Matthew 14:25
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
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(25) In the fourth watch of the night.—The Jews, since their conquest by Pompeius, had adopted the Roman division of the night into four watches, and this was accordingly between 3 A.M. and 6 A.M., in the dimness of the early dawn. St. John adds, as from a personal reminiscence, and as guarding against explanations that would minimise the miracle (such as that our Lord was seen on the shore, or was swimming to the boat), that they were about twenty-five or thirty furlongs from the point from which they had started—i.e., as the lake was five miles wide, nearly three-fourths of the way across.

Walking on the sea.—Here, again, we have to choose between the simple acceptance of the supernatural fact as another instance of His sovereignty, or rejecting it as a legend. On the former supposition. we may see in it something like an anticipation (not unconnected, it may be, with the intensity of that crisis in His life) of that spiritual body of which we see another manifestation in the Transfiguration, and which became normal after the Resurrection, reaching its completeness in the wonder of the Ascension. We speculate almost involuntarily on the nature, and, as it were, process of the miracle, asking whether the ordinary laws that govern motion were broken or suspended, or counteracted by higher laws. No such questions would seem to have suggested themselves to the disciples. They, as yet not free from the popular superstitions of their countrymen, thought that it was “a spirit” (better, a phantom, or spectre) taking the familiar form, it might be, to lure them to their destruction, or as a token that some sudden mischance had deprived them of that loved Presence, and, therefore, in their vague terror, they were troubled, and cried out for fear.

Matthew 14:25. And in the fourth watch of the night — The Jews, as well as the Romans, usually divided the night into four watches of three hours each. The first watch began at six, the second at nine, the third at twelve, the fourth at three. During these many tedious and distressing hours of storm and tempest, of darkness and danger, Jesus saw his disciples, though they saw not him: he beheld their perplexity and fear, while they were conflicting with the winds and waves, and observed how they toiled in rowing: Mark 6:48; yet he delayed all this time to go to their relief; seeing it proper so long to try their faith and patience. But in the fourth watch — When, it is probable, as the storm was not at all abated, they had begun to despair of deliverance; Jesus went unto them, walking on the water — agitated, stormy, and tumultuous as its billows were. Thus God often lengthens out the troubles of his people, and defers the time of their deliverance. But when things are come to an extremity, and they are ready to think he hath forgotten them, he unexpectedly appears for their relief and rescue; of a sudden the storm becomes a calm, and they are happily brought into a safe port. Thus, in the morning watch he appeared for Israel in the Red sea, troubled and dismayed their pursuing enemies, and delivered his people: and in all ages the extremity of his church has been his opportunity to visit and appear for her. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, but has constantly his eye upon them, and, when there is need, walks in darkness for their succour, support, and comfort. What a wonderful proof have we here of Christ’s sovereign power over the creatures, which are all under his feet, and at his command, forgetting their natures, and changing their most essential qualities at his word! “To walk on the sea was thought so impracticable, that the picture of two feet walking on the sea, was an Egyptian hieroglyphic for an impossible thing. And in the Scripture it is mentioned, as the prerogative of God, that he alone treadeth on the waves of the sea, Job 9:8.” — Doddridge.

14:22-33 Those are not Christ's followers who cannot enjoy being alone with God and their own hearts. It is good, upon special occasions, and when we find our hearts enlarged, to continue long in secret prayer, and in pouring out our hearts before the Lord. It is no new thing for Christ's disciples to meet with storms in the way of duty, but he thereby shows himself with the more grace to them and for them. He can take what way he pleases to save his people. But even appearances of deliverance sometimes occasion trouble and perplexity to God's people, from mistakes about Christ. Nothing ought to affright those that have Christ near them, and know he is theirs; not death itself. Peter walked upon the water, not for diversion or to boast of it, but to go to Jesus; and in that he was thus wonderfully borne up. Special supports are promised, and are to be expected, but only in spiritual pursuits; nor can we ever come to Jesus, unless we are upheld by his power. Christ bade Peter come, not only that he might walk upon the water, and so know his Lord's power, but that he might know his own weakness. And the Lord often lets his servants have their choice, to humble and prove them, and to show the greatness of his power and grace. When we look off from Christ, and look at the greatness of opposing difficulties, we shall begin to fall; but when we call to him, he will stretch out his arm, and save us. Christ is the great Saviour; those who would be saved, must come to him, and cry to him, for salvation; we are never brought to this, till we find ourselves sinking: the sense of need drives us to him. He rebuked Peter. Could we but believe more, we should suffer less. The weakness of faith, and the prevailing of our doubts, displease our Lord Jesus, for there is no good reason why Christ's disciples should be of a doubtful mind. Even in a stormy day he is to them a very present help. None but the world's Creator could multiply the loaves, none but its Governor could tread upon the waters of the sea: the disciples yield to the evidence, and confess their faith. They were suitably affected, and worshipped Christ. He that comes to God, must believe; and he that believes in God, will come, Heb 11:6.And in the fourth watch of the night - The Jews anciently divided the night into three parts of four hours each, usually called watches. The first of these watches is mentioned in Lamentations 2:19, the middle watch in Judges 7:19, and the morning watch in Exodus 14:24. In the time of our Saviour they divided the night into four watches, the fourth having been introduced by the Romans. These watches consisted of three hours each. The first commenced at six and continued until nine; the second from nine to twelve; the third from twelve to three; and the fourth from three to six. The first was called evening; the second midnight; the third cock-crowing; the fourth morning, Mark 13:35. It is probable that the term watch was given to each of these divisions from the practice of placing sentinels around the camp in time of war, or in cities, to watch or guard the camp or city; and that they were at first relieved three times in the night, but under the Romans four times. It was in the last of these watches, or between three and six in the morning, that Jesus appeared to the disciples, so that he had spent most of the night alone on the mountain in prayer.

Walking on the sea - A manifest and wonderful miracle. It was a boisterous sea. It was in a dark night. The little boat was 4 or 5 miles from the shore, tossed by the billows.

Mt 14:22-26. Jesus Crosses to the Western Side of the Lake Walking on the Sea—Incidents on Landing. ( = Mr 6:45; Joh 6:15-24).

For the exposition, see on [1303]Joh 6:15-24.

See Poole on "Matthew 14:27".

And in the fourth watch of the night,.... This is said, according to the division of the night into four watches, by the Jews; who (o) say, that

"there are four watches in the night, and four watches in the day.''

It is true indeed, that it is disputed among them, whether there were four watches, or only three in the night: some say there were four, others say there were but three (p); not but that these made a division of the night into four parts, the three first of which, they thought were properly the watches of the night, and the fourth was the morning. The first watch began at six o'clock in the evening, and lasted till nine; the second began at nine, and ended at twelve, which was midnight; the third began at twelve, and closed at three; the fourth began at three, and ended at six in the morning. But since some (q) Jewish writers are so positive for the division of the night into three watches only, and a watch is with them called (r) the third part of the night; and it is dubious with some, whether the Jewish division is here referred to; and since it is so clear a point, that the Romans (s) divided their night into four watches, and their writers speak not only of the first, second, and third watches, but also of the fourth watch (t); it is thought by some, that the evangelist speaks after the Roman manner: but however, certain it is, that within this period, probably at the beginning of it, after three o'clock in the morning, Christ came to his disciples, when they had been almost all the night at sea, tossed with waves, and in great danger.

Jesus went unto them; from the mountain where he had been praying, the greatest part of the night, to the sea side, and so upon the waters to them; for it follows,

walking upon the sea; as on dry land: though it was so stormy and boisterous, that the disciples, though in a ship, were in the utmost danger, yet he upon the waves, was in none at all; by which action he showed himself to be the Lord of the sea, and to be truly and properly God; whose character is, that he "treadeth upon the waves of the sea", Job 9:8.

(o) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 2. 4. Echa Rabbati, fol. 54. 4. (p) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 3. 1, 2.((q) Jaschi & Kimchi in Jude 7.19. & in Psal. cxix. 147. (r) Gloss. in T. Bab. Betacot, fol. 2. 1. (s) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. 1. 4. c. 20. (t) Liv. Hist. 1. 36, c. 24.

And in the {c} fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

(c) By the fourth watch is meant the time nearer to day break: for in ancient times they divided the night into four watches in which they posted watches.

Matthew 14:25. τετάρτῃ φυλ. = 3 to 6, in the early morning, πρωῒ.—ἐπὶ τ. θ.: the readings in this and the next verse vary between genitive and accusative. The sense is much the same. The evangelist means to represent Jesus as really walking on the sea, not on the land above the sea level (Paulus, Schenkel). Holtz. (H. C.), regarding it as a legend, refers to O. T. texts in which God walks on the sea.

25. in the fourth watch] i. e. early in the morning. Cp. “Et jam quarta canit venturam buccina lucem,” Propert. iv. 4. 63. At this time the Jews had adopted the Greek and Roman custom of four night watches. Formerly they divided the night into three watches, or rather according to Lightfoot (Hor. Heb.) the Romans and Jews alike recognised four watches, but with the Jews the fourth watch was regarded as morning, and was not included in the three watches of “deep night.” The four watches are named (Mark 13:35) 1 Even; 2 Midnight; 3 Cockcrowing; 4 Morning. St John states that they had rowed 25 or 30 furlongs.

Jesus went unto them] Mark adds “He would have passed by them.”

Matthew 14:25. Τετάρτη, fourth) and last. The Jews also divided the night into four watches. The disciples were subjected to great straits for some time, till He brought them help.—ἀπῆλθε, He departed) His prayers, though they had lasted a long while, being as it were broken off, He departed to help His disciples.—περιπατῶν, κ.τ.λ., walking) though the wind blew strong.

Verse 25. - And in the fourth watch of the night. Therefore some nine hours after sunset (ver. 23, note). They had been battling for hours, and had only gone about three miles and a half (John 6:19). Jesus went; came (Revised Version); η΅λθε, not ἀπῆλθε, with Received Text. Unto them, walking on the sea (ἐπὶ τὴν θάλθασσαν); contrast ver. 26 (ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης). Here there is more thought of motion (cf. ver. 29), but in the next verse the advance is almost forgotten, and the fact of Christ being on the water is all-important; "they saw him on the sea, walking." Matthew 14:25
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