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Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ mark-6.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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Christ is contemned of his countrymen: he giveth the twelve power over unclean spirits. Divers opinions of Christ. John the Baptist is beheaded, and buried. The apostles return from preaching. The miracle of five loaves and two fishes. Christ walketh on the sea: and healeth all that touch him.
Anno Domini 31.
Mark 6:6. He marvelled, because of their unbelief— He wondered at their perverseness, in rejecting him upon such unreasonable grounds as the meanness of his parentage. The Jews in general mistook their own prophesies, by expecting that the Messiah would exalt their nation to the highest pitch of wealth and power: this was an end unworthy of so grand an interposition of Providence. When the eternal Son of God came down from heaven, he had somethinginfinitely more noble in view; namely, that by suffering and dying, he might destroy him who hath the power of death, that byinnumerable benefits he might overcome his enemies, that by the bonds of truth he might restrain the rebellious motions of men's wills, that by the sword of the Spirit he might destroy their predominant lusts, and that, by giving them the spiritual armour, he might put them into a condition to fight for the incorruptible inheritance, and might exaltthemtothejoyfulpossessionofthe riches and honour of immortality: wherefore, as these characters of the Messiah were in a great measure unknown to the Jews, he who possessed them was not the object of their expectation; and though he laid claim to their submission by the most stupendous miracles,—instead of convincing them, these miracles made him who performed them obnoxious to the hottest resentment of that proud, covetous, sensual people. It seems they could not bear to see one so low in life as Jesus was, doing things which they fancied were peculiar to that idol of their vanity, a glorious triumphant secular Messiah. Our Lord, therefore, having made this second trial,with a view to see whether the Nazarenes would endure his ministry, and to shew to the world that his not residing in part among them was owing to their stubbornness and wickedness, he left them; and in this example the evil and punishment ofmisimproving spiritual advantages is clearly set forth before all who hear the Gospel.
Mark 6:7. By two and two,— Jesus ordered his apostles to go in this manner, that they might encourage each other in their work, and confirm each other's testimony. See Matthew 10:2; Matthew 10:42.
Mark 6:13. And anointed with oil many that were sick,— This probably was in conformity with the custom of the Jews, who made use of the imposition of hands, and the ceremony of anointing the sick with oil, when they offered up their prayers to heaven in their behalf. See Jam 5:14 and Grotius. Mark 6:15. Others said, That it is Elias,] There is little difficulty in accounting for the opinion of those, who, upon Christ's appearing in this part ofthe country, began to take notice of his miracles; and, being struck with them, imagined that he was Elijah, or one of the prophets; for as they expected that Elijah would actually descend from heaven, and usher in the Messiah, (Matthew 16:14.) and that one of the prophets was to be raised from the dead for the same end, they might fancy Elijah was come, or that one of the old prophets appeared anew upon earth. See the notes on Matthew 14:0.
Mark 6:20. For Herod feared John, &c.— For Herod, knowing John to be a just and holy man, stood in awe of him, and protected him: he even did many things by his advice, and heard him with pleasure. Heylin. For Herod reverenced John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man; and he heard him with attention and pleasure, and did many things. Doddridge. No stronger proof can be desired of that great veneration which Herod had conceived of John, than his being pleased with, and listening to, the advice of one, in a station oflife so very far below him. And how universal this authority of the Baptist was with the people, is evident from the conduct of the priests, who, some time after his death, were afraid the people would have stoned them, should they have ventured to say he was an impostor, Luke 20:6. Josephus likewise makes honourable mention of him, Antiq. lib. xviii, 100: 5 as one who taught the people the necessity of virtue and true holiness; and adds, that his influence over them was so great, that Herod himself was fearful of him lest he should excite a revolt, and therefore confined him. Possessed of such credit, both with the prince and the people, what conduct would the secret associate of a pretended Messiah at this time have pursued? Jesus, who assumed the character of Messiah himself, had not appeared so long on the public stage; his credit remained yet to be established; and upon his success, at least, must the event of their joint undertaking unavoidably depend. The crafty forerunner, therefore, would now, more than ever, have employed all his art to keep up that influence which he had already acquired; at once cunningly instilling into the people such notions as were best calculated to serve his secret designs, andpractising every artifice upon Herod, to preserve his protection and kindness uninterrupted. The more popular he was, the more cautious he would certainly have been of incurring Herod's jealousy or displeasure, for fear of blasting at once all their preconcerted designs, when they were at length in so fair a way for success. But how opposite to all this was the conduct of John the Baptist! At this critical point of time, in his own peculiar station, when both his own and his confederate's interest absolutely required him to act in the manner just described; he even proceeded to reprove Herod himself for the wickedness of his life, and charged him with the unlawfulness of his most darling pleasures in so particular an instance,—his marriage with Herodias, his brother Philip's wife,—that he could expect nothingless in return, from Herod's violence of temper, and Herodias's influence, than imprisonment and death. Andaccordingly we find, that Herod immediately imprisoned John on account of Herodias; and Herodias, as it was natural to expect she would, soon after accomplished his death. An impostor, in John's particular situation, could not but have reflected at the first thought of so dangerous a step as that which occasioned the Baptist's death, that it was not his own immediate assistance only of which his associate would be deprived by his destruction, though this alone would have been sufficient to prevent him from adopting it; but he would besides have considered, that his own imprisonment and death would probably strike such a panic into the people, however zealous they had before been in his favour,as would restrain them from listening afterwards to Jesus, or paying the same regard which they might have done to his pretensions. Nay, nothing was more probable than that John's public ministry beingput to so ignominious an end, would even destroy that good opinion of John himself, which they had hitherto entertained, and induce them to believe, that, notwithstanding his fair outside, he could be no better than an impostor; for by what arguments could John think it was possible that the Jews could persuade themselves, that he was really sent to be the divine forerunner of this triumphant Messiah, when they should have seen him seized by Herod's order, imprisoned, and put to death? Beside therefore John's regard to his own success, his liberty, and even his life itself, which no impostor can be thought desirous of exposing to certain destruction for no reason; his connection with Jesus, if they were deceivers, and the necessary dependance of both upon the mutual success and assistance of each other, must unquestionably have restrained John from provoking, at this time, the inveterate hatred of Herodias, and drawing on himself Herod's violent suspicion and displeasure. So that the remarkable behaviour of John in this important particular, and at so critical a conjuncture, affords us one of the strongest presumptive proofs imaginable, that neither he nor Jesus could possibly be deceivers. See Bell's "Inquiry into the Divine Missions," &c. p. 283.
Mark 6:21. A convenient day— See Matthew 14:6.
Mark 6:26. Reject— Refuse.
Mark 6:33. And ran afoot thither out of all cities, &c.— The word Πεζη here may signify by land, as Blackwall has shewn; for it appears from Mat 14:14 that there were many with our Lord in the desart, who cannot be supposed to have walked thither; and as to their travelling with such speed as to arrive at the place before Jesus, it may easily be accounted for, if in sailing he met with a contrary wind. Some think, that when he received the news of the Baptist's death, he was in Peraea, whither he had gone after leaving Nazareth; see Mar 6:6 wherefore, as this country lay at the bottom of the lake westward, in going thence to the desart of Bethsaida, Jesus had to sail the whole length of the lake northwards. If so, the people on the shore might easily run afoot to the place before him: and they might do the same upon the supposition that Jesus now sailed from Capernaum, because either a contrary wind or a calm would retard the motion of his vessel, so as to give the multitude time to arrive at the place before him. The truth is, John (vi. 1.) represents our Lord as sailing across the lake on this occasion; a circumstance which agrees better with his loosing from Capernaum on the west than on the south coast. It is therefore probable, that after sending the disciples away, Jesus left the country of Nazareth, and returned to Capernaum, where he waited their return from their mission; and that from Capernaum he sailed with them to the desart of Bethsaida. See Blackwall's Sacred Classics, vol. 2.
Mark 6:39-40. He commanded them, &c.— When the loaves and the fishes were brought, our Lord commanded his apostles to make the whole multitude sit down by companies, each consisting of two rows, with their faces opposite, and their backs turned to the backs of the next companies. This disposition appears from the words before us. St. Luke, Luk 9:14 represents it thus: Make them sit down by fifties in a company. Συμποσιον, the word used by St. Mark, signifies "a company of guests at a table;" but κλισια, the word in St. Luke, denotes properly "as many of them as lie on one bed," according to the Eastern manner of eating. By Christ's order, therefore, the people were to sit down to this meal in companies, consisting some of fifty persons,some of a hundred, according as the ground would admit. The members of each company were to be placed in two rows, the one row with their faces towards those of the other, as if a long table had been between them. The first company being thus set down, the second was to be placed beside the first in a like form, and the third by the second, till all were set down; the direction of the ranks being up the hill, and the two ranks of every division formed into one company, by being placed with their faces towards each other; so that they were distinguished from the neighbouring companies by lying with their backs turned to their backs: and the whole body of the multitude thus ranged would resemble a garden-plot, divided into seed-beds, which is the proper signification of πρασιον, the name given by St. Mark to the several companies, after they were formed. The difference of numbers found in the companies arose probably from the situation of the ground; they were ranged on the declivity of a hill, where it happened that on one side ranks of twenty-five persons only could be admitted, and consequently the companies there consisted of no more than fifties each, and the ranks of twenty-five. St. Luke describes their disposition from that which was most prevalent, the greatest part of the people lying together by fifties in a company. By this regulation the number was more easily ascertained, and the people better and more regularly fed. We may observe further, that as the people were fed on a mountain, and lay as we have remarked, with their heads pointing up the hill, reclining on their elbows, they were almost in a sitting posture, and had their eyes fixed on Jesus, who stood below them in a place which was more plain, at a little distance from the ends of the ranks. Without doubt, therefore, they all heard his thanksgiving and prayer for the miracle, saw him give the disciples the food, and were astonished above measure, when they perceived, that instead of diminishing, it increased under his creating hands. Moreover, being set down in companies, consisting some of fifty, some of a hundred persons, according as the ground would admit, and every company being divided into two ranks, which lay fronting each other, the ranks of all the companies were parallel, and pointed towards Jesus; and so were situated in such a manner, that the disciples could readily bring the bread and fish to them who sat at the extremities of the ranks. By this disposition too, there must have been such a space between the two ranks of each company, that every individual in it could easily survey the whole of his own company, as well those above as those below him; and therefore when the viands were brought from one to another, they would all follow them with their eyes, and see them swelling not only in their own hands, but in the hands of their companions likewise, to the amazement and joy of every person present. The evangelists indeed give very short accounts of our Lord's miracles; nevertheless, the nature of those miracles, and the few circumstances which they have mentioned, often suggest many astonishing ideas, which inattentive readers altogether overlook. See Pierce's 5th Dissertation on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Mark 6:48. And would have passed by them,— Εθελε παρελθειν, seemed inclined to pass. This appears the proper translation of the passage.
Mark 6:51. Sore amazed— Greatly amazed. See on ch. Mark 4:39.
Mark 6:52. For they considered not, &c.— 'Ου γαρ συνηκαν : they had not a properideaof his miraculous power, demonstrated in that wonderful miracle; because if they had, his walking on the sea, and making the storm to cease, would not have affected them with so great a surprise; as the former was a more certain and glorious miracle, demonstrating even a creating power, which is plainly hinted by the evangelist in this place. Besides, they ought to have been so convinced of Christ's omnipotence by the miracle of the loaves, which had been wrought but a few hours before, that no new instance should have so surprised them. Dr. Heylin in this view renders the verse, for they had not been sufficiently affected by the miracle of the loaves through the insensibility of their hearts.
Mark 6:54. They knew him,— That is, the inhabitants of the country among whom he had before conversed. See Matthew 14:35.
Inferences from Herod's murder of the Baptist. We have observed in the Inferences on Matthew 14:0 with a particular reference to the case of Herod, how certainly conscience will do its duty upon any eminent breach of ours, and make every flagrant act of wickedness, even in this life, a punishment to itself.—That guilt and anguish are inseparable, and that the punishment of a man's sins begins always from himself, and from his own reflections, is a truth every where supposed, appealed to, and inculcated, in Scripture. See Romans 2:15.Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 2:19. Proverbs 18:14.Isaiah 33:14; Isaiah 33:14.Psalms 38:0; Psalms 38:0. There is nothing in the representations here referred to, particular to the times and persons on which they point; nothing but what happens alike to all men, in all cases, as the genuine and necessary result of offending against the light of our consciences; nor is it possible indeed, in the nature of the thing, that matters should be otherwise: it is the way in which guilt does and must always operate; for moral evil can no more be committed, than natural evil can be suffered, without anguish or disquiet consequent thereupon sooner or later. Good and evil, whether natural or moral, are but other words for pleasure and pain; at least, though they may be distinguished in the notion, yet are they not to be separated in the reality; but the one of them, wherever it is, will constantly and uniformly excite and produce the other. Pain and pleasure are the springs of all human actions, the great engines by which the wise Author of our nature governs and steers them. By these, annexed to the perception of good and evil, he inclines us powerfully to pursue the one, and to avoid the other; to pursue natural good, and to avoid natural evil, by delightful or uneasy sensations, which immediately affect the body; to pursue moral good, and to avoid moral evil, by pleasing or painful impressions made on the mind: only with this difference, that moral good cannot in any degree be produced in man but through the operations of the Spirit of God.
Hence then the satisfactions or stings of conscience severally arise; they are the sanctions, as it were, and through the Spirit of Grace the enforcements of that eternal law of good and evil, to which we are subjected; the temporal rewards and punishments originally annexed to the observance or breach of that law by the great Promulger of it; and which being thus joined and twisted together by God, can scarcely by any arts, endeavours, or practices of men, be put asunder.
There is no need of arguments to evince this truth: the universal experience and feeling of mankind bear witness to it; for, did ever any man, through the aid of almighty grace, break the power of a darling lust, resist a pressing temptation, or perform any act of a conspicuous, distinguishing and useful nature, but that he soon found it turn to account, health to his navel, and marrow to his bones? On the contrary, did any man ever indulge a criminal appetite, or allow himself sedately in any practice which he knew to be unlawful, but he felt, unless he was a thorough-paced villain, an inward struggle, and strong reluctance of mind before the attempt,—and bitter pangs of remorse attending it? What though no human eye was privy to the action,—was not conscience instead of a thousand witnesses? If not, it must have been so seared as with a hot iron, as to have banished every measure and every degree of influence of preventing grace.
Men who set up for freedom of thought, and for disengaging themselves from the prejudices of education, jolly and voluptuous livers, may pretend to dispute this truth; and perhaps in the gaiety of their hearts may venture even to deride it. Herod perhaps did so; but, notwithstanding all his efforts, conscience still operated, and he could not avoid its stinging remonstrances.
Look upon one of these men, who would have been thought to have made his ill practices and ill principles perfectly consistent, and you will find a thousand things, in his actions and discourses, testifying against him, that he deceiveth himself, and that the truth is not in him. If he be indeed, as he pretends, at ease in his enjoyments,—whence come those disorders and unevennesses in his life and conduct; those vicissitudes of good and bad humour, mirth and thoughtfulness; that perpetual pursuit of little, mean, insipid amusements; that restless desire of changing the scene, and the objects of his pleasures; those sudden eruptions of passion and rage upon the least disappointments? Certainly, all is not right within, or else there would be a greater calm and serenity without. If his mind were not in an unhappy situation, and under contrary influences, it would not be thus tossed and disquieted. For what reason does he contrive for himself such a chain and succession of entertainments, and take such care to be delivered from one folly, one diversion to another, without intermission? Why,—but because he dreads to leave any void space of life unfilled, lest conscience should find work for his mind at those intervals? He has no way to fence against guilty reflections, but by stopping up all the avenues at which they might enter. Hence his strong addiction to company, his aversion to darkness and solitude, which recollects his thoughts, and turns the mind inward upon itself by shutting out external objects and impressions. It is not because the pleasures of society are always new and grateful to him, that he always pursues them thus keenly; for they soon lose their relish, and grow flat and insipid by repetition. They are not his choice, but his refuge: for the truth is, he dares not long converse with himself and with his own thoughts; and the worst company in the world is better to him, than that of a reproving conscience.
We have a strong proof of this in Tiberius, that complete pattern of wickedness and tyranny. He had taken as much pains to conquer the fears of conscience as any man, and had as many helps and advantages towards it; and yet as great a master of the art of dissimulation as he was, he could not dissemble the inward sense of his guilt no more than Herod, nor prevent the open eruptions of it upon very improper occasions; witness that letter which he wrote to the senate from his impure retirement at Capraea. There cannot be a livelier image of a mind filled with wild distraction and despair than the beginning of it affords us: "What or how, at this time, I shall write to you, Fathers of the Senate, or what indeed I shall not write to you, may all the powers of heaven confound me, yet worse than they have already done, if I know, or can imagine!"—The observation of Tacitus upon this passage is very apposite to the present purpose. "Thus," says he, "was this emperor punished by a reflection on his own infamous life and guilt;" nor was it in vain that the greatest master of wisdom, Plato, affirmed, that were the breasts of Tyrants once laid open to our view, we should see there nothing but ghastly wounds and bruises: the consciousness of their own cruelty, lewdness, and ill-conduct leaving as deep and bloody prints on their minds, as the strokes of the scourge do on the back of a slave.—"Tiberius," adds he, "confessed as much, when he uttered these words; nor could his high station, or even privacy and retirement itself, hinder him from discovering to all the world the inward agonies and torments under which he laboured." Thus that excellent historian, Annal. lib. 6. See also the Book of Wisdom, Wis 17:1-11.
Since therefore the wise Author of our nature has so contrived it, that guilt is naturally and almost necessarily attended with trouble and uneasiness, let us, even hence, be persuaded to go to God through Christ for that pardon and purity, which alone can preserve the peace and tranquillity of our minds. For pleasure's sake, let us abstain from all criminal pleasures and pollutions: because the racking pains of guilt, duly awakened, are really an over-balance to the greatest sensual gratifications. The charms of vice (how tempting soever they may seem to be) are by no means equivalent to the inward remorse and trouble, and the tormenting reflections which attend it; which keep pace with our guilt, and are proportioned to the greatness and daringness of our crimes: for mighty sinners, sooner or later, even here in general, (how much more hereafter!) shall be mightily tormented. Let no temptation, therefore, no interest, no influence whatever sway us to do any thing contrary to the suggestions of conscience or the word of God. Let us no more dare to do in private, what that tells us ought not to be done, than if we were upon an open theatre, and the eyes of the whole creation were upon us. What signifies it that we escape the view and observation of men, when the watchful witness within sees and records all our faults, and will certainly one day reprove us, and set our misdeeds in order before us? and ever remember, that the adorable Saviour of the world and the holy Spirit of God are offered to you, that you may be saved from your sins, and be thus enabled to answer the great end of your creation.
It has been reckoned a good rule for a happy conduct of life, to be sure of keeping our domestic concerns right, and of being easy under our own roof, where we may find an agreeable retreat and shelter from any disappointments that we meet with in the great scene of vexation, the world. And the same rule will, with greater reason, hold, in relation to the peace of our consciences. Let our first care be, through the power of almighty grace, to keep all quiet and serene there: when this point is once gained at home, external accidents will not be able deeply to affect us: and unless it be gained, all the pleasures, the abundance and pomp of life, will be insipid and tasteless to us.
Wherefore, let us resolve, all of us, to stick to that principle which will keep us easy when we are alone, and will stick to us in an hour when all outward comforts fail us. Let those listen to this reprover,—conscience,—who are otherwise, alas! in a great measure above reproof: the more destitute they are of the advice and correction of others, the more careful should they be to attend to the suggestions and whispers of this inward monitor and friend. Though they value not the censures passed on their actions by those whom they consider as beneath them, yet surely they ought not to slight their own: nor do they stoop beneath themselves, when they stoop to themselves, and to the inward dictates and persuasions of their own minds. The marks of distinction which they bear, though they may enable them sometimes to sin with impunity, as to men, yet will they not secure them from the lashes of an avenging conscience; which will find them out in their most secret retirements, cannot be forbidden access, nor be dismissed without being heard; will make their way to them, as they did to Herod and Tiberius, through business or pleasure; nay, even through guards and crowds, and all the vain forms and ceremonies with which they may be surrounded: and yet all will be insufficient, if they do not come to Jesus Christ in all the simplicity of little children, and with the most entire dependence on his sole merits and almighty grace, for pardon and salvation.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, From Capernaum our Lord visited the place of his education, Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. And,
1. On the sabbath day, according to his custom, he entered into the synagogue; and from the law and the prophets preached the things concerning himself with such dignity and elocution, as quite amazed his countrymen. He had been bred among them, a carpenter probably by trade, without any education; his family and relations were all persons of mean and low circumstances: how he should be able to discourse with such readiness, and perform such miraculous works, they could not conceive; and yet their prejudices against him, on amount of his low birth and education, prevailed over their admiration, and, notwithstanding all the wonders they beheld, they disdained to be followers of a person so mean and despicable in their account. Note; (1.) The humiliation of Jesus, at which they were offended, should make him the dearer to us. (2.) If the Lord, in our nature, submitted to earn with the labour of his hands the bread that he ate, let it teach us how commendable is industry, and never to despise any man because he is poor.
2. To rebuke their folly, and punish their unbelief, he reminds them how they verified that proverbial saying, A prophet is not without honour but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house; people ordinarily paying more respect to strangers and persons unknown, than to those with whom they have been indulged in familiarity, and whom they are ready to treat with contempt. Therefore, except healing a few sick people, he refused to exercise his power and grace among them. Their unbelief bound up, as it were, the hands of his omnipotence; and marvelling at it, he left them, in just judgment, to the perverseness and impenitence of their hearts, carrying the glad tidings of salvation from them to the other villages of Galilee, where greater respect would be paid to his person and ministry.
2nd, The twelve, having now for a while attended their Master, are,
1. Sent forth to preach what they had learned of him, and endued with power to work miracles, and cast out devils, in confirmation of the doctrine they taught. For their mutual comfort and support, they were joined in pairs, and forbidden to encumber themselves with clothes or provisions; but must set off just as they were, with only their stick in their hand, the clothes which they then wore, and the sandals on their feet, relying upon divine Providence for a supply of their wants during their travels. Their message would deserve and procure them a welcome. Where-ever they came therefore, and were received into a house, there they must continue till they removed to another city or village. But if in any place they were refused a hospitable entertainment, and no attention was paid to their preaching, they are commanded immediately to depart, shaking off the dust from their feet in testimony of the wickedness and infidelity of that people; and not Sodom or Gomorrha in the day of judgment will meet so severe a doom as that city. Note; (1.) They who reject the calls of the Gospel, perish under the most accumulated guilt. (2.) The ministers of Christ are worthy of their maintenance; and since they have renounced the world for the service of men's souls, it becomes those to whom they minister, liberally to supply their wants, that they may be wholly without care, and give themselves up to the word of God and to prayer.
2. The apostles went, in obedience to their Master's orders, preaching the doctrine of repentance, and calling men to turn unto God, and receive his Messiah, whose kingdom was ready to appear. And in confirmation of their divine authority, they cast out devils, and miraculously healed the sick, by anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord, in token of their being restored to health. Note; The great end of the ministry is the conversion of men's souls. They who have not this in view, and do not see any fruit of their labours, may justly suspect that they have run without being sent.
3rdly, The fame of Jesus had by this time reached the ears of Herod. His guilty conscience suggested to him that John, whom he had murdered, was now risen from the dead, and invested with greater powers than before, perhaps to avenge his blood upon the head of his murderer. Others thought him to be Elijah, the forerunner of the Messiah; others one of the ancient prophets revived: others a new prophet sent of God, like those of old; but all mistook his true character, and knew him not as the Saviour of the world. Herod, haunted as it were with the ghosts of his injustice and cruelty, persisted in the conviction, that this was surely John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded; the narrative of which bloody transaction is related in nearly the same words as before, Matthew 14:0. To what was there said, we may farther observe,
1. How far a man may go in his convictions, without being ever truly converted. Herod was in his conscience persuaded that John was a just man, and a holy; his whole demeanor shewed the Baptist to be such, and commanded veneration. And so far many go, as to be convinced of the integrity of God's ministers, and to reverence their character; to observe them, to attend their ministry with seriousness and constancy, to do many things which are right through their preaching; yea, to take delight in their discourses, and to feel a transient joy while sitting under them; and yet, like Herod, may never be divorced from their darling sins, nor their hearts at all effectually changed.
2. How commendable is fidelity! All the respect and kindness of Herod did not make John in the least indulgent to his sins; he told him plainly, though a king, the guilt and danger of his state, and charged upon his conscience his lewdness, adultery, and incest in marrying his brother's wife: and such should we be, imitating this holy plainness and simplicity, neither moved by caresses, nor deterred by fear; but approving ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
3. They who will be thus faithful, may expect to be often severely treated. The hearts of sinners will be exasperated, and malice will drive them, like Herodias, to contrive some mischief against their reprovers, and thus to revenge the honest rebukes, which they regard as premeditated affronts.
4thly, The Apostles, having executed the commission with which their Master had intrusted them, return to give him an account of their ministry and success. And blessed and happy are they who can give up this account with joy! Satisfied in their report, and well pleased with their service, our Lord,
1. Testifies his tenderness and regard for them, by calling them into a retirement, where they might report themselves awhile after their labours. For where they were, such crowds were perpetually coming and going, desirous to hear, or wanting to be healed, that they had not leisure even to eat their necessary food. Note; (1.) In these frail bodies at present, the most ardent spirits must yield to some repose and relaxation. (2.) Our rest must be but for a while, just enough to strengthen us to return with fresh vigour to the work of the Lord.
2. He shews his compassions to the multitude who followed them. For though they withdrew privately, and coasted the lake in a boat, to a desert place near the city of Bethsaida, yet many watched the course that they steered, and were so eager after the company and teaching of Jesus, that they ran faster than the boat went, and were on the spot when he arrived, ready to receive him. Jesus, on disembarking, beheld them with compassion, knowing how destitute they were of faithful guides, and neglected as sheep without a shepherd; and therefore, well pleased to be interrupted, and deprived of his retirement, he instantly set himself to instruct them in the things pertaining to his kingdom, and their own everlasting peace; in which delightful work, and in healing their sick, he continued till evening drew on. Note; (1.) They who have a true relish for the Gospel of Jesus, will take many a weary step for the sake of attending that ministry by which it is dispensed with power. (2.) It is a peculiar pleasure to preach to those, who appear athirst for the word of truth.
3. He not only fed their souls with the heavenly manna of his doctrine, but their bodies by miraculous food. The disciples, as the day drew to a close, reminded him how far the people were from any inhabited place, and that the night would soon come on; it would be necessary therefore, they suggest, to dismiss the multitude, that they might get some refreshment after fasting so long. But he, to prove their faith, bade them provide for them the necessary repast. In a surprise, they look not at his power, but to their own inability: where should they get bread, or money to buy it, when two hundred penny-worth would not be sufficient to give a morsel to each? Perceiving that they had no notion whence the supply should come, he inquired what store of provision they had with them? they told him only five barley loaves, and two fishes, a quantity utterly insufficient to satisfy such a multitude. Commanding them to be brought, Jesus took the loaves; and having disposed the people in ranks, (see the Annotations,) he brake, and gave to his disciples, who waited on the guests; and, far from want, there appeared enough and to spare: they not only made a hearty meal, but left fragments sufficient to fill twelve baskets, which Christ commanded to be collected with care, not only to supply their future wants, but to make the miracle appear more illustrious. Note; (1.) They who love the word, will for the sake of it sometimes forego their necessary food. (2.) Barley loaves, with Christ's blessing, afford a sweeter feast than the richest delicacies without it. (3.) Christ's disciples must be content with, and thankful for, coarse fare. (4) Waste, even of crumbs of barley bread, is sinful: no fragments are to be lost, when there are so many who want them.
5thly, The entertainment being finished, Christ bids his disciples first embark, and cross the lake, which they did with reluctance, thinking this a good opportunity for him to declare himself, and set up, as they expected, his temporal kingdom. But he, dismissing the multitude, retired into a mountain, as he was accustomed, to spend some time in prayer; to teach us the necessity of keeping up private communion with God, as the best means of enabling us to go comfortably through our public ministrations. Meantime we are told,
1. The distress of the disciples. The wind was tempestuous, and directly a-head; so that though they pulled hard, they got no way, and had advanced in many hours not above a league. We may expect in Christ's service to meet with difficulties; but if we patiently persevere, all will be well.
2. After exercising their faith and patience till the morning watch, at last Christ came to them, walking upon the waters; and seemed as if he would have passed them; but they all discovered something walking on the water, and supposing, it an apparition, shrieked out, exceedingly affrighted; till his well-known voice stilled their fears, saying, Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid; and he entering the boat, instantly the winds and waves subsided, to the exceeding astonishment of the Apostles, who, forgetting the miracle of the loaves which they had just seen, were so dull and stupid in their hearts, as to be surprised at this new manifestation of their Master's divine power, though they were daily eye-witnesses of his stupendous miracles. Note; (1.) If Christ's faithful people toil hard through a night of temptations, the morning will come; a little faith and patience shall bring them to the light of peace and joy. (2.) Our fancies raise a thousand unnecessary fears; and in our distress we often suspect that Christ is passing from us, when he is really coming to us. (3.) It is then comfortable with the troubled soul, when Jesus reveals himself, and says with the voice of love, It is I, be of good cheer. Lord, speak thou to my soul, and it shall rest from all its fears.
3. No sooner had they reached the shore, near Capernaum, than immediately the rumour of his arrival spread on every side, and vast multitudes crowded around him, bringing the sick and diseased. In every city, town, or village which he passed, they were laid on beds in the streets, and besought him, that they might touch, if but the border of his garment; and as many as touched him were perfectly cured, whatever was their malady. O Jesus, enable me to touch thee with my trembling hand of faith, and heal thou my sin-sick soul.