HENCEFORTH these loaves do not so much suggest the thought of the lad’s sacrifice as of the Savior’s power. Is it not a wonderful thing that. Christ, the living God, should associate Himself with our feebleness, with our want of talent, with our ignorance, with our little faith? And yet tie does so. If we are not associated with Him, we can do nothing; but when we come into living touch with Him, we can do all things. Those barley loaves in Christ’s hands become pregnant with food for all the throng. Out of His hands they are nothing but barley cakes; but in His hands, associated with Him, they are in contact with omnipotence.
Have you that love the Lord Jesus Christ thought of this, of bringing all that you possess to Him, that it may be associated with Him? There is that brain of yours; it can be associated with the teachings of His Spirit there is that heart of yours; it can be warmed with the love of God there is that tongue of yours; it can be touched with the live coal from off the altar there is that manhood of yours; it can ‘be perfectly consecrated by association with Christ. Hear the tender command of the Lord, “Bring them hither to Me,” and your whole life will be transformed. I do not say that every man of common ability can rise to high ability by being associated with Christ through faith; but I do say’ this, — that his ordinary ability, in association with Christ, will become sufficient for the occasion to which God in providence has called him. I know that you have been praying, and saying, “I have not this, and I cannot do that.” Stay not to number your deficiencies; bring what you have, and let all that you are, body, soul, and spirit, be associated with Christ. Although He will not bestow upon you new faculties, the faculties you have will have new power, for they will come into a new condition towards Him; and what may not be hoped for by association with such wisdom and might?
They were transferred to Christ. A moment ago they belonged to this lad, but now they belong to Christ. “Jesus took the loaves.” He has taken possession of them; they are His property. Oh, Christian people, do, you mean what you say when you declare that you have given yourself to Christ? If you have made a full transfer, therein will lie great power for usefulness. But do not people often say, “If I might make some reserve”? “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” What about that odd thousand that you put in the Funds the other day? What about the money saved up for a new bonnet?
Oh, that we had more real putting of the loaves into Christ”; hands! The ‘time that you have not used for self, but given to Christ; the knowledge that you have not stored, as in a reservoir, but given to Christ; the ability that you have not wielded for the world, but yielded to Christ; your influence and position, your money and home, all put into Christ’s hands, and reckoned to be not your own, but to be His henceforth; this is the way in which London’s need will be met, and the ‘world’s hunger will be satisfied. But we are staggered at the very outset by the lack of this complete dedication of everything to Christ.
As these loaves were given to Jesus, so they were accepted by .Jesus. They were not only dedicated, they were also consecrated. Jesus took the five barley loaves, Jesus took the two little fishes, and in doing so He seemed to say, “These will do for Me.” As the Revised Version has it, “Jesus therefore took the loaves.” Was there any reason why tie should? Yes, because they were brought to Him; they were willingly presented to Him; there was a need of them, and He could work with them, “therefore” lie took the loaves. Children of God, if Christ has ever made use of you, you have often stood and wondered however the Lord could accept you; but there was a therefore in it. He saw that you were willing to win souls He saw the souls needed winning, and He used you, even you. Am I not now speaking to some who might be of great service if they yielded themselves unto Christ, and Christ accepted them, and they became accepted in the Beloved? Only five barley cakes, but .Jesus accepted them; only two small fishes, brought by a little lad, but the great Christ accepted them, and they became His own.
These loaves and fishes were blessed by Christ, as He lifted up His eyes, and gave thanks to the Father for them. Think of it. For five little cakes and two sprats Christ gave thanks to the Father; apparently a meager cause for praise, but Jesus knew what He could make of them, and therefore gave thanks for what they would presently accomplish. “God loves us,” says Augustine, “for what we are becoming.” Christ gave thanks for these trifles because He saw where unto they would grow. Do you not think that, having thanked the Father, He also thanked the boy? And in after years these words of gratitude would be ample recompense for such a tiny deed. Like the woman who cast in the two mites to the treasury, he gave his all, and doubtless was commended for the gift. Though high in glory today, Christ is still grateful when such offerings are made to Him still He thanks His Father when, with timid, trembling hands, we offer to Hint our best, our all, however small; still is His heart gladdened when we bring Him our scanty store that it may be touched by His dear hand, and blessed by His gracious lips. He loves us, not for what we, are, but for what He will yet make us; He blesses our offerings, not for their worth, but because His power will yet make them worthy of His praise. May the Lord thus bless every talent that you have! May He bless your memory; may He bless your understanding; may He bless your voices; may He bless your hearts; may He bless your heads; may He bless you all and evermore! When He puts a blessing into the little gift and into the little grace that we have, good work begins and goes on to perfection.
And when the loaves had been blessed, the next thing was, they were increased by Christ. Peter takes one, begins to break it, and as he breaks it, he has always as much in his hand as he started with. “Here, take a bit of fish, friend,” says he. He gives a whole fish to that man, he has a whole fish left. So he gives it to another, and another, and another, and goes on scattering the bread and scattering the fish everywhere, as quickly as he can; and when he has done, he has his hands just as full of fish and as full of bread as ever. If you serve God you will never run dry. He who gives you something to say one Sunday will give you something to say another Sunday. Some very learned brethren are like the great tun of Heidelberg; they can hold so much wine that there is enough to swim in, but they put in a tap somewhere up at the top, and you never get much out. Mine is a very small barrel indeed, but the tap is down as low as it cart be; and you can get more liquor out of a small tub, if you empty it, than you can out of a big vat if you are only permitted to draw a little from the top. This boy gave all his loaves, and all his fish — not much, truly — but Christ multiplied it. Be like him, give your all; do not think of reserving some for another occasion. If you are a preacher, do not think of what you will preach about the next time; think of what you are going to preach about now. It is always quite enough to get one sermon at a time you need not have a store; because if you get a lot piled away somewhere, there will be a stale odor about them. Even the manna that came down from heaven bred worms and stank; so will your best sermons, even if the message is Godgiven; and if it does not come down from heaven, but from your own brain, it will go bad still more quickly. Tell the people about Christ. Lead them ‘to Jesus, and do not trouble about what you will say next time, but wait till next time comes, and it shall be given you in the same hour what you shall speak.
Christ’s additions; mean subtraction; and Christ’s subtractions mean additions. He gives that we may give away. He multiplied as soon as ever the disciples began to distribute; and when the distribution ended, the multiplication ended. Oh, for the grace to go on distributing! If you have received thee truth from Christ, tell it out! God will whisper it in your ear, and tell it in; but if you stop the telling out, if you cease the endeavor to bless others it may be that God will no more bless you, nor grant you again the communion of His face.
Putting all this together, if we all would bring our loaves and fishes to the Lord Jesus Christ, He would take them, and make them wholly His own.
Then, when He should have blessed them, He would multiply them, and He would bid us distribute them and we could yet meet the needs of London, and the needs of the whole world even to the last man. A Christ who could feed five thousand can feed five millions. There is no limit. When once you get a miracle, you may as well have a great one. Whenever I find the critics paring down miracles, it always seems to me very poor work; for if it is a miracle, it is a miracle; and if you are in for a penny, you may as well be in for a pound. If you can believe that Christ can feed fifty, then you can believe that He can feed five hundred, five thousand, five millions, five hundred millions, if so it pleases Him.
A great deal of misery was removed by the lad’s basketful of barley cakes.
These poor people were famished; they had been with Christ all day, and had had nothing to eat; and had they been dispersed as they were, tired and hungry, many of them would have fainted by the way; perhaps some would even have died. Oh, what would we give if we might but alleviate the misery of this world! I remember the Earl of Shaftesbury saying, “I should like to live longer. I cannot bear to go out of the world while there is so much misery in it. And you know how that dear saint of God laid himself out to look after the poor, and the helpless, and the needy, all his days.
Perhaps I speak to some who never woke up yet to the idea that, if they were to bring their little all to Christ, He could make use of it in alleviating the misery of many a wounded conscience, and that awful misery which will come upon men if they die unforgiven, and stand before the judgment bar of God without a Savior. Yes, young man, God can make you the spiritual father of many. As I look back upon my own history, little did I dream when first I opened my mouth for Christ, in a very humble way, that I should have the honor of bringing thousands to Jesus. Blessed, blessed be His name. He has the glory of it. But I cannot help thinking that there must be some other lad — such a one as I was, whom He may call by His grace to do service for Him. When I had a letter sent to me by the deacons of the church at New Park Street, to come up to London to preach, I sent it back by the next post, telling them that they had made a mistake, that I was a lad of nineteen years of age, happy among a very poor and lowly people in Cambridgeshire, who loved me, and that I did not imagine that they could mean that I was to preach in London. But ‘they returned it to me, and said that they knew all about it, and I must come. Ah, what a story it has been since then, of the goodness and lovingkindness of the Lord? ‘You must not think that God picks out all the very choice and particularly fine persons. It is not so in the Bible; some of those that He took were very rough people; even the first apostles were mostly fishermen. Paul was; an educated man, but he was like a lot out of the catalogue, one born out of due time; the rest of them were not so, but God used them; and it still pleases God, by the base things and things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are. I do not want you to think highly of yourself; your cakes are only five, and they are barley, and poor barley at that; and your fish are very small, and there are only two of them. I do not want you to think much of them, but think much of Christ, and believe that, whoever you may be, if He thought it worth His while to buy you with His blood, and is willing to make some use of you, it is surely worth your while to come and bring yourself, and all that you have, to Him who is thus graciously ready to accept you. Put everything into His hands, and let it be said of you, “And Jesus took the loaves.” It is a part of the history of the loaves; that they assuaged a great mass of misery.
Jesus was glorified; for the people said, “He is a prophet.” The miracle of the loaves carried them back to the wilderness, and to the miracle of the manna; they remembered that Moses had said, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren, like unto me.” For this Deliverer they longed, and as the bread increased so grew their wonder, until in the swelling cakes they saw the finger of God, and said, “This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.”
That little lad became, by his loaves and fishes, the revealer of Christ to all the multitude; and who can tell, if you give your loaves to Christ, whether thousands may not recognize him as the Savior because of it? Christ is still known in the breaking of bread.
When the feast was finished, there were fragments to be gathered. This is a part of the history of the loaves — they were not lost they were eaten, but they were there; people were filled with them, but yet there was more of them left than when the feast began. Each disciple had a basketful to carry back to his Master’s feet. Give yourself to Christ, and when you have used yourself for His glory, you will be more able to serve Him than you are now; you shall find your little stock grow as you spend it. Remember Bunyan’s picture of the man who had a roll of cloth. He unrolled it, and he cut off so much for the poor. Then he unrolled it, and cut off some more, and the more he cut it, the longer it grew. Upon which Bunyan remarks — “There was a man, and some did count him mad; The more he gave away, the more he had.” It is certainly so with talent and ability, and with grace in the heart. The more you use it, the more there is of it. It is often so with gold and silver; the store of the liberal man increases, while the miser grows poor. We have an old proverb, which is as true as it is suggestive:” Drawn wells have the sweetest waters.” So, if you keep continually drawing on your mind, your thoughts will get sweeter; and if you continue to draw on your strength, your strength will get to be more mighty through God. The more you do, the more you may do, by the grace of the Ever-blessed One!
These loaves had a record made about them. There is many a loaf that has gone to a king’s table and yet never been chronicled; but this boy’s five cakes and two little fishes have got into the Bible; and if you look, you will find the barley cakes in Matthew, you will find the barley cakes in Mark, you will find the barley cakes in Luke, you will find the barley cakes in John. To make quite sure that we should never forget how much God can do with little things, this story is told four times over, and it is the only one of Christ’s miracles which has such an abundant record.
Let us put it to the test. You young people who have lately joined the church, do not be long before you try to do something for Christ. You that have for a long time been trusting Christ, and have never yet begun to work, arouse yourselves to attempt some service for His sake. Aged friends and sick friends can still find something to do. Perhaps, at the last, it will be found that the persons whom we might have excused on account of illness, or weakness, or poverty, are the people who have done the most.
That, at least, is my observation. I find that, if there is really good work done, it is usually done by an invalid, or by somebody who might very properly have said, “I pray thee, have me excused.” How is it that so many able-bodied and gifted Christians seem to be so slow in the Master’s service? If there is a political meeting, something about Liberals and Conservatives, how earnest you are! You are all there, every bit of you, over your politics, which are not worth a penny a year; but when it comes to souls being saved, many of you are mute as fishes. You go all the year round without caring even for the spiritual welfare of a little child. One of our friends gave a good answer to a brother who said to him, “I have been a member of a church now for forty years I am a, father in Israel.” He asked him, “How many children have you? How many have you brought to Christ? .... Well,” the man said, “I do not know that I ever brought anybody to Christ.” Upon which our friend retorted, “Call yourself a father in Israel, and yet you have no children! I think you had better wait until you have earned the title.” So do I. It would be better that we had no professors of that sort, but that all our members, even were they much fewer should be men and women constantly bringing forth fruit unto God in the conversion of others. The Lord set you all to work with this object!