How did we ever get sucked into the translation disciple for μαθητής? Was there ever a more harsh law word in all of English? A μαθητής is a student, a pupil, a learner. Ninja sensei have disciples that live under their discipline. Rabbi’s don’t. They have pupils. But with the Lord it is more, of course. Pupil or student just won’t do. The Lord is no mere rabbi. The right word is catechumen. That is what the Twelve were and what all those follow (not lead!) Jesus are.
We’ve dealt enough with σπλαγχνίζομαι, but here it is again.
“been with Me” for προσμένουσίν μοι seems a bit weak. They have remained in His face. This is fellowship talk. They are abiding in His face and now stand in that in between place, away from the city, away from home, but with the Lord.
ἀπό μακρόθεν ἥκασιν – the verb is perfect. We might translate it with an English perfect: “they have come from a great distance.” But that doesn’t get the nuance. The Greek perfect is almost always a present in English. We rightly translate γεγραμμένον “It is written,” not “It has been written.” The idea in the Greek perfect is that some completed past action has present and ongoing consequences. So also here. Some of these people have come from a great distance and that is hanging over their heads. It defines and endangers them. There are not way stations, no hotels, no resting places along the way. So we do better with “they are come from a great distance.”
The 12 catechumens respond with this uncommon word for feed: χορτάζω. TDNT doesn’t deal with it. It is a cognate of the word for pasture. According to Wuest, Plato uses it to refer to men with some derision, perhaps like the Krauts and fressen. But the Lord uses it in the sermon on the mount, μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσονται. And the catechumens add ἄρτος. This is the second time the Lord has done this sort of thing. Maybe these catechumens have been better catechized than we thought and the question is a set up. Maybe the Lord means more than physical sustenance and maybe the catechumens are in on it.
παραγγέλλει τῷ ὄχλῳ ἀναπεσεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς - He commands the crowd to recline as at a feast upon the earth. Παραγγέλλει – “He directs” is too weak. He commands is better. He doesn’t command they sit upon the grass here but that they recline and upon γῆ.
Insofar as this miracle is typical of the Sacrament of the Altar, this command foreshows the sacramental presence moving out of the Temple and to all the earth. No longer is the presence limited to the Holy of Holies. So also something is shown here of the Lord’s exaltation. Since the Resurrection the Lord now always and fully uses His Divine rights and attributes as a Man. Thus He – as a Man – in His risen Body and Blood – is present in the Sacrament all over the earth and is not limited by physicality. So they sit upon the earth for a feast, as the kings and rulers of the earth, for they abide in the presence of the Christ.
If this miracle is typical of the Lord’s Supper, so also is the manna in the desert. This miracle stands parallel to that. But no distinction is so important as the posture of those who eat and are satisfied. They do not labor for this bread. They do not go out and gather up a day’s worth. It is brought to them.