From Commentary on John, VI.12 (1555)
It has this in common with the other miracles, that Christ displayed in it his divine power in union with beneficence. It is also a confirmation to us of that statement by which he exhorts us to seek the kingdom of God, promising that all other things shall be added to us (Matt. 6:33.) For if he took care of those who were led to him only by a sudden impulse, how would he desert us, if we seek him with a firm and steady purpose? True, indeed, he will sometimes allow his own people, as I have said, to suffer hunger; but he will never deprive them of his aid; and, in the meantime, he has very good reasons for not assisting us till matters come to an extremity.
Besides, Christ plainly showed that he not only bestows spiritual life on the world, but that his Father commanded him also to nourish the body. For abundance of all blessings is committed to his hand, that, as a channel, he may convey them to us; though I speak incorrectly by calling him a channel, for he is rather the living fountain flowing from the eternal Father. Accordingly, Paul prays that all blessings may come to us from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, in common, (1 Cor. 1:3); and, in another passage, he shows that “in all things we ought to give thanks to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
And not only does this office belong to his eternal divinity, but even in his human nature, and so far as he has taken upon him our flesh, the Father has appointed him to be the dispenser, that by his hands he may feed us. Now, though we do not every day see miracles before our eyes, yet not less bountifully does God display his power in feeding us. And indeed we do not read that, when he wished to give a supper to his people, he used any new means; and, therefore, it would be an inconsiderate prayer, if any one were to ask that meat and drink might be given to him by some unusual method.
Again, Christ did not provide great delicacies for the people, but they who saw his amazing power displayed in that supper, were obliged to rest satisfied with barley-bread and fish without sauce. And though he does not now satisfy five thousand men with five loaves, still he does not cease to feed the whole world in a wonderful manner. It sounds to us, no doubt, like a paradox, that “man liveth not by bread alone, but by the word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3).
For we are so strongly attached to outward means, that nothing is more difficult than to depend on the providence of God. Hence it arises that we tremble so much, as soon as we have not bread at hand. And if we consider everything aright, we shall be compelled to discern the blessing of God in all the creatures which serve for our bodily support; but use and frequency lead us to undervalue the miracles of nature. And yet, in this respect, it is not so much our stupidity as our malignity that hinders us; for where is the man to be found who does not choose to wander astray in his mind, and to encompass heaven and earth a hundred times, rather than look at God who presents himself to his view?
John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most influential theologians of the Protestant Reformation, who served for many decades as the chief pastor of Geneva. He wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, which were reworked from lectures he gave to theological students. He is commemorated on May 26 or May 28 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches.