Theophylact: See now, how those who are disciples of Christ grow in love to man, for they pity the multitudes, and come to Christ to intercede for them. But the Lord tried them, to see whether they would know that His power was great enough to feed them. Wherefore it goes on: “He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat.”
Bede: By these words He calls on His Apostles, to break bread for the people, that they might be able to testify that they had no bread, and thus the greatness of the miracle might become more known.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 46: This in the Gospel of John is the answer to Philip, but Mark gives it as the answer of the disciples, wishing it to be understood that Philip made this answer as a mouthpiece of the others; although he might put the plural number for the singular, as is usual.
It goes on: “And He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see.” The other Evangelists pass over this being done by the Lord. It goes on: “And when they knew, they say, “Five, and two fishes.”
This, which was suggested by Andrew, as we learn from John, the other Evangelists, using the plural for the singular, have put into the mouth of the disciples.
But we need not be perplexed, though Luke says that they were ordered to sit down by fifties, and Mark by hundreds and fifties, for one has mentioned a part, the other the whole. Mark, who mentions the hundreds, fills up what the other has left out.
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., see Hom. in Matt., 49: Now it was with fitness that He looked up to heaven, for the Jews, when receiving manna in the desert, presumed to say of God, “Can he give bread?” [Psa_78:20] To prevent this, therefore, before He performed the miracle, He referred to His Father when He was about to do.
Theophylact: He also looks up to heaven, that He may teach us to seek our food from God, and not from the devil, as they do who unjustly feed on other men’s labours. By this also He intimated to the crowd, that He could not be opposed to God, since He called upon God. And He gives the bread to His disciples to set before the multitude, that by handling the bread, they might see that it was an undoubted miracle. It goes on: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments.”
Twelve baskets of fragments remained over and above, that each of the Apostles, carrying a basket on his shoulder, might recognise the unspeakable wonder of the miracle. For it was a proof of overflowing power not only to feed so many men, but also to leave such a superabundance of fragments. Even though Moses gave manna, yet what was given to each was measured by his necessity, and what was over and above was overrun with worms. Elias also fed the woman, but gave her just what was enough for her; but Jesus, being the Lord, makes His gifts with superabundant profusion.
Bede: Again, in a mystical sense, the Saviour refreshes the hungry crowds at the day’s decline, because, either now that the end of the world approaches, or now that the Son of justice has set in death for us, we are saved from wasting away in spiritual hunger. He calls the Apostles to Him at the breaking of bread, intimating that daily by them our hungry souls are fed, that is, by their letters and examples. By the five loaves are figured the Five Books of Moses, by the two fishes, the Psalms and Prophets.
The disciples had now lost their object, and they see that Christ is again absorbed in teaching, while the multitudes are so eager to receive instruction that they do not think of retiring. They therefore advise that for the sake of attending to their bodily wants, Christ should send them away into the neighboring villages.He had purposely delayed till now the miracle which he intended to perform; first, that his disciples might consider it more attentively, and might thus derive from it greater advantage; and next, that the very circumstance of the time might convince them that, though he does not prevent, and even does not immediately supply, the wants of his people, yet he never ceases to care for them, but has always at hand the assistance which he affords at the very time when it is required.
15-21, and shall again meet with it Joh_6:1-14. John relates it with some more particular circumstances, telling us it was Philip that moved our Saviour to dismiss them so seasonably, that they might provide themselves food, and making Christ to propound the questions to Philip, where they should buy bread enough for them. He also tells us that it was Andrew who told our Saviour that there was a lad there had five barley loaves and two fishes. But all three of the evangelists agree in the main, both as to the quantity of victuals, five loaves and two fishes; and the quantity of the people fed with them, five thousand; and the number of the baskets full of fragments taken up, which was twelve. John also addeth the effect of this miracle upon the multitude, Joh_6:14; they said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. For further explication of this piece of history,
The disciples of Christ are solicitous for the people’s temporal as well a spiritual welfare: and he is not worthy to be called a minister of Christ, who dues not endeavor to promote both to the uttermost of his power. The preaching of Christ must have been accompanied with uncommon power to these people’s souls, to have induced them to leave their homes to follow him from village to village, for they could never hear enough; and to neglect to make use of any means for the support of their lives, so that they might still have the privilege of hearing him. When a soul is either well replenished with the bread of life, or hungry after it, the necessities of the body are, for the time, little regarded.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
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 (Joh_6:5, Joh_6:6) 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.
Ver. 35-44. We meet with the relation of this miracle Mat_14:Give you to them something to eat.As a fuller exposition of this miracle will be found at the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, instead of troubling my readers with a repetition of what I have said, I would rather send them to that exposition; but rather than pass over this passage entirely, I shall offer a brief recapitulation. Hitherto Christ had bestowed his whole attention on feeding souls, but now he includes within his duties as a shepherd the care even of their bodies. And in this way he confirms his own saying, that to those who seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, all other things will be added, (Mat_6:33.)
We have no right, indeed, to expect that Christ will always follow this method of supplying the hungry and thirsty with food; but it is certain that he will never permit his own people to want the necessaries of life, but will stretch out his hand from heaven, whenever he shall see it to be necessary to relieve their necessities. Those who wish to have Christ for their provider, must first learn not to long for refined luxuries, but to be satisfied with barley-bread.
Christ commanded that the people should sit down in companies; and he did so, first, that by this arrangement of the ranks the miracle might be more manifest; secondly, that the number of the men might be more easily ascertained, and that, while they looked at each other, they might in their turn bear testimony to this heavenly favor. Thirdly, perceiving that his disciples were anxious, he intended to make trial of their obedience by giving them an injunction which at first sight appeared to be absurd; for, as no provisions were at hand, there was reason to wonder why Christ was making arrangements that resembled a feast. To the same purpose is what follows, that he gave them the loaves, in order that in their hands the astonishing increase might take place, and that they might thus be the ministers of Christ’s divine power; for as if it had been of small importance that they should be eye-witnesses, Christ determined that his power should be handled by them. Two hundred pence, according to the computation of Budaeus, are worth about thirty-four French livres;and so when the disciples speak of what is sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little,they calculate at the rate of a farthing for each individual. Forming so high an estimate of the sum of money that would be required to purchase bread barely sufficient for procuring a morsel to the people, they are entitled to no small praise for their obedience, when they implicitly comply with the command of Christ, and leave the result to his disposal.
Mar 6:37 He answered and said unto them, give ye them to eat,…. This he said to try their faith, and make way for the following miracle:
and they say unto him, shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? This might be just the sum of money they now had in the bag, as Grotius, and others conjecture; and the sense be, shall we lay out the two hundred pence, which is all we have in hand, to buy bread for this multitude? is it proper we should? is it thy will that so it should be? and if we should do so, as Philip suggests, Joh_6:7, it would not be enough to give every one a little: wherefore they say this, as amazed that he should propose such a thing unto them: or the reason of mentioning such a sum, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, might be, because that this was a noted and celebrated sum among the Jews, and frequently mentioned by them. A virgin’s dowry, upon marriage, was “two hundred pence” (c); and so was a widow’s; and one that was divorced (d), if she insisted on it, and could make good her claim: this was the fine of an adult man, that lay with one under age; and of a male under age, that lay with a female adult (e); and of one man that gave another a slap of the face (f). This sum answered to six pounds and five shillings of our money.
(c) Misn. Cetubot, c. 1. sect. 2. & 4. 7. & 5. 1. (d) Ib. c. 2. sect. 1. & 11. 4. (e) Ib. c. 1. sect. 3. (f) Misn. Bava Kama, c. 6. sect. 8.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes — 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 fishes: but what are they among so many?” (Joh_6:8, Joh_6:9). 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” (Mat_14:18).
Mar 6:40 They sat down in ranks – The word properly signifies a parterre or bed in a garden; by a metaphor, a company of men ranged in order, by hundreds and by fifties – That is, fifty in rank, and a hundred in file. So a hundred multiplied by fifty, make just five thousand.
In ranks – Literally, in the form of square beds in a garden. By regularly formed companies.
By hundreds and by fifties – Some companies had a hundred in them, and some groupings had fifty in them. We do not need to suppose that these were “exactly” formed or arranged, but that this was approximately the number. The expression indicates a “multitude.” There were so many that they sat down, by “hundreds” and by “fifties,” in separate companies, upon the green grass.
They sat down in ranks (anepesan prasiai prasiai). They half-way reclined (anaklithenai, Mar_6:39). Fell up here (we have to say fell down), the word anepesan means. But they were arranged in groups by hundreds and by fifties and they looked like garden beds with their many-coloured clothes which even men wore in the Orient. Then again Mark repeats the word, prasiai prasiai, in the nominative absolute as in Mar_6:39 instead of using ana or kata with the accusative for the idea of distribution. Garden beds, garden beds. Peter saw and he never forgot the picture and so Mark caught it. There was colour as well as order in the grouping. There were orderly walks between the rows on rows of men reclining on the green grass. The grass is not green in Palestine much of the year, mainly at the passover time. So here the Synoptic Gospels have an indication of more than a one-year ministry of Jesus (Gould). It is still one year before the last passover when Jesus was crucified.
He blessed. In this passage, as in many others, blessing denotes thanksgiving. Now Christ has taught us, by his example, that we cannot partake of our food with holiness and purity, unless we express our gratitude to God, from whose hand it comes to us. Accordingly, Paul tells us, that every kind of food which God bestows upon us is sanctifed by the word of God and prayer, (1Ti_4:5;) by which he means, that brutal men, who do not regard by faith the blessing of God, and do not offer to him thanksgiving, corrupt and pollute by the filth of their unbelief all that is by nature pure; and, on the other hand, that they are corrupted and defiled by the food which they swallow, because to unbelievers nothing is clean. Christ has therefore laid down for his followers the proper manner of taking food, that they may not profane their own persons and the gifts of God by wicked sacrilege.
Raising his eyes towards heaven.This expresses warm and earnest supplication. Not that such an attitude is at all times necessary when we pray, but because the Son of God did not choose to disregard the outward forms which are fitted to aid human weakness. It ought also to be taken into account, that to raise the eyes upwards is an excitement well fitted to arouse us from sloth, when our minds are too strongly fixed on the earth.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven — Thus would the most distant of them see distinctly what He was doing.
and blessed — John (Joh_6:11) says, “And when he had given thanks.” The sense is the same. This thanksgiving for the meal, 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.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes — “Therefore (says Joh_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” in all the four narratives was part 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 Mar_8:19, Mar_8:20.)
Broken pieces (ton klasmaton). Not the scraps upon the ground, but the pieces broken by Jesus and still in the “twelve baskets” (dodeka kophinous) and not eaten. Each of the twelve had a basketful left over (to perisseuon). One hopes that the boy (Joh_6:9) who had the five loaves and two fishes to start with got one of the basketsful, if not all of them. Each of the Gospels uses the same word here for baskets (kophinos), a wicker-basket, called “coffins” by Wycliff. Juvenal (Sat. iii. 14) says that the grove of Numa near the Capenian gate of Rome was “let out to Jews whose furniture is a basket (cophinus) and some hay” (for a bed). In the feeding of the Four Thousand (Matthew and Mark) the word sphuris is used which was a sort of hamper or large provisions basket.
Men (andres). Men as different from women as in Mat_14:21. This remarkable miracle is recorded by all Four Gospels, a nature miracle that only God can work. No talk about accelerating natural processes will explain this miracle. And three eyewitnesses report it: the Logia of Matthew, the eyes of Peter in Mark, the witness of John the Beloved Disciple (Gould). The evidence is overwhelming.
Were about five thousand – ωσει, about, is omitted by a great majority of the best MSS. and by the principal versions. It is wanting in several editions: Bengel, Wetstein, and Griesbach, leave it out of the text. It is omitted by some in the parallel place, Mat_14:21, but it stands without any variation in Luk_9:14, and Joh_6:10. This miracle is mentioned by all the four evangelists. It is one of the most astonishing that Christ has wrought. It is a miracle which could not be counterfeited, and a full proof of the divinity of Christ.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 27: But it is with reason that we wonder how Mark says, that after the miracle of the loaves the disciples crossed the sea of Bethsaida, when Luke relates that the miracle was done in the parts of Bethsaida [Luk_9:10], unless we understand that Luke means by the desert which is Bethsaida not the country immediately around the town, but the desert places belonging to it. But when Mark says that they should “go before unto Bethsaida,” the town itself is meant.It goes on: “And when He had sent them away, He departed into a mountain to pray.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: This we must understand of Christ, in that He is man; He does it also to teach us to be constant in prayer.
Theophylact: But when He had dismissed the crowd, He goes up to pray, for prayer requires rest and silence.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 28: Not every man, however, who prays goes up into a mountain, but he alone prays well, who seeks God in prayer. But he who prays for riches or worldly labour, or for the death of his enemy, sends up from the lowest depths his vile prayers to God.
John says, “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force and make Him a king, He departed against into a mountain Himself, alone.” [Joh_6:15] It goes on: “And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land.”
Theophylact: Now the Lord permitted His disciples to be in danger, that they might learn patience; wherefore He did not immediately come to their aid, but allowed them to remain in danger all night, that He might teach them to wait patiently, and not to hope at once for help in tribulations.
For there follows: “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.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Holy Scripture reckons four watches in the night, making each division three hours; wherefore by the fourth watch it means that which is after the ninth hour, that is, in the tenth or some following hour. There follows: “And would have passed them.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 47: But how could they understand this, except from His going a different way, wishing to pass them as strangers; for they were so far from recognizing Him, as to take Him for a spirit. For it goes on: “But when they saw Him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out.”
Theophylact: See again how Christ, though He was about to put and end to their dangers, puts them in greater fear. But He immediately reassured them by His voice, for it continues, “And immediately He talked with them, and said unto them, It is I, be not afraid.”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 50: As soon then as they knew Him by His voice, their fear left them.
Augustine: How then could He wish to pass them, whose fears He so reassures, if it were not that His wish to pass them would wring from them that cry, which called for His help?
Bede: [ed. note: This opinion with which Theodorus is charged was one held by the Phantasiasts, a sect of the Monophysites. The denial of the human body to our Lord, was a natural consequence of denying Him a human soul, for how could a human body inclose, so to speak, His Divinity? Theodoras was Bishop of Pharan, in Arabia, and was condemned as the author of the Monothelite heresy in the Lateran Council under Pope Martin I, AD 649. The passage from Dionysius is quoted in Actio 3 of the Council, and occurs de Div. Nom, c. 1] But Theodorus, who was Bishop of Phanara, wrote that the Lord had no bodily weight in His flesh, and walked on the sea without weight; but the Catholic faith declares that He had weight according to the flesh. For Dionysius says, We know not how without plunging in His feet, which had bodily weight and the gravity of matter, He could walk on the wet and unstable substance.
Theophylact: Then by entering into the ship, the Lord restrained the tempest. For it continues, “And He went up unto them into the ship, and the wind ceased.” Great indeed is the miracle of our Lord’s walking on the sea, but the tempest and the contrary wind were there as well, to make the miracle greater. For the Apostles, not understanding from the miracle of the five loaves the power of Christ, now more fully knew it from the miracle of the sea. Wherefore it goes on, “And they were sore amazed in themselves.” For they understood not concerning the loaves.
Bede: The disciples indeed, who were still carnal, were amazed at the greatness of His virtue, they could not yet however recognise in Him the truth of the Divine Majesty. Wherefore it goes on, “For their hearts were hardened.”
But mystically, the toil of the disciples in rowing, and the contrary wind, mark out the labours of the Holy Church, who amidst the beating waves of the world, and the blasts of unclean spirits, strives to reach the repose of her celestial country. And well is it said that the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on land, for sometimes the Church is afflicted by a pressure from the Gentiles so overwhelming, that her Redeemer seems to have entirely deserted her. But the Lord sees His own, toiling on the sea, for, lest they faint in tribulations, He strengthens them by the look of His love, and sometimes frees them by a visible assistance. Further, in the fourth watch He came to them as daylight approached, for when man lifts up his mind to the light of guidance from on high, the Lord will be with him, and the dangers of temptations will be laid asleep.
And immediately Jesus constrained his disciples They must have been constrained; for they would never, of their own accord, have left him, and gone to the other side. Now in this they testify their great veneration for him, when, contrary to their own opinions, they yield to his command and obey it. And, indeed, it had an appearance of absurdity, that he should remain alone in a desert place, when night was approaching. But so much the greater commendation is due to the submissiveness of those who set a higher value on the authority of their heavenly teacher than on all that could be pleaded on the other side. And, indeed, we do not truly and perfectly obey God, unless we implicitly follow whatever he commands, though our feelings may be opposed to it. There is always the best reason, no doubt, for every thing that God does; but he often conceals it from us for a time, in order to instruct us not to be wise in ourselves, but to depend entirely on the expression of his will. And thus Christ constrained his disciples to cross over, in order to train them to that rule of obedience which I have mentioned; though there cannot be a doubt that he intended to prepare the way for the miracle which will immediately come under our consideration.
To the other side before unto Bethsaida – John says, Joh_6:17, to Capernaum. It is probable our Lord ordered them to steer to one or other of these two places, which were about four miles distant, and on the same side of the sea of Galilee.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
One very important particular given by John alone (Joh_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.”
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 (Joh_12:21). John (Joh_6:17) says they “went over the sea towards Capernaum” – the wind, probably, occasioning this slight deviation from the direction of Bethsaida.
while he sent away the people — “the multitude.” His object in this was to put an end to the misdirected excitement in His favor (Joh_6:15), into which the disciples themselves may have been somewhat drawn. The word “constrained” implies reluctance on their part, perhaps from unwillingness to part with their Master and embark at night, leaving Him alone on the mountain.
And straightway Jesus constrained … – See Mar_6:45-56; Joh_6:15-21. The word “straightway” means immediately; that is, as soon as the fragments were gathered up. To “constrain” usually means to compel. It here means to command. There was no need of compulsion. They were at this time on the east side of the Lake of Gennesareth. He directed them to get into a ship and cross over to the other side; that is, to Capernaum. Mark adds that he sent them to Bethsaida Mar_6:45. Bethsaida was situated at the place where the Jordan empties into the lake on the east side of the river. Compare the notes at Mat_11:21. It is probable that he directed them to go in a ship or boat to Bethsaida, and remain there till he should dismiss the people, and that he would meet them there, and with them cross the lake.
The effect of the miracle on the multitude was so great Joh_6:14 that they believed him to be that prophet which should come into the world; that is, the Messiah, the king that they had expected, and they were about to take him by force and make him a king, Joh_6:15. To avoid this, Jesus got away from them as privately as possible. He went into a solitary mountain alone. In view of the temptation – when human honors were offered to him and almost forced upon him – he retired for private prayer; an example for all who are tempted with human honors and applause. Nothing is better to keep the mind humble and unambitious than to seek some lonely place; to shut out the world with all its honors; to realize that the great God, before whom all creatures and all honors sink to nothing, is round about us; and to ask him to keep us from pride and vainglory.
Constrained (enagkasen). Literally, “compelled” or “forced.” See this word also in Luk_14:23. The explanation for this strong word in Mar_6:45 and Mat_14:22 is given in Joh_6:15. It is the excited purpose of the crowd to take Jesus by force and to make him national king. This would be political revolution and would defeat all the plans of Jesus about his kingdom. Things have reached a climax. The disciples were evidently swept off their feet by the mob psychology for they still shared the Pharisaic hope of a political kingdom. With the disciples out of the way Jesus could handle the crowd more easily, till he should send the multitudes away (heos hou apolusei tous ochlous).
He went up into a mountain alone.It is probable that the Son of God, who was fully aware of the tempest that was coming on, did not neglect the safety of his disciples in his prayers; and yet we naturally wonder that he did not rather prevent the danger than employ himself in prayer. But in discharging all the parts of his office as Mediator, he showed himself to be God and man, and exhibited proofs of both natures, as opportunities occurred. Though he had all things at his disposal, he showed himself to be a man by praying; and this he did not hypocritically, but manifested sincere and human affection towards us. In this manner his divine majesty was for a time concealed, but was afterwards displayed at the proper time.
In going up into the mountain he consulted his convenience, that he might have more leisure for praying when removed from all noise. We know how easily the slightest interruptions destroy the ardor of prayer, or at least make it languish and cool. Though Christ was in no danger of this fault, yet he intended to warn us by his example, that we ought to be exceedingly careful to avail ourselves of every assistance for setting our minds free from all the snares of the world, that we may look direct towards heaven. Now in this respect solitude has a powerful influence, by disposing those who engage in prayer, when God is their only witness, to be more on their guard, to pour their heart into his bosom, to be more diligent in self-examination; and, in a word—remembering that they have to do with God—to rise above themselves. At the same time, it must be observed, that he did not lay down a fixed rule, as if we were never permitted to pray except in retirement; for Paul enjoins us to pray everywhere, lifting up clean hands, (1Ti_2:8;) and Christ himself sometimes prayed in presence of others, and even instructed his disciples to assemble together for offering social prayer. But that permission to pray in all places does not hinder them from engaging in secret prayer at proper seasons.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
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, for His heart was all with them: yet would He not go to their relief till 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 six P.M., would be three o’clock in the morning. “So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs” (Joh_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 draweth nigh unto the ship” (Joh_6:19).
and would have passed by them — but only in the sense of Luk_24:28; Gen_32:26; compare Gen_18:3, Gen_18:5; Gen_42:7.
Seeing them distressed in rowing (idon autous basanizomenous en toi elaunein). See also Mat_8:29 for the word basanizo, to torture, torment (Mat_4:24) with a touch-stone, then to distress as here. Papyri have dia basanon used on slaves like our third degree for criminals. Elaunein is literally to drive as of ships or chariots. They drove the boat with oars. Common in Xenophon for marching.
About the fourth watch of the night (peri tetarten phulaken tes nuktos). That is, between three and six a.m.
The wind was contrary to them (enantios autois), that is in their faces and rowing was difficult, “a great wind” (Joh_6:18), and as a result the disciples had made little progress. They should have been over long before this.
And he would have passed by them (kai ethelen parelthein autous). Only in Mark. He wished to pass by them, praeterire eos (Vulgate). Imperfect tense ethelen.
They thought (edoxan). A natural conclusion.
And cried out (anekraxan). Cried up, literally, a shriek of terror, or scream.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And he went up unto them into the ship — John (Joh_6:21) says, “Then they willingly received him into the ship” – 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 whither they went,” or “were bound.” This additional miracle, for as such it is manifestly related, is recorded by the fourth Evangelist alone. As the storm 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 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.
Matthew (Mat_14:33) says, “Then they that were in the ship came [that is, ere 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.
They were sore amazed in themselves (lian en heautois existanto). Only in Mark. Imperfect tense picturing vividly the excited disciples. Mark does not give the incident of Peter’s walking on the water and beginning to sink. Perhaps Peter was not fond of telling that story.
Mar 6:52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves,…. Which they had seen but the day before; they did not attend to it, nor learn from it, as they might, the wonderful glory of Christ, and the greatness of his power; which was as much an act of omnipotence, as either his walking upon the water, or causing the wind to cease, or more so.
For their heart was hardened; or “blinded”; not by sin, or against Christ, much less in a judicial way: but there was a great deal of dulness and stupidity, and want of attention in them. The glory of Christ, which he manifested, and showed forth in his miracles, was not so clearly and fully discerned, attended to, and acknowledged by them, at it might reasonably be thought it would; for notwithstanding these miracles, which they daily saw, they stood in need of divine illuminations, that the darkness of their minds being removed, they might behold the glory of Christ, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father.
They considered not the miracle of the loaves – They did not remember or call to mind the “power” which Jesus had shown in feeding the five thousand by a miracle, and that, having done that, he had power also to save them from the storm.
Their heart was hardened – Their “mind” was dull to perceive it. This does not mean that they were “opposed” to Jesus, or that they had what we denominate “hardness of heart,” but simply that they were slow to perceive his power. They did not quickly learn, as they ought to have done, that he had all power, and could therefore allay the storm. The word “heart” is frequently used in this sense. See Eph_1:18, in Greek; Rom_1:21; Rom_2:15; 2Co_4:6.
For they understood not (ou gar sunekan). Explanation of their excessive amazement, viz., their failure to grasp the full significance of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, a nature miracle. Here was another, Jesus walking on the water. Their reasoning process (kardia in the general sense for all the inner man) was hardened (en peporomene). See note on Mar_3:5 about porosis. Today some men have such intellectual hardness or denseness that they cannot believe that God can or would work miracles, least of all nature miracles.