The sun was sinking in the west, and yet the people lingered. Jesus had laboured all day long without food or rest. He was pale from weariness and hunger. But He could not withdraw from the multitude that pressed upon Him.
"His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto Him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to Me. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude."
In this parable is wrapped up a deep, spiritual lesson for God's workers. Christ received from the Father; He imparted to the disciples; they imparted to the multitude; and the people to one another. So all who are united with Christ will receive from Him the bread of life, the heavenly food, and impart it to others.
In full reliance upon God, Jesus took the small store of loaves; and although there was but a small supply for His own family of disciples, He did not invite them to eat but began to distribute to them, bidding them serve the people. The food multiplied in His hands; and the hands of the disciples, reaching out to Christ, Himself the Bread of Life, were never empty. The little store was sufficient for all. After the wants of the people had been supplied, the fragments were gathered up, and Christ and His disciples ate of the precious, heaven-supplied food.
The disciples were the channel of communication between Christ and the people. This should be a great encouragement to His disciples today. Christ is the great Centre, the Source of all strength. His disciples are to receive their supplies from Him. The most intelligent, the most spiritually minded, can bestow only as they receive. Of themselves they can supply nothing for the needs of the soul. We can impart only as we receive, and we can receive only as we impart. As we continue to impart, we shall continue to receive; and the more we impart, the more we shall receive.
"There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." Mark that pool which receives the showers of heaven, but has no outlet. It is a blessing to no one, but in stagnant selfishness poisons the air around. Now look at the stream flowing from the mountain side, refreshing the thirsty land through which it passes. What blessing it brings! One would think that in giving so liberally, it would exhaust its resources. But not so. It is a part of God's great plan that the stream that gives shall never lack; and day by day and year by year it flows on its way, ever receiving and ever giving.
There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal in turn minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud.
The angels of glory find their joy in giving,--giving love and tireless watch-care to souls that are fallen and unholy; heavenly beings woo the hearts of men; they bring to this dark world light from the courts above; by gentle, patient ministry they move upon the human spirit, to bring the lost into a fellowship with Christ that is even closer than they themselves can know.
God desires us to give--cheerfully, willingly, gladly. None can keep His law without ministering to others. Happiness is the gift of God to him who, in the spirit of Christ, toils for the good of others.
There are many to whom life is a painful struggle. They feel their deficiencies, and are miserable and unbelieving; they think they have nothing for which to be grateful. Kind words, looks of sympathy, expressions of appreciation, would be to many a struggling, lonely one as the cup of cold water to a thirsty soul. A word of sympathy, an act of kindness, would lift burdens that rest heavily upon weary shoulders. And every word or deed of unselfish kindness is an expression of the love of Christ for lost humanity
"Freely ye have received; freely give." "Arise, shine; for thy light is come; and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." If upon your spirit the glory of the Lord has risen; if you have beheld His beauty who is the chiefest among ten thousand, and the One altogether lovely; if your soul has become radiant in the presence of His glory, to you is this word from the Master sent. Have you stood with Christ on the mount of transfiguration? Down in the plain there are souls enslaved by Satan; they are waiting for the word of faith and prayer to set them free.
The one who stands nearest to Christ will be he who on earth has drunk most deeply of the spirit of His self-sacrificing love,--love that "vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, . . . seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,"--love that moves the disciple, as it moved our Lord, to live and labour and sacrifice, even unto death, for the saving of humanity.
Published in Signs of the Times, January 22, 1902.