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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

Mark 6

Introduction

In this chapter Mark tells of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (1-6); of Jesus’ sending forth the Twelve, whom He had already appointed, and instructing them of their mission (7-13); of the death of John the Baptist (14-29); of the feeding of the five thousand miraculously (30-44); of Jesus’ walking on the sea and stilling the tempest (45-52); of Jesus and His disciples’ preaching and healing in Gennesaret (53-56).

Verse 1

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

And he went out from thence, and came into his own country: Not only does Jesus leave the house of Jairus but also He leaves the area of Capernaum and comes to Nazareth. The word "country" is patrida and means "one’s native place, country, or city" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 312). Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He actually grew up in Nazareth, having lived there for about thirty years. Nazareth is located fifteen miles, or about one day’s journey, from Capernaum.

In coming to Nazareth, Jesus puts Himself to the severest of tests. He is coming home, and there are none who are more skeptical of His ministry than those who have known Him since His youth.

and his disciples follow him: Only three disciples are allowed to accompany Jesus to the house of Jairus, but all twelve will be valuable at Nazareth. Jesus may have had more than one motive for going to Nazareth at this time. It is possible this is another attempt to escape the crowd for some rest and quiet. He has earlier attempted to find a place of rest by going to the mountain (3:13) and to the eastern shore of Galilee (5:1). He naturally wants to visit His mother, sisters, and brothers. But this is obviously not just a social visit to Nazareth--Jesus comes as a Teacher, surrounded by His scholars.

Matthew records this event in chapter 13:54-58, and Luke records a similar event in Luke 4:16-31. There is no general agreement by commentators as to whether Luke records this same incident or a different one with similar events. Luke seems to place the event in the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. In view of the ingredients that make up this situation, it is not all that far-fetched to think it could have happened more than one time--once at the beginning of and now in the middle of Jesus’ ministry.

Verse 2

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?

And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: As usual, Jesus enters the synagogue on the sabbath. As noted in the comments on Mark 3:1, guest speakers are routinely invited to teach on such occasions. The ruler of the synagogue invites Jesus to speak, and Jesus seizes the opportunity.

and many hearing him were astonished: Vincent says of the word "astonished":

From ek, "out of" and plesso, "to strike." Often to drive one out of his senses by a sudden shock, and therefore here of amazement. They were astounded. We have a similar expression, though not so strong: "I was struck with this or that remarkable thing" (36).

They are astounded at the wisdom and insight Jesus displays in His doctrine. The word "many" indicates that most of the people who hear Him are impressed, but there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that would prevail in the end.

saying, From whence hath this man these things: The question is asked in a terse, stinging fashion. J.B. Phillips translates the phrase, "Where does he get all this?"

and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands: The question refers not only to the discourse Jesus has just given but also to the miraculous deeds they have heard about Him. There is no denying these two things, but they wonder about their source. The townspeople have known Jesus for thirty years, and they have never suspected He has such gifts. None of the other members of His family have demonstrated such powers in Nazareth, so what is the source of Jesus’ abilities?

Verse 3

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.

Is not this the carpenter: The word "carpenter" is from tekton and is defined as "an artisan; and specifically one who works in wood, a carpenter" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 400). The word was later applied to any artisan or craftsman in metal and stone as well as wood. Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho 88, speaks of the fact that Jesus made yokes and ploughs (Vol. I 244). Here Jesus is called a "carpenter"; and in Matthew 13:55, He is called "the son of the carpenter." The people of Nazareth know Jesus, His family, and His family’s trade; and they cannot reconcile all of that with what they are now seeing and hearing. It is as though the people are simply asking, "Who does He think he is?"

the son of Mary: Joseph is not even mentioned, possibly because he is dead at this time. It is also possible that Jesus is referred to as "the son of Mary" in derision. Traditionally, Jews referred to a man as the son of his father, even if the father were dead. A man was described as the son of his mother only in insulting terms (Judges 11:1 f). It is possible there are rumors circulating during His own lifetime that Jesus is an illegitimate child (John 8:41; John 9:29, etc.), and those rumors may have been responsible for His being referred to as "the son of Mary."

the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon: In addition to His parents, Joseph and Mary, Jesus has brothers and sisters. Four brothers are named. James, the first named, is to become a prominent leader in the early Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13-29; Acts 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12; James 1:1; Judges 1:1). Nothing further is known of Joses, who is mentioned next. Jude is also mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Judges 1:1. There is no further mention of Simon, who is named last.

and are not his sisters here with us: The sisters are not mentioned by name and are mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament except in Matthew’s parallel account. By this time they are probably married and living with their husbands in Nazareth.

This passage has been a problem for some religions through the years. The Catholic church, in an effort to protect the view of the "perpetual virginity" of Mary, has argued these are the cousins of Jesus, the sons and daughters of Mary’s sister. Others argue these are the children of Joseph by a previous marriage. There is no reason, however, to resist the obvious conclusion that these are the children of Joseph and Mary. The reality of the virgin birth of Jesus is in no way threatened by the fact that Mary gives birth to other children later. Paul refers to the brothers of Jesus in the plural in 1 Corinthians 9:5. Luke 2:7 refers to Jesus as the "first-born" son of Mary. Why call Him the "first-born" if Mary is to have no other children?

And they were offended at him: The word "offended" is skandalizo and means "to be offended in one, [find occasion of stumbling in], i. e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority" (Thayer 577). It is true that in many instances familiarity breeds contempt. The people of Nazareth are so well acquainted with Jesus and His family they cannot recognize His greatness. Their prejudice would not allow someone from among them to be exalted above themselves. Again, it is the attitude, "Who does this carpenter think he is anyway?" Even Jesus’ own brothers and sisters fail to believe on Him until after the resurrection (John 7:5; Acts 1:14).

Verse 4

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.

But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country: The word "prophet" is from the word prophetes and means primarily "a forth-teller, one who speaks out God’s message" (Wuest 121). The act of foretelling future events is only a part of the work of the prophet. It is important to note that here Jesus makes a definite claim to being a prophet. He is much more than a prophet, though, as He has already claimed to be the Messiah (John 4:26; Luke 4:21), the Son of Man with power of God (1:10; Matthew 9:6; Luke 5:24), and the Son of God (John 5:22).

The expression "without honour" is from atimo and means "unhonored, dishonored, base, of less esteem" (Thayer 83). Communities are reluctant to accord greatness to any of their own people because of natural jealousies, at least not quickly. Communities rarely recognize the greatness of their own people until they come back with the stamp of greatness from the "outer world" or until after they are dead.

and among his own kin, and in his own house: As mentioned earlier, Jesus’ own brothers and sisters do not believe in Him (John 7:3-5). Jesus is not saying that a prophet is respected everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family. There are other places where Jesus is not received. But, of the places where He is received, His hometown is not among them.

Verse 5

And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.

And he could there do no mighty work: This clause does not mean Jesus is powerless. He has the power to work miracles even if they do not believe. But for Him to have worked miracles in the face of their unbelief would have hardened their attitude toward Him.

save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them: Vincent says the word "sick" (arrostos) refers to "constitutional weakness" (105). "The people of Nazareth were so consistently unbelieving that they would not even bring their sick to Him to be healed" (Wuest 121-122). These are very minor cures that cannot be compared with the powerful miracles mentioned in chapter five.

Verse 6

And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

And he marvelled because of their unbelief: Jesus marvels at the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:10), but Nazareth provides the opposite reason for astonishment. He marvels at the depths of unbelief in the people who should have believed in Him the most.

And he went round about the villages, teaching: "The Greek has it: ’He went round about the villages in a circle.’ That is, He visited all the villages in the adjacent country encircling Nazareth" (Wuest 122). Not being received in Nazareth, His own city, Jesus follows the course He requires of His disciples. He goes to other places. Though His hometown rejects Him, He is not going to be deterred in His mission. Sadly, He leaves Nazareth forever.

The word "teaching" is didaskon. This teaching probably includes teaching in synagogues, houses, or by the roadside. After being rejected in Nazareth, Jesus resumes the role of a wandering preacher in Galilee. This is His third tour of Galilee.

Verse 7

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

And he called unto him the twelve: "The Twelve" are now a recognized body, who can be summoned as such at the discretion of the Lord. The Twelve begin to do what Jesus has intended for them to do since He initially chose them. Jesus has called His disciples to be fishers of men (1:16-20). Levi is added to the group in Mark 2:14. Then the Twelve are set apart with a specific promise in Mark 3:13-19. Now they are to be sent out on their initial assignment.

and began to send them forth by two and two: The phrase "send them forth" is apostello and means "to send forth as an ambassador on a commission to represent one and to perform some task. Our word ’apostle’ comes from this word" (Wuest 122). Mark is the only one of the synoptics who reports they are sent out "two-by-two." Why "two-by-two?" This is a practical arrangement that allows the workers to help and encourage each other. This arrangement also provides valid witnesses. The scriptures teach the importance of having testimony established before witnesses (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28).

and gave them power over unclean spirits: The verb "gave" is in the imperfect tense and means that Jesus continuously gave them power over unclean spirits all through their mission. "Power" is from exousia, meaning "delegated power" (Wuest 123). Matthew 10:1 says the disciples are also to "heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness." They are to preach and to heal (Matthew 10:7; Luke 9:1). Mark does not say they are to preach, but in verse 12 he does say they preached.

Verse 8

And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:

And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey: Jesus gives His disciples specific instructions concerning the amount of preparation they should make for this tour. They are to take nothing except what is absolutely necessary for the trip. The disciples would have to commit themselves totally to dependence on God for food and shelter.

save a staff only: "Staff" is from rabdos and means "a walking stick; or traveler’s staff" (Wuest 123). Matthew 10:9 and Luke 9:3 apparently exclude the disciples from taking a staff. This apparent discrepancy has caused problems for many commentators. Possibly Jesus means those who have a staff might use it, but those who do not have one are not to trouble themselves to procure one.

no scrip: "Scrip" is from peran and means "a wallet (a leathern sack, in which travellers and shepherds carried their provisions)" (Thayer 508).

no bread: They are not to take any provisions with them but are to rely on hospitality.

no money in their purse: "Money" is from chalkos and means "brass, coins of brass (also of silver and gold)" (Wuest 123). "Purse" is from zonen and refers to a girdle or belt used to hold in place long, flowing garments. Money is customarily tucked into the folds of the girdle (Thayer 274).

Verse 9

But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

But be shod with sandals: Robertson says:

Matthew 10:10 has "nor shoes," possibly preserving the distinction between "shoes" and "sandals" (worn by women in Greece and by men in the east, especially in travelling). But here again extra shoes may be the prohibition (Word Studies in the New Testament 309).

Hendricksen explains that "sandals consisted of flat soles, made sometimes of wood, often of leather, or even of matted grass. By means of straps the sandal was kept from falling off the foot" (228).

and not put on two coats: The word "coat" is from chitonas and means "a tunic, vest, the inner garment which fitted close to the body, having armholes, and sometimes sleeves, and reaching below the knees" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 436). Swete says two coats are a sign of comparative wealth (117). The mention of the word "two" here in all three gospels leads us to understand that the same thing applies to shoes and staff. The instructions from Jesus seem to prohibit the disciples from taking along extras. It is as though Jesus is saying, "Do not take along an extra tunic, staff, or extra sandals. The sandals you wear must be sufficient, and the staff in your hand is the only one allowed; and if you have no staff, do not buy one." Jesus directs His disciples not to take along extras or to provide themselves with what they could procure from the hospitality of others.

Verse 10

And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.

Jesus instructs the disciples to accept the hospitality offered them. If they are invited into a home, they are to stay in that home as long as they are in the village. If their accommodations are not to their liking, they are not to "shop around" for better provisions. Spreading the gospel is of much more importance than personal comfort, and the disciples are not to run the risk of unnecessarily offending the people they are attempting to teach.

Verse 11

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.

And whosoever shall not receive you: The word "receive" is from dechomai and means "to receive to hospitality" (Thayer 130). "To admit, grant access to, receive kindly, welcome" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 88).

nor hear you: This phrase means "refuse to listen to you."

when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them: When Jews travel through heathen territory, they always carefully remove the dust of that land from their feet and clothing before reentering Jewish territory. They are afraid they will be defiled by the heathen dust and be considered ceremonially unclean in their own country.

By shaking off the dust from their feet, Jesus’ disciples testify to those who will not receive them that they are to be considered as heathen and that the disciples have fulfilled their responsibility toward them and are free from their blood. The apostles follow this same practice on the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:51).

Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city: Several translations, such as the Revised Standard Version and the New English Bible, omit this phrase. Many authorities believe it was added here because of Matthew 10:15. Dorris quotes Lipscomb as saying:

Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed on account of their wickedness. God had proposed to Abraham that if ten righteous persons were found in Sodom he would spare it (Genesis 18:32). They were not found. God holds men responsible according to their opportunities to know his will. Those to whom these twelve apostles would preach would have more and better opportunities to know and do the truth than had been granted to the men of Sodom. If they refused to hear these, they would show more unwillingness to do the will of God than had Sodom and Gomorrah; so when God comes to judge the world they will stand less chance of justification before him than the people of Sodom would (147).

Verse 12

And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

The word "preached" is from kerusso and means "to make a public proclamation with such gravity, formality, and authority as must be heeded" (Wuest 124). The message of the disciples is that men should repent. Repent is from the word metanoeo and means "to change one’s mind." The New Testament meaning of the word, therefore, is "a change of mind regarding one’s previous sinful life and the determination to be done with it." This is the same message preached by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus (1:15).

Verse 13

And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

And they cast out many devils: The word "devils" is daimon and is correctly translated "demons." The disciples are given the same authority over demons that Jesus has demonstrated. They are not always successful, though, in casting out demons (9:18). They are powerless apart from the power of God and are successful only when they invoke the Master’s name through faith.

and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them: One distinction between the healing practices of Jesus and His disciples is that the disciples are to anoint the sick with oil. There is no record of Jesus’ ever using oil as He miraculously heals the sick. Hendriksen gives the following explanation of the use of oil:

In Biblical times oil of one kind or another (often olive oil) was used for many different purposes: as a cosmetic (Exodus 25:6; Ruth 3:3; Luke 7:46); as food, instead of butter (Numbers 11:8; Deuteronomy 7:13; Proverbs 21:17); as an illuminent (Exodus 25:6; Exodus 27:20; Matthew 25:3-4; Matthew 25:8); as a symbol of divine grace and power in consecrating a person for office (Leviticus 2:1 ff.; Numbers 4:9 ff.; Psalms 89:20); in connection with offerings (Ezekiel 45:14; Ezekiel 45:24; Ezekiel 46:4-7; Ezekiel 46:11; Ezekiel 46:14-15); and in connection with burial (14:3-8; John 12:3-8). That oil was also used as a physical remedy appears from Luke 10:34: the good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the man who had fallen into the hands of bandits. It is a fact that in the ancient world oil was used extensively as a remedy. Did not Galen, the great Greek doctor, say, "Oil is the best of all remedies for healing diseased bodies"? (231-232).

Are the disciples to use oil wholly as medicine? Is it to be used entirely in a ritualistic and ceremonial sense, or is it a combination of both--partially ritualistic and partially as a medicine? Because the cures immediately follow the anointings, it is probable the oil, as used by the apostles, is no more than a sign of healing power. The use of oil does serve to differentiate their miracles from those performed by the Master, though, as Jesus does not appear to have used any symbol for healing other than His own saliva or the laying on of hands. After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles and other disciples laid their hands upon the sick.

Verse 14

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

And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:): This Herod is called "the tetrarch" by Matthew (14:1) and Luke (9:7). Matthew also calls him "king" (14:9). The name "Herod" is not a personal name, but the family or surname. Unger says:

It belonged alike to all the Herodian house as known to the Scriptures. All the descendants of Herod the Great down to the fourth generation, who were identified with the government of Palestine and are mentioned in the New Testament, are known in history by the surname Herod; Herod Archaelaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip II, Herod Agrippa I, and Herod Agrippa II (470).

William Smith, citing Josephus as the best authority for the history of the Heriodian family, gives us this background information:

Various accounts are given of the ancestry of the Herods; but neglecting the exaggerated statements of friends and enemies, it seems certain that they were of Idumaean descent (Jos. Ant. xiv. 1,3), a fact which is indicated by the forms of some of the names which were retained in the family (Ewald, Geschichte, iv. 477, note). But though aliens by race, the Herods were Jews in faith. The Idumaeans had been conquered and brought over to Judaism by John Hyrcanus (B. C. 130, Jos. Ant. xiii. 9); and from the time of their conversion they remained constant to their religion, looking upon Jerusalem as their mother city and claiming for themselves the name of Jews (Vol. II 1049).

The Herod mentioned here by Mark is Herod Antipas (4 B.C.-A.D.39), son of Herod the Great by Malthace, a Samaritan. His father had originally planned to make him king, his own successor, but later changed his will to have Antipas appointed tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. A "tetrarch" properly means the sovereign or ruler of the fourth part of a territory. Mark, in calling Herod Antipas a king, is using the term in a very loose, popular sense. Mark is writing for the Roman world, and this title is applied freely to all eastern rulers. Technically, this man is not a king and is never going to become one. In fact, it is his obsession with becoming a king, which his wife Herodias ambitiously encouraged, that ultimately leads to his downfall and exile in A.D. 39.

Antipas is generally regarded as having been a sly, ambitious ruler, but not so able as his father. Of him, Jesus says, "Go ye and tell that fox, behold, I cast out devils" (Luke 13:32). Unger says "his administration was characterized throughout with cunning and crime, intensely selfish and utterly destitute of principle" (472).

Antipas is first married to the daughter of Aretas, the king of Arabia. Later he becomes infatuated with his niece Herodias, who at the time is the wife of his half-brother, Herod Phillip of Rome. He divorces his wife and marries Herodias. John the Baptist denounces this unholy alliance and is ultimately beheaded for his courageous stand. Subsequently, Aretas receives a measure of revenge for the way Antipas treated his daughter by defeating Antipas in a war.

Galilee lies in the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (Luke 23:7); and thus the preaching tour of Jesus’ disciples in that region brings Christ to his attention.

Why does it take so long for Herod Antipas to hear of Jesus? It seems the news of a man who could heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, calm the storms, and raise the dead would become rapidly known. There are several possibilities as to why it took so long for Herod to hear of Jesus. It is probable the Jews are reluctant to go near Herod’s capital in Tiberias because he has built this city on the site of an ancient cemetery. By this action Herod virtually excludes Jewish settlers, for residence in the city will render them perpetually unclean according to the law of Moses.

Swete adds:

(Herod Antipas) could regard with indifference the preaching of a local prophet, so long as it was limited to the Jewish lake-side towns; but when it was systematically carried into every part of the country, suspicion was aroused (119-120).

It is also entirely possible that Herod is staying at a palace he had built in Machaerus, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The fact Machaerus is so far removed from Galilee would explain the long delay in Herod’s receiving the news of Jesus.

and he said: Westscott and Hort, and Nestle’s texts state, "they said," instead of "he said." This has led some commentators to conclude it is not Herod himself who makes this statement, but that it is his court people. It seems logical, however, that the statement originates with the guilt-ridden Herod and then is taken up by his courtiers.

That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him: The last mention of John the Baptist by Mark is in chapter one, verse 14. Mark makes a brief note of John’s imprisonment, which marks the end of John’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’. Now, Mark gives us a parenthetical explanation of the arrest and execution of John. Although Mark makes no previous mention of it, the death of John is assumed at this point, and the main focus of Mark is upon the reaction of Herod to the news of Christ. Herod has had John executed, but he has not cleared his own conscience. Now, Herod is convinced Jesus is John the Baptist who has returned from the grave to haunt him.

Vincent adds this quote from Dr. Morison:

"A snatch of Herod’s theology and philosophy." He knew that John wrought no miracles when alive, but he thought that death had put him into connection with the unseen world, and enabled him to wield its powers (105).

Verse 15

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

Others said, That it is Elias: There are three popular opinions as to who Jesus is. As is mentioned above and later (8:28) when Jesus questions His own disciples at Caesarea Philippi, some think He is John the Baptist. Those who have this opinion do not know Jesus is a contemporary of John and John has baptized Jesus. Because Jesus does not begin His mission in Galilee until after John has been imprisoned, many people have the impression Jesus has succeeded John rather than His being John’s contemporary.

Others think Jesus is "Elias" (Elijah). Some think Elijah’s return as the forerunner of Jesus has been predicted by Malachi (4:5). (See comments on 1:2-3.)

And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets: A third group is not sure who Jesus is, but they are convinced He is one of the great Old Testament prophets.

Verse 16

But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.

But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: When Herod hears the various opinions about Jesus, he is convinced Jesus is John the Baptist, risen from the dead. The word "I" in the phrase, "whom I beheaded," is emphatic. It is as though Herod can still see the head of John on that platter coming toward him in his dreams. Herod recognizes he is guilty of a terrible misdeed by having John beheaded.

he is risen from the dead: Vincent says "The ’he,’ outos, is emphatic. This one. This very John" (105). Herod is positive that Jesus is John.

Verse 17

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

For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John: Mark now proceeds to give the gruesome details of the imprisonment and execution of John. Mark gives a much more detailed account of this episode than either Matthew or Luke. The expression "himself" emphasizes the fact that it is this Herod, and no one else, who arrests John.

bound him in prison: Josephus informs us that this prison is the fort of Machaerus and that it is there John is beheaded.

for Herodias’ sake: Herod Antipas’ action against John is done to appease his conniving wife Herodias.

his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her: Josephus states that Herodias’ first husband is Herod Philip, the son of Herod the Great and Mariamne II, and half-brother to Herod Antipas. Mark identifies this man as Philip. He is an uncle to Herodias. When this Herod Philip and Herodias are married, they have a daughter, who is referred to in verse 22 as the "daughter of Herodias" but whom Josephus identifies as Salome. He is not to be confused with the Philip of Luke 3:1, the ruler of Ituraea, who later marries Salome.

Herod Philip’s brother, Herod Antipas, becomes infatuated with Herodias. They both agree to separate from their present marriage partners and marry each other. John the Baptist speaks openly against this marriage, which breaks Jewish law (Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21). John’s rebuke is particularly offensive to Herodias since she is a Jew.

Verse 18

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

Dorris says:

John pointed out that the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias was contrary to the law of Moses. Adultery with a married woman has always been a higher crime than lewdness with an unmarried one. To take a brother’s wife or the wife of a near kinsman is worse than to take the wife of another (Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21) (152).

John not only rebukes Herod for this evil but "for all the evils which Herod had done" (Luke 3:19).

John gives us a wonderful example of moral courage--a courage that all faithful preachers should possess. Those who proclaim the message of Christ should not hesitate to admonish the great and powerful according to need. God is no respecter of persons, and His servants cannot be either.

Verse 19

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him: "Quarrel" is from enecho and means "to be enraged with, set one’s self against, hold a grudge against one." In modern language it is, "Had it in for him" (Wuest 128). Herodias’ fury against John is relentless. She is determined to dispose of him at any cost.

and would have killed him; but she could not: When Herodias sets herself against John, Herod feels compelled to act. But Herod shows some strength of character by not doing exactly what his wife has requested. She wants John put to death, but Herod is content to put him in prison.

Verse 20

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

For Herod feared John: Herod’s decision to preserve John’s life is based on his conviction that there is something special about John. Indeed, he has a continual, reverential fear of John.

knowing that he was a just man and an holy: Herod knows John to be righteous and holy and to be guilty of no wrong.

and observed him: The word "observed" is suntereo and literally means "kept him safe" (Vincent 105). Herod maintains a constant watch over John in order to keep him safe against the evil death plots of Herodias.

and when he heard him, he did many things: The phrase "he did many things" is from polla eporei and is better translated, "without a way."

The verb thus means "to be without resources, to be in straits, to be embarrassed, not to know which way to turn, to be perplexed." This was Herod’s state of mind when he heard John (Wuest 128).

and heard him gladly: This verb is in the imperfect tense, which means that Herod hears John on repeated occasions. When Herod can slip away from the clutches of Herodias, he is really glad to visit John in the prison at Machaerus and hear what he has to say. "These repeated interviews pleased Antipas at the time, bracing his jaded mind as with a whiff of desert (fresh) air" (Swete 124). But when Herod sees Herodias again, he is brought to his wit’s end as she continues her relentless demands. Herod is perplexed, not knowing which way to turn.

Verse 21

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

And when a convenient day was come: "Convenient" is translated from eukairos and means "a day well appointed for the purpose" (Robertson 312). It is convenient for Herodias’ purpose. She hopes, through wine, lust, and the concurrence of flatterers, to be able to manipulate the wavering mind of her husband.

that Herod on his birthday: Vincent says, "the custom of celebrating birthdays by festivities was not approved by the strict Jews; but it is claimed that the Herodian princes adopted the custom" (53). Herod’s birthday is the perfect opportunity for Herodias to settle her score with John the Baptist.

made a supper: The word "supper" means a festive banquet.

to his lords: There are three classes of guests invited to the birthday banquet. "Lords" is from megas and means "great ones." These are the high civil officials.

high captains: These are the military commanders of one thousand men.

and chief estates of Galilee: These are the first ones of Galilee or the most socially prominent.

Verse 22

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

And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in: It is the daughter of Herodias herself and not a professional dancer of loose morals.

and danced: Toward the end of the banquet, after Herod and his guests have drunk a lot of wine, Herodias sends her daughter to dance in the midst of the men. Gould says, "such dancing was an almost unprecedented thing for women of rank, or even respectability. It was mimetic and licentious, and performed by professionals" (113). Herodias stoops incredibly low to degrade her own daughter like a common harlot in order to carry out her set purpose against John.

and pleased Herod and them that sat with him: Herod and his guests are enchanted with the erotic dance of his probably half-naked stepdaughter. They look on with lascivious delight.

the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee: The drunken Herod has been caught in the web of Herodias. The word "ask" is in the aorist imperative and means "ask at once." In a publicly boastful manner, Herod impulsively tells the girl, "Ask for anything you wish, and I shall give it to you."

Verse 23

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

And he sware unto her: Herod puts himself under oath.

Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom: When Salome hesitates in answering Herod, he quickly repeats his offer, this time under oath. "Whatever you ask I shall give it to you--up to half of my kingdom." This statement is not be taken literally because Herod is not really a king and does not have a kingdom to divide. The statement is probably hyperbole, typical of a drunken man trying to impress a pretty girl and a group of guests. It is as though he is saying, "I shall give you whatever you want, regardless of the cost!"

Verse 24

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

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask: It is obvious Herodias does not dine with the men but remains in the women’s quarters. When Salome finishes her part, she leaves the banquet room, joins her mother, and eagerly asks, "What am I to ask for myself?"

And she said, The head of John the Baptist: Herodias’ carefully calculated plot is now revealed by her rapidly blunt response. She has waited for this moment and now savors its arrival.

Verse 25

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

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king: Salome quickly returns to Antipas while he is still under the spell of her dancing and before he can change his mind.

and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by: "By and by" is obsolete English for "immediately." Plummer explains, "Formerly, it meant ’instantly,’ and that is what Salome demands; now it means ’not instantly’" (167).

Swete points out that "this demand for the immediate delivery of the head seems to locate the banquet at Machaerus" where Herod the Great has built a large and splendid palace (126). Gould says, "Machaerus was a ridge a mile long, overlooking a deep ravine, at one end of which Herod had built a great palace, while at the other end was the citadel in which John was confined. It was situated at the southern end of Perea, and east of the northern end of the Dead Sea" (114).

in a charger the head of John the Baptist: "The Greek word is pinax ’a dish, plate, platter.’ The English word is obsolete. A charge is originally a burden. A charger is something loaded, hence, a dish" (Wuest 130). Salome makes it clear the head is to be cut off. She seems to assume her mother’s spirit for revenge immediately. "The grim detail ’on a platter’ seems to be her own, an expression of black humor inspired by the banquet yet in progress" (Lane 222). The execution must be committed right here and now so there can be no chance for John to escape and no chance for Herod to escape his own impulsive snare.

Verse 26

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

And the king was exceeding sorry: "Exceeding sorry" is from perilupos and is used in Mark only here and in chapter 14:34 where it describes the extreme agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. Herod’s grief is unquestionably real. He has always admired John. Barclay offers this insight as to why Herod is conscience-sticken about executing John:

He was an odd mixture. At one and the same time he feared John and respected him. At one and the same time he dreaded John’s tongue and yet found pleasure in listening to him. There is nothing in this world so queer a mixture as a human being. It is man’s characteristic that he is a mixture. Boswell, in his London Diary, tells us how he sat in church enjoying the worship of God and yet at the same time was planning how to pick up a prostitute in the streets of London the same night...Herod could fear John and love him, could hate his message and yet not be able to free himself from its insistent fascination (152-153).

yet for his oath’s sake: Herod is unfaithful to God, to his conscience, to truth and righteousness; yet he is going to be faithful to a drunken oath. Plummer quotes the words of Bede:

A sin it were to swear unto a sin,

But greater sin to keep a sinful oath (167).

Rash oaths are condemned by Jesus in Matthew 5:34. Rash oaths bring Jephthah into agony (Judges 11:31 ff) and nearly undo Saul (1 Samuel 14:38 ff).

and for their sakes which sat with him: Herod fears what men might say. He keeps his promise to Salome because he has made it in front of his cronies and is unwilling to break it. He fears their jeers, their laughter; he fears they will think him weak. Many a man has done things he afterwards bitterly regrets because he does not have the moral courage to do right. Many a man has made himself far worse than he is because he fears the laughter of his so-called friends.

he would not reject her: "Reject" means "to slight her, by treat­ing the oath and promise as a joke; a late word, used in reference to persons, in the sense of breaking faith with" (Bruce, Expositor’s Greek New Testament 382).

Verse 27

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

And immediately the king sends an executioner: The word "executioner" is spekoulatora, a Latin word brought over into the Greek. We get our word "speculator" from it. The word itself means "a watcher." It was used to designate a guardsman whose business it was to watch or spy out. It came gradually to denote one of the armed bodyguards of the Roman emperor. Suetonius says that Claudius did not dare to attend banquets unless his speculators with their lances surrounded him. Seneca uses the word in the sense of an executioner. Herod imitates the custom of the Roman emperor and has a company of speculators around him. It is one of these that he sends to behead John (Wuest 131).

and commanded his head be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison: Edersheim offers this picturesque description:

It has been but the contest of a moment. "Straightway" the king gives the order to one of the body-guards. The maiden hath withdrawn to await the result with her mother. The guardsman has left the banqueting-hall. Out into the cold spring night, up that slope, and into the deep dungeon. As its door opens, the noise of the revelry comes with the light of the torch which the man bears. No time for preparation is given, nor needed. A few minutes more, and the gory head of the Baptist is brought to the maiden in a charger, and she gives the ghastly dish to her mother (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book III 674).

Verse 28

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

Mark does not say what Herodias and Salome do with the head. Jerome says that when the head of John is brought, Herodias barbarously thrusts a "bodkin" (a dagger or stiletto) through the tongue. Because she cannot bear to hear the truth, she mutilates the tongue that has spoken the truth.

Unsubstantiated traditions about John the Baptist’s head have circulated for centuries. Some say his head is found and removed to Constantinople and subsequently to Amiens, but the actual history of the head ends here. It is necessary, however, to record the burial of the body in order to complete the explanation of Herod’s fear that John is risen from the dead.

Verse 29

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

Matthew tells us that John’s disciples are allowed to visit him in prison (11:2ff). It is not surprising, then, to learn they are allowed to remove the corpse and bury it. It is probably buried in one of the rock tombs near Machaerus.

Matthew adds that after the burial, the disciples of John make their way to Jesus with the news and that Jesus is deeply moved by the report (14:12-13). Jesus also knows that one day His own life will be laid down.

Herod Antipas is mentioned one more time in the gospels when he "tries" Jesus and hopes to see Him perform a miracle (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus will not even speak to this adulterer and murderer, let alone please him by doing a miracle. The Lord refers to him as a "fox" (Luke 13:31-35), an appropriate description for this crafty man.

Aretas, the father of Herod Antipas’ first wife, never forgives Antipas for the humiliation he causes his daughter by leaving her for Herodias. According to Josephus, in A.D. 36 Aretas’ army sweeps down on Antipas and administers a stinging defeat, which people interpret as an act of God, avenging the murder of John the Baptist (382).

In A.D. 39, Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1), nephew of Herod Antipas, denounces his uncle to the Roman emperor; and Antipas is deposed. He and Herodias are sent into exile in Lyons where they both perish miserably.

Bickersteth quotes Nicephorus as saying that Salome also dies in a remarkable fashion:

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 (246-247).

Verse 30

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

The narrative that has been interrupted at verse 14 with the parenthetical retelling of the death of John the Baptist is now taken up again.

And the apostles: Mark refers to the Twelve as the "apostles." This name describes their official work as delegates, messengers, those sent forth with orders (Thayer 68). It is apparently given to them at the time of their selection (3:14). Mark uses the name after the Twelve return from their first apostolic work but never uses the name again.

gathered themselves together unto Jesus: It is possible the Lord has fixed a date for His apostles to return, and their arrival coincides with that of John’s disciples.

and told him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught: Jesus has sent them out to teach and to work in His name; therefore, it is appropriate that they give an accounting to Him of their works (Luke 9:10).

Verse 31

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

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart: The Lord calls the Twelve to come by themselves with Him to a place for rest. The word "apart" (kat idian) means "privately" (Marshall 163). These exhausted men desperately need some privacy now, to be away from the crowd.

into a desert place: The word eremos does not mean desert in the modern sense of the word, but a "deserted place, solitary, lonely, uninhabited, the kind of place for an over wrought, exhausted Christian worker" (Wuest 132).

and rest awhile: Jesus cares for His disciples. They require rest after the work and excitement of their ministry. Jesus is careful Himself to take His needed rest (see notes on 3:7), and it is necessary for His disciples to rest also. "Awhile" is from oligon (Marshall 163) and implies only a short breathing time is possible.

for there were many coming and going: There is a constant stream of people coming to Jesus. No sooner is He done with one party than another arrives.

and they had no leisure so much as to eat: This scene is reminiscent of Mark 3:20. The pressure of the crowds is so great there is no opportunity even to eat a meal. Matthew’s account is silent about the pressure of the crowd. Matthew says the reason for the departure is the news Jesus has received about the death of John the Baptist (14:13). There is no contradiction here. The Lord obviously has more than one reason for withdrawing to a private place.

Verse 32

And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

They are in Capernaum, and they go to Bethsaida Julius on the northeastern shore of the lake. There are two places called Bethsaida. The other is in Galilee proper. A boat is always ready for Jesus to use to ensure safety against the crowds. It may have been owned by Peter or some of His other disciples, and they hold it for His use when needed. The word "privately" does not describe their going away, that is, in a private manner, but speaks of the privacy of the uninhabited region of Bethsaida Julius.

Verse 33

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

And the people saw them departing, and many knew him: Many of the people recognize Jesus as He departs in the boat. They draw the correct conclusion He is leaving them and heading to the other side of the lake.

and ran afoot thither out of all the cities: The word "ran" is from suntresho and means "to run together: of the gathering of the multitude of people" (Thayer 606). Together the excited people run toward the other side of the lake, exciting others from each town to join them on the way. Ultimately a crowd of over five thousand people meet Jesus on the other side. This incident represents the climax of Jesus’ popularity.

and outwent them, and came together unto him: The word "outwent" is proelthon and means "to outgo, outstrip in going" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 343). At this particular place, it is four miles across the lake by boat and ten miles around the top of the lake on foot. On a windless day, or with a contrary wind, a boat might take some time to make the crossing and an energetic person could walk around the top of the lake and be there before the boat arrived. That could have been exactly what happened. When Jesus and His men step out of the boat, the very crowd from which they have sought some refuge is there waiting for them. This interpretation of Mark’s account, however, seems to contradict Matthew 14:13-14, Luke 9:11, and John 6:3; John 6:5. The narratives in these accounts picture Jesus’ arriving before the great multitude, going up a hill, gathering with His disciples for a little while in seclusion, and then seeing a crowd gathering on the shore and going out to meet them.

Mark probably means that because the multitude is so excited and eager to be with Jesus, they run so fast that for a while they actually get ahead of the boat. Thus, Mark’s words do not necessarily mean the crowd gets there ahead of Jesus and the Twelve.

Verse 34

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

And Jesus, when he came out saw much people: Jesus comes forth from His place of seclusion on the slope of a hill. John 6:3-5 says:

And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

and was moved with compassion toward them: Mark vividly portrays the compassionate nature of Jesus. No doubt most people would have been extremely annoyed. The rest and relaxation Jesus and His disciples need and covet so desperately is denied to them. His privacy is invaded. Instead of resenting it all, though, Jesus is moved with pity at the pathos of the crowd. As desperately as He needs peace and rest, He could see the multitude needs just as desperately what He alone could give them.

because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: Few animals have a greater need for oversight than sheep. The wicked Pharisees are no true shepherds of the people; and Herod Antipas, the tetrarch, has proved himself to be no better than a wild beast. The poor multitudes are untaught and uncared for by their spiritual and political leaders. They are exposed to all kinds of spiritual danger and destruction from false teachers. No wonder the Lord has compassion on them.

and he began to teach them many things: The word "teach" is didaskein, present infinitive, which shows durative action (Wuest 133). Jesus begins teaching and keeps it up. Matthew and Luke speak of His healing; but it is doubtful there could have been many sick people in a crowd that moved so quickly from one side of the lake to the other. Gould adds:

Notice also the human quality of Jesus’ action here. He seeks a quiet place to escape from the crowd for a time; is defeated in his purpose by the multitude invading his retreat; and he yields to their importunity and to his own exacting pity. It is a distinctively human change of purpose, such as foreknowledge would have prevented, and as an attestation of his humanity it brings him blessedly near to us (117).

Verse 35

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

And when the day was now far spent: The Greek renders this phrase "much daytime already gone" (Wuest 134). Luke says the day began to "wear away" (klinein), which places the time during the "first evening" which begins at 3:00 p.m. Sunset is approaching. The Jews reckon two evenings, although it is not easy to determine the exact hour when each begins and ends. But, in general, the first evening begins at three o’clock in the afternoon and the second evening begins at sunset, approximately 6:00 p.m.

his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: The expression "desert place" means a lonely, deserted, or desolate place. In other words, this is not a city containing all kinds of places where food can be bought. The day is already drawing to a close, and the disciples want Jesus to send the people away right now so they will have time to go to the surrounding villages to buy food for themselves.

Verse 36

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

Mark and the other Synoptists have the disciples’ initiating this exchange while John 6:5 has the Lord Himself putting this question to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" This apparent discrepancy is easily explained. Jesus probably puts this question to Philip at a somewhat earlier period of the afternoon then leaves the difficulty He has suggested to work in the mind of Philip and the other apostles. It is possible there is something in Philip that makes it particularly desirable to Jesus to ask the question of him, maybe to test him. At any rate, the answer Philip gives shows there is a definite need for the question. Philip responds, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little" (John 6:7). Philip struggles with this problem as does Andrew. The word "penny" is denarius. This is a Roman silver coin worth about 3 1/2 pennies and the standard day’s wage of an average working man. In essence the disciples are saying, "We could not earn enough money in more than six months to provide a meal for a crowd this large." The disciples are convinced anything they have is really going to be of no use.

All the time Jesus knows exactly what He is going to do. But the disciples are at a loss as to what to do in spite of all the miracles they have already witnessed. So the disciples remind the Lord of the loneliness of the place and the lateness of the hour. They suggest His teaching be terminated in order to give the people time to find themselves something to eat.

Verse 37

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

He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat: The word "ye" is umeis and is most emphatic. It means, "They are not to be sent away; you must feed them."

And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat: This question takes the form of a statement that a sum of money far greater than Judas carried for the disciples would still be inadequate to feed such a multitude.

Verse 38

He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see: Jesus’ specific question and abrupt commands are intended as a rebuke of the disciples’ lack of faith. Jesus is saying "Forget about what is impossible; see what is possible. How much food do we have?" John says that Jesus asks Philip to find out what food they have (6:5f) probably after the disciples have suggested that Jesus send the crowd away as night is coming on. On this protest to His command that they feed the crowds, Jesus says, "Go see how many loaves you can get." Then Andrew reports the fact of the lad with five barley loaves and two fishes (John 6:8). John’s gospel alone tells of the lad with his lunch his mother has given him.

And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes: John says the five loaves are barley loaves (6:9). Barley loaves are the food of the poorest of the poor--the cheapest and the coarsest of all bread. They have two fishes, probably about the size of sardines. Tarichaea--which means "the salt-fish town"--was a well-known place on the lake from which salt-fish were shipped all over the world. The sardine-like salt-fish are eaten as relish with the barley loaves.

Verse 39

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

And he commanded them to make all sit down: "Sit down" is anaklino and more correctly refers to a person "reclining on a couch at a banquet" (Wuest 134). Here, the command is merely to recline on the green grass and wait to be served.

by companies: "Companies" is from sumposia and originally means "a drinking party." Later, it refers to the party of guests of any kind without the notion of drinking (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament 316). Vincent adds:

The Jewish dining-room was arranged like the Roman: three tables forming three sides of a square, and with divans or couches following the outside line of the tables. The open end of the square admitted the servants who waited at table. This explains the arrangement of the multitude here described by Mark. The people sat down, literally, in table-companies, arranged like guests at table; some companies of a hundred and some of fifty, in squares or oblongs open at one end, so that the disciples could pass along the inside and distribute the loaves (106).

upon the green grass: This phrase is a touch given only by Mark with his eye for vivid details. John adds "much grass." The grass is green in Palestine, especially in this hot Jordan valley, only at the time of the Passover. This passage coincides with John’s account "that the Passover, a feast of the Jews was at hand" (6:4).

Verse 40

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

And they sat down in ranks: The word "ranks" is from the Greek prasiai and means "by areas, by squares, like beds in a garden" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 339). Vincent says "The red, blue, and yellow clothing of the poorest orientals makes an Eastern crowd full of color...suggesting the appearance of flower-beds in a garden" (196-197).

by hundreds and by fifties: This phrase could mean the people are seated in a hundred rows of fifty each. This arrangement would be in harmony with verse 44: "and there were five thousand men" (women and children are left uncounted). The above phrase could also mean some groups consist of a hundred people and some of fifty. Either way, the grouping makes the distribution of bread and fish easier; thus, it is very practical. All four accounts of the gospel report the total number fed as five thousand men.

Verse 41

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

And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed: Plummer says the "blessing" at meals is virtually a thanksgiving: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who bringest forth bread out of the earth" (173).

and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them: The verb "brake" is in the aorist tense, and the verb "gave" is in the imperfect. The aorist implies something done once; the imperfect implies continuous action (He brake, and kept giving out).

and the two fishes divided he among them all: The miraculous multiplication of the food is done "in Christ’s hands," but the exact manner is not revealed. We know, however, there is more than enough bread and fish for everyone.

Verse 42

And they did all eat, and were filled.

All of the people have as much as they want, even of the fish.

Verse 43

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

And they took up twelve baskets full: John 6:12 says this action is done at the specific command of Christ. It is remarkable that just a few moments ago the disciples had food enough for five; and now after feeding over five thousand, precautions have to be taken against wasting the excess. The amount saved far exceeds the amount supplied by the lad, but Christ does not allow it to be wasted. The baskets (kophinos) are small wicker baskets that every Jew carries with him as a part of his daily attire. They are symbolic of the poorer classes and are used to carry provisions so they will not have to buy bread from Gentiles.

of the fragments, and of the fishes: The fragments are of loaves and fishes; nothing new has been created.

Verse 44

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

The word for "men" here is not anthropos, the generic term that could include men and women, but aner, the word for a male individual (Wuest 136). According to Matthew there are women and children also present. This wonderful miracle is recorded by all four gospel writers, two of whom, Matthew and John, are eyewitnesses. Peter, also an eyewitness, could very well have described the miracle to Mark.

Verse 45

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

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship: Mark does not say why Jesus tells His disciples to get into the boat and precede Him to the other side of the lake, but John 6:15 clarifies the account. John reveals that Jesus senses the people are at the point of forcefully making Him king. Jesus does not come into the world, however, to assume the role of a political king, but rather that of a servant (Matthew 20:28). Neither can Jesus allow His followers to give a public demonstration in His honor at this point in His ministry because it might have forced a premature showdown between Him and His enemies. All of the events that bring about a final showdown with His enemies have to be fulfilled according to prophecy, and Jesus often reveals during His ministry that the time has not yet come. McMillan adds:

One is always faced with the difficulty of understanding just how Jesus could do what he came to do in fulfilling God’s plan without the sincere but unthoughtful actions of others getting in the way. No doubt his commands to silence often involved his own awareness that if things got "out of hand" in the wrong way, he would not be able to accomplish his purposes. When it became apparent that the crowd would have desired to force Jesus into an earthly kingship, he found it necessary simply to avoid the circumstances in which such might occur (86).

and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida: This community is on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, the native city of some of the apostles, and not far from Capernaum.

while he sent away the people: Jesus sends away the disciples and then dismisses the multitude.

Verse 46

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

And when he had sent them away: The verb is apotasso and means to "separate one’s self, withdraw one’s self, to take leave of, bid farewell to" (Wuest 136).

he departed into a mountain to pray: Problems are descending upon Jesus at a rapid pace now. There is the hostility of the scribes and Pharisees; there is the frightening suspicion of Herod Antipas; there is the ignorant enthusiasm of the people who want to make Jesus a political king against His will. Jesus has many problems on His mind at this time, and He needs counsel and strength.

Verse 47

And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.

And when even was come: It is the second or late evening which begins at 6:00 p.m., at sunset.

the ship was in the midst of the sea: John informs us that the boat has proceeded twenty-five to thirty "furlongs" (stadia) (6:19). A furlong is about one eighth of a mile, thus the disciples have traveled about three or four miles. If the distance between Bethsaida Julias (Luke 9:10), the point from which the disciples begin their return voyage, to Bethsaida of Galilee (6:45; John 12:21), where they are to land, is about five miles, then the disciples are now indeed "in the midst of the sea."

and he alone on the land: Apparently, Jesus remains quite awhile on the land, engaged in prayer.

Verse 48

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

And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: The word "toiling" is from basanizomenous and literally means "tormented; or distressed" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 67). It is only by putting forth a painful effort that the disciples can make any progress against the driving storm blowing upon them from the west.

and about the fourth watch of the night: The Jewish night runs from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., and it is divided into four watches--6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 3:00 a.m., and 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Thus, the time mentioned here is between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. Jesus has been alone on a mountain in prayerful communion with God for several hours. This incident must have occurred about mid-April during Passover season, which is deliberately fixed for the full moon. About 3:00 a.m., Jesus looks from the mountainside out across the lake of Galilee. The lake is only about four miles across at that point; and, in the light of the moon, it lies stretched out before Him. The wind is up, and Jesus sees His disciples having a hard struggle in their boat to reach the other side. Dr. Thomson, in The Land and the Book, relates his own similar experience on the Sea of Galilee:

My experience in this region enables me to sympathize with the disciples in their long night’s contest with the wind. I spent a night in that Wady Shukalyif, some three miles up it, to the left of us. The sun had scarcely set when the wind began to rush down toward the lake, and it continued all night long with constantly increasing violence, so that when we reached the shore next morning the face of the lake was like a huge boiling caldron. The wind howled down every wady from the north-east and east with such fury that no efforts of rowers could have brought a boat to shore at any point along that coast. In a wind like that, the disciples must have been driven quite across to Gennesaret, as we know they were (25).

he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea: The word "upon" is translated from epi, which, "when used with the genitive case as it is here, signifies contact " (Wuest 137). Jesus’ feet actually have contact with the water. He walks on the surface of the sea as we walk on dry ground. Skeptics argue that Christ’s walking on the sea actually means His walking on the shore, elevated above the sea. That argument is ridiculous because Jesus could not have conversed with His disciples from the shore, nor would He have terrified them by just walking on the shore.

and would have passed by them: Jesus continues to make His way toward the disciples’ boat. Defying the laws of nature, He walks step by step upon the surface of the sea until He reaches a place near or alongside the boat; and it seems as though He is about to pass them by. Why would He have passed them by? Probably because Jesus wants them to confess their need of Him before He comes to their aid. This interpretation is consistent with the teaching of the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:2.

Verse 49

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

But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit: The word for "spirit" here is not pneuma, referring to a disembodied individual who had died, but phantasma, "a phantom, a specter" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 422). The word is commonly used in association with the magic and charms of witchcraft and, thus, with the systems of Satan. When the disciples see Jesus after His resurrection, they think they are seeing someone come back from the dead; consequently, Luke uses the word pneuma when he reports that appearance (24:37). But to have someone walk on the sea would be magic to them.

and cried out: The verb is anakrazo, "to raise a cry from the depth of the throat, to cry out" (Thayer 39). It is a shriek of terror, a scream.

Verse 50

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

For they all saw him and were troubled: This description is peculiar to Mark. It is not the imagination of just one individual; all of the Twelve see the form walking on the water.

and immediately he talked with them: The disciples’ fear is momen­tary and is relieved at once by a familiar voice.

And saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid: "Be of good cheer" is from tharseo, which also means "to be of good courage" (Wuest 138). Courage is precisely what the disciples need at this moment. The pronoun "I" is used for emphasis in the expression "It is I," meaning "It is I and nobody else." The phrase "be not afraid" is in the present imperative, which forbids the continuance of an action already going on. The meaning is "Stop being afraid!"

Matthew, alone, records this response from Peter: "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water" (14:28). It is as though Peter wants to outdo the other disciples. It is reminiscent of his later boast, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I" (14:9). Jesus tells Peter to "Come." Peter steps out of the boat and actually begins to walk on the water himself. Fear arises within him, however, because of the wind. He cannot manage to keep his attention on the Lord, and he begins to sink. Thus, once again the stout fisherman experiences an embarrassing reversal. Peter wants to show he has a superior courage to the other disciples but ends up helpless and terrified before them all.

Verse 51

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

And he went up unto them into the ship: Matthew 14:32 says, "And when they were come into the ship." Jesus rescues Peter after his unsuccessful attempt to walk on the water and now they both return to the boat and go up into it.

and the wind ceased: Upon the return of Peter and the Lord to the boat, the wind falls immediately. The word "ceased" kopazo means "to grow weary or tired," hence, "to cease from violence, cease raging" (Thayer 355).

and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered: The expression is literally, "they were very exceedingly amazed." This double superlative is not an unlikely combination for Mark. This time, however, the disciples keep their thoughts to themselves as contrasted with Mark 4:41.

Verse 52

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

for they considered not the miracle of the loaves: The miracle of the loaves and fishes should have led to an understanding of the present miracles, but it did not. The disciples should have reasoned that if our Lord has the supernatural power to feed more than five thousand people by multiplying five loaves and two fishes, He could also miraculously quieten the wind, calm the sea, and walk on the water.

For their heart was hardened: The word "heart" is kardia and refers to the inner man, his reason, affections, and will (Wuest 139). When Mark says the hearts of these disciples are "hardened," he probably means their inability to draw the necessary conclusions from the miracles of Jesus is the result of not thinking. The disciples neglect to ponder these marvelous works and the nature of the One who performs them. On the other hand, this hardness of heart must not be confused with the callousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Their attitude is the result of unbelief and hatred.

Verse 53

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

And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret: Gennesaret is a fertile plain, about three miles long and a mile wide. It is located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, lying just south of Capernaum. This landing place is several miles south of Bethsaida, the intended destination of the disciples, showing how much they have been driven out of their course.

and drew to shore: This phrase is from the word prosormizo and means "to anchor the ship" (Wuest 139). The expression "and he went up" in verse 51 seems to indicate this boat is a vessel of considerable size, standing quite high out of the water. Thus, they probably anchor offshore.

Verse 54

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

The people on the shore immediately know Him. The word "knew" is epiginosko, which means "to recognize" (Thayer 237). The people recognize Jesus because they have seen Him before. He is becoming a well-known person by this time.

Verse 55

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

And they ran through that whole region round about: Vincent says, they "ran round. From place to place where the sick were, to bring them to Jesus" (107). As the news spreads that Jesus is in Gennesaret, the people become excited and pursue Him.

and began to carry about in beds: These beds are probably pallets similar to the one mentioned in chapter two where the palsied man is let down through the roof of a house on a pallet.

those that were sick, where they heard he was: Sometimes they are too late to catch Jesus, so they carry the sick from place to place until they overtake Him.

Verse 56

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

And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets: "In the streets," is agorais and literally means "in the market-places" (Marshall 166).

and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: "Border" is kraspedon and means "the fringe of a garment, a little appendage hanging down from the edge of the mantle or cloak" (Thayer 358). The Jews have such appendages attached to the mantles to remind them of the law. The word "garment" is himation, "the upper or outer garment, the cloak or mantle thrown over the tunic, the undergarment." (Wuest 140).

The people know Jesus is a healer; and, out of desperation, they bring their sick in hopes there might be the slightest opportunity Jesus would heal them. Their motivation is so intense they hope even for a touch of His clothing. This scene is similar to the way the woman with an issue of blood is healed (5:27).

and as many as touched him were made whole: There were hundreds, possibly even thousands healed by Jesus; and, thus, He nears the end of His Galilean ministry with the excitement of the multitudes at its highest pitch.

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Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 6". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/mark-6.html. 1993-2022.