Mark 6:48
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.
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6:45-56 The church is often like a ship at sea, tossed with tempests, and not comforted: we may have Christ for us, yet wind and tide against us; but it is a comfort to Christ's disciples in a storm, that their Master is in the heavenly mount, interceding for them. And no difficulties can hinder Christ's appearance for his people, when the set time is come. He silenced their fears, by making himself known to them. Our fears are soon satisfied, if our mistakes are set right, especially our mistakes as to Christ. Let the disciples have their Master with them, and all is well. It is for want of rightly understanding Christ's former works, that we view his present works as if there never were the like before. If Christ's ministers now could cure people's bodily diseases, what multitudes would flock after them! It is sad to think how much more most care about their bodies than about their souls.See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 14:22-36.48. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them—putting forth all their strength to buffet the waves and bear on against a head wind, but to little effect. He "saw" this 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.

and about the fourth watch of the night—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. "So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs" (Joh 6:19)—rather more than halfway across. The lake is about seven miles broad at its widest part. So that in eight or nine hours they had only made some three and a half miles. By this time, therefore, they must have been in a state of exhaustion and despondency bordering on despair; and now at length, having tried them long enough.

he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea—"and draweth nigh unto the ship" (Joh 6:19).

and would have passed by them—but only in the sense of Lu 24:28; Ge 32:26; compare Ge 18:3, 5; 42:7.

See Poole on "Mark 6:47"

And he saw them toiling in rowing,.... He saw them either with his bodily eyes from the mountain on which he was; or he perceived in his Spirit, he knew, by virtue of his omniscience as God, what distress his disciples were in; being tossed about with the waves of the sea, and were labouring with all their might and main against the wind: and were vexed and tortured, as the word signifies; they were in the utmost pain and uneasiness of mind, as well as fatigue of body, assisting the men in rowing; for the ship they were in was no other than a vessel managed by oars; and hard work it was to keep it from being overset:

for the wind was contrary unto them; it blew from the other side they were making to, full in their face, hard against them; so that it was with great toil and difficulty, that they got any thing forward:

and about the fourth watch of the night; or three o'clock in the morning: so that it is very likely, that as the evening when they took to the vessel was sun setting, or about six o'clock, they had been nine hours at sea, and had got but twenty five or thirty furlongs from shore; See Gill on Matthew 14:25;

he cometh unto them walking upon the sea: being in this distress, Christ came down from the mountain to the sea side; and then, by his divine power, as the mighty God, that treadeth on the waves of the sea, he walked upon the surface of the waters of it; "as on dry land", as the Persic version adds:

and would have passed by them; that is, he made as though he would; see Luke 24:28. By the course he steered, by the swiftness of his motion, and his seeming negligence of them, it looked as though he intended to have gone by them, and said nothing to them, though this was far from his real design.

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.
Mark 6:48. ἐν τῷ ἐλαύνειν, in pro pelling (the ship with oars).—περὶ τετ. φυλ., about the fourth watch, between three and six in the morning, towards dawn.—ἤθελε παρελθεῖν, He wished to pass them—“praeterire eos,” Vul.; it appeared so to them.

48. he saw them toiling in rowing] The word translated “toiling,” which also occurs in Matthew 14:24, is a very striking expression. It denotes (1) to test metals with the touchstone, (2) to rack, torture, (3) to torment as in Matthew 8:29, “art Thou come to torment us before the time?”, and Matthew 8:6, “Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.” Here it seems to imply that they were tortured, baffled, by the waves, which were boisterous by reason of the strong wind that blew (John 6:18). Wyclif translates it “travailing in rowing;” Tyndale and Cranmer, “troubled in rowing.”

the fourth watch] The proper Jewish reckoning recognised only three watches or periods, for which sentinels or pickets remained on duty. They were entitled (1) the first, or beginning of the watches, from sunset to 10 p.m. (Lamentations 2:19), (2) the middle watch, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Jdg 7:19), and (3) the morning watch, from 2 a.m. to sunrise (Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11). After the Roman supremacy the number of watches was increased to four, sometimes described by their numerical order, as here and in Matthew 14:25; sometimes by the terms (1) even, closing at 9 p.m.; midnight; cock-crowing, at 3 a.m.; morning, at 6 a.m.

would have passed by them] He came quite near their vessel on the storm-tost waves, and seemed to wish to lead the way before them to the western shore. Comp. Luke 24:28-29.

Mark 6:48. Εἶδεν, He saw) And yet He did not come to them, before that it was the full [proper] time.—ἤθελε, was wishing [would have]) Comp. Luke 24:28.

Verses 48-50. - And he saw them toiling in rowing. The Greek is, according to the best readings καὶ ἰδὼν (not εϊδεν) αὐτοὺς βασανιξομένους ἐν τῷ ἐλαύνειν. The word βασανιξομένους means more than "toiling;" it means literally, tormented. It is well rendered in the Revised Version by distressed. It was only by painful effort that they could make head against the driving storm blowing upon them from the west, that is, from the Mediterranean Sea. About the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking on the sea. The Jews formerly divided the night into three watches; but when Judaea became a Roman province they adopted the Roman division. The Romans changed the watches every three hours, lest through too long watches the guards might slumber at their posts. These periods were called "watches." If the night was short, they divided it into three watches; if long, into four. Therefore the fourth watch began at the tenth hour of the night, that is, at three o'clock in the morning, and continued to the twelfth, that is, to six o'clock. It would seem, therefore, that this storm lasted for nine hours. During that time the disciples had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs, that is about three Roman miles - eight furlongs - making a mile. The Sea of Galilee is not more than six miles broad at its widest part. They were therefore now (ἐν μέσῳ τῆς θαλάσσης) "in the midst of the sea," as St. Mark expresses it; so that, after rowing for nine hours, they had hardly crossed more than half over the sea. The Sea of Galilee is, speaking roughly, about twelve miles from north to south and six from east to west. It may be asked why our Lord suffered them to be tempest-tossed so long; and the answer is:

1. It was a trial of their faith, so as to urge them to seek more earnestly the help of God.

2. It was a lesson to accustom them to endure bard-ness.

3. It made the stilling of so tedious and dangerous a storm all the more grateful and welcome to them at last. The Fathers find a fine spiritual meaning in this. Jerome says, "The fourth watch is the last." So, too, St. Augustine, who adds that "he who has watched the ship of his Church will come at length at the fourth watch, at the end of the world, when the night of sin and evil is ended, to judge the quick and the dead." Theophylact says, "He allows his disciples to be tried by dangers, that they may be taught patience, and does not come to them till morning, that they may learn perseverance and faith." Hilary says, "The first watch was the age of the Law, the second of the prophets, the third of the gospel, the fourth of his glorious advent, when he will find her buffeted by the spirit of antichrist and by the storms of the world. And by his reception into the ship and the consequent calm is prefigured the eternal peace of the Church after his second coming" (see Wordsworth's 'New Testament:'St. Matthew 14). He walked on the sea. This he did by his Divine power, which he possessed as God, and which, when he pleased, he could assume as man. Infidelity is at fault here. Paulus the rationalist, revived the ridiculous idea that Christ walking on the sea merely meant Christ walking on the shore, elevated above the sea; but the interpretation was rightly denounced by Lavater as "a laughable insult on logic, hermeneutics, good sense, and honesty." Was it because our Lord simply walked on the shore that the disciples "cried out and were troubled"? Was it merely for this that they were "sore amazed at themselves beyond measure and wondered"? Yet such are the shifts to which unbelief is reduced when it ventures to measure itself against the acts of Omnipotence. He would have passed by them. An expression something like that in St. Luke (Luke 24:28), "He made as though he would go further," although there the Greek in St. Luke is different (προσεποιεῖτο πορρωτέρω πορεύεσθαι). Here it is ἤθελε παρελθεῖν: literally, he wished to pass by them; so at least it appeared to the disciples. It has been suggested that our Lord did this that the disciples might more clearly see how the wind was stilled in his presence. They supposed that it was an apparition (ἔδοξαν ὄτι φάντασμα εϊναι); literally, a phantom. Why did they suppose this? Partly from the idea that spectres appear in the night and in the darkness to terrify men, and partly because in the darkness they could not so readily recognize that it was Jesus. Then the fact that our Lord" would bare passed by them," flitting past them as though he eared nothing for them and had nothing to do with them, but was going elsewhere; this must have increased their terror. But now came the moment for him to calm their fears. Straightway he talked with them soothingly. Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. Now, Christ did this that he might teach his disciples to conquer fear and temptation, even when they are very great, and that so the deliverance and the consolation might impress them all the more powerfully and sweetly in proportion to their former terror. "'It is I' - I, your Lord and Master, whom you know so well, and of whose goodness and omnipotence you have already had so much experience; I, your Master, who do not come to mock you as a phantom, but to deliver you both from fear and from storm." It will be observed that St. Mark omits all mention of Peter's act of faith "in going down from the boat, and walking upon the waters to come to Jesus," as recorded by St. Matthew (Matthew 14:28). Throughout this Gospel, as already noticed, St. Peter is kept in the background. Mark 6:48He saw (ἰδὼν)

Participle. Rev., seeing. Better, however, the literal having seen. It was this which induced him to go to them.

Toiling (βασανιζομένους)

Lit., tormented. Rev., distressed See on Matthew 4:24. Wyc., travailing. Tynd., troubles

Fourth watch

Between 3 and 6 a.m.

Would have passed by them.

Peculiar to Mark.

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