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Mark 6:45-56

Just before this section of Mark, we read the account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:30-44). It was there that Jesus miraculously caused a small amount of food to become large enough to satisfy a large crowd of people. The disciples watched Jesus do this and even participated in passing out the food and in collecting the leftovers. This must have made a lasting impression on them as nobody but God could accomplish such a thing. It was a miracle. And yet, there was something wrong. For some reason…

  1. The disciples miss the point (Mark 6:45-52).

    What does it say?

    After feeding the 5000, Jesus was quick to send away the disciples to Bethsaida on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark doesn’t mention it, but in John 6:15 we learn that the crowds wanted to make him their king after what had happened. “Jesus acted decisively to get the disciples away from this scene lest they should get involved in the plot.”3 As they left, Jesus continued dismissing the crowds and later went to the mountain to pray. Later that evening, the disciples had only traveled to the middle of the sea and Jesus was alone on land. He could see them struggling to row the boat against the wind. Early in the morning (“the fourth watch of the night … by Roman reckoning, 3 to 6 am”1), Jesus walked over to them … on the water! “The Lord must be imagined as walking on a seething sea, not upon a smooth surface … now on the crest of a wave, now hidden out of sight. It was the darkest hour of the night, and the moon had probably set; only the outline of a human form could be seen appearing from time to time, and approaching the boat.”12 But when all of the disciples saw Him, they “screamed in terror”6 thinking it was a ghost. Seeing their fear, Jesus spoke to them “in a familiar way so that they would at once recognize His voice.”7 He told them to cheer up and not be afraid because it was Him. He then got into the boat and the wind stopped blowing. The disciples were completely amazed at what happened because they had hard hearts that hindered them from understanding the point of Jesus feeding the five thousand.

    What does it mean?

    It means that prayer is important. “Pray, a general term for prayer, is not restricted to petition, and indicates that Jesus withdrew to a solitary place for a time of communion with the Father (1:35). His actions indicate His consciousness that he was facing a serious turn of events. He needed strength and counsel for what lay ahead. He recognized in the offer of the crowd a repetition of the wilderness temptation to bypass the cross.”4 Prayer and communion with God the Father is something that Jesus modeled quite often. Throughout His ministry, he made prayer a priority.

    It means that Jesus is God. The first thing that shows us His deity is that he walked on water. “Walking upon the sea can mean only that Jesus was walking, not by the sea but actually upon its stormy surface, in direct contact with the water.”5 To some this is unbelievable because people cannot walk on water. But that is the point. Jesus is both man and God and can do what others cannot.

    The second evidence for His deity is that he used the same terms as God did to describe Himself in the Old Testament. “The words It is I (lit., ‘I am,’ ego eimi) … are probably intended here to echo the Old Testament formula of God’s self-revelation: ‘I am who I am’ (cf. Ex. 3:14; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 51:12; 52:6).”2

    Exodus 3:14 – “Then Moses said to God, Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they say to me, What is His name? what shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.”

    Isaiah 52:6 – “Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I.’”

    The only reason why they should not be afraid of a phantom like person who can walk on the water is that He is God and can do the impossible — including calming the storm at the very moment he entered the boat.

    He could walk on water, He used “I am” to identify Himself, and the wind ceased blowing right when He got into the boat. Do these give you the idea that Mark thought Jesus was more than a man? I think that is what he intended by including each of these details.

    It means that seeing isn’t always believing. The same disciples who saw Jesus miraculously feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish were completely amazed at what Jesus did. They should have been astonished. But Mark points out that the disciples’ hearts were hardened. They did not notice the previous miracle. They didn’t at that point understand that Jesus is God. And so this later miracle of Him walking on the water and calming the storm astonished them.

    How does it apply?

    Having discovered the meaning behind this passage, we need to see how it applies to our lives.

    Do you make prayer a priority in your daily schedule? If Jesus, who is God, thought it important to pray to His heavenly Father, shouldn’t we do the same? While prayer does include praising, thanking, asking, and interceding for others, one of the biggest part of prayer is communion with Him. This may involve talking or thinking or meditating on what God has said in the Bible. But this communion is a way of getting close to God by removing other things from our minds that would keep us from doing so. Praying for others is important, but make sure that you are also striving to get closer to God during your prayer time.

    Do you understand who Jesus is? In the first six chapters of Mark, we have seen Jesus do some miraculous things. In this chapter alone, we have seen Him creating food for people to eat, walking on water, and calming the storm. He also used the term “I am” to describe Himself to the disciples. When you put all of these things together, what do you see? Was Jesus just a teacher who did good things? Or was He in fact God who became man and lived among us? Each of us has to come to the place where we accept Jesus for who the Bible says He is. Remember what John 1:12 says?

    John 1:12 – “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

    God gave us the Book of Mark to show us who Jesus is. And before anyone can become a child of God, be forgiven, and changed from the inside out, he has to receive Jesus for who He is.

  2. The people seek Jesus (Mark 6:53-56).

    What does it say?

    When they had crossed the water, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored the boat. Gennesaret was “a fertile, populous plain (two miles wide and four miles long), south of Capernaum on the northwestern shore of the lake.”8 The fruit grown there was banned in Jerusalem during the Passover because the rabbis didn’t want people coming just for the fruit. When they disembarked, the people recognized Jesus and ran to get sick people for him to heal. “By this time he had become widely known as the Healer.”9 They even carried sick people on beds to see Jesus. “When they did not find Jesus in one place they carried their sick to another place where they were likely to find Him.”10 As Jesus traveled about, this happened in villages, cities, and in the country. Wherever he went, people believed Jesus could heal their sick simply by touching a piece of his clothes. “This suggests that the story of the healing of the woman with the flow of blood through just such a simple touch (5:25-34) had become widely known.”11 And that is exactly what happened. Whoever touched Jesus was healed.

    What does it mean?

    It means that there were a lot of people needing help back then. It seems to me that there were a lot of sick people during the time that Jesus walked the earth. Why was that? While sickness is not necessarily a result of sin, God had given a promise to the Israelites during the time of Moses about protecting them from diseases.

    Exodus 15:26 – “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

    It makes me wonder if the large amount of diseases among the Jewish population was a direct result of them not listening to and obeying God’s commandments. If so, their sickness was not the only problems that needed to be addressed.

    It means that Jesus cared about these people. Did you notice how kind Jesus was to the people? He graciously went through the villages and healed the sick that were there. Sometimes, people look at the coming judgment and think that God doesn’t love them. But this shows the kindness and love of God for the world. He not only loved the world enough to send His Son to die for our sins, He also loved them enough to heal them of their diseases.

    It means that they had faith in Jesus’ ability to heal them. Unlike the hard-hearted disciples, these people had complete faith in Jesus’ ability to heal them. Perhaps they had heard the story of the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. Whatever the case may have been, they believed and Jesus honored their faith by healing them of their ailments when they touched him.

    How does it apply?

    When I was in college, someone told me this clever saying: People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It seems that this is what Jesus was doing in these cities and villages. As you look back over the past six chapters, you may recall the many miracles that Jesus did for the people. Before he brought their focus on the truths of God, He showed them that He cared. After receiving such grace from Jesus, they were all the more eager to hear His teaching.

    I wonder if we Christians have become so focused on speaking the truth that we have forgotten to show love toward the people we are talking to. It is true that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” but it is equally true that “though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” If we are to be successful disciples of Jesus, we should follow His example and show our love toward those we are seeking to reach with the truth.

Conclusion

In Mark 6, the people are very happy to see Jesus wherever he goes. But in the next chapter, we will see that certain religious leaders begin to challenge Him. It seems that this may have been a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. The people had flocked to see Him. They had come to be healed as well. But now, as he slowly moves closer to the cross, some begin to challenge Jesus and question what He is teaching and doing. As we go through the next chapters, keep in mind what we have learned so far.

Jesus revealed Himself to be God. And if He is God, we need to listen to Him and follow what He says.
Jesus revealed Himself with love. And because of His love, people’s lives were changed.

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 131.
2 Grassmick 132.
3 Hiebert 183.
4 Hiebert 184-85.
5 Hiebert 186.
6 Hiebert 187.
7 Hiebert 187.
8 Grassmick 132.
9 Hendriksen 264.
10 Hiebert 190.
11 Hiebert 190.
12 Swete 138.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: BJU Press, 1994.

Swete, Henry Barclay, Commentary on Mark, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1977.