that; notice the inexhaustible abundance. "They did all eat, and were filled." Other goods and other possessions perish with the using, but this increases with use. The more one eats, the more there is for him to eat. And all the world may live upon it for ever, and there will be more at the end than there was at the beginning.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.