Mark 6
Pulpit Commentary
And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.
Verse 1. - Our Lord now left the neighbourhood of Capernaum, and came into his own country, the district of Nazareth, where he had been, not born indeed, but brought up, and where his kinsfolk after the flesh still lived. Nazareth would be about a day's journey from Capernaum. This was not the first public exercise of his ministry at Nazareth. Of that and its results St. Luke gives us the account (Luke 4:16). It would seem reasonable to suppose that, after the fame which he had now acquired, he should again visit the place where he had been brought up. His sisters were still living there. St. Mark here again uses the historical present ἔρχεται, "he cometh," for which there is better authority than for ῆλθεν. His disciples follow him. Only the chosen three had been with him in the house of Jairus. The presence of the whole body of the disciples would be valuable at Nazareth.
And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
Verse 2. - As usual, he made the sabbath the special time for his teaching. And many hearing him were astonished. They were astonished at the ability, the sublimity, the holiness of his teaching, as well as at the signs and wonders by which he confirmed it. "Many" hearing him; not all. Some listened with faith; but "the many" (there is some authority for οἱ πολλοὶ)were envious of him. Whence hath this man these things? The expression, "this man," is repeated, according to the best authorities, in the next clause, What is the wisdom that is given (not "unto him," but) unto this man? There is a contemptuous tone about the expression.
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
Verse 3. - Is not this the carpenter? St. Matthew (Matthew 13:55) says, "the carpenter's son." We infer from this that our Lord actually worked at the trade of a carpenter, and probably continued to do so until he entered upon his public ministry. We may also infer that Joseph was now no longer living, otherwise it would have been natural for his name to have been mentioned here. According to St. Chrysostom, our Lord made ploughs and yokes for oxen. Certain]y, he often drew his similitudes from these things. "No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me "(Matthew 11:29). Christ was the son of a carpenter. Yes; but he was also the Son of him who made the world at his will. Yea, he himself made the world. "All things were made by him," the Eternal Word. And he made them for us, that we might judge of the Maker by the greatness of his work. He chose to be the son of a carpenter. If he had chosen to be the sou of an emperor, then men might have ascribed his influence to the circumstances of his birth. But he chose a humble and obscure condition, for this, among other reasons, that it might be acknowledged that it was his divinity that transformed the world. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Some have thought that these were literally brethren of our Lord, sons of Joseph and Mary. Others have considered that they were his legal half-brothers, sons of Joseph by a former marriage. This view is held by many of the Greek Fathers, and has something to recommend it. But, on the whole, the most probable opinion is that they were cousins of our Lord - sons of a sister of the Virgin Mary, also called Mary, the wife of Cleophas, Clopas, or Alpheeus. There is evidence that there were four sons of Clopas and Mary, whose names were James, and Joses, and Simon (or Symeon), and Judas. Mary the wife of Clopas is mentioned by St. Matthew (Matthew 27:56) as the mother of James the less and of Joses. Jude describes himself (Jude 1:5) as the brother of James; and Simon, or Symeon, is mentioned in Eusebius as the son of Clopas. It must be remembered also that the word ἀδελφός, like the Hebrew word which it expresses, means not only "a brother," but generally "a near kinsman." In the same way the "sisters" would be cousins of our Lord. According to a tradition recorded by Nicephorus (2:3), the names of these sisters or cousins were Esther and Tamar. And they were offended in him. They took it ill that one brought up amongst them as a carpenter should set himself up as a prophet and a teacher; just as there are those in every age who are apt to take it amiss if they see any one spring from a trade into the doctor's chair. But these Nazarencs knew not that Jesus was the Son of God, who of his great love for man vouchsafed to take a low estate, that he might redeem us, and teach us humility by his example. And thus this humility and love of Christ, which ought to have excited their admiration and respect, was a stumbling-block to them, because they could not receive it, or believe that God was willing thus to humble himself.
But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
Verse 4. - A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, etc. One reason for this is that it is almost natural for persons to hold of less account than they ought, those with whom they have been brought up and have lived on familiar terms. Prophets are commonly least regarded, and often most envied, in their own country. However unworthy may be the feeling, the inhabitants of a district, or members of a community, do not like to see one of themselves put above them, more especially a junior over a senior, or a man of humble origin over a man well born. But it should be remembered that God abhors the envious, and will withhold the wonders of his grace from those who grudge his gifts to others. The men of Nazareth, when they saw Christ eating, and drinking, and sleeping, and working at his trade, like others, despised him when he claimed respect and reverence as a Prophet, and especially because his relations according to the flesh were of humble condition; and Joseph more particularly, whom they supposed to be his real father, for they could not imagine or believe that he was born of a virgin, and had God alone for his Father.
And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
Verses 5, 6. - And he could there do no mighty work. This is a remarkable expression. He could do no mighty work there. The words imply want of power - that in some sense or other he was unable to do it. He did indeed perform some miracles. He laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them; but he wrought none of his greater miracles there. Of course, even these less striking miracles ought to have sufficed. in a miracle there must be the suspension of some known law of nature; and one clear instance of such suspension ought to be as conclusive as a hundred. Then it must be remembered that it is not God's method in his dealings with his creatures to force conviction upon them when the ordinary means prove insufficient. For men's actions must be free if they are to be made the test of judgment, and they would not be free if God constrained men to obey his will. The men of Nazareth had sufficient evidence had they not chosen to be blinded, and a greater amount of evidence would only have increased their condemnation. So their unbelief thwarted his purposes of mercy, and he went in and out amongst them like one hampered and disabled, marvelling at their unbelief, or rather marveling because of their unbelief (διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν). The condition of mind of these Nazarenes was what caused amazement to the Saviour. At length he turned away from Nazareth, never, so far as we know, to visit it again; for this was their second opportunity, and the second occasion which they deliberately rejected him. What, however, they refused he immediately offered to others. He was not discouraged. He went round about the villages teaching.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.
And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
Verse 7. - At Mark 3:7 we had the account of our Lord's selection of the twelve. Here we find the notice of their being first sent forth. Their names have already been recorded. He gave them authority - mark the imperfect (ἐδίδου) - over unclean spirits. St. Matthew (Matthew 10:1) adds, "and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." But St. Mark here fixes the attention upon the great central object of Christ's mission - to contend against evil in every form, and especially to grapple with Satan in his stronghold in the hearts of men.
And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:
Verse 8. - They should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only. St. Matthew says (Matthew 10:10), according to the best authorities (μηδὲ ῤάβδον), they were not to take a staff. St. Luke says the same as St. Matthew. The meaning is that they were not to make any special provision for their journey, but to go forth just as they were, depending upon God. Those who bad a staff might use it; those who had not one were not to trouble themselves to procure one. The scrip (πήρα) was the wallet for food. They were to take no money in their purse (μὴ εἰς τὴν ζώνην χαλκόν); literally, brass in their girdle. St. Mark, writing for Romans, uses this word for money. St. Luke, writing for Greeks, uses the term (ἀργύριον) "silver." St. Matthew (Matthew 10:9) says, "provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass."
But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
Verse 9. - But be shod with sandals. This is quite consistent with what St. Matthew says (Matthew 10:9), that they were not to provide themselves with shoes (μηδὲ ὑποδήματα). According to St. Matthew, shoes are forbidden directly; according to St. Mark, they are forbidden by implication, where he says that they were to be shod with sandals. Shoes are here forbidden which cover the whole foot, not sandals which only protect the soles of the feet lest they should be injured by the rocky ground. The soil of Judaea was rocky and rough, and the climate hot. The sandals therefore protected the soles of the feet, and yet, being open above, kept the feet more cool, and therefore fit for the journey. It is worthy of our notice that, after our Lord's ascension, we find St. Peter using sandals when the angel, who delivered him out of prison, said to him (Acts 12:8), "Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals."
And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.
Verse 10. - There abide, till ye depart thence. They were not to change their lodgings in any place. This direction was given to them, lest, if they did, they might appear to be fickle and restless; or lest they might hurt the feelings of those with whom they had first lodged. And they were not to stay too long anywhere, lest they should be burdensome to any.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Verse 11. - Shake off the dust (τὸν χοῦν) literally, the soil - that is under your feet. St. Matthew and St. Luke use the word (κονιορτὸν) "dust." A very significant action. The dust was shaken off as an evidence of the toil and labour of the apostles in journeying to them. It witnessed that they had entered the city and had delivered message, and that their message had been refused. The very dust, therefore, of the place was a defilement to them. "It shall be more tolerable," etc. This clause is omitted by the best authorities; it was probably copied from St. Matthew.
And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
Verse 12. - They preached that men should repent. This was their great work, to which the miracles were subordinate.
And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Verse 13. - And anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them. It is hardly possible to separate this from the reference to the use of oil for the sick, in James 5:14. Unction was employed extensively in ancient times for medicinal purposes. It is recorded of Herod the Great by Josephus ('Antiq.,' 17:6, 5) that in one of his sicknesses he was "immersed in a bath full of oil," from which he is said to have derived much benefit. The apostles used it, no doubt not only on account of its supposed remedial virtues, but also as an outward and visible sign that the healing was effected by their instrumentality in the name of Christ, and perhaps also because the oil itself was significant of God's mercy, of spiritual comfort and joy" the oil of gladness." Neither this passage nor that in St. James can properly be adduced to support the ceremony of "extreme unction;" for in both these cases the result was that the sick were restored to health. The so-called sacrament of" extreme unction "is administered immediately before death, when the sick person is in articulo morris.
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.
Verse 14. - This Herod is called by St. Matthew (Matthew 14:1) "the tetrarch;" and so also by St. Luke (Luke 9:7); though it should be noticed that St. Matthew, in the same context, at Ver. 9, calls him "king." The word "tetrarch" properly means the sovereign or ruler of the fourth part of a territory. He is known as Herod Anti-pus, son of Herod the Great, who had appointed him "tetrarch" of Galilee and Peraea. Herod Antipas had married the daughter of Arctas, King of Arabia, but deserted her for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. John the Baptist is risen from the dead; that is, "is risen in the person of Jesus Christ." St. Luke. (Luke 9:7) says that at first Herod was "much perplexed (διηπόρει)" "about him. At length, however, as he heard more and more of the fame of Christ's miracles, he came to the conclusion that our Lord was none other than John the Baptist risen again. Such is the opinion of St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and others. At that time the views of Pythagoras respecting the transmigration of souls were generally current, and probably influenced the troubled mind of Herod. He had put to death an innocent and holy man; and it is a high testimony to the worth of the Baptist that, under the reproaches of a guilty conscience, Herod should have come to the conclusion that he had risen from the dead, thus probably giving the lie to his own opinions as a Sadducee; and terrified lest the Baptist should now avenge his own murder. "What a great thing," exclaims St. Chrysostom," is virtue! for Herod fears him, even though dead." It should not be forgotten that this is the same Herod who set Jesus at nought and mocked him, when Pilate sent him to him, in the hope of relieving himself of the terrible responsibility of condemning one whom he knew to be innocent.
Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.
But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
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.
Verse 17. - In prison. Josephus ('Antiq.,' 18:5, 2) informs us that this prison was the fort of Machaerus, on the confines of Galilee and Arabia, and that there John was beheaded. Herod's father had built a magnificent palace within that fort; and so he may have been keeping the anniversary of his birthday there,
For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.
Verses 18, 19. - For John said unto Herod. The Greek tense (ἔλεγε) implies more than the simple expression, "he said;" it implies a repeated warning. We learn from St. Matthew (Matthew 14:5) that Herod would have killed John before, but he feared the people. Here St. Mark says that Herodias set herself against him, and desired to kill him; and she could not; for Herod feared John. There is no contradiction between the two evangelists. The case appears to have been this: that at first Herod desired to put John to death, because John had reproved him on account of Herodias. But by degrees John gained an influence over Herod by the force of his character, and by his holy life and teaching.
Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:
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.
Verse 20. - The words in the Authorized Version are, When he heard him, he did many things (πολλὰ ἐποίει), and heard him gladly. But according to the best authorities the reading should be (πολλὰ ἠπόρει), he was much perplexed. In St. Luke, as stated above, we have (διηπόρει), "he was much perplexed." Nor is there any inconsistency in the next clause in St. Mark, if we accept this reading. Herod was not utterly depraved. There was to him a charm, not only in the character, but in the discourses of John the Baptist. But he was an inconsistent man, and was continually the victim of a conflict between the good and the evil within him, in which evil, alas! triumphed. Herodias, on the other hand, had always wished to get rid of John, as the stern and uncompromising reprover of her adultery and incest; and so at length she persuaded Herod to give way. "For," says Bede, "she feared lest Herod should at length repent, and yield to the exhortations of John, and dissolve this unreal marriage, and restore Herodias to her lawful husband."
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 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.
Verse 22. - The words should run thus: And when the daughter of Herodias herself came in καὶ εἰσελθούσης τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς τῆς Ἡρωδιάδος. The intention of the evangelist is to point out that it was Herodias's own daughter who danced, and not a mere professional dancing-girl. Josephus mentions that dancing-women were admitted to feasts by the Jews; and Xenophon testifies to the same custom amongst the Greeks.
And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.
Verse 24. - And she went out, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? (τί αἰτήσομαι)- according to the best authorities (τί αἰτήσωμαι), What should I ask?
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.
Verse 25. - I will that thou forthwith give me in a charger (ἐπὶ πίνακι) the head of John the Baptist. John the Baptist seems to have had a presentiment of his speedy end when he said, "He must increase, but must decrease."
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.
Verse 26. - And the king was exceeding sorry. We cannot suppose that this was a pretended grief. The true reason is doubtless to be found in the relentless animosity of Herodias. Herod must have known well that he could not be bound by his oath in reference to a petition so unreasonable and so iniquitous. Nevertheless he thought that "the words of a king were law." St. Augustine says, "The girl dances; the mother rages. A rash oath is made amidst the excitement and the voluptuous indulgence of the feast; and the savage desires of Herodias are fulfilled." For the sake of his oaths (διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους); the plural shows that he repeated the rash promise once and again.
And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,
Verse 27. - He sent forth an executioner (σπεκουλάτωρα); literally, a soldier of his guard; one of his body-guard, in constant attendance as messenger or executioner. It is a Roman word from speculari, to watch. St. Jerome relates that when the head of the Baptist was brought, Herodias barbarously thrust the tongue through with a bodkin, as Fulvia is said to have done over and over again, the tongue of Cicero; thus verifying what Cicero had once said while living, that "nothing is more revengeful than a woman." Because they could not bear to hear the truth, therefore they bored through with a bodkin the tongue that had spoken the truth.
And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
Verse 29. - The taking up of the corpse by the disciples would seem to intimate that it lay uncared for and unburied until the disciples showed their respect for it. Josephus says that after the beheading, the mutilated remains were east out of the prison and left neglected. God's judgments at length found out Herod. For not long after this he was defeated by Aretas in a great battle, and put to an ignominious flight. Herodias herself and Herod were banished by a decree of the Roman Senate to Lyons, where they both perished miserably; and Nicephorus relates that Salome, the daughter of Herodias, died by a remarkable visitation. She fell through some treacherous ice over which she was passing, and fell through it in such a manner that her head was caught while the rest of her body sank into the water, and thus it came to pass that in her efforts to save herself her head was nearly severed by the sharp edges of the broken ice.
And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
Verse 30. - The narrative, which had been interrupted by this parenthesis relating to John the Baptist, is now taken up again. The apostles. This is the only place where St. Mark calls them apostles. In the parallel passage, St. Luke (Luke 9:10) says that they told him all that they had done. St. Mark adds, with more detail, and whatsoever (ὅσα) they had taught. They gave him a full account of their mission.
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.
Verse 31. - Our Lord cared for his disciples. They required rest after the labour and excitement of their ministry; and it was impossible to find the needful refreshment and repose where they were so thronged by the multitude.
And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
Verse 32. - And they went away in the boat (τῷ πλοίῳ) to a desert place apart - the boat, no doubt, which our Lord had ordered to be always in attendance upon him. We learn from St. Luke (Luke 9:10) that this desert place was near to "a city called Bethsaida." It seems that there were two places called Bethsaida - one in Galilee proper, and the other to the north-east of the Sea of Galilee. It was to the neighborhood of this latter place that our Lord here directs the boat to take him. The other Bethsaida is mentioned lower down at Ver. 45. The word Bethsaida means the "fish village."
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.
Verse 33. - This is very graphic. The Greek in the first part of this verse runs thus, according to the best authorities: Καὶ εϊδον αὐτοὸς ὑπάγοντας καὶ ἐπέγνωσαν αὐτὸν πολλοί: And they - i.e. the people - saw them going, and many knew them. They saw them departing, and observed what direction the boat took, and then hastened thither on foot, and outwent them; and so were ready to meet them again on the opposite shore when they landed. The distance by land from the place where they started would be about twenty miles.
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.
Verse 34. - Our Lord had gone to this desert place for retirement and rest; but finding the multitude waiting For him, his compassions were stirred, and he began to teach them many things. He was moved with compassion, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. No animal is more helpless, more stupid, more in need of a shepherd, than the sheep. St. Chrysostom observes that the scribes were not so much pastors as wolves, because, by teaching errors both by word and by example, they perverted the minds of the simple.
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:
Verse 35. - And when the day was now far spent. The English, like the Greek, is here very idiomatic (καὶ ἤδη ὥρας πολλῆς γενομένης). The English is retained in the Revised Version as it came through the Authorized Version from Tyndale. The present participle γενομένης appears in the Sinaitic Manuscript and in the Cambridge Codex. His disciples came unto him, and said. The best reading is (καὶ ἔλεγον), and were saying. St. Matthew (Matthew 14:16) says, "They need not depart; give ye them to eat." Thus our Lord prepared the way for his miracle, he detained the multitude till the day was far spent, so that the disciples might be induced to pray him to dismiss them. This would open the way for him to direct the disciples to feed them. And thus the miracle would appear all the more evident in proportion as they found themselves in a strait, and utterly destitute of the needful supplies of food for such a multitude in the desert. St. John's account here is much more full. He tells us (John 6:5) that Jesus, addressing Philip, said, "Whence are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" And he adds, "This he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do." Our Lord, it would seem, asked Philip rather than the others, because Philip was simple-minded, sincere, and teachable, rather than clever, and so was accustomed to ask things which appeared plain to others. We have an instance of this simplicity of mind in the question which he asks (John 14:8), "Lord show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."
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.
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?
Verse 37. - Two hundred pennyworth of bread. The penny, or "denarius," was the chief Roman silver coin, worth about eight-pence halfpenny. Upon the breaking up of the Roman empire, the states which arose upon its ruins imitated the coinage of the old imperial mints, and in general called their principal silver coin the "denarius." Thus the denarius found its way into this country through the Anglo-Saxons, and it was for a long period the only coin. Hence the introduction of the word into the Authorized Version. Two hundred pennyworth would be of the value of nearly seven pounds. But considering the constant fluctuation in the relation between money and the commodities purchased by money, it is in vain to require what number of loaves the same two hundred denarii would purchase at that time, although it was evidently the representation of a large supply of bread.
He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
Verse 38. - Five (loaves), and two fishes. St. John tells us (John 6:9) that the loaves were of barley, and that the fishes were small (ὀψάρια); St. Mark says δύο ἰχθύας. Barley bread was considered an inferior and homely kind of food, very inferior to bread made of wheat flour. The comparative value of the two kinds of bread is given in Revelation 6:6. "A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny." The psalmist alludes to the greater excellence of wheat flour: "He would have fed them also with the finest wheat flour" (Psalm 81:16).
And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.
Verse 39. - All were to sit down by companies (συμπόσια συμπόσια) - St. Luke (Luke 9:14) says that the companies were about fifty each (ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα) - upon the green grass. St. John says (John 6:10) that "there was much grass in the place." This indicates the time of the year. The grass was growing, and it was green. It would not be green in that district after April. Thus St. Mark's account of the state of the grass at that time (an account evidently repeated from an eye-witness) coincides with the account of St. John, who says that "the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was at hand" (John 6:4).
And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
Verse 40. - And they sat down in ranks (ἀνέπεσον πρασιαὶ πρασιαὶ); literally, they reclined. The Greek word πρασια means "a garden plot" or "bed," literally, a bed of leeks. They were disposed symmetrically. Probably the English word "ranks" expresses the meaning as clearly as any could do. This arrangement was probably made, partly that the numbers might be better known, partly that all things might be done in an orderly manner, and that each might have his portion. St. Matthew's account (Matthew 14:21) seems to imply that the "men" were separated from the "women and children."
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.
Verse 41. - All the synoptists give our Lord's acts in the same words. The taking of the food into the hands would seem to have been a formal act before the" blessing," or "giving of thanks," for it. Probably our Lord used the ordinary form of benediction. This is one amongst other instances showing the fitness and propriety of" grace before meat." In considering the miraculous action which followed the benediction, our reason is baffled. It eludes our grasp. It is best simply to behold in this multiplying of the food, both the bread and the fishes, an act of Divine omnipotence; not indeed now, as at the beginning, a creation out of nothing, for here there was the nucleus of the five loaves and the two fishes, but an act of creative development of the food in its best kind; for all the works of God are perfect, He gave (ἐδίδου) would be better rendered, he was giving. It was in his hands that the miracle was wrought, and the food continually multiplied.
And they did all eat, and were filled.
Verses 42, 43. - They did all eat, and were filled (ἐχορτάσθησαν). It might be rendered, were fulfilled, according to the old meaning of "fulfill." It is probable that the women and children were a considerable number; for they would be, if possible, even more eager then the men to see the great Prophet. When all had eaten and were satisfied, they took up broken pieces, twelve basketfuls, and also of the fishes. St. John tells us that this was done by the express command of Christ (John 6:12); and the existence of these fragments, far more in quantity than the original supply, was a striking testimony to the reality of the miracle, and that there was enough and more than enough for all. It does not become us to pry too curiously into the method of our Lord's working; but the number of these baskets (κοφίνους), namely, twelve, seems to suggest that he first broke the loaves, and in breaking multiplied them, and distributed them into these baskets, one for each apostle, and that the food, as it was distributed by the disciples, was more and more multiplied, as needed, so that at length they brought back to Christ as many basketfuls of fragments as they had first received from him, and much more than the original supply. It is obvious here to remark that by this stupendous miracle our Lord showed himself to be the true Bread of life, by which the spiritual wants of all hungering souls may be supplied. "For," says St. Augustine," he was the Word of God, and all the acts of the Word are themselves words for us. They are not as pictures, merely, to look at and admire; but as letters which we must seek to read and understand."
And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.
And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
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.
Verse 45. - The other side. It would seem, as has already been stated, that there were two Bethsaidas (or "places of fish" - fish-villages) - one to the north-east of the Sea of Galilee, not far from where the Jordan enters it, called Bethsaida Julias; and the other on the western side of the sea itself, near to Capernaum. Again and again our Lord crossed this sea to escape the crowds who followed him about, and now wished "to take him by force and make him a king." He desired for a time to be in retirement, in order that he might pray with the greater earnestness, and freedom from interruption. He also wished to make occasion for the miracle which was to follow, namely, the stilling of the tempest.
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
Verses 46, 47. - St. Mark is careful, like St. Matthew, to tell us that when the even was come he was alone on the land. Both the evangelists desire to call attention to the fact that, when night came on, the disciples were alone in their boat and Jesus alone on the land. It was nightfall; and St. John informs us that "the sea was rising by reason of a great wind that blew." Then it was that the Lord left his place of prayer on the mountain, and walked upon the sea, that he might succor his disciples now distressed by the storm. It would appear that our Lord had been obliged to use a little pressure to induce his disciples to leave him: "He constrained them (ἠνάγκασε τοὺς μαθητὰς αὑτοῦ) Verse 46 - And when he had sent them away (ἀποταξάμενος) - more literally, had taken leave of them, that is, the multitude - he departed into a mountain (εἰς τὸ ὄρος); literally, into the mountain; that is, the high table-land at the foot of which the multitude had been fed. Towards the north-east of the Sea of Galilee the land rises rapidly from the shore. To pray (προσεύξασθαι). This is a very full word, implying the outpouring of the heart to God. Our Lord did this that he might teach us in our prayers to shun the crowd, and to pray in silence and in secret, with collected mind. There is here, too, a special example for the clergy, namely, this: that when they have preached they should go apart and pray that God would make effectual that which they have delivered; that he would himself give the increase where they have planted and watered, and renew their spiritual strength, that they may return again to their labour refreshed by communion with him.
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
Verse 47. - And when even was come. It was now advancing onwards into night; the wind was rising and blowing against them. Then it was that the Lord left his place of prayer on the mountain, that he might succor his disciples in their difficulties.
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.
Verses 48-50. - And he saw them toiling in rowing. The Greek is, according to the best readings καὶ ἰδὼν (not εϊδεν) αὐτοὺς βασανιξομένους ἐν τῷ ἐλαύνειν. The word βασανιξομένους means more than "toiling;" it means literally, tormented. It is well rendered in the Revised Version by distressed. It was only by painful effort that they could make head against the driving storm blowing upon them from the west, that is, from the Mediterranean Sea. About the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking on the sea. The Jews formerly divided the night into three watches; but when Judaea became a Roman province they adopted the Roman division. The Romans changed the watches every three hours, lest through too long watches the guards might slumber at their posts. These periods were called "watches." If the night was short, they divided it into three watches; if long, into four. Therefore the fourth watch began at the tenth hour of the night, that is, at three o'clock in the morning, and continued to the twelfth, that is, to six o'clock. It would seem, therefore, that this storm lasted for nine hours. During that time the disciples had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs, that is about three Roman miles - eight furlongs - making a mile. The Sea of Galilee is not more than six miles broad at its widest part. They were therefore now (ἐν μέσῳ τῆς θαλάσσης) "in the midst of the sea," as St. Mark expresses it; so that, after rowing for nine hours, they had hardly crossed more than half over the sea. The Sea of Galilee is, speaking roughly, about twelve miles from north to south and six from east to west. It may be asked why our Lord suffered them to be tempest-tossed so long; and the answer is:

1. It was a trial of their faith, so as to urge them to seek more earnestly the help of God.

2. It was a lesson to accustom them to endure bard-ness.

3. It made the stilling of so tedious and dangerous a storm all the more grateful and welcome to them at last. The Fathers find a fine spiritual meaning in this. Jerome says, "The fourth watch is the last." So, too, St. Augustine, who adds that "he who has watched the ship of his Church will come at length at the fourth watch, at the end of the world, when the night of sin and evil is ended, to judge the quick and the dead." Theophylact says, "He allows his disciples to be tried by dangers, that they may be taught patience, and does not come to them till morning, that they may learn perseverance and faith." Hilary says, "The first watch was the age of the Law, the second of the prophets, the third of the gospel, the fourth of his glorious advent, when he will find her buffeted by the spirit of antichrist and by the storms of the world. And by his reception into the ship and the consequent calm is prefigured the eternal peace of the Church after his second coming" (see Wordsworth's 'New Testament:'St. Matthew 14). He walked on the sea. This he did by his Divine power, which he possessed as God, and which, when he pleased, he could assume as man. Infidelity is at fault here. Paulus the rationalist, revived the ridiculous idea that Christ walking on the sea merely meant Christ walking on the shore, elevated above the sea; but the interpretation was rightly denounced by Lavater as "a laughable insult on logic, hermeneutics, good sense, and honesty." Was it because our Lord simply walked on the shore that the disciples "cried out and were troubled"? Was it merely for this that they were "sore amazed at themselves beyond measure and wondered"? Yet such are the shifts to which unbelief is reduced when it ventures to measure itself against the acts of Omnipotence. He would have passed by them. An expression something like that in St. Luke (Luke 24:28), "He made as though he would go further," although there the Greek in St. Luke is different (προσεποιεῖτο πορρωτέρω πορεύεσθαι). Here it is ἤθελε παρελθεῖν: literally, he wished to pass by them; so at least it appeared to the disciples. It has been suggested that our Lord did this that the disciples might more clearly see how the wind was stilled in his presence. They supposed that it was an apparition (ἔδοξαν ὄτι φάντασμα εϊναι); literally, a phantom. Why did they suppose this? Partly from the idea that spectres appear in the night and in the darkness to terrify men, and partly because in the darkness they could not so readily recognize that it was Jesus. Then the fact that our Lord" would bare passed by them," flitting past them as though he eared nothing for them and had nothing to do with them, but was going elsewhere; this must have increased their terror. But now came the moment for him to calm their fears. Straightway he talked with them soothingly. Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. Now, Christ did this that he might teach his disciples to conquer fear and temptation, even when they are very great, and that so the deliverance and the consolation might impress them all the more powerfully and sweetly in proportion to their former terror. "'It is I' - I, your Lord and Master, whom you know so well, and of whose goodness and omnipotence you have already had so much experience; I, your Master, who do not come to mock you as a phantom, but to deliver you both from fear and from storm." It will be observed that St. Mark omits all mention of Peter's act of faith "in going down from the boat, and walking upon the waters to come to Jesus," as recorded by St. Matthew (Matthew 14:28). Throughout this Gospel, as already noticed, St. Peter is kept in the background.
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
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.
And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
Verses 51, 52. - The amazement of the disciples was very great. Nor was the impression confined to them alone. St. Matthew (Matthew 14:33) tells us that they who were in the boat came and worshipped him. They felt, at least for the 'moment, that they were brought into awful nearness to One whose "way is in the sea," and whose "path is in the great waters," and whose "footsteps are not known." They needed not, however, to have been so amazed, for they had just witnessed his power in the miracle of the loaves; but they understood not (ἐπὶ τοῖς ἄρτοις) concerning the loaves, but their heart was (πεπωρωμένη) hardened; literally, stupefied and blinded.
For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.
Verse 53. - They came into the land of Gennesaret; literally (ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν η΅λθον εἰς Γεννησαρέτ), they came to the land unto Gennesaret. This was the plain on the western side of the sea sometimes called "the lake of Gennesaret." The name Gennesaret (says Cornelius a Lapide) means "a fertile garden." There was a city originally called "Chinnereth" or "Cinneroth," mentioned in Joshua 19:25, which probably gave one of its names to this lake.
And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,
Verses 54-56. - Straightaway the people knew him. Some, no doubt, had known him before, he was now the general object of interest and attraction wherever he went. They began to carry about on their beds (ἐπὶ τοῖς κραββάτοις) those that were sick, where they heard he was. The original is very expressive (ὅπου ἤκουον ὅτι ἐκεῖ ἐστι where they heard, He is there. But the best authorities omit ἐκεῖ. Villages, or cities, or fields (Greek, ἀγρούς); literally, country, where the pursuits of agriculture would be going on. They laid the sick in the streets (Greek, ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς) - literally, market-places; the proper rendering - that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment. The border (κράσπεδον) means the" fringe" or "hem;" the garment was the outer robe worn over the tunic. And as many as touched him were made whole (ὅσοι α}ν ἤψαντο αὐτοῦ ἐσώζοντο); ΧΧΧ might mean either "him" or "it," that is, "the border of his garment." But the difference is of little importance; for it was faith in those who touched which brought the healing virtue to the sick, whether they touched the Saviour himself or only his clothes.

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 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.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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