“I will not send them away.”
“And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children. And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.” (Matthew 15:29-39)
We have here another display of our Savior’s great compassion and grace, both to the souls and bodies of men. He manifested his power and Godhead and proved himself the Messiah, fulfilling that which had been prophesied of him (Isa. 35:5-6; 61:1). Here was a great throng of people gathered around the Lord Jesus. They had been with him for three days. He performed miracle after miracle, healing the sick, diseased, and impotent souls that were brought before him. His miracles were so astounding that all these thousands of people were utterly astonished by the power and grace of God. “And they glorified the God of Israel.”
This great crowd of people, twenty thousand or more strong, was so taken up with Christ, his miraculous power, his infinite goodness, and his gracious word that they lost all track of other things. Three days had passed before they knew it. Now they were all hungry and faint. Having received great, great mercy and blessings, one on top of another, they were yet in great need. They needed food and strength.
Notice our Lord’s response to their need in verse 32. He says to his disciples – “I will not send them away!” Oh, how I love the sound of these words falling from the lips of the Son of God! He says, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). That means there is nothing in any sinner in all the world that will keep Christ from receiving him, if he does but come to him. Come then to Christ! Come just like you are! Just come to Christ; and he will receive you.”
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!”
Then, regarding those who have come to him, our Savior says, “I will not send them away!” That means, having come to Christ, there is nothing in us that will cause him to send us away, and no need that might arise that can necessitate our going away from our Savior.
“Christ is all I need! Christ is all I need!
He is all I need. For me He died.
He was crucified. And He is all I need!
Come to Christ and he will never send you away, for this is his promise. – “I will not send them away!”
In verses 29 and 30 we see great multitudes of needy souls coming to Christ. — “And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them.”
What could be more difficult and troublesome than moving sick, impotent, diseased people, especially in those days? They had to be literally carried to the Savior. But the hope of being healed was in sight. Such a hope inspired these needy souls and those who cared for them. No obstacle was considered. No cost was calculated.
When people are in desperate need, nothing will prevent them from seeking relief, if there is any hope. For bodily health, people will wait in a crowded doctor’s office for hours, move from one state to another for purer air, give up jobs, and pay any price. But few are even slightly concerned about their souls’ health. Yet, the Word of God teaches us that any sinner who knows his souls’ need, will allow nothing to keep him from Christ, who alone can meet his soul’s needs. And anyone who knows the power of Christ and cares for the souls of others will do whatever he can to get sin sick souls to the Savior. We saw that in the story of the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28).
I have been under a doctor’s care for many years. He treats me for glaucoma. A while back, I got a little weary of going to his office every two months and paying the fees connected with his constant examination. So I asked if I might not be able to cut back on the number of visits. My doctor’s reply was, “They are your eyes. You’re the one that has glaucoma.” I was embarrassed and immediately decided that the inconvenience and cost was far less significant than the possibility of losing my eyes! But that is nothing compared with losing my soul, and nothing compared with the thought of others perishing. Let all who value their souls make it their life’s business to seek Christ. Let all who value the souls of others make it their life’s business to bring sinners to the Savior. Every believer ought to be like those four men who are described by Mark (Mark 2:1-4), who carried their needy friend up to the roof and tore the roof off, so they could get their friend to the Master.
Verse 31 displays the omnipotence of God’s mercy. — “The multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.”
Our Lord Jesus was not one of our modern false healers. He healed people with real infirmities. The word “maimed” means mutilated or cut off, as one whose limb had been cut off in an accident. What we have before us is a tremendous picture of our Lord’s power to heal sin-sick souls. There is no plague of the heart that he cannot cure. There is no deformity of soul that he cannot overcome. There is no fever of lust that he cannot stop, no palsy of worldliness that he cannot heal, no cancer of indolence that he cannot remove. When the Son of God sends his Spirit, omnipotent grace is healing grace for our souls. He opens blind eyes, causes the dumb to sing his praise, the deaf to hear his Word, the blind to see his glory, and the lame to walk in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
I have no hesitance in asserting that those who claim apostolic gifts of tongues and healing are deceitful workers. But do not imagine that the time of miracles has passed. Every conversion is a miracle of omnipotent mercy.
If you would be saved, go to Christ by faith. Cast your soul down before him. Call upon him for relief. He is still the same today as he was two thousand years ago. He is still “the great physician.” He still “receiveth sinners.” He is still “mighty to save.”
Our Compassionate Savior
Verse 32 shows us the compassionate character of our God and Savior. — “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.”
It is striking to me that this word “compassion” is used more often in the four gospels to describe our Savior than any other. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show us much about our Redeemer’s feelings of joy and sorrow, thanksgiving and anger, holiness and zeal. But the word they most often use to describe him is this word “compassion.” The word means, “to be moved from within.” Our English word means, “co-passion,” or “to suffer with.” It is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow, accompanied with a strong desire to alleviate the pain and remove its cause.”
Our Lord’s compassion for his elect extends to every aspect of our lives. Our spiritual and eternal needs are of indescribable importance to him, and so are our immediate, temporal needs. Let us never imagine that our Savior is less concerned for our welfare than we are for the welfare of our own families!
And let no sinner question the tenderness and compassion of Christ. He will graciously receive all who come to him. He will freely, fully, and forever forgive all the sins of all who trust him. He will forever supply all the needs of all who call upon him. God’s mercy in Christ is an infinitely vast, bottomless ocean. Though countless multitudes draw from it incessantly, its boundless fulness is never diminished.
What comfort there is for our souls in this great attribute of our God. “His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22). He knows the world in which we live. He knows our temptations. He knows Satan’s devices. He knows our frailties. He remembers that we are dust. And he pities us. If the Lord Jesus is full of compassion toward us, how much more compassionate we ought to be toward the needs of men (Eph. 4:32-5:1; James 1:27; 1 John 3:17; Gal. 6:10).
Our Savior’s employment of his disciples in the distribution of the loaves and fish teaches us something about the sphere of human instrumentality. Certainly the sovereign God does not need us for anything. Our Savior does not need to use us. He could have distributed the loaves and fish far more easily and much, much faster than the disciples. But he chose not to do what they were perfectly capable of doing. What a privilege it was for the disciples to be allowed to pass out the bread and fish as he multiplied it! Serving Christ by serving the needs of others is the highest honor and greatest privilege in this world (Matt. 10:40-42; Eph. 3:8).
Faith and Usefulness
“And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” (v. 33) — The disciples’ reply to the Savior was not, as I see it, a matter of unbelief. They had not forgotten what happened in chapter 14. They were simply saying, “Lord, if this crowd is going to be fed, you will have to feed them. We do not have any bread and have no way of getting any bread.” We are most useful, when we acknowledge that we are useless. We are most sufficient when we acknowledge our insufficiency. God never gives us a task to do without giving us the means and the ability to do (Acts 1:8). If we would serve our Savior, if we would be useful to the generation in which we live, we must constantly acknowledge that we have nothing with which to serve him, except that with which he supplies us. “Our sufficiency is of God.”
When I read the last line of verse 31, I am reminded that the glory of God, only the glory of God, must be our motive in all things. When our Lord Jesus healed the multitudes, “they glorified the God of Israel.” The object and goal of everything we do in the service of Christ must be to bring eternity bound souls to glorify and worship the God of Israel. The goal of the preacher, the church, and the individual believer must never be success, fame, popularity, or the approval of men, but the glory of our God.
The Blessedness of Giving
Read verses 34-37 and learn something about the blessedness of giving. — “And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.”
The word “baskets” here is not little lunch baskets as in Matthew 14:20, but huge baskets, the kind used by people carrying goods to the market, the kind that was used to lower Paul over the city wall in Damascus (Acts 9:25). These disciples handed the Lord Jesus just seven loaves and a few small fish. With that insignificant lunch, sufficient only to feed one or two men by us, the Son of God fed over 20,000 people; and the disciples gathered up seven grocery carts full of the Master’s leftovers!
What an honor it is to give to Christ! What an honor for our great, glorious, all-sufficient God to take our loaves and fishes and use them! Let us leave this great display of Christ’s goodness being convinced that it is impossible for anyone to impoverish himself by giving (Pro. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:10; Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:6).