to the regions beyond
In one of his books Oswald J. Smith pictures in an unusual way the Lord feeding the five thousand in order to drive home a point. The people are seated in orderly rows before Jesus; in His hands are the loaves and fishes from the little lad’s lunch. Gathered around Him are the disciples.
He breaks the bread of life and gives it to His own to go and give to the crowd. They take the food to the first few rows, to the nearest group of fifty. Back they come for more. They take it back to the nearest rows in the same nearby group. Some few fragments get passed back to those behind.
Back they come for more, and, again, back they go to the same few rows. Soon those in the front rows are stuffed while those behind are tantalized with the few fragments that drift their way, and the other groups of fifty and a hundred get nothing. They wait. Back the disciples come for more.
Back they go again, baskets loaded, to the same few rows. The people there have had enough. They begin to store the food in their pockets. “I’ll take this home for tonight’s supper,” says one. “I’ll put some of this in a museum,” says another. “People will pay to see this in years to come.” “I think I’ll get a few baskets,” says another. “I can sell this. It’s good bread and excellent fish.”
Meanwhile those behind are getting restless, and the other groups are starving. Back the disciples go for more. They come back to the same few rows. People are now fighting over the food. Some are throwing it angrily at others. Meanwhile the great mass of people sit in the back and starve.
In effect that is what has happened with the gospel. Paul was determined to be no part of it. Jerusalem did not need him, Antioch did not need him. There were plenty of people carrying the bread of life to the first few rows, and they were already quarreling over it in Jerusalem. He would press on, baskets full, to the regions beyond, where people were starving for the bread of life.
John Phillips, Exploring Acts: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009), Ac 15:36a.