|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:15-21 Here were Christ's disciples in the way of duty, and Christ was praying for them; yet they were in distress. There may be perils and afflictions of this present time, where there is an interest in Christ. Clouds and darkness often surround the children of the light and of the day. They see Jesus walking on the sea. Even the approaches of comfort and deliverance often are so mistaken, as to become the occasions of fear. Nothing is more powerful to convince sinners than that word, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest; nothing more powerful to comfort saints than this, I am Jesus whom thou lovest. If we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, though the night be dark, and the wind high, yet we may comfort ourselves, we shall be at the shore before long.
Verse 19. - When they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia; or, furlongs. When they had rowed with a northwest wind, one "contrary to them," about three miles and a half, they would be in the midst of the broadest portion of the lake, and exposed to the force of those gales which often sweep down with astonishing fury upon lakes similarly guarded on all sides by high hills. While the wind was tossing the little lake into angry waves, it was not silent on the mountain side or summit, and Jesus (says Mark) "saw them toiling in rowing." He loved them to the uttermost. Now, Jesus never went out of his way to work a miracle, but he never went out of his way to avoid one. It seems as natural to him to make his will the cause of events as to submit to the arbitrament of circumstances. The miracle, however, was always for the benefit of others, not for his own advantage and comfort. They beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the ship. Paulus, Gfrorer, and Baumgarten-Crusius suppose that Jesus was walking "along the shore" (παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν is the phrase used for this movement in Mark 1:16; not ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης as here), and that they had miscalculated their distance, and that there was no manifestation of special power on the occasion, nothing less than one of the most ordinary of all coincidences. The three narrators, each in his own manner, convey a profoundly different impression. The discovery of their Lord thus in near proximity would not have made them "cry out for fear," and say (Matthew and Mark), "It is a phantasm," an apparition, a herald of immediate destruction. The loud cry (ἀνέκραξαν) is the especial note of Mark. John simply says, They were affrighted (ἐφοβήθησαν). They might have eagerly longed for his presence, remembering his recent display of power when "the winds and sea obeyed him." But when the deliverance came, the manner of it was unexpected, and the symbolism ineffably sublime. They could not have been ignorant of the Psalms which spoke of Jehovah walking on the sea, and mightier than its waves (see also Job 9:8, "He alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth on the heights of the sea"). This visible nearness to them of the mighty power of God is enough to have startled them into cries of fear; but it is quite incompatible with the rationalistic interpretation of the event. Matthew and Mark both relate that the Lord came to them at or about the fourth watch (i.e. between three and six a.m.), when the first gleams of light were breaking over the eastern hills. Consequently, their peril had been prolonged and perplexing. The whole of the narrative lends itself to symbol, and suggests the impressive analogy of the calamities to which the ship of God's Church has been exposed in its long history. Often has the Church been chastised for its secular tastes and worldly passions, buffeted with the storms of the world and tormented by the waves; but in the direst extremity it has seen the deliverer approach, and at first cried out for fear, trembling at his nearness. Individual believers have often seen, in this picture of the storm and the Saviour, an image of the sore travail and victory of their faith. The disposition on the part of numerous expositors to press these analogies has strengthened the hands of the critical and rationalistic expositors. We can grant that the idea which is so fertile is more important than the narrative per se, but apart from the historic fact itself, who can say that the idea would ever have dawned on human minds? We make no further attempt to think out the modus operandi of the miracle, nor can we with that view accept the docetic conception of the body of Christ, which some have attributed most unfairly to John's Gospel. It is enough that the will of Christ thus faced the forces of nature, and prophesied the ultimate victory which the will of glorified humanity will likewise win. The great ἔργα of Christ include his power over nature, in its physical elements and forces, in the regions of both animal and vegetable life, over human nature, diseased, crippled, devil ridden, and dead. The highest realm over which he reigned was his own Divine-human Person, as recorded
(1) in this event,
(2) in his transfiguration,
(3) in his resurrection and ascension.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
So when they had rowed,.... For the wind being contrary, they could not make use of their sails, but betook themselves to their oars, and by that means got
about five and twenty, or thirty furlongs; which were three or four miles, or little more than a league; no further had they got, though they had been rowing from the time it was dark, to the fourth watch, which was after three o'clock in the morning; all this while they had been tossed in the sea;
they saw Jesus walking on the sea; See Gill on Matthew 14:25, See Gill on Matthew 14:26, See Gill on Matthew 14:29.
And drawing nigh unto the ship; though Mark says, he "would have passed by them", Mark 6:48; that is, he seemed as if he would, but his intention was to come to them, and save them from perishing, as he did:
and they were afraid; that he was a spirit, some nocturnal apparition, or demon, in an human form; See Gill on Matthew 14:26.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. they see Jesus—"about the fourth watch of the night" (Mt 14:25; Mr 6:48), or between three and six in the morning.
walking on the sea—What Job (Job 9:8) celebrates as the distinguishing prerogative of God, "Who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and TREADETH UPON THE WAVES OF THE SEA"—What Agur challenges as God's unapproachable prerogative, to "GATHER THE WIND IN His fists, and BIND THE WATERS IN A GARMENT" (Pr 30:4)—lo! this is here done in flesh, by "THE Son of man."
drawing nigh to the ship—yet as though He "would have passed by them," Mr 6:48 (compare Lu 24:28; Ge 18:3, 5; 32:24-26).
they were afraid—"cried out for fear" (Mt 14:26), "supposing it had been a spirit" (Mr 6:49). 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. (How often thus we miscall our chiefest mercies—not only thinking them distant when they are near, but thinking the best the worst!)
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