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MARK CHAPTER 6
Mark 6:1-6 Christ is slighted by his own countrymen.
Mark 6:7-13 He sendeth out the twelve with power over unclean spirits.
Mark 6:14-15 The opinions of Herod and others concerning him.
Mark 6:16-29 John the Baptist imprisoned and beheaded by Herod at the instigation of Herodias.
Mark 6:30-33 The apostles return from their mission.
Mark 6:34-44 The miracle of five thousand fed with five loaves and two fishes.
Mark 6:45-52 Christ walketh on the sea to his disciples.
Mark 6:53-56 He lands at Gennesaret, and healeth the sick who but touched the hem of his garment.
We meet with all this in Matthew 13:53-58; See Poole on "Matthew 13:53", and following verses to Matthew 13:58. By
his own country, questionless, is meant Nazareth, the place of his education, though Bethlehem were the place of his birth; hence he was usually called Jesus of Nazareth. Luke 4:16, nameth Nazareth; though I cannot be confident that this text mentions the same motion of our Saviour’s. The constant practice of our Saviour on the sabbath days is observable: it is true, he had a liberty there to preach and expound the Scripture; but without doubt many things of a ritual nature were there done which our Lord was far from approving: their assemblies being not idolatrous, he judged it no sin to be present: the main things done there were of his Father’s institution; for other things, we never read our Saviour touched at them. Still the effect of our Saviour’s preaching to the Jews we find to be amazement and astonishment, but no faith. Men may be affected by the word that are not converted by it. That which troubled them was, they could not imagine whence our Saviour had his power to do those mighty works, and to speak things importing such a wisdom given unto him; they could not conceive how one that had never sat at the feet of their doctors, but had been bred up as a mechanic, should have such wisdom and knowledge, or such a power to work miraculous operations.
Is not this the carpenter. This makes it appear probable that our Saviour did, till he was thirty years of age, work with Joseph in his trade, whether of a carpenter or a mason (for τεχνων, signifies either). It is certain he did not begin to appear publicly and to preach till he was thirty years of age, and it is not probable that he lived all these years in idleness.
The son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon; that is, the kinsman, (as most interpret it), supposing Mary the mother of our Lord had no more children: I shall not determine it. They say these four were the children of Mary, sister to the mother of our Lord, and the wife of Cleophas. Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1, we read of James, Joses, and Salome, as the children of that Mary; but of Judas and Simon we read not.
And they were offended at him; that is, although they heard such things from him, and saw such mighty works done by him, as they could not but think required a Divine influence and power, yet because by their reason they could not comprehend how one who had almost thirty years lived as a mechanic amongst them, should come by any such acquaintance with or extraordinary influence from God, their passion quickly went over; and though they were more modest than, with their corrupt teachers, to say he did this by the devil, yet neither would they receive him and believe him, but slighted and despised him; as if God’s influence had been tied to their schools of the prophets.
Experience tells us that familiarity breeds a contempt. Our Saviour (though there was a deeper cause) assigns this the cause why those of Nazareth paid him no greater respect. Unbelief in us bindeth the hands of God.
He could there do no mighty works, he could not, not from a defect of power, but the exercise of Divine power is always regulated by wisdom, and in consistency with his wisdom he could do no mighty works there: for the end of our Saviour’s miracles being either to convert unbelievers to the faith of the gospel, or to confirm weak believers in it, he foresaw that the performing of miracles there would be without any saving effect, and suspended his miraculous power. Besides, he was highly provoked by their obstinate infidelity, and would not work great wonders amongst them; only be cures a few sick persons.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief: his Divine doctrine was so convincing, and the fame of his glorious works done in places near them was so universal and credible, that there was just cause of his rational wonder that they did not believe. Though our Saviour left them in their infidelity, he did not leave his blessed work, going
round about the villages, teaching. Still preaching appeareth to have been our Saviour’s great work, how light a thing soever some make of it. I cannot but observe how little reason men have to glory in or to trust to any external privileges: how little other aids and assistances, without the special influences of Divine grace, signify to the begetting of faith in unbelieving souls, and removing their prejudices against the doctrine of the gospel! Christ’s own country is as bad as any other.
Mark had before told us of the election of the twelve, Mark 3:14, which neither Matthew nor Luke mention: here he gives us an account of their mission, which is mentioned by both them also. The instructions which he gave them are much the same with what we meet with in Matthew 10:1-42, and there opened. He would have them, upon their first mission, commit themselves to and find the experience of the Divine providence; and therefore he charges them,
1. To take no money as a reward of their pains.
2. Not to go provided with any sustenance, or money to buy any; only they might take a walking stick in their hands, for, as Matthew reports it, he forbade them taking any staves to bear burdens, as well as any scrips; or it may be he meant two staves, that if one had any way miscarried, have been broken or lost, they might have another at hand.
Go in your ordinary habits, making no provision for yourselves, as travellers, who think they may need something before their return.
Matthew 10:1-42, gives us a larger copy of the instructions given by Christ to the twelve than doth either Mark or Luke: See Poole on "Matthew 10:12", and following verses to Matthew 10:15.
They executed both the trusts which Christ had reposed in them, preaching the gospel, and by miraculous operations confirming the doctrine which they brought to be from heaven. John Baptist, and Christ, and the twelve all preached the same doctrine,
Repent; that is, turn from your former sinful courses, which if men do not, Christ’s coming will profit them nothing.
And anointed with oil many that were sick. James directed this anointing with oil also in the name of the Lord. It is disputed amongst learned men whether this anointing with oil was the using of oil as a medicine, having a natural virtue, (for it is certain in that country there were oils that were of great natural force for healing), or only as sacramental and symbolical, signifying what they did was from that unction of the Spirit of Christ which they had received, not by their own power or virtue, and representing by anointing with oil, that is an excellent lenitive, the refreshing and recovery of the diseased. But it is not probable, considering that our Lord sent the disciples to confirm the doctrine of the gospel which they preached, that he should direct them in these operations to use means of a natural force and efficacy, which had at least much abated of the miracle; besides, James bids them anoint the sick with oil in the name of the Lord. So as they doubtless used oil as symbolical, testifying that what they did was not by their own power and virtue. Nor did the apostles always use this rite in healing. Peter and John used it not in their healing the lame man, Acts 3:6; In the name of Jesus Christ (say they) rise up and walk. He declareth the use of it, Acts 3:16, only to show, that Christ’s name through faith in his name was that which made the lame man whole. So that it being both a free rite, which they sometimes used and sometimes not, and a rite annexed to miraculous operations, to declare the effect was from Christ, not from their power, in a miraculous and extraordinary, not in a natural and ordinary, way of operation, the necessity of the use of it still is very impertinently urged by some, and as impertinently quoted by others, to prove the lawfulness of ritual impositions.
We meet with this history in Matthew 14:1-12, to which I refer the reader, having there taken in the most considerable things in the relation of the same thing by Matthew or Mark. Mark calleth him Herod the king, whom Mark and Luke called tetrarch. Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, but under that title he exercised a regal power within his province. The whole history teacheth us several things.
1. The notion of a faithful minister. He is one that dares to fell the greatest persons of what they do contrary to the plain law of God.
2. It also teacheth us the malice of souls debauched with lust. It was not enough for Herodias to have John in prison, where he could do her no great prejudice, she must also have his head cut off.
3. The ill influence of corrupt persons in princes’ courts. Herod had in his government appeared no cruel, bloody man. Our Saviour in great quiet preached the gospel, and wrought miracles for the confirmation of it, within Herod’s jurisdiction; in Galilee we find no inquiry made by Herod after him, no calling him in question: and for John the Baptist, he did not only tolerate him, but brought him to his court, reverenced him as a just and holy man, did many things upon his instructions, heard him gladly; but by the influence of Herodias (his courtiers being at least silent in the case) he is prevailed with to put him to death.
4. The arts likewise of these persons are observable; they take the advantage of his jollity on his birthday, when in the excess of mirth it was likely he would be more easy and complying to grant their requests.
5. We may also from hence learn the mischief of rash oaths and general promises, especially when they flow from souls ignorant of the law of God; for had Herod understood any thing of that, he could not have thought that his oath could have been the bond of iniquity, or obliged him to any sinful act.
6. We may also understand the mercy of God to that people who are governed by laws, whose lives and liberties do not depend upon the will of any.
7. Lastly, we may observe how far men may go, and yet be far enough from any saving grace. They may have a reverence for godly ministers, they may hear them gladly, they may do many things. The hypocrite hath some principal lust in which he must be gratified, and cannot bear a reproof as to that.
When Christ chose the twelve, it is said, Luke 3:14,Luke 3:15, that he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils. So that till Christ’s ascension, though they went out from him to preach and work miracles, yet they ordinarily were with him, receiving further instructions. When they had preached, and in his name wrought many miracles, they again returned to Christ, and gave him account both of their doctrine and of the cures they had wrought.
Matthew makes the cause of this motion of our Saviour’s to have been his receiving the report of Herod’s dealing with John the Baptist, as we often find him yielding to the fury of his adversaries. Mark assigns another reason, (as there may be several reasons or motives of and to the same action or motion), viz. that both himself and his apostles might have a little rest. The place which he chose for his recess is called
a desert place, not because it was wholly not inhabited, but very thinly inhabited. Luke saith it was a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida, Luke 9:10; probably some large forest, or common pasture, which belonged to that city, and took a denomination from it. It was a place on the other side of the water, for they went to it by ship. But this water was but a lake, though called the sea of Tiberias, for the people, fetching a little further compass about, went thither on foot, and outwent the motion of the ship.
When Christ came out of the ship, on the other side of the water, he found that the people had outwent the ship; they were come about with a desire to hear the word. He considered what miserable priests and teachers they had, so that they were indeed as sheep without a shepherd, having none but such as were as bad or worse than none. Though he was weary, and came hither for some rest and repose, yet he will deny himself as to his bodily cravings, to do good to their souls: he first preacheth to them, and teacheth them many things; then he confirmeth his doctrine by a miracle, the relation of which followeth (see Mark 6:35-44).
We meet with the relation of this miracle Matthew 14:15-21, and shall again meet with it John 6:1-14. John relates it with some more particular circumstances, telling us it was Philip that moved our Saviour to dismiss them so seasonably, that they might provide themselves food, and making Christ to propound the questions to Philip, where they should buy bread enough for them. He also tells us that it was Andrew who told our Saviour that there was a lad there had five barley loaves and two fishes. But all three of the evangelists agree in the main, both as to the quantity of victuals, five loaves and two fishes; and the quantity of the people fed with them, five thousand; and the number of the baskets full of fragments taken up, which was twelve. John also addeth the effect of this miracle upon the multitude, John 6:14; they said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. For further explication of this piece of history,
See Poole on "Matthew 14:15", and following verses to Matthew 14:21. See Poole on "John 6:5", and following verses to John 6:13.
If this desert where Christ was were, as Luke saith, Luke 9:10, a desert belonging to Bethsaida, those words, εις το περαν προς βηθσαιδαν, are ill translated
unto Bethsaida, and the marginal note in our larger Bibles is better, over against Bethsaida. Our Saviour here first sends away his disciples by water, then he dismisses the multitude to go to their own homes. Then he goeth up into a mountain to pray. We find Christ very often in the duty of secret prayer, very often choosing a mountain, as a place of solitude, for the performance of it, and very often making use of the night for it, which is also a time of quietness and solitude: which lets us know that secret prayer is necessary, not only for the bewailing, and confessing, and begging pardon for our secret sins, (for Christ had no such), but for our more free and more near communion with God; for although God filleth all places, yet we shall observe that God, in his more than ordinary communion with his people, hath not admitted of company, of which Abraham, and Moses, and Jacob, and all the prophets are sufficient instances.
See Poole on "Matthew 14:24", and following verses to Matthew 14:33. By the sea here is meant the lake of Gennesaret.
The fourth watch of the night was after four in the morning. The foregoing part of the night our Saviour had spent alone upon the mountain in prayer.
They were sore amazed in themselves, and wondered. For they considered not, &c. Had they diligently considered by what power five loaves and two fishes were multiplied to a quantity to feed five thousand men, besides women and children, they would not have been amazed, either at the sight of Christ safely walking upon the water, or at the wind ceasing when he came into the ship; but these things had not made that due impression upon their hearts which they ought to have done. The time was not yet come when Christ would have his Divine nature fully revealed to them, and till he opened their eyes, and wrought in their hearts a full persuasion of that, it was not in their power so to apprehend it, as to give a full assent to it, and to act accordingly. This is that which is here called hardness or blindness of heart.
See Poole on "Matthew 14:34", and following verses to Matthew 14:36. The charity of this people to their sick neighbours is very commendable, and instructive of us as to our duty to do good to others, as to their bodily wants and necessities, so far as we are able; but how much greater is that charity, which is showed to people’s souls, inviting them to Christ that they may be spiritually healed! It was not their touching the hem of his garment, nor of his body, which healed these sick persons, those who had a hand in crucifying of him did both; it was the virtue that went out from Christ, upon the testification of their faith, by coming to him, and touching, and desiring to touch, the hem of his garment: neither is it men’s coming to the congregation, and hearing the word of God, that will heal their souls, unless there goeth forth a Divine power from the Spirit of grace upon men’s hungering and thirsting after Christ in his ordinances, and by faith laying hold upon the promise exhibited in the preaching of the gospel.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 6". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany