Mark viii. 19, 20
Wallets and Panniers
by Henry Dyer
Twelve wallets filled with fragments were taken away by the disciples from the first feeding of the thousands, doubtless to teach them the lesson that their own "daily bread" would be provided them whilst they were following their Master, and were seeking His glory and serving Him (see Matt. vi. 33).
Seven panniers (much larger baskets than in the former case) were gathered up from the second time of similar service, to teach them, no doubt, that however many they had already fed, the mighty fullness that was in their Master for hungry multitudes was by no means exhausted; for a single one of these last baskets probably held much more in quantity than all the twelve wallets of the former miracle.
What teaching we have here for the faith of labourers in God's blessed work, and in Christ's precious gospel work everywhere and always! As Peter, or John, or James satisfied his hunger that day from his wallet thus wondrously supplied, what food for his faith as well as for his body! Their meals that day were of bread, the supply of which depended on no earthly kneading-trough nor oven; it came as straight to them from the mighty hand of their Master (who had Himself come to earth to be broken for them) as the manna of old came to the omer of the Israelite (Exod. xvi.), or the meal into the widow's barrel to provide Elijah his daily cake. What reverent joy might the disciples have as they did eat of their heaven-filled wallets! And is it not so now? Have not servants of Jesus who hang on Him for their daily supplies, as in His blessed service they follow Him from place to place—from England to China, it may be, or Spain, or some other even less known parts—a joy in their Master's love and care of them when they find their daily need supplied from Him direct? From this precious lesson, Jesus leads them on to another.
Again they are feeding multitudes with bread supplied through His wonder-working hands; and now they gather up, of the same precious bread, baskets so large that their very weight would make them glad of more hungry ones to whom to deal it out. Like the lepers of Samaria in the famine of Elisha's time (see 2 Kings vii.), they had more than enough for themselves; "the windows of heaven" had been opened, and they could only say to each other, "This day is a day of good tidings: . . . now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household." In each gospel the lesson of the wallets precedes that of the panniers. A simple faith in God for our own souls' spiritual bread, and for our temporal wants, is our loving Master's way of making us happy to aid each other in proclaiming and carrying the bread of life to perishing multitudes around us. Maybe it needed two to carry each of those heavy panniers, or perhaps three of the disciples carried two between them (a lesson to them, if so, of how their Master's love also sent them out in fellowship to the towns and villages); but each disciple, having already learned how his gracious Master could fill his own wallet, was meant to have no care, except as to how he might best help in speeding onward the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How they failed in this, and in the boat forgot the teachings, the verses above quoted too well show.
Oh for help then to the faith of all now living labourers for Jesus, whether in this or other lands, that they may without distraction give themselves to proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ!
* The word rendered "baskets" in verse 19 is the ordinary Jewish wallet or travelling bag used for their food, to preserve it from legal uncleanness by unlawful contact; but the word in verse 20 means a larger kind of basket, used for storing up grain. Its greater size is shown by its being the "basket" in which Paul was let down through a window over the Damascus wall, and thus escaped his persecutors.