SUMMARY.--Herod's Opinion of Christ. The Death of John the Baptist. Jesus Crosses the Sea. The Vast Multitude That Follows. The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes. The Multitude Wishing to Make Jesus a King Is Dismissed. The Disciples Sent Upon the Sea While Jesus Retires to Pray. The Storm on the Sea. Christ on the Waters. The Failure of Peter's Faith.
19. He commanded the multitude to sit down. We learn from Mark that they sat down in companies. On the grass. John says, "there was much grass there." It was in the spring season, in Nisan, "the month of flowers," and the slopes were rich with the spring grass. Looking up to heaven. In prayer we should use such outward gestures as may most fitly serve to express the inward disposition and holy affections of our heart and soul. He blessed. He either gave thanks or asked the Father's blessing on the food.
20. Twelve baskets full. Baskets were taken by the Jews on journeying, to carry their provisions, etc., that they might not have to depend on Gentiles, and so incur the risk of ceremonial pollution.
21. Five thousand men. Thus there was one loaf to every thousand men. Christ is the bread if life, satisfying the hunger of the soul for love, forgiveness, immortality, usefulness, progress, knowledge. He gives that bread to his disciples and bids them to distribute it to the multitude. Such is its blessed and divine nature that the more they distribute to hungry, famishing souls, the more they have remaining for themselves.
22. Straightway. Immediately; after satisfying to the full the wants of the multitude. Compare Mark 6:45-56 and John 6:15-21 . He constrained his disciples. They were loath to go without their Master. Yet he wished to be alone. He had come to the "desert place" for retirement; the multitude followed, and sought after the miracle to proclaim him King. His disciples probably sympathized. Hence he sent them, too, away, and stayed to pray and reflect alone. To go to the other side. John says, toward Capernaum.
23. When he had sent the multitudes away. They were in an excited condition; hence, great prudence, perhaps an exercise of some constraining power, was necessary. Into a mountain apart to pray. The refuge of Christ in every great crisis was lonely prayer.
24. In the midst of the sea. About twenty-five or thirty furlongs, or three and a half miles from the shore ( John 6:19 ), about the middle of the lake. For the wind was contrary. The wind came rushing down from the mountains, and in attempting to make land at Bethsaida, where the Lord had directed, it was in their faces. Sudden gusts are common on the Sea of Galilee. Thompson says he encountered one of such fury that no rowers could row a boat across the lake. There had now arisen one of those sudden and violent squalls to which all inland waters, surrounded by lofty hills intersected with deep gorges, are liable.
25. In the fourth watch. The Jews, who used to divide the night into three watches, latterly adopted the Roman division into four watches, as here; so that, at the rate of three hours to each, the fourth watch, reckoning from six P.M., would be three o'clock in the morning. Jesus went to them. The Lord saw their trouble from his mountain-top, and through the darkness of the night, for his heart was all with them; yet would he not go to their relief till his own time came.
26. A spirit. An apparition, an unreal appearance of a real person. The word is not that unusually rendered "spirit." He would appear to them at first like a dark, moving speck upon the waters, then as a human figure; but in the dark, tempestuous sky, and not dreaming that it could be their Lord, they take it for a spirit ( Luke 24:37 ). Cried out. In fright.
27. It is I; be not afraid. How often has he to speak this word of encouragement, even to his own! almost always when they are brought suddenly, or in an unusual way, face to face with him. See Genesis 15:1 Genesis 21:17 21:17 Judg. 6:23 Matt. 28:5 . It is I. Literally, I am. The same language used by Jesus in Jerusalem ( John 8:58 ), for which the Pharisees would have stoned him, and in the Old Testament to designate Jehovah ( Exod. 3:14 ). Here I should prefer to give it this meaning: Christ says not merely, "It is I, your Friend and Master;" he says, at least implies, it is the "I AM," who is coming to you, the Almighty One who rules wind and waves, who made them, and whom they obey.
28. Bid me come unto thee. Peter is led by no praiseworthy motives, but rather by vain glory.
29. And he said, Come. I suppose the Lord bade Peter to come in order to teach him a lesson.
30. When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid. He stepped into the water, but the roaring winds and rushing billows were too much for his faith.
31. Jesus . . . caught him . . . said, O thou of little faith! Peter's act did not exemplify his faith, but his doubts. True faith never attempts wonders merely for the sake of doing them. It is a fact that ought to be noted that the Gospels narrate the failures in miraculous power on the part of the apostles as well as their success. No book of myths would do this. At the same time it is always made plain why they failed.
32. The wind ceased. They were safe, for the Lord was with them. Under his arms there is always safety.
33. They that were in the ship came and worshipped him. Not only did they approach him with an outward unforbidden gesture of worship, "but they avowed him, for the first time collectively, to be the Son of God."
34. They came into the land of Gennesaret. A small district four miles long and two or three wide, on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, to which it gave one of its names. Josephus describes it as the garden of the whole land, and possessing a fertility and loveliness almost unparalleled.
35. They brought those that were diseased. His fame was so well known in that region that his coming at once caused a commotion. In a country where there are no skilled physicians and little known of sanitary laws, there is great need of a Healer. Geikie, who traveled through this same region with a medical friend, says that crowds would gather with their sick as soon as they knew there was a physician. Hence the importance of medical missions.
36. The hem of his garment. The numbers that pressed upon him seemed almost too large for him to be able to heal them singly by laying his hands upon them, therefore many begged that they might be allowed to touch if it were but the border of his garment. Soon after followed the ever-memorable discourse, so strikingly in accordance with the present passover season, in the synagogue of Capernaum, respecting the "Bread of Life" ( John 6:22-65 ).