Bible Commentaries
Mark 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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There are some structural similarities between Mark 1:14 to Mark 3:6 and Mark 3:7 to Mark 6:6 a in Mark’s story. The beginnings and endings of these two sections are similar. The first section describes Jesus’ ministry in Galilee before the religious leaders determined to kill Him, and the second shows His ministry after that decision. That decision is the basis for the division of Jesus’ Galilean ministry into an earlier and a later stage.

C. Jesus’ demonstrations of power and the Nazarenes’ rejection 4:35-6:6a

In spite of demonstrations of supernatural power, the multitudes continued to miss seeing who Jesus really was. Why? Because enlightenment comes only as a gift from God (Matthew 16:17). This section presents more evidence of Jesus’ identity (Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:43) and the failure of those who knew Him best to understand who He really was (Mark 6:1-6 a).

Verse 1

Mark mentioned the disciples’ presence with Jesus, but Matthew omitted that detail. Mark evidently recorded this incident because it constituted another occasion of discipleship training, a particular concern of Mark’s in this section of his Gospel. Jesus visited Nazareth as a rabbi preparing His disciples for their ministry. This was the second rejection in Nazareth that the synoptic writers documented. The first one came when Jesus left Nazareth to establish His base of operations in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:16-31).

Verses 1-6

2. Jesus’ rejection by the Nazarenes 6:1-6a (cf. Matthew 13:54-58)

Even though Jesus gave ample evidence that He was more than a mere man (Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:43), those who knew Him best on the physical plane still refused to believe in Him (Mark 6:1-6 a). This refusal led Jesus to turn increasingly from the multitudes to the training of His disciples (Mark 6:6 to Mark 8:30).

Verses 2-3

The reaction of the people in this synagogue contrasts with that of Jairus, the ruler of another synagogue (Mark 5:22). Mark recorded three questions the observers in Nazareth raised. They wondered where Jesus got the teaching and the authority that He demonstrated. They asked each other who had given Him the wisdom He manifested, and they questioned where Jesus had obtained His ability to do miracles. Obviously they had not concluded that they came from God. Their questions manifested unbelief and hostility. Their personal acquaintance with Jesus’ family and Jesus’ former manner of life among them made it hard for them to think of Him as anything more than a mere man. This is the only place in the New Testament where the writer referred to Jesus as a carpenter. A "carpenter" (Gr. tekton) worked with stone and metal, as well as wood. [Note: Ibid., p. 310.] Jesus’ critics asked rhetorically if Jesus was not just a common worker with His hands, as most of them were.

"It was the common practice among the Jews to use the father’s name, whether he were alive or dead. A man was called the son of his mother only when his father was unknown." [Note: Hiebert, p. 139.]

Formerly the people of Nazareth had referred to Jesus as Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22). Evidently they now called Him Mary’s son as a deliberate insult implying that He was an illegitimate child (cf. Judges 11:1-2; John 8:41; John 9:29). The Jews did not speak insultingly about such a person’s birth if they believed he lived a life pleasing to God, but if that person became an apostate they spoke publicly and unreservedly about his illegitimate birth. [Note: See Ethelbert Stauffer, Jesus and His Story, pp. 207-8, cf. pp. 16-17.] Consequently this appellation reflects the belief of the Nazarenes that Jesus was not virgin born and was displeasing to God. [Note: Cf. Cranfield, p. 195.]

Verse 4

Jesus quoted or invented a proverb to reply to their rejection. It expressed a principle, namely, familiarity breeds contempt. Jesus implied that He was a prophet, which He was. The people of Nazareth could not even appreciate this aspect of Jesus’ character because they identified Him as someone just like themselves.

Verses 5-6

Mark stressed that Jesus performed miracles in response to faith. Here we see the other side of that coin. The Nazarenes’ refusal to believe in Jesus resulted in His not being able to do miracles among them. Unbelief limits God’s working (cf. Acts 14:9-10). This is the only time Mark said that Jesus was amazed. He marveled that the unbelief of the Nazarenes was as strong as it was. This implies that their decision not to believe was in spite of evidence adequate to lead them to another conclusion. They were morally blameworthy for their unbelief.

"The people of Nazareth represent Israel’s blindness. Their refusal to believe in Jesus pictured what the disciples would soon experience (cf. Mark 6:7-13) and what Mark’s readers (then and now) would experience in the advance of the gospel." [Note: Grassmick, p. 127.]

Verse 6

This brief transitional statement introduces Jesus twofold ministry, personally and through His disciples. Mark’s interest lay in the disciples’ training, so he stressed that. Matthew gave a slightly longer explanation of Jesus’ personal ministry (Matthew 9:35).

Verses 6-13

1. The sending of the Twelve 6:6b-13 (cf. Matthew 9:35-11:1; Luke 9:1-6)

Jesus continued to minister in Galilee. His ministry to the Twelve was an important part of His ministry. It prepared the disciples for further future service. It also anticipated His ministry through them following His ascension. This was the third tour of the Galilean villages that Mark reported (cf. Mark 1:14; Mark 1:39).

Verses 6-30

A. The mission of the Twelve 6:6b-30

This is another of Mark’s "sandwich" or chiastic sections. The main event is Jesus’ sending the Twelve on a preaching and healing mission that extended His own ministry. Within this story, between their departing and their returning, the writer inserted the story of John the Baptist’s death. The main feature of that story that interested Mark was Herod Antipas’ perception of who Jesus was. The identity of Jesus, which is the heart of this section, becomes the main subject of the sections that follow (Mark 6:31 to Mark 8:30).

Verses 6-30


The increasing hostility of Israel’s religious leaders and the rejection of the multitudes (Mark 3:7 to Mark 6:6 a) led Jesus to concentrate on training His disciples increasingly. This section of Mark’s Gospel shows how Jesus did that. While Jesus gave his disciples increasing responsibility for ministry (Mark 6:6-30), the focus of Jesus’ instruction was His own identity, which the disciples had great difficulty understanding (Mark 6:31 to Mark 8:30).

"After the ’beginning of the gospel’ in Mark 1:1-15, the first half of Mark’s Gospel falls rather neatly into three major sections (Mark 1:16 to Mark 3:12; Mark 3:13 to Mark 6:6; Mark 6:7 to Mark 8:26). Each section opens with a story about the disciples (Mark 1:16-20; Mark 3:1-19; and Mark 6:7-13). Each section winds down with a story about the negative response generated by Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:1-6; Mark 6:1-6 a; Mark 8:14-21). And each section concludes with a summary statement that recalls for the reader the nature of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:7-12; Mark 6:6 b; Mark 8:22-26)." [Note: Guelich, p. 316.]

Verse 7

Jesus called the Twelve to Himself and then sent them out as His official representatives (cf. Mark 3:14). In Jesus’ culture, one sent was regarded exactly as the one who sent him. [Note: Lane, pp. 206-7.] Jesus was following Jewish custom and wisdom in sending the disciples out in pairs, which Mark alone mentioned (cf. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). This was primarily to validate the truthfulness of their message by providing two witnesses (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6). The Twelve were to preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9:2) and to perform miracles to authenticate their message for their Jewish audiences (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1-2). Mark just mentioned casting out demons as the most powerful demonstration of Jesus’ power at work through them. This was a mission that would prepare the Twelve for larger responsibility in Jesus’ service later.

"Jesus authorized the disciples to be his delegates with respect to both word and power. Their message and deeds were to be an extension of his own." [Note: Ibid., p. 206.]

Verses 8-9

The Twelve were to take with them no food, no luggage, and no money. They were not even to take an extra tunic that Palestinians often used as a blanket at night. The Twelve were to rely on God to provide their needs, including the need for hospitable hosts. The urgency of their mission required light travel, and it prohibited elaborate preparations. They could take a walking stick, and they would need sandals, but they were not to take spares. Apparently Jesus stressed what not to take more than what to take to deprive the disciples of any sense of self-sufficiency. [Note: Guelich, p. 322.]

Matthew’s account reported Jesus forbidding shoes whereas Mark said He permitted them (Matthew 10:10). Probably a spare pair of sandals was what Jesus forbade. Jesus was training His disciples to serve, not to lord it over others or to expect others to serve them.

"The particular instructions apply literally only to this brief mission during Jesus’ lifetime; but in principle, with the necessary modifications according to climate and other circumstances, they still hold for the continuing ministry of the Church. The service of the Word of God is still a matter of extreme urgency, calling for absolute self-dedication." [Note: Cranfield, p. 200.]

Verses 10-11

The 12 disciples were normally to stay in the home of a hospitable host, as long as they remained in that particular town, rather than moving from house to house. This would minimize distractions and tend to preserve the good reputation of the disciple whom others might consider greedy if he moved frequently. Moving to better accommodations for the sake of comfort would also bring shame on the former host.

The Jews customarily shook the dust off their clothes and sandals when they reentered Jewish territory from Gentile territory. [Note: Wessel, p. 667.]

"In the culture of the time the gospel was written, Jews made a distinction between Jewish and gentile territory. Jews considered their land to be holy and the gentile land unclean. Through this depiction of Jesus as a traveller [sic] among gentiles, the narrator portrays him as open to and compassionate toward gentiles." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, p. 70.]

Shaking dust off their feet symbolized the defiling effect of contact with pagans. When the Twelve did this, it implied that those who had refused their message were unbelieving, defiled, and subject to divine judgment (cf. Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6).

"It was a visible sign of acceptance or rejection of the Master and the Father Who sent Him (Mt. x. 40, Lk. x. 16), and therefore an index of the relation in which the inhabitants as a whole stood to the eternal order." [Note: Plummer, p. 144.]

This act would cause those who rejected the message to reconsider their decision.

Verses 12-13

The Twelve were to do the same three things that Jesus did in His ministry (cf. Mark 1:4; Mark 1:14-15; Mark 1:32-34; Mark 1:39; Mark 3:10). Their mission was an extension of His mission (cf. Mark 16:15-20). Mark did not mention that Jesus sent them only to the Jews. Perhaps he wanted his readers to view themselves as carrying on Jesus’ ministry as the Twelve did then (cf. Matthew 10:5-6). The Twelve learned that Jesus’ power extended beyond His personal presence and that God would work through them as He did through Jesus.

"Their coming to a village brought healing and salvation in the most comprehensive terms because they were his representatives. Jesus had commissioned them and they came in his name. What Jesus did in his own power as commissioned by God, the disciples did in his power." [Note: Lane, p. 209.]

Mark alone mentioned the Twelve anointing people with oil. People commonly applied oil for medicinal purposes in Jesus’ day (cf. Luke 10:34; James 5:14). [Note: Merrill F. Unger, "Divine Healing," Bibliotheca Sacra 128:511 (July-September 1971):236.] This ritual also symbolized God coming on the anointed person enabling that one to serve Him and setting the anointed person apart for God’s use. This, too, would have special significance for reader disciples who had experienced God’s anointing with the Holy Spirit at conversion and who had a similar ministry in their (our) day.

This pericope shows Jesus continuing to train His disciples for the ministry that lay before them and continuing to extend His own ministry of service through them. In their duties, the manner of their service, and their responses to the reactions to their ministry, they were to conduct themselves as the servants of the Servant.

"This participation of the Twelve in Jesus’ ministry and its apparent success contributes greatly to the irony in Mark’s portrait of the Twelve in this segment of the Gospel (Mark 6:7 to Mark 8:26). On the one hand, it opens with this special mission whose success reported in Mark 6:30 apparently reached to Herod’s court (Mark 6:14) and led to a relentless response by the crowds (Mark 6:31-33). On the other hand, the very Twelve who experienced a special calling and relationship with Jesus and now participate fully in this ministry are seen to lack understanding (Mark 6:52; Mark 7:18; Mark 8:14-21) and even reflect a ’hardened heart’ (Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17-18). This growing irony between the Twelve’s special privilege and lack of understanding has its seed in the previous section (e.g., Mark 4:11; cf. Mark 4:13; Mark 4:33-34; cf. Mark 4:41)." [Note: Guelich, p. 324.]

Verse 14

Herod Antipas was not really a king, "king" being a popular designation rather than an official title in his case. He was the tetrarch who was born in 20 B.C. and ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39, when he was banished to Gaul. Perea lay east of the Jordan River and south of the Decapolis. Its northern border was about half way between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, and its southern border was about half way between the north and south ends of the Dead Sea. The territory of Ammon lay to its east. Mark probably called Antipas a king because that is how the people in his territory spoke of him popularly. [Note: Taylor, p. 308.] It was natural for Mark, who was writing for Romans, to use this title since the Roman government used it to describe all eastern rulers. [Note: Bruce, 1:380.]

The antecedent of "it" (NASB) or "this" (NIV) seems to be the ministry of Jesus’ disciples (Mark 6:7-13). Their ministry focused on the identity of Jesus, which is the subject of this pericope. Interestingly, Jesus sent them on this mission even though their own understanding of His identity was still partial. He wanted them to share what they knew then even though they would understand more later.

Matthew recorded that Herod had heard the report concerning Jesus (Matthew 14:1), and Luke wrote that he heard of all that happened (Luke 9:7). These are complementary, not mutually exclusive descriptions. Herod heard about the ministry that Jesus was carrying on.

People were explaining Jesus’ miraculous powers in several different ways. Mark mentioned three. Some said John the Baptist had risen from the dead, and he was the person doing these miracles. John had not performed miracles before his death (John 10:41), so this view may have arisen from misinformation.

"John was a forerunner of Jesus in his birth, ministry, and death. Also the way people identified John the Baptist was as varied as the way they identified Jesus." [Note: Bailey, p. 77.]

Verses 14-16

The varying opinions about Jesus’ identity 6:14-16 (cf. Matthew 14:1-3; Luke 9:7-9)

Verses 14-29

2. The failure of Antipas to understand Jesus’ identity 6:14-29

The writer of the second Gospel inserted this account into his narrative about the mission of the Twelve. It is similar to the filling in a sandwich (cf. Mark 6:30). The incident probably happened during the mission of the Twelve just announced. It illustrates the mounting opposition to Jesus, and it provides helpful guidance for disciples of Jesus. Mark’s is the fullest of the synoptic records at this point.

Verses 15-16

Perhaps the view that Jesus was Elijah owed its origin to John’s description of Jesus as "the Coming One" (Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Some people concluded that Jesus was a prophet because of His preaching and miracle working powers. Herod’s view that Jesus was John returned to life seems to have originated from his guilty conscience since he had murdered John. Evidently Herod had not heard about Jesus before he killed John.

Verses 17-18

Herod Philip I was really Herod Antipas’ half-brother. [Note: See ibid., p. 218, for a diagram of the Herodian family tree.] It was unlawful for Herod to marry Herodias because their marriage was incestuous since Philip was still alive (cf. Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21). Antipas had converted to Judaism, so he had placed himself under Mosaic Law. [Note: Hiebert, p. 149.]

"We behold in John an illustrious example of that moral courage, which all pious teachers ought to possess, not to hesitate to incur the wrath of the great and powerful, as often as it may be found necessary: for he, with whom there is acceptance of persons, does not honestly serve God." [Note: Calvin, 2:222.]

"Not even the royal house was exempt from the call to radical repentance." [Note: Lane, p. 219.]

Verses 17-29

The death of Jesus’ forerunner 6:17-29 (cf. Matthew 14:4-12)

Mark 6:17-29 are a flashback in which Mark explained how John had died. This is the only story in Mark’s Gospel that does not concern Jesus directly. [Note: Taylor, p. 310.] Why did Mark include it? Perhaps he did so because John’s death prefigured Jesus’ violent end. Mark devoted 14 verses to John’s death but only three to his ministry. He really gave two passion narratives, Jesus and John’s. [Note: Lane, p. 215.]

Mark showed particular interest in what "King" Herod Agrippa, and especially Herodias, did to John. [Note: For discussions of the differences between Mark and Josephus’ accounts of John’s death, see Cranfield, pp. 208-9; Taylor, pp. 310-11; or Lane, pp. 215-16.] The main reason Mark included this pericope will emerge later (Mark 9:13).

Verses 19-20

Antipas’ passion for Herodias conflicted with his respect for and interest in John. He wanted to maintain both relationships, and tension arose as a result.

"Kingliness changed places: the subject did not fear the sovereign; the sovereign feared the subject." [Note: Morison, p. 152.]

Antipas could live with this tension, but Herodias could not, so she sought to kill her rival. Antipas evidently protected John from Herodias, the latter day Jezebel. John was righteous in his relations with other people and holy in his relationship to God. The perplexity the king felt undoubtedly arose over his conflicting affections for Herodias and John. Sometimes unrepentant sinners are curious about spiritual matters and spiritual people. This seems to have been true of Antipas. Probably the king and John conversed when Herod visited the Machaerus fortress east of the Jordan River where John was a prisoner. Its site in southern Perea, south of the north end of the Dead Sea, overlooked that Sea. This was probably the site of this whole event. [Note: Lane, p. 216; Harold W. Hoehner, Herod Antipas, pp. 146-48.]

"Herod was awed by the purity of John’s character, feared him as the bad fear the good." [Note: Swete, p. 123.]

Verses 21-23

Finally Herodias was able to trick her husband into getting rid of her nemesis. Salome was Herodias’ daughter by Philip. She would have been in her mid-teens at this time, and her dance was undoubtedly lascivious. [Note: Lane, p. 221.] The phrase "up to half of my kingdom" is figurative meaning at great personal sacrifice (cf. Esther 5:3; Esther 7:2). Antipas could not have given away half of his kingdom because he lacked the authority to do so.

Verses 24-25

Women were not present at such banquets as observers. Consequently Salome had to leave the banquet hall to confer with her mother. The daughter apparently shared her mother’s hatred for John the Baptist rather than Herod’s respect for him. She hurried back to Herod with her request before he might change his extravagant offer. Perhaps she asked for John’s head on a platter to humiliate him further comparing him to an animal slain and prepared for dinner.

Verses 26-28

The only other time Mark used the Greek word perilupos, translated "very sorry" or "greatly distressed," was in Mark 14:34 where it describes Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. This shows the extent of Antipas’ anxiety over the dilemma Salome’s request created for him. His pride got him in trouble, as Pilate’s did later. Both of these rulers sacrificed a righteous and holy man on the altar of their personal popularity.

The Greek word spekoulatora, translated "executioner," is a Latinism reflecting the Roman influence on Mark’s Gospel. It refers to a bodyguard of Herod’s. The fact that John’s head finally went to Herodias shows that she was the person responsible for his death. However, her husband gave the order to execute him, so he was also culpable. In Jesus’ case, the Jewish religious leaders called for His death, as Herodias had done, and Pilate gave the official permission for execution.

Verse 29

The parallels between John’s burial and Jesus’ are also striking (cf. Mark 15:42-47). John died alone; his disciples were not with him. The same was true of Jesus with the exception of His disciple John and some of His female disciples. Herod gave John’s disciples permission to bury his corpse as Pilate permitted Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus. The disciples of each man gave their teacher an honorable burial in a tomb.

This pericope shows that people who preach repentance and point to Jesus as the Messiah can expect opposition, persecution, imprisonment, and perhaps a martyr’s death. This is a comfort for disciples who suffer for their witness for Jesus. It does not relieve them of their suffering or hold out the hope of escape, but it does enable them to see that they are in the best of company. This is some encouragement. Historically martyrs have found strength in remembering that they are part of a large company who have shared the sufferings of their Savior.

Verse 30

3. The return of the Twelve 6:30 (cf. Luke 9:10)

This verse marks the conclusion of the apostolic mission of the Twelve that the writer introduced in Mark 6:7-13. With that phase of Jesus’ training of the Twelve completed, He moved on to the next stage.

This is the only time Mark called the Twelve "apostles" (Gr. apostoloi, lit. sent ones). There is not good textual evidence for its presence in Mark 3:14. The 12 apostles now returned to the One who had sent them out and reported to Him regarding what had transpired. Mark used "apostles" in the general sense of authorized representatives or agents (cf. Acts 14:14; et al.) rather than as a technical title (cf. Ephesians 2:20; et al.).

"This agent operates in the name of the one having given the authorization. Therefore, the term ’apostles’ and their action of reporting to Jesus demonstrate the Twelve’s dependent relationship to Jesus. Their mission was an extension of his mission." [Note: Guelich, pp. 338-39.]

These men, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, later became the official apostles. They evidently presented their report to Jesus somewhere in Galilee, possibly near Capernaum.

Verse 31

This verse does not appear in any of the other Gospels. Jesus provided rest for His busy servants by leading them out to a lonely area of wilderness (Gr. eremos) where the crowds that were greater than ever were not as likely to follow. This place was near Bethsaida Julius on the northeast side of the lake (cf. Luke 9:10; John 6:1). It is interesting that Mark did not record Jesus’ evaluation of the disciples’ work but His consideration for them as workers.

"For continued effectiveness, every worker must now and then stop to take a breath and relax a little." [Note: Hiebert, p. 156.]

Verses 31-37

B. The first cycle of self-revelation to the disciples 6:31-7:37

Mark arranged selected events in Jesus’ training of His disciples to show how He brought them to a deeper understanding of who He was and to a deeper commitment to Himself. Jesus led them through two similar series of experiences to teach them these lessons. He had to do it twice because the disciples where slow to learn.

Verses 31-44

÷Mark 6:31-44Feeding of the multitudeMark 8:1-9
Mark 6:45-56Crossing of the sea and landingMark 8:10
Mark 7:1-23Conflict with the PhariseesMark 8:11-13
Mark 7:24-30Conversation about breadMark 8:14-21
Mark 7:31-36HealingMark 8:22-26
Mark 7:37Confession of faithMark 8:27-30

Verses 32-34

Many people anticipated where Jesus was heading with His disciples in a large boat, probably a fishing boat (Gr. ploion). They were able to skirt the northern end of the lake on foot and meet the boat when it landed. Instead of feeling frustrated, Jesus felt compassion for the multitudes. He saw them as sheep lacking a shepherd who would provide for their needs (cf. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; Ezekiel 34:5). As David had done, Jesus provided for His sheep in a remote wilderness area (John 10:1-21; cf. Ezekiel 34:23-25). He began to teach them and apparently did so for many hours (Mark 6:35). Teaching was their greatest need, though healing was what they craved.

Verses 35-36

The disciples assumed that Jesus wanted the people to provide their own suppers. They reminded Jesus of the time so He could dismiss them. Jesus had something else in mind. He wanted to teach the disciples and the multitudes to look to Him for their needs. He was the ultimate source of all they needed.

"The extended conversation of Jesus with his disciples concerning bread is the distinctive element in the Marcan account of the feeding of the multitude." [Note: Lane, p. 228.]

Bread is the pervading motif of Mark 6:14 to Mark 8:30. [Note: Ibid., p. 210.]

Verse 37

Jesus suggested that the disciples feed the people because He wanted them to realize their inability to do so. The word "you" is emphatic in the Greek text. Having admitted their inability, Jesus’ ability would make a greater impression on them. It would teach them that He was different from them. The disciples’ response shows that they had not yet learned to look to Jesus for all their needs. Instead of asking Him to provide what the people needed, they calculated the cost of the food and concluded that they could not afford to pay for it. Two hundred denarii was the equivalent to an entire year’s wages for a day laborer.

Verse 38

Jesus asked them how many loaves of bread they had because He would use what they had to feed the multitude. Normally Jesus uses what His disciples have to meet the needs of others. While the loaves were inadequate, they were still essential elements in this miracle. Likewise disciples need to realize the inadequacy of their resources, but they also need to understand that it is those resources, as inadequate as they are, that Jesus uses. The barley loaves in view were small and flat (cf. John 6:9). One person could eat several of them in one meal. [Note: Wessel, p. 673.] The two small fish (Gr. opsaria) were probably salted and dried, and were commonly eaten, bones and all, with bread as a relish. [Note: Edersheim, 1:682.]

Verses 39-40

Mark alone noted the green grass thus dating this miracle in the late winter or early spring. John dated it more specifically as near Pentecost, which fell in late March or early April (John 6:4). Hoehner dated this Pentecost at April 13-14, A.D. 32. [Note: Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, p. 143.] In the summer much of the grass turns brown in Palestine.

The orderly division of the people at least facilitated the distribution of food. The Greek phrases symposia symposia (Mark 6:39) and prasiai prasiai (Mark 6:40) picture the people spread out on the hillside like several garden plots. This organization may reflect the student teacher relationship that the rabbis fostered by seating their students in rows. [Note: P. Carrington, According to Mark, p. 136.] This seems farfetched to me. Another suggestion is that Jesus intended this arrangement to recall Israel camping in the wilderness (cf. Exodus 18:21). [Note: Guelich, p. 341.] The reader should then view Jesus as the second Moses and the crowd as the new people of God. [Note: Lane, pp. 229-30.] This view has some attractive elements. However, most of those present were probably unbelievers.

Verse 41

By praying Jesus gave God thanks for the food and reminded the people that it came from Him. Giving thanks before meals was a common Jewish and early Christian practice. Jesus blessed God for giving the food. He did not bless the food itself. Looking up to heaven further clarified that it was God to whom He was praying, though looking down while praying was customary. The bread was probably "finger-thick, plate-shaped ’loaves.’" [Note: Guelich, p. 342.]

Mark did not record how Jesus performed the miracle, though evidently the multiplication happened in Jesus’ hands. He stressed that it was Jesus who did it. This was the most important point to him. Jesus met the needs of people in innumerable creative ways. It is important for disciples to focus on the source of the provision, God, rather than the means and methods He uses to provide. By thanking God for the food and then providing it miraculously for the people, Jesus was presenting evidence that He was God. Thoughtful individuals in the crowd remembered God’s miraculous provision of manna in the wilderness (John 6:14) and realized that Jesus was God’s servant who delivered what God provided, namely, a second Moses.

Jesus served the people through the disciples who presented what He had provided to the multitudes. The disciples served as waiters. This is the work of servant disciples. This was another lesson in discipleship.

Verses 42-44

The abundance and adequacy of Jesus’ provision were obvious in the amount of food that remained uneaten. The baskets (Gr. kophinoi) were large wicker ones, though there was not much food left over. Some authorities believe kophinoi describes small baskets, but most believe they were large. Jesus provides generously, but He does not provide so extravagantly that there is needless waste.

This miracle revealed the person of Jesus to the multitudes, but it was its effect on the disciples that Mark stressed. As noted, the incident contained many lessons about discipleship as well as revelations of Jesus’ identity.

Verse 45

The feeding of the 5,000 evidently happened on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee south of Bethsaida Julius. This town stood immediately east of the place where the Jordan River empties into the lake on its northern coast. Some of the town may have been on the western side of the Jordan. [Note: Hiebert, p. 164.] Evidently Jesus sent His disciples to another Bethsaida, near Capernaum, by boat (cf. John 6:17). Peter, Andrew, and Philip were evidently from this Bethsaida (John 1:45; John 12:21), and Peter and Andrew’s home was in Capernaum (Mark 1:29). So the two villages must have been very close together, perhaps even connected. [Note: Edersheim, 2:3-4.] "The boat" was the one they had used to travel in earlier that day (Mark 6:32). God had appeared to Israel from a mountain (Deuteronomy 33:2; Habakkuk 3:3), and now Jesus appeared to His disciples after being on a mountain with God in prayer. [Note: Guelich, p. 349.]

Verses 45-52

The walking on the water 6:45-52 (cf. Matthew 14:22-33; John 6:14-21)

This miracle followed the feeding of the 5,000 by just a few hours. Both miracles were important parts of Jesus’ discipleship training program for the Twelve. Earlier Jesus had calmed the sea with a word (Mark 4:35-41). Here He used His whole body to walk on top of the sea.

Verses 45-56

2. Jesus’ walking on the water and the return to Galilee 6:45-56

Jesus now returned from the northeast coast of the lake to its northwest coast.

Verse 46

This is the second of the three crises, all at night, that moved Jesus to pray that Mark recorded (cf. Mark 1:35; Mark 14:32-36). Evidently the desire of the multitudes to take Jesus by force to make Him king drove Him to pray (Gr. proseuchomai, cf. John 6:15). This was another temptation to secure Israel’s leadership without the Cross. References to Jesus praying always show His humanity and His dependence on His Father. The mountain contrasts with the shore where Jesus left the disciples.

Verses 47-48

The disciples had evidently reached Bethsaida Julius, but Jesus had not yet come to them (John 6:17). The disciples had then turned their boat toward Capernaum (cf. John 6:17). It would have been easy for Jesus to see the disciples since they would have been only a few miles from where He was praying. Perhaps the moon illuminated the lake. They were in the middle of the lake in the sense that they were well out into it, not close to the coastline. The fourth watch of the night by Roman reckoning, which Mark followed, would have been between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. Jesus intended to pass beside the disciples to reassure them (cf. Exodus 33:19; Exodus 33:22; Exodus 34:6; 1 Kings 19:11; Mark 6:50). Even though Jesus had been praying He had not forgotten or forsaken His disciples. He was probably praying for them.

". . . instead of a story about Jesus’ rescue of his disciples who are distressed but not in danger (cf. Mark 4:35-41), this is an epiphany story about Jesus’ self-revelation to his own followers." [Note: Ibid., p. 350.]

"Whenever the master is absent from the disciples (or appears to be so, as in Ch. Mark 4:35-41), they find themselves in distress. And each time they experience anguish it is because they lack faith (Chs. Mark 4:35 ff.; Mark 6:45 ff.; Mark 9:14 ff.)." [Note: Lane, p. 235.]

Verses 49-50

Mark noted that all the disciples saw Jesus, and they all thought He was a phantom (Gr. phantasma). Jesus told them to take courage and stop fearing (cf. Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13-14; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 44:2). Some interpreters believe the reference to Jesus passing by them (Mark 6:48) and His words, "It is I," indicate a theophany (cf. Exodus 3:14; Exodus 33:19; Exodus 33:22; 1 Kings 19:11; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 52:6). Undoubtedly the clause at least indicates self-identification.

". . . Jesus’ walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52) connotes that Jesus treads where only God can walk [Job 9:8; cf. Psalms 77:19; Isaiah 43:16] and designates Jesus by the same expression (ego eime [I am]) that is used for God’s self-disclosure to Moses (Exodus 3:14 LXX)." [Note: Edwards, p. 223.]

"Consequently, as the concluding story of the miracle collection, it provides the answer to the ’Who is this?’ question posed by the disciples after Jesus stills the storm in the opening story of the collection (Mark 4:41)." [Note: Guelich, p. 351.]

Verse 51

Mark omitted the record of Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:28-31). This seems unusual if Peter influenced Mark’s writing. Perhaps Peter "was reluctant to picture himself in such a unique and spectacular incident." [Note: Hiebert, p. 167.]

Another miracle happened (cf. Mark 4:35-41). The wind died down as soon as Jesus stepped into the boat. This astonished (Gr. existanto, cf. Mark 2:12; Mark 5:42) the disciples further.

Verse 52

Here is the reason the disciples reacted as they did in this series of miracles. Mark alone recorded it, probably as a result of Peter’s preaching. The disciples had not learned from the feeding of the 5,000 that Jesus was God. Their collective mind was not open to this possibility.

Healings near Gennesaret 6:53-56 (cf. Matthew 14:34-36)

Jesus returned to the northwest area of the Sea of Galilee coast from the predominantly Gentile area where He had been recently.

Verse 53

Gennesaret was the name of a town and the name of a plain on which the town stood. The region was the northwest coast of the lake. It was so prominent because of its agricultural richness that another name for the Sea of Galilee was the Sea of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1). [Note: Cf. Josephus, The Wars . . ., 3:10:8.] It was an area of dense population.

Verses 54-56

These verses summarize Jesus’ ministry in many towns on many days before His next withdrawal to Phoenicia. Mark stressed the immense popularity of Jesus and His generous healing of multitudes of sick people. "Cured" (Mark 6:56) is literally "saved" (Gr. sozo). The sick experienced deliverance from their infirmities and restoration to physical soundness. That is the salvation in view.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.