Mark 6:45-56

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 12, 2004


Jesus had sent His disciples out in pairs on their first missionary preaching tour without Jesus.  They went through the towns preaching that people should repent.  They also cast out demons, and healed people. While they were out on their journey, King Herod had John the Baptist put to death.  We think this might have brought an early end to the apostles’ mission trip.

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus about all they had done and Jesus decided they all needed a break, so they headed off in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to get away from the crowds.  But instead of getting away from the crowds, the crowds followed them.  Then Jesus and the apostles landed on the other side, the crowds were waiting for them.  Jesus had compassion on the crowds and began to teach them.  As they day was coming to a close, the disciples began asking Jesus to send the people away to get their own food, but Jesus asked the disciples to feed the people.  They were clueless how to do that.  Jesus ended up taking a little boy’s lunch of bread and fish, and multiplying it to feed the five thousand.

The feeding of the five thousand took place around 3:00 p.m.

:45  …he constrained his disciples to get into the ship…unto Bethsaida

he constrainedanagkazo – to necessitate, compel, drive to by force. What is about to happen to the disciples happens very purposefully.  Jesus knows what He’s doing.

I would imagine that the disciples would wonder what Jesus was going to do without them.  Who was going to keep the crowds from overwhelming Jesus?

John tells us a little more about Jesus sending the people away:

(John 6:15 KJV)  When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

The people were talking about overthrowing the Roman rule and having Jesus become their king.  But Jesus didn’t come to be an earthly king.  He came in order to die on a cross and pay for our sins.

:47 And when even was come…

evenopsios – late; evening; it’s about six o’clock p.m. He won’t be coming to the fellows on the boat out at sea until about 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

: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.

toilingbasanizo – to test (metals) by rubbing them against the black “touchstone”.  To question by applying torture; to torment; be distressed.  The guys were not having a fun time in the boat.

windanemos – a very strong tempestuous wind, though not the strongest of winds.

watchphulake – The Romans were the ones to divide the night time into four watches.  The fourth watch took place between three and six o’clock in the morning.

John tells us how far they had gone when Jesus showed up:

(John 6:19 NLT)  They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified,

They’ve been rowing for about nine hours against the wind.  They’re about two thirds of the way home.

walking on the sea – the language indicates that Jesus’ sandals were actually touching the water, walking on it like on pavement.

wouldthelo – to will, have in mind, intend; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish; to love; to like to do a thing

Why is it that Jesus seems to want to pass them by?

Yet if Jesus wanted to really avoid the disciples, why did He walk close enough for them to see Him?

And why didn’t Jesus just speak to the wind and stop it from up on the mountain?  He had already demonstrated that He could do this (Mark 4:39).

Perhaps He wanted to give them an opportunity to ask Him for help.

Jesus has been teaching the disciples about how much they need Him.  He’s been teaching them that they need to come to Him with their problems.  We saw last week how He “tested” them with the feeding of the five thousand, testing to see how they would handle the problem.  Would they come to Him for help?

:49 they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:

a spiritphantasma – an appearance; an apparition, spectre; “ghost”.  Both Matthew and Mark record the disciples using this same word to describe what they saw.

The disciples don’t use the regular word for “spirit” (pneuma) which could be used to describe the “spirit” of a dead person, they don’t use the word for angel (aggelos), and they don’t use the word for demon (daimonion).  The word they use is one usually associated with magic, charms, or Satanic practices.

cried outanakrazo – a shriek of terror, a scream

It’s interesting that something that seems so “spooky” turns out to be Jesus.

: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.

all – it wasn’t just the hallucination of one or two.  All twelve saw Him walking on the water.

troubledtarasso – to agitate, to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread; to render anxious or distressed

Be of good cheertharseo – “have courage”; “have confidence”

it is Iego eimi – We could translate this “It is I and nobody else”.  These are also the same words found in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14 where God describes Himself to Moses saying, “I AM that I AM”.  These same words are also used throughout the gospel of John as the equivalent to the Hebrew name of God, Yahweh, or, “the I AM” (John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24; 8:28; 8:58;

It’s a pretty powerful phrase, coming from Jesus.  When the soldiers showed up in the Garden to arrest Him (John 18:4-6) and they asked for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus replied to them ego eimi, and they all fell over backward.

This is one of the things Jesus says to give the men courage.

His presence gives courage.

be not afraidphobeo – literally, “stop being afraid”.  The fellows were terrified with what they’ve just been through.

Matthew records another detail that takes place here that Mark’s account leaves out:

(Mat 14:28-31 KJV)  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. {29} And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. {30} But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. {31} And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Since we believe that Mark’s gospel is Peter’s account of things, it’s interesting to note that Peter leaves it out of the story.  Some have suggested that Peter may not have been too fond of this “failure”, but if I were Peter, I wouldn’t mind letting the world know that I at least took a few steps on the water with Jesus.

:51 …the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves …

ceasedkopazo – to grow weary or tired; to cease from violence, cease raging. It’s an interesting word, considering how tired the disciples must have been rowing all night.  But it was the wind that got “tired out”.

The disciples were so amazed you wouldn’t believe it!

Matthew records:

(Mat 14:33 KJV)  Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

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

consideredsuniemi – to set or join together in the mind. They hadn’t “connected the dots” between the feeding of the five thousand with their storm at sea.

was hardenedporoo – to cover with a thick skin, to harden by covering with a callus; to make the heart dull; to grow hard.  Perfect tense – this is something that has happened in the past but the effects continue on to the present.


Hard hearts

I get the idea that the disciples shouldn’t have been so surprised at Jesus walking on the water.  They had just seen Jesus feed five thousand people with a few loaves and fish.
What hardens a person’s heart?
1.  Saying “no” to God.
Pharoah’s heart was hardened by continually saying “no” to God (Ex. 4-14).

Moses would ask Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  Pharaoh would say “no”.  God would perform a miracle or “plague”, and for a moment Pharaoh would consider letting the people go, but then he would again harden his heart and say “no”.  He kept saying “no” and hardening his heart until it got to the point where God joined in and even helped Pharaoh harden his own heart.

Each time you say “no” to God, your heart gets a little harder.
2.  Getting used to miracles.
When the nation of Israel got into the wilderness, they too hardened their hearts:
(Heb 3:7-14 KJV)  Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, {8} Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

The writer is giving us a commentary on Psalm 95, which he is quoting.  The day of “provocation” and “temptation” (or better, “Meribah” and “Massah”), were two incidents where the people grumbled and complained about life in the wilderness even though they knew from experience that God was able to take care of them.

{9} When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

They had seen what God could do.  They had seen the plagues of Egypt.  They had seen the parting of the Red Sea.  They had been fed with manna in the wilderness. They really had no excuse not to trust Him.

{10} Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. {11} So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) {12} Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. {13} But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. {14} For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
3.  Sin.
Hebrews tells us that our hearts can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  There is pleasure in sin for a season and sometimes we are a bit reluctant to turn away from our sin because it’s so fun … for awhile.  And our hearts grow hard against God.
One of the things we can do to guard ourselves against a hard heart is to have people in our lives who will “exhort”, “encourage” us, or simply call us on the carpet.
4.  Lack of compassion
But what about the disciples?  What hardened their heart?
I’m not sure that they were simply getting “too used to” miracles.  It seems that they were pretty surprised by this and every miracle.  In fact they were perhaps a little too surprised at this miracle.
Some musings …

Remember that they had gone on this trip because they were all tired and needed to get away.  And yet even when the people all showed up, Jesus didn’t fail to have compassion on the multitudes.  The disciples wanted to send the people away, but Jesus fed them instead – the “miracle of the loaves” – the thing they had not “considered” (vs. 52).

I wonder if the “miracle of the loaves” isn’t as much of a picture of Jesus’ tireless compassion as it is of His amazing power.

I wonder if some of this heart hardening doesn’t have to do with the disciples’ lack of compassion on the people and because their hearts may have grown cold towards the people, their heart toward God also grew cold.

I wonder if the disciples were a bit bummed that Jesus seemed to be able to have compassion on the five thousand by feeding them, but then He sent the disciples out to face a storm all by themselves.

If this is Peter’s recollection of things –

Remember that he doesn’t mention his own attempt at walking on the water.  And even though we like to applaud Peter for even getting out of the boat, Jesus did gently rebuke Peter for his lack of faith (Mat. 14:31).  Could his lack of faith have something to do with this “hard heart”?

John tells us that there’s a link between our love for God and our love for others:
(1 John 4:20-21 KJV)  If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? {21} And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

A lack of compassion on others brings a lack of passion towards God.

:55 began to carry about in beds those that were sick

It makes me think of the four men who lowered their friend down through Peter’s roof to have Jesus heal him (Mark 2:4).

:56 … that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment

It makes me think of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, who grasped the hem of Jesus’ garment (Mark 5:34).

Why do you think it is that people were bringing their sick friends on their beds and why were people asking to be able to grab a hold of the hem of Jesus’ garment?

I would imagine it was because they had heard the story about these other people who had been healed.


Tell your story

There are people who need to hear what God has done in your life.
Then they can learn to go to Jesus like you’ve done.
You may not think you’ve got the most interesting of stories, but there are people who need to hear it.
Listen to others as they tell their story as well.
If you’re ever looking for some excitement in your life, just sit down with a person and ask them to tell you “their story”.
God doesn’t necessarily want to heal people in some sort of cookie-cutter, formula sort of way.  Each person’s story may be different.  How God worked in your life may not be how God will want to work in another person’s life.
But sometimes just hearing how God has worked can sure build your faith and encourage you to trust Him as well.
Home Fellowships – what we’ve been learning about each other, listening to each other tell their “story”.