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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Mark 6

 

 

Verses 1-6

And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

For the exposition, see the notes at Luke 4:16-30.


Verses 7-13

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

For the exposition, see the notes at Matthew 10:1; Matthew 10:5-15.


Verse 14

And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

And king Herod - that is, Herod Antipas, one of the three sons of Herod the Great, and own brother of Archelaus (Matthew 2:22), who ruled as Ethnarch over Galilee and Perea.

Heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said - "unto his servants" (Matthew 14:2), his councillors or court-ministers,

That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. The murdered prophet haunted his guilty breast like a spector, and seemed to him alive again and clothed with unearthly powers, in the person of Jesus.


Verse 15

Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.

Others said, That it is Elias. And others, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. See the note at Matthew 16:14.


Verse 16

But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. [ autos (Greek #846)] - 'Himself has risen;' as if the innocence and sanctity of his faithful reprover had not suffered that he should lie long dead.


Verse 17

For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.

For Herod himself had sent forth, and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison - in the castle of Machaerus, near the southern extremity of Herod's dominions, and adjoining the Dead Sea. (Josephus Ant. xviii 5, 2).

For Herodias' sake. She was the grand-daughter of Herod the Great.

His brother Phillip's wife - and therefore the niece of both brothers. This Philip, however, was not the tetrarch of that name mentioned in Luke 3:1 (see there), but one whose distinctive name was 'Herod Philip,' another son of Herod the Great, who was disinherited by his father. Herod Antipas' own wife was the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia; but he prevailed on Herodias, his half-brother Philip's wife, to forsake her husband and live with him, on condition, says Josephus (Ant. 18: 5, 1), that he should put away his own wife. This involved him afterward in war with Aretas, who totally defeated him and destroyed his army, from the effects of which he was never able to recover himself.


Verse 18

For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. Noble fidelity! It was not lawful, because Herod's wife and Herodias' husband were both living; and further, because the parties were within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity (see Leviticus 20:21); Herodias being the daughter of Aristobulus, the brother of both Herod and Philip (Josephus 18: 5, 4).


Verse 19

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him , [ eneichen (Greek #1758) autoo (Greek #846)] - rather, as in the margin, 'had a grudge against him.' Probably she was too proud to speak to him: still less would she quarrel with him.

And would have killed him: but she could not:


Verse 20

For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

For Herod feared John - but, as Bengel notes, John feared not Herod.

Knowing that he was a just man and an holy. Compare the case of Elijah with Ahab, after the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21:20).

And observed him , [ suneteerei (Greek #4933) auton (Greek #846)] - rather as in the margin, 'kept' or 'saved him:' that is, from the wicked designs of Herodias, who had been watching for some pretext to get Herod entangled and committed to despatch him.

And when he heard him, he did many things (many good things under the influence of the Baptist on his conscience); and heard him gladly - a striking statement this, for which we are indebted to our graphic Evangelist alone; illustrating the working of contrary principles in the slaves of passion. But this only shows how far Herodias must have worked upon him, as Jezebel upon Ahab, that he should at length agree to what his awakened conscience kept him long from executing.


Verse 21

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;

And when a convenient day (for the purposes of Herodias) was come, that Herod , [ genomenees (Greek #1096) heemeras (Greek #2250) eukairou (Greek #2121), hote (Greek #3753)] - rather, 'A convenient day being come, when Herod,'

On his birth day, made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief [estates] of Galilee. This graphic minuteness of detail adds much to the interest of the tragic narrative.


Verse 22

And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.

And when the daughter of the said Herodias - that is, her daughter by her proper husband, Herod Philip: Her name was Salome, (Josephus Ibid.)

Came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel , [ korasioo (Greek #2877)] - 'the girl.' (See the note at Mark 5:42.)

Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.


Verse 23

And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.

And he [the king, so called, but only by courtesy (see the note at Mark 6:14] sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, unto the half of my kingdom. Those in whom passion and luxury have destroyed self-command will in a capricious moment say and do what in their cool moments they bitterly regret.


Verse 24

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. Abandoned women are more shameless and heartless than men. The Baptist's fidelity marred the pleasures of Herodias, and this was too good an opportunity of getting rid of him to let slip.


Verse 25

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by [ ex (Greek #1537) autees (Greek #846)] - rather, 'at once,' in a charger-or large flat 'trencher' [ pinaki (Greek #4094)] - "the head of John the Baptist."


Verse 26

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.

And the king was exceeding sorry. With his feelings regarding John, and the truths which so told upon his conscience from that preacher's lips, and after so often and carefully saving him from his paramour's rage, it must have been very galling to find himself at length entrapped by his own rash folly.

Yet for his oath's sake. See how men of no principle, but troublesome conscience, will stick at breaking a rash oath, while yielding to the commission of the worst crimes!

And for their sakes which sat with him - under the influence of that false shame, which could not brook being thought to be troubled with religious or moral scruples. To how many has this proved a fatal snare!

He would not reject her.


Verse 27

And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,

And immediately the king sent an executioner , [ spekoulatoora (Greek #4688) - the true reading is evidently spekoulatora (Greek #4688)] - one of the guards in attendance. The word is Roman, denoting one of the Imperial guard.

And commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison - after, it would seem, more than 12 months' imprisonment. Blessed martyr. Dark and cheerless was the end reserved for thee; but now thou hast thy Master's benediction, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me" (Matthew 11:6), and hast found the life thou gavest away (Matthew 10:39). But where are they in whose skirts is found thy blood?


Verse 28

And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

Herodias did not shed the blood of the stern reprover; she only got it done, and then gloated over it, as it streamed from the trunkless head. The striking analogy to this in the Church of Rome will be noticed in Remark 3, below.


Verse 29

And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.

And when his disciples heard of it-that is, the Baptist's own disciples, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb - "and went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:12). If these disciples had, up to this time, stood apart from Him, as adherents of John (Matthew 11:2), perhaps they now came to Jesus, not without some secret reflection on Him for His seeming neglect of their master; but perhaps, too, as orphans, to cast in their lot henceforth with the Lord's disciples. How Jesus felt, or what He said, on receiving this intelligence is not recorded; but He of whom it was said, as He stood by the grave of His friend Lazarus, "Jesus wept," was not likely to receive such intelligence without deep emotion. And one reason why He might not be unwilling that a small body of John's disciples should cling to him to the last, might be to provide some attached friends who should do for his precious body, on a small scale, what was afterward to be done for His own.

Remarks:

(1) The truth of the Gospel History is strikingly illustrated in this section. Had the Life of Christ which it contains been a literary invention, instead of a historical reality, the last thing probably which the writers would have thought of would have been to terminate the life of His honoured forerunner in the way here recorded. When we read it, we at once feel that, to be written, it must have been real. But we turn to the Jewish historian, and in his Antiquities of his nation we find precisely the same account of the Baptist's character, his fidelity to Herod, and his death, which is here given-with just this difference, that Josephus, as might be expected, presents rather the public bearings of this event, while our Evangelists treat it solely with reference to the Baptist's connection with his blessed Master. Thus each throws light upon the other.

(2) When men in power connect themselves, whether by marriage or otherwise, with unprincipled women, they usually become their tools, and are not unfrequently dragged by them to ruin. Illustrations of this are furnished by history from the days of that accursed Jezebel, who first drew Ahab into the commission of treason against the God of Israel and the murder of his own subjects, and then hurried him to destruction; and of Herodias, who was the means of imbruing the hands of Herod Antipas in the blood of the saintly John the Baptist, and was the occasion of that war which proved so fatal to him, down to pretty modern times. And might not the working of the same passions to similar issues be seen in the history of less exalted persons, if only it were written? A warning this, surely, against such unhallowed unions.

(3) When we read of Herodias, how she shed, not with her own hand nor by her own immediate order, the blood of this faithful witness for the truth, but only got it done by the secular arm, and how she then gloated over it-we can hardly help thinking that, when the harlot-Church was depicted by the apocalyptic seer, as a "woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Revelation 17:6), this bloody adulteress, Herodias, must have sat for her picture. For the apocalyptic woman does not herself shed the blood of saints or martyrs, nor order them to be slain; it is "the beast" - the secular power of apostate Christendom-that makes war against the saints, the faithful witnesses for the truth, and overcomes them, and kills them (Revelation 11:7; Revelation 8:7). But yet the "woman" rides this beast, seen as a scarlet coloured, or bloody, beast (Revelation 17:6); the secular power acting according to her dictates, in ridding her of those hateful witnesses against her abominations as a horse obeys his rider; while she herself is represented as drunken with their blood-revelling in her freedom from their withering rebukes. Can so vivid and deep an analogy be quite accidental?

(4) Fidelity in testifying against sin, though some times rewarded here, is not unfrequently allowed to be borne at the cost of temporal interests, liberty, and even life itself. How easily could He who healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, opened blind eyes, and raised even the dead to life, have interposed for the rescue of His true-hearted servant from the rage of Herodias, that he should not have been deprived of his liberty, and at least that his precious life should be spared! But He did not do it. Instead of this He suffered His public career to be closed by arrest and imprisonment; and after lying long in prison, and without any light as to his prospects-in answer to a deputation which he sent expressly from his prison-He allowed him to seal his testimony with his blood in that gloomy cell, with none to comfort him, and none to witness the deed but the bloody executioner, as if to proclaim to his servants in all time what He had bidden the messengers say to himself, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." How noble was the answer of the three Hebrew youths to King Nebuchadnezzar, when he threatened them with the burning fiery furnace if they would not fall down and worship the golden image which he had set up - " If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king: that we will not serve thy gods," etc. (Daniel 3:17-18). They had full confidence that deliverance would be vouchsafed for the honour of Yahweh's name. But they might in that be mistaken; He might not see it fit to interpose; and "if not," then they were prepared to burn for Him: but deliverance or none, they were resolved not to sin. And that is the spirit in which all Christ's servants should take up their cross; prepared to be nailed to it, if necessary, which it may or may not be-they cannot tell-rather than prove faithless to the Lord Jesus.

Here, for the first time, all the four streams of sacred text run parallel The occasion, and all the circumstances of this grand section are thus brought before us with a vividness quite remarkable.


Verse 30

And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.

And the apostles gathered themselves together - probably at Capernaum, on returning from their mission (Mark 6:7-13) - "and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught."


Verse 31

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

And he said, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. Observe the various reasons He had for crossing to the other side. First, Matthew (Matthew 14:13) says, that "when Jesus heard" of the murder of His faithful forerunner-from those attached disciples of his who had taken up his body and laid it in a tomb (see the note at Mark 6:29) - "He departed by ship into a desert place apart;" either to avoid some apprehended consequences to Himself, arising from the Baptist's death (Matthew 10:23), or more probably to be able to indulge in those feelings which that affecting event had doubtless awakened, and to which the bustle of the multitude around Him was very unfavourable. Next, since He must have heard the report of the Twelve with the deepest interest, and probably with something of the emotion which He experienced on the return of the Seventy (see the notes at Luke 10:17-22), He sought privacy for undisturbed reflection on this begun preaching and progress of His kingdom. Once more, He was wearied with the multitude of "comers and goers" - depriving Him even of leisure enough to take His food-and wanted rest: "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while," etc. Under the combined influence of all these considerations, our Lord sought this change.


Verse 32

And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

And they departed into a desert place by ship privately - "over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias," says John (John 6:1-71 :l), the only one of the Evangelists who so fully describes it; the others having written when their readers were supposed to know something of it, while the last wrote for those at a greater distance of time and place. This "desert place" is more definitely described by Luke (Luke 9:10) as "belonging to the city called Bethsaida." This must not be confounded with the town so called on the western side of the lake (see the note at Matthew 11:21). This town lay on its northeastern side, near where the Jordan empties itself into it; in Gaulonitis, out of the dominions of Herod Antipas, and within the dominion of Philip the Tetrarch (Luke 3:1), who raised it from a village to a city, and called it Julias, in honour of Julia, the daughter of Augustus (Josephus, Ant. 18: 2, 1).


Verse 33

And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.

And the people [`the multitudes' hoi (G3588) ochloi (G3793)] saw them departing, and many knew him. The true reading would seem to be: 'And many saw them departing, and knew or receded [them]' - [ Kai (Greek #2532) eidon (Greek #1492) autous (Greek #846) hupagontas (Greek #5217) kai (Greek #2532) epegnoosan (Greek #1921) polloi (Greek #4183)].

And ran afoot , [ pezee (Greek #3979)]. Here, perhaps, it should be rendered 'by land'-running round by the head of the lake, and taking one of the fords of the river, so as to meet Jesus, who was crossing with the Twelve by ship.

Thither out of all cities, and outwent them - got before them, and came together unto him. How exceedingly graphic is this! Every touch of it betokening the presence of an eye-witness. John (John 6:3) says, that "Jesus went up into a mountain" - somewhere in that hilly range, the green table-land which skirts the eastern side of the lake.


Verse 34

And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

And Jesus, when he came out of the ship [ exelthoon (Greek #1831)] - 'having gone on shore,'

Saw much people - `a great multitude' [ polun (Greek #4183) ochlon (Greek #3793)],

And was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. At the sight of the multitudes who had followed Him by land and even got before Him, He was so moved, as was His custom in such cases, with compassion, because they were like shepherdless sheep, as to forego both privacy and rest that He might minister to them. Here we have an important piece of information from the Fourth Evangelist (John 6:4), "And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh" - rather, 'Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews [ hee (Greek #3588) heortee (Greek #1859)], was nigh.' This accounts for the multitudes that now crowded around Him. They were on their way keep that festival at Jerusalem. But Jesus did not go up to this festival, as John expressly tells us (Mark 7:1) - remaining in Galilee, because the ruling Jews sought to kill Him.


Verse 35

And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:

And when the day was now far spent - "began to wear away" or 'decline,' says Luke (Luke 9:12), [ klinein (Greek #2827)]. Matthew (Matthew 14:15) says, "when it was evening;" and yet he mentions a later evening of the same day (Mark 6:23). This earlier evening began at three o'clock P.M.; the later began at sunset.

His disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:


Verse 36

Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.

Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. John tells us (John 6:5-6) that "Jesus said to Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? (And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would do.)" The subject may have been introduced by some remark of the disciples; but the precise order and form of what was said by each can hardly be gathered with precision, nor is it of any importance.


Verse 37

He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?

He answered and said unto them, "They need not depart" (Matthew 14:16),

Give ye them to eat - doubtless said to prepare them for what was to follow.

And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?

"Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little" (John 6:7).


Verse 38

He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fish. John is more precise and full. "One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fish: but what are they among so many?" (John 6:8-9). Probably this was the whole stock of provisions then at the command of the disciples-no more than enough for one meal to them-and entrusted for the time to this lad. "He said, Bring them hither to me" (Matthew 14:18).


Verse 39

And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.

And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass , [ epi (Greek #1909) too (Greek #3588) chlooroo (Greek #5515) chortoo (Greek #5528)] - or 'green hay;' the rank grass of those bushy wastes. For, as John (John 6:10) notes, "there was much grass [ chortos (Greek #5528)] in the place."


Verse 40

And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.

And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. Doubtless this was to show at a glance the number fed, and to enable all to witness in an orderly manner this glorious miracle.


Verse 41

And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven. Thus would the most distant of them see distinctly what he was doing.

And blessed , [ eulogeese (Greek #2127)]. John says, "And when He had given thanks" [ eucharisteesas (Greek #2168)]. The sense is the same. This thanksgiving for the meat, and benediction of it as the food of thousands, was the crisis of the miracle.

And brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them - thus virtually holding forth these men as His future ministers.

And the two fish divided he among them all.


Verse 42

And they did all eat, and were filled.

And they did all eat, and were filled. All the four Evangelists mention this; and John (John 6:11) adds, "and likewise of the fish, as much as they would" - to show that vast as was the multitude, and scanty the provisions, the meal to each and all of them was a plentiful one. "When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost" (John 6:12). This was designed to bring out the whole extent of the miracle.


Verse 43

And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.

And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fish. "Therefore (says John 6:13), they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten." The article here rendered "baskets" [ kofinoi (Greek #2894)] in all the four narratives was pert of the luggage taken by Jews on a journey-to carry, it is said, both their provisions and hay to sleep on, that they might not have to depend on Gentiles, and so run the risk of ceremonial pollution. In this we have a striking corroboration of the truth of the four narratives. Internal evidence renders it clear, we think, that the first three Evangelists wrote independently of each other, though the fourth must have seen all the others. But here, each of the first three Evangelists uses the same word to express the apparently insignificant circumstance, that the baskets employed to gather up the fragments were of the kind which even the Roman satirist, Juvenal, knew by the name of cophinus; while; in both the narratives of the feeding of the Four Thousand the baskets used are expressly said to have been of the kind called spuris. (See the notes at Mark 8:19-20.)


Verse 44

And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

And they that did eat of the loaves were [about] five thousand men - "besides women and children" (Matthew 14:21). Of these, however, there would probably not be many; as only the males were obliged to go to the approaching festival [The word "about" - hoosei (Greek #5616) - should be omitted here, as quite void of authority; but in the other three Gospels it certainly belongs to the genuine text.]

One very important particular given by John alone (John 6:15) introduces this portion: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone."


Verse 45

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before (Him) unto Bethsaida - Bethsaida of Galilee (John 12:21). John says they "went over the sea toward Capernaum" - the wind, probably, occasioning this slight deviation from the direction of Bethsaida.

While he sent away the people , [ ton (Greek #3588) ochlon (Greek #3793)] - 'the multitude.' His object in this was to put an end to the misdirected excitement in His favour (John 6:15), into which the disciples themselves my have been somewhat drawn. The word "constrained" [ eenangkasen (Greek #315)] implies reluctance on their part, perhaps from unwillingness to part with their Master and embark at night, leaving Him alone on the mountain.


Verse 46

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray - thus at length getting that privacy and rest which He had vainly sought during the earlier part of the day; opportunity also to pour out His soul in connection with the extraordinary excitement in His favour that evening-which appears to have marked the zenith of His reputation, because it began to decline the very next day; and a place whence He might watch the disciples on the lake, pray for them in their extremity, and observe the right time for coming to them, in a new manifestation of His glory, on the sea.


Verse 47

And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And when even was come - the later evening (see the note at Mark 6:35). It had come even when the disciples embarked (Matthew 14:23; John 6:16).

The ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. John says (John 6:17), "It was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them." Perhaps they made no great effort to push across at first, having a lingering hope that their Master would yet join them, and so allowed the darkness to come on. "And the sea arose (adds the beloved disciple, John 6:18), by reason of a great wind that blew."


Verse 48

And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.

And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them - putting forth all their strength to buffet the waves and bear on against a head-wind, but to little effect. He "saw" this from His mountain-top, and through the darkness of the night, because His heart was all with them: yet would He not go to their relief until His own time came.

And about the fourth watch of the night. The Jews, who used to divide the night into three watches, latterly adopted the Roman division into four watches, as here. So that, at the rate of three hours to each, the fourth watch, reckoning from p.m., would be three o'clock in the morning. "So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs" (John 6:19) - rather more than halfway across. The lake is about seven miles broad at its widest part. So that in eight or nine hours they had only made some three and a-half miles. By this time, therefore, they must have been in a state of exhaustion and despondency bordering on despair; and now at length, having tried them long enough,

He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea - "and drawing nigh unto the ship" (John 6:19),

And would have passed by them - but only in the sense of Luke 24:28; Genesis 32:26 : compare Genesis 18:3; Genesis 18:5; Genesis 42:7.


Verse 49

But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:

But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out - "for fear" (Matthew 14:26). He would appear to them at first like a dark moving speck upon the waters; then as a human figure; but in the dark tempestuous sky, and not dreaming that it could be their Lord, they take it for a spirit. Compare Luke 24:37.


Verse 50

For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I be not afraid.

For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: It is I be not afraid. There is something in these two little words-given by Matthew, Mark, and John - "'Tis I" [ Egoo (Greek #1473) eimi (Greek #1510) - 'I AM'], which from the month that spake it and the circumstances in which it was uttered, passes the power of language to express. Here were they in the midst of a raging sea, their little bark the sport of the elements, and with just enough of light to descry an object on the waters which only aggravated their fears. But Jesus deems it enough to dispel all apprehension to let them know that He was there. From other lips that "I am" would have merely meant that the person speaking was such a one and not another person. That, surely, would have done little to calm the fears of men expecting every minute, it my be, to go to the bottom. But spoken by One who at that moment was "treading upon the waves of the sea," and was about to hush the raging elements with His word, what was it but the Voice which cried of old in the ears of Israel, even from the days of Moses, "I AM" "I, EVEN I, AM HE!" Compare John 18:5-6; John 8:58. Now, that word is "made flesh, and dwells among us," uttering itself from beside us in dear familiar tones - "It is the Voice of my Beloved!" How far was this apprehended by these frightened disciples? There was one, we know, in the boat who outstripped all the rest in susceptibility to such sublime appeals. It was not the deep-toned writer of the Fourth Gospel, who, though he lived to soar beyond all the apostles, was as yet too young for prominence, and all unripe. It was Simon-Barjonas.

Here follows a very remarkable and instructive episode, recorded by Matthew alone:

Matthew 14:28. "And Peter answered Him, and said, Lord, If it be Thou [ ei (Greek #1487) su (Greek #4771) ei (Greek #1487) - 'If Thou art'-responding to his Lord's "I am"], bid me come, unto thee on the water;" not, 'let me,' but 'give me the word of command' [ keleuson (Greek #2753) me (Greek #3165) pros (Greek #4314) se (Greek #4571) elthein (Greek #2064) epi (Greek #1909) ta (Greek #3588) hudata (Greek #5204)] - 'command,' or 'order me to come unto Thee upon the waters.' Matthew 14:29. "And He said, Come." Sublime word, issuing from One conscious of power over the raging element, to bid it serve both Himself and whomsoever else He pleased! "And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked upon the water" - `waters' [ hudata (Greek #5204)] - "to come to Jesus." 'It was a bold spirit,' says Dr. Hall, 'that could wish it; more bold that could act it-not fearing either the softness or the roughness of that uncouth passage.' Matthew 14:30. "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me." The wind was as boisterous before, but Peter "saw" it not; seeing only the power of Christ, in the lively exercise of faith.

Now he "sees" the fury of the elements, and immediately the power of Christ to bear him up fades before his view, and this makes him "afraid" - as how could he be otherwise, without any felt power to keep him up? He then "begins to sink;" and finally, conscious that his experiment had failed, he casts himself, in a sort of desperate confidence, upon his "Lord" for deliverance! Matthew 14:31. "And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" This rebuke was not administered while Peter was sinking, nor until Christ had him by the hand; first re-invigorating his faith and then with it enabling him again to walk upon the crested wave. Bootless else had been this loving reproof, which owns the faith that had ventured on the deep upon the bare word of Christ, but asks why that distrust which so quickly marred it? Matthew 14:32. "And when they were come into the ship (Jesus and Peter), distrust which so quickly marred it? Matthew 14:32. "And when they were come into the ship (Jesus and Peter), the wind ceased."


Verse 51

And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.

And he went up unto them into the ship. John (John 6:21) says, "Then they willingly received him into the ship" [ eethelon (Greek #2309) oun (Greek #3767) labein (Greek #2983) autoon (Greek #846)] - or rather, 'Then were they willing to receive Him' (with reference to their previous terror); but implying also a glad welcome, their first fears now converted into wonder and delight, " And immediately," adds the beloved disciple, "they were at the land where they went" [ eis (Greek #1519) heen (Greek #3739) hupeegon (Greek #5217)], or 'were bound.' This additional miracle, for as such it is manifestly related, is recorded by the Fourth Evangelist alone. As the storm the was suddenly calmed, so the little bark-propelled by the secret power of the Lord of nature now sailing in it-glided through the now unruffled now waters, and, while they were wrapt in wonder at what had happened, not heeding their rapid motion, was found at port, to their still further surprise.

"Then are they glad, because at rest And quiet now they be; So to the haven He them brings Which they desired to sea."

Matthew (Matthew 14:33) says, "Then they that were in the ship came (that is, before they got to land) and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God." But our Evangelist is wonderfully striking.

And the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. The Evangelist seems hardly to find language strong enough to express their astonishment. [Tregelles, on too slight authority, omits altogether the clause, kai (Greek #2532) ethaumazon (Greek #2296) - "and wondered" - and brackets the phrase, ek (Greek #1537) perissou (Greek #4053) - "beyond measure," as of doubtful genuineness; but Tischendorf does neither.]


Verse 52

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened. What a singular statement! The meaning seems to be that if they had but "considered (or reflected upon) the miracle of the loaves," performed but a few hours before, they would have wondered at nothing which He might do within the whole circle of power and grace. The details here are given with a rich vividness quite special to this charming Gospel.


Verse 53

And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.

And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret - form which the lake sometimes takes its name, stretching along its western shore. Capernaum was their landing-place (John 6:24-25).

And drew to the shore , [ prosoormistheesan (Greek #4358)] - a nautical phrase, nowhere else used in the New Testament.


Verse 54

And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,

And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him - "immediately they recognized Him;" that is, the people did.


Verse 55

And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.

And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. At this period of our Lord's ministry the popular enthusiasm in His favour was at height.


Verse 56

And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.

And wheresoever he entered into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment - having heard, no doubt, of what the woman with the issue of blood experienced on doing so (Mark 5:25-29), and perhaps of other unrecorded cases of the same nature.

And as many as touched him (or 'it'-the border of His garment), were made whole. All this they continued to do and experience while our Lord was in that region [as is implied in the imperfect tenses here employed - eiseporeueto (Greek #1531), etithoun (Greek #5087), parekaloun (Greek #3870), esoozonto (Greek #4982)]. The time corresponds to that mentioned (John 7:1), when He "walked in Galilee," instead of appearing in Jerusalem at the at the Passover, "because the Jews," that is, the rulers, "sought to kill Him" - while the people sought to enthrone Him!

Remarks:

(1) What devout and thoughtful reader can have followed the graphic details of this wonderful section without hearing the tread of divinity in the footstep and voice, and beholding it in the hands and eyes of that warm, living, tender humanity whose movements are here recorded? While yet on the western side of the lake, the Twelve return to Him and report the success of their missionary tour. Almost simultaneously with this, tidings reach Him of the foul murder and descent burial of His loving and faithful forerunner. He would fain get alone with the Twelve, after such moving events, but cannot, for the crowds that kept moving about Him. So He bids the Twelve put across to the eastern side, to "rest a while." But the people, dismayed at the sight of His departure, and having no boats, run round by the head of the lake, hastily cross the river, and observing the direction in which His boat made for the land, were there before Him.

He pities them as shepherdless sheep, and instead of putting them away, preaches to them, until the decline of the day warns Him to think of the meat that perisheth as now needful for them. The Twelve were for dispersing them in search of victuals, but He bids them supply them with these themselves. But how can they? Let them see what they can muster. The exact quantity in hand is given with precision by all the four Evangelists. The barley loaves-they are five; and the small fish, two. But what will these do? They will suffice. Direction is given to make the vast multitude sit down on the rank green grass in orderly form, by hundreds and by fifties. It is done, and He stands forth, we might conceive, within an outer semi-circle of 30 hundreds, and an inner semi-circle of 40 fifties; the women and children by themselves, it may be in groups, still nearer the glorious Provider. All eyes are now fastened upon Him as He took up the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, blessed them as heaven's bountiful provision for that whole multitude, and then gave them to the Twelve to distribute among them.

Who can imagine the wonder that would sit upon every countenance, as the thought shot across them, How is this handful to feed even one of the fifties, not to speak of the hundreds? But as they found it passed by the Twelve from rank to rank unexhausted, and the last man, and woman, and child of them fed to the full and the leavings, both of the loaves and of the fish, greatly more than the whole provision at the first-the baskets filled with these being twelve, and the number fed five thousand, besides women and children-what must they have thought, if they thought at all? It is true, we have faint precursors of this glorious miracle in the doings of Elijah (1 Kings 17:14-16), and still more of Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7; 2 Kings 4:42-44); but besides the inferiority of the things done, those prophets acted always as servants, saying, "Thus saith the Lord," when they announced the miracles they were to perform; whereas, the one feature which most struck all who came in contact with Jesus was the air of Personal authority with which He ever taught and performed His miracles, thus standing confessed before the devout and penetrating eye as the Incarnate Lord of Nature:

`Here may we sit and dream Over the heavenly theme, Till to our soul the former days return;

Till on the greasy bed! Where thousands once He fed, The world's incarnate Maker we discern" - KEBLE

But the scene changes. The transported multitude, in a frenzy of enthusiasm, are consulting together how they are to hasten His Installation in the regal rights of "the King of Israel," which they now plainly saw Him to be. (What a testimony, by the way, is this to the reality of the miracle-the testimony of five thousand participants of the fruit of the miracle!) They have taken no action, but "knowing their thoughts," He quickly disperses them; and retiring for the night to a solitary mountain-top, overlooking the sea, He there pours out His great soul in prayer, watching at the same time the gathering tempest and the weary struggle of the disciples-whom He made to put out reluctantly to sea without Him-with the contrary wind and the beating waves; until, after some eight hours' trial of them in these perilous circumstances, He rises, descends to the sea, and walks to them, creating the roaring billows; and when the sight of His dim figure only aggravates their terror and makes them cry out for fear, He bids them be calm and confident, because it was He-Himself as unmoved as on dry land and under a serene sky.

This reassures them; insomuch that Peter thinks even he would be safe upon the great deep if only JESUS would order him to come to Him upon it. He does it; and for a moment-as he looks to HIM only-the watery element, obedient to its Lord bears him up. But looking to the angry roar of the wind, as at whisked up the sea, he is ready to be swallowed up, and cries for help to the mighty Lord of the deep, who gives him His hand and steps with him into the ship, when at His presence the storm immediately ceases, and before they have time to pour forth their astonishment they are in port. The thing which is so amazing here is scarcely so much the absolute command which Jesus show over the elements of nature in all their rage, as His own perfect ease, whether in riding upon them or keeping His poor disciple from being swallowed up of them, and gently chiding him for having any fear of the elements so long as HE was with him. Not all the chanting of the Old Testament over Yahweh's power to "raise the stormy wind which lifteth up the waves," and then to "make the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still" (Psalms 107:25-29, etc.) makes such an impression upon the mind, as the concrete manifestation of it in this sublime narrative. In the one, we hear of Him by the hearing of the ear; in the other, our eye seeth Him. It is like the difference between shadow and substance. Indeed, the one may be regarded as the incarnation of the other.

(2) Since all Christ's miracles had a deeper significance than that which appears on the surface of them, we cannot doubt that the multiplication of the loaves, which was one of the most stupendous, has its profound meaning also. We may say, indeed, that as this multitude had made such exertions and sacrifices to be with Jesus and drink in His wonderful teaching, and were not sent away empty, but got more than they expected-even the meat that perisheth, when they seemed to look only, for that which endureth to everlasting life-so if we "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto us." But this and similar lessons hardly reach the depth of this subject, much less exhaust it. As the Lord Jesus multiplied on this occasion the meat that perisheth, so is the meat that endureth to everlasting life capable of indefinite multiplication. Look at the Scriptures at large; look at the glorious Gospel History; look at this one stupendous section of it.

In bulk, how little is it-like the five barley loaves and the two small fish it tells of. But what thousands upon thousands has it fed, and will it feed, in every age, in every land of Christendom, to the worlds end! And is this true only of inspired Scripture? There, we may say, it is Christ Himself that ministers the bread of life. But just as Elijah and Elisha did some thing of the same kind-though on a small scale, and with a humble acknowledgment that they were but servants, or instruments in the hand of the Lord-so have the ministers of the Lord Jesus been privileged, from a little portion of "the oracles of God," to feed the souls of thousands, and that so richly as to leave baskets of fragments unconsumed. Nor can the writer refrain from testifying to all who read these lines, what a feast of fat things he has found daily for himself as he passed from section to section of this wonderful History, exhilarating him amidst the considerable labour which this work involves; nor can he wish anything better for his readers than that they also may have fellowship with him, for truly his fellowship in this bread of life has been with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

(3) In these poor disciples, after this day of wonders, we have a picture of the blindness of the best of us ofttimes to the divine purpose and our own mercies. How reluctant were they to put out to sea without their Master; but had He not stayed behind, they had missed-and along with them the Church in all time had missed-the one manifestation of His glory which He saw fit to give in that majestic form, of walking upon the sea, and that too when the waves thereof roared by reason of a mighty wind. Doubtless, when they urged Him to come with them, if He would not let them spend the night with Him on the eastern side, He would assure them that He was coming after them. But how little would they dream of what He meant! Anxiously and often would they back, to see if they could descry any other wherry by which He might have set sail at a later hour; and when, after eight hours' beating against the storm they found themselves, before the morning light dawned on them, alone and helpless in the midst of the sea, how would they say one to another, 'O that we had not parted from Him! Would that He were here! When that storm as we crossed with Him to the country of the Gadarenes, though He was fast asleep in the stern-end of the ship, how quickly, on our awaking Him, did He hush the winds and calm the sea, even with one word of command; but now, alas we are alone!' At length they descry a dark object. What can it be? It draws nearer and nearer them; their fears arise; now it near enough to convince them that it is a living form, in quest of them. And what can a living, moving fore upon the waters be but a spectre? and what can a spectre want with them? At length, as it approaches them, they shriek out for fear. And yet this is their Beloved, and this is their Friend-so eagerly longed for, but at length despaired of!

Thus do we often miscall our chiefest mercies; not only thinking them distant when they are near, but thinking the best the worst. Yes, Jesus was with them all the while, though they knew it not. His heart followed them with His eye, as the storm gathered; though in body far away, in spirit He was with them, giving command to the furious elements to be to them as was the burning fiery furnace to the Hebrew youths when they were in it, and the lions when Daniel was in their den-to do them no hurt. He pitied them as He "saw them toiling in rowing," but for their own sake He would not come to them until the right time. But O what words were those with which He calmed their fears - "Be of good cheer: it is I be not afraid"! The re-assuring word was that central one "I" [ Egoo (Greek #1473)]; and after what they had seen of His glory but a few hours before, in addition to all their past experience, what a fullness of relief would be to them wrapt up in that one little word "I" And what else need even we, tossed, and O how often! upon a tempestuous sea-at one time of doubts and fears, at another, of difficulties and wants, at another, of sorrows and sufferings - "toiling in rowing" to beat our way out of them: What need we, to stay our souls when all these waves and billows are going over us, and to cheer us with songs in the night, but to hear that Voice so loving, so divine, "Be of good cheer: IT IS I be not afraid"!

(4) When sure of a divine warrant, what may not faith venture on, and so long as our eye is directed to a present Saviour, what dangers may we not surmount? But when, like Peter, we direct our eye to the raging element, and "see the wind boisterous," fear takes the place of faith; and beginning to sink, our only safety lies in casting our critical case upon Him whose are all the elements of nature and providence and grace. Happy then are we, if we can feel that warm fleshly Hand which caught sinking Peter and immediately ascended with him into the ship! For then are we at once in the haven of rest.

`Thou Framer of the light and dark, Steer through the tempest thine own ark; Amid the howling wintry sea We are in port if we have Thee!'

(-KEBLE)

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 6:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/mark-6.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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