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Go to Bible: Mark 6
“his hometown.” The context is clear that this is referring to Nazareth, even though he had moved to Capernaum, and that was now considered his home (see commentary on Mark 2:1).(top)
“being done.” Present tense. Astonishingly, the people of Nazareth, who did not have trust in him, were able to admit that Jesus was doing miracles.(top)
“builder.” See commentary on Matthew 13:55.
“the son of Mary, and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here.” Mary had at least seven children, five boys, and at least two girls (see commentary on Matt. 13:55).(top)
“A prophet is honored everywhere except.” See commentary on Matthew 13:57.(top)
“he was not able to do any miracles there.” This is contributing evidence showing that Jesus is not God. It seems that in this instance, God did not grant Jesus his typical power to heal because of the unbelief of the people. If Jesus was God, he would never “not be able” to do a miracle, instead, the text would simply say that he did not do any miracles.
[For more on Jesus not being God, see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” Also see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”](top)
“in a circuit.” This gave Jesus the chance to revisit the places he had been before. Samuel had done the same thing centuries before: “he went from year to year in a circuit to Bethel and Gilgal and Mizpah” (1 Sam. 7:16).(top)
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“staff.” In Matthew and Luke, it seems Jesus said not to take a staff. For the apparent contradiction, see commentary on Matthew 10:10.
“traveler’s bag.” The Greek word is pēra (#4082 πήρα), which referred to a bag that was often made of leather and which had a strap so it could be easily carried. Travelers would often carry such a bag and have supplies in it. Although the word pēra was also used of a “beggar’s bag” carried by Cynic philosophers, it is highly unlikely that would be the meaning here. The disciples of Christ are never portrayed as having to beg, and the Old Testament constantly affirmed that people who lived godly lives would be provided for. In this case, Jesus’ intention was that the people whose lives were touched by the Apostles would take care of their needs.
“money.” The Greek word is chalkos (#5475 χαλκός) and it can refer to copper, brass, bronze, or sometimes even other metals. Also, by the figure metonymy, chalkos can refer to things made of those metals, such as idols or in this case, coins. Bronze coins were common at the time of Christ, and much more common among the people than silver or gold coins.
“belt.” The “belt” did not have money in it, but it allowed for the garment to be folded in such a way as to make a pocket in which small items such as coins would be kept.(top)
“two tunics.” The “tunic” was the long shirt that was against the skin, like a very long undershirt. Sometimes travelers would take an extra one to keep from being cold. Jesus was making it clear that if the Apostles were doing what he instructed and really helping people, their needs, which were little, would be taken care of. The outer garment was a thick cloak, that was for warmth, weather protection, and could serve as a blanket to sleep under at night.(top)
“that area.” The text is more literally, “from there,” but the phrase “stay there until you depart from there” is somewhat awkward and not as clear in English.(top)
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“people.” The Greek text reads “they,” but it refers to people.(top)
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“some people were saying.” The manuscript evidence is divided. Some ancient manuscripts read “And he [Herod] said,” while other manuscripts read, “And they [some people] were saying.”
The contextual evidence, and the evidence from the other Gospels, is that Mark 6:14 is not recording what Herod himself said, but what others were saying about Jesus; likely other people who had witnessed the miracles that Jesus did. Herod heard what others were saying about Jesus (Luke 9:7), and drew his conclusion that Jesus was John who had been raised from the dead (of the choices he had, it may have been his guilt over killing John that led him to that conclusion). Herod had to draw his conclusion about Jesus from what he heard from others because Herod himself had never personally met Jesus until Jesus had been arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Pontius Pilate, and then sent by Pilate to Herod (Luke 23:6-8). Furthermore, if Mark 6:14 is what Herod said, then Mark 6:15 does not fit in the context. If, in Mark 6:14, Herod made a definitive statement that Jesus was John, then there would be no point for Mark 6:15 to say, “But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets.’” Mark 6:15 would not contradict Herod’s conclusion if that is what Mark 6:14 had stated. The proper chronology of the situation is that Mark 6:14-15 fits with what Luke 9:7-8 says, that Herod was perplexed “because it was said by some that John had been raised out from among the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and yet by others that one of the prophets of old had risen.” Seen this way, Mark 6:14-15 is saying exactly what Luke 9:7-8 is saying, and Herod had to make a choice as to who Jesus was. Then Mark 6:16 reveals to us that Herod decided that Jesus was John, raised from the dead.
[For more on the chronology of what Herod heard and his conclusion about who Jesus was, see commentary on Mark 6:16.]
“out from among the dead.” For an explanation of this phrase, see commentary on Romans 4:24.(top)
“Elijah.” For information on why the people thought that Elijah would come, and why John the Baptist was called “Elijah,” see commentary on Matthew 17:10.(top)
“But when Herod heard these words, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” The evidence in Scripture is that Mark 9:16 is the first time that Herod declared that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead.
Herod himself had no personal knowledge about Jesus. Herod had never personally met Jesus until Jesus was arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Pontius Pilate, who then sent him to Herod (Luke 23:6-8). So Herod said what he did about Jesus—that he was John the Baptist who had been raised from the dead and that was why he could do miracles—only because that was what he heard people say and it convinced him (cp. Mark 6:14; Luke 9:7).
The Bible tells us that when Herod first heard about Jesus, he did not know what to think; he was “greatly perplexed” (Luke 9:7). Herod heard from some people that this Jesus was John the Baptist; from other people that Jesus was Elijah; and from other people that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets who had been raised from the dead (Luke 9:7-8; Mark 6:14-15 REV). Upon hearing the three possibilities, Herod did not know what to think and said, “Who, then, is this about whom I hear such things?” (Luke 9:9).
At some point, and for some unstated reason, Herod decided that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead (Matt. 14:2; Mark 6:16). Herod parroted what he had heard but had no personal knowledge of, that Jesus was John raised from the dead and that that was why Jesus could do the miracles that he did (Luke 9:7; cp. Matt. 14:2).
[For more on Mark 6:14 and 6:16, see commentary on Mark 6:14.](top)
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“feared.” Better than “was afraid of” here because there is an element of holy awe with the fear. In Hebrew, the two most common words for “fear” are the noun yare (#03373 יָרֵא) and the verb form of the same word, yir’ah (#03374 יִרְאָה). In Greek, the common words for fear are the noun phobos (#5401 φόβος) from which we get the English word “phobia,” and the verb form of the same word, phobeō (#5399 φοβέω). Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “fear” have a large semantic range, a large range of meanings, that includes our English concepts of “terror, dread, fear, timidity, respect, reverence, and awe.” Herod was somewhat afraid of John, but at the same time was in awe of him.
“liked to listen to him.” The Greek we translate as “like to” is hēdeōs (#2234 ἡδέως; pronounced hay-de-ōs) and it means with pleasure, with delight, gladly. This shows that people can hear the Word of God taught and enjoy it, but not have it change their lives (see commentary on Mark 12:37).(top)
“military commanders.” The Greek word designates a Chiliarch. See commentary on John 18:12.(top)
“And when the daughter of Herodias came in.” The daughter of Herodias is not named in the Bible but is named in Josephus as “Salome.”a The manuscript evidence slightly supports the reading, “the daughter of Herodias herself,” over the reading that says, “his daughter Herodias.” Furthermore, the reading “the daughter of Herodias herself,” makes more sense when compared to the parallel passage in Matthew, especially Matthew 14:8 which says, like Mark 6:22, that Herodias is the mother of Salome, and also when compared to the historical evidence in Josephus, which identifies Salome as Herodias’ daughter.
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“Come away with me to a solitary place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Mark 6:30-32 says the reason Jesus went to a “solitary place” is that the disciples had recently gathered back together to Jesus after traveling to the cities of Israel and healing the sick, casting out demons, etc., and they had no time even to eat. In contrast, Matthew says it was because Jesus had just heard about the death of John the Baptist. Both things contributed to Jesus’ decision to go away with his disciples and get away from the crowd.
[For more on Jesus’ getting away for some time alone with his disciples, see commentary on Matt. 14:13.](top)
|Mar 6:32||- (top)|
“knew where they were going.”a It is not that the people “recognized them.” Jesus had just been with them. They knew both Jesus and the apostles well. And, had they been sensitive at all, they also would have known why he was leaving—to get some privacy. But they were selfish, and knowing where he would go to be alone, got there before he did.
“from all the cities.” This is hyperbole to emphasize how many cities were involved.
“arrived before them.” This, and the start of verse 34, which is translated in many versions as “came ashore” or something similar, creates a contradiction with John 6:3-5. The crowd was not waiting on the shore for Jesus. If it were, he would have seen the people long before he came ashore. John makes it clear that the crowd, even if it was ahead of Jesus and the group with him for a little while, eventually lagged behind. Thus, Jesus arrived with his disciples on the shore and spent some time with them before the crowd assembled. Jesus “came out” of his retreat and saw the multitude assembled, and had compassion on them.
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“on the green grass.” This is not grass as we in the West think of grass. This is just a field of weeds, but the Greek does not have a word that would be equivalent to our “weeds.”(top)
“of hundreds and fifties.” The feeding of the 5,000 harkens back to the time of Moses and the Mosaic Covenant when the people were governed by hundreds and fifties (Ex. 18:25). God had fed the people miraculously with manna at that time, and promised them abundance if they would obey the covenant (Deut. 28:1-14).(top)
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“twelve baskets full.” There are many different interpretations of what the “twelve” represents. However, we can see that each of the apostles went to collect the leftovers, and each came back with a full basket. Since the Bible does not give a specific reason for it, we can assume the number 12 has multiple implications. One implication is that each apostle would be taken care of even as he gave himself to others. Also, it showed that each apostle would have so that he could give—give to others and give to the Lord (it is noteworthy that the Lord did not have a basket for himself). However, the details in the record show that the primary meaning is that there would be bread for all twelve of the tribes of Israel through the Promised Messiah (see the commentary on Matthew 15:37).(top)
“the loaves.” The words, “the loaves” are not in some of the ancient manuscripts.(top)
“immediately he made.” The record of Jesus walking on the water is in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-51, and John 6:15-21.
The feeding of the five thousand (much more when you include the women and children who were there) is one of the few events that is recorded in all four Gospels. It is a watershed time for Jesus Christ, and needs to be studied from all four Gospels to really understand it and what happened after it. After the feeding, the huge crowd became convinced that Jesus was their Messiah and they were going to come and take him by force and make him their king (John 6:14, 15). Jesus had to act swiftly to avoid a potential revolution which would have certainly also included charges against him by the Romans that he was a revolutionary, which would have no doubt landed him in prison.
As well as realizing the intent of the crowd, he recognized that his apostles were basically of the same mind as the crowd. They too were tired of Roman domination, Jewish perversion of religion, and the cares of the world, and they too were anxious for the Kingdom of God to come, which Jesus had been saying was at hand ever since he started his ministry. It was a very real possibility that the apostles could have been swept away with the emotion and conviction of the crowd and joined in the revolt. To prevent this, Jesus acted decisively. First, “immediately he compelled” his disciples to leave the scene (Matt. 14:22; Mark 6:45). He made them get into a boat and head west to Gennesaret (Matt. 14:34; Mark 6:53), and the next day they went from there a few miles northeast to Capernaum (John 6:59). Then he dealt with the crowd and sent it away (Matt. 14:23; Mark 6:45). This was not easy to do. The people had to be calmed down and convinced to leave. Mark 6:45 says Jesus “was sending” the crowd away, the verb being in the present tense, indicating the action was ongoing, taking some time. It was not as easy as saying, “Go home now.” Jesus worked with the people to convince them to leave.
Now finally alone, with no disciples and no crowds, Jesus went to a mountain to pray (Matt. 14:23; Mark 6:46; John 6:15). He needed wisdom and needed God’s help to keep his ministry on track, he needed to keep defeating the temptation to avoid the cross and try to become king immediately, and no doubt he prayed hard for his apostles that they would not be led away by false Messianic expectations. We get a glimpse of the wisdom and direction that God gave Jesus in his teaching and action when we read John 6:22-70, which occurred the day after the five thousand were fed (John 6:22). Jesus made a decisive shift in his ministry from just demonstrating the power of God for people and teaching them, to starting to require commitment from them (John 6:29, 53-58).
The reaction of the crowd was about the same then as it is today: most people talk about loving God and living the Word, but when you really require them to do it, they refuse. The people in Jesus’ audience said, “This is a hard saying: who is able to hear it?” (John 6:60), Even Jesus’ disciples grumbled about it (John 6:61). Jesus challenged his disciples about their unbelief, and many of them left (John 6:66). Jesus, most likely hurt and angered by the selfishness of the crowd and many of the disciples, turned to the twelve and asked, “Will you also go away?” Thankfully, they did not.
There are many lessons that can be learned from this account. One is that people are selfish. They are now, and they always have been. Jesus did not convince them otherwise, and neither will we. We must do what Jesus did: work with the people who want to work and let the others go. Another lesson is to not allow ourselves to be tricked and trapped by worldly aspirations. No doubt Jesus would have loved to have come into his kingdom without the pain of rejection and crucifixion, but it was not the will, nor the way, of God. Selflessness, humility, and giving are the godly way forward.
Another thing we can learn from the account is that sometimes quick and decisive action is needed to keep us out of trouble. Had Jesus not compelled the disciples to immediately leave the scene, he could have been fighting a battle on two fronts and had a hard time indeed. Another lesson is that prayer is essential for success. If Jesus needed to pray, surely we do too. One more thing we can learn is that the wisdom from God may be to change the direction of what you are doing. The result of what happened after Jesus’ great miracle, the potential revolt against Rome, and his hours of prayer was to change the direction of his ministry by adding that he require things from his disciples. This seemed to have the wrong effect because many disciples left, but the history of the early church shows us that those who stayed were tried and tested, and able to carry on the work of Christ after he ascended.
“toward Bethsaida.” Jesus sent them “toward” (the Greek is pros, “toward”) Bethsaida, which is nearer to Capernaum than they were on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, but the eventual destination was Capernaum (John 6:16). Bethsaida was almost a suburb of Capernaum, which was a major city, and site of a tax office and Roman troops, so for travel purposes, the names Bethsaida and Capernaum are synonymous. However, the boat landed at Gennesaret (see commentary on Matt. 14:34).(top)
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“the lake.” The “Sea of Galilee” is actually a rather small lake; it is about 13 miles long and 8 miles across at its widest point.(top)
“struggling as they rowed.” The apostles were struggling as they were being battered by the jerking of the oars while the ship itself was being battered (same Greek word) by the waves (Matt. 14:24).
“fourth watch of the night.” The Roman watches of the night were three hours each, and the fourth watch of the night started at our 3 a.m. and ending at our 6 a.m.
At the time of Christ, in both Jewish and Roman reckoning of time, the “day” was divided into 12 hours (John 11:9, “Are there not 12 hours in the day?). The first hour started at roughly 6 a.m. That made the “third hour” about our 9 a.m. (cp. Matt. 20:3; Acts 2:15); the “sixth hour” about our noon (cp. John 4:6; John 19:14; Acts 10:9); the “seventh hour” about our 1 p.m. (John 4:52), the ninth hour about our 3 p.m. (cp. Matt. 27:45, 46; Mark 15:34; Acts 3:1; 10:3); and the tenth hour about our 4 p.m. (John 1:39); and the eleventh hour about our 5 p.m. (Matt. 20:6).
Also, both the Jews and Romans divided the night into four “watches,” each being three hours long. This was true even though the Jews started their new day at sunset, at the start of the first watch of the night, and the Romans reckoned their new day at midnight, at the start of the third watch of the night (our day beginning at midnight comes from the Romans). That the Jews started their new day at sunset explains why the Bible usually puts the evening before the morning (cp. Gen. 1:5, 8; Dan. 8:14; 1 Kings 8:29; Mark 5:5; Acts 20:31).
The names of the four night watches were “evening,” “midnight,” “cockcrowing,” and “morning” (Mark 13:35: “So keep watch, for you do not know when the lord of the house is coming back, whether during the evening watch, or the midnight watch, or the cockcrowing watch, or the morning watch.”). Sometimes, however, the watches were just called “first watch,” “second watch,” “third watch,” and “fourth watch.” On occasion, the “watches” were not accurate enough, and so even the night was divided into hours. This is why Paul was taken to Caesarea at the “third hour of the night,” our 9 p.m. (Acts 23:23).
The hours of the day in Roman times were often approximations, because there was longer daylight in the summer and shorter in the winter. However, in both seasons the day was divided into 12 hours. Thus we would say that the “third hour” of the day was around our 9 a.m., not 9 a.m. exactly.
The feeding of the 5,000 took place in the area we know as Bethsaida-Julius, on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 9:10). The disciples left that general area in the evening and headed for “Bethsaida” (Mark 6:45; cp. “Bethsaida in Galilee, John 12:21), which was apparently a small fishing village to the southwest of Capernaum (it can be confusing that the disciples left the area of Bethsaida and sailed toward Bethsaida. “Bethsaida” means “House of fishing,” and there were a couple of them on the Sea of Galilee). Thus the total distance the apostles had to row was likely somewhat less than five miles (eight km). This should have been an easy journey, but the wind was so against them that they had rowed for hours and were no doubt incredibly frustrated and near exhaustion.
“he intended to pass by them.” Jesus would not have left the disciples in the lake in the storm, but wanted to pass close enough to be seen. The fact that they saw him on the lake was not an accident, Jesus intended for it to happen. It seems that Mark is intentionally borrowing from the Old Testament Hebrew idiom where God reveals Himself by “passing by” them. For example, God revealed Himself to Moses, saying, “I will make all my goodness pass by in front of you” (Exod. 33:19, cp. Exod. 33:22). Similarly, when Elijah ran from Jezebel, Yahweh revealed Himself to Elijah, and the text says, “Behold, Yahweh passed by” (1 King 19:11). Ezekiel 16:6 speaks of Yahweh passing by Israel when she was a forsaken baby and rescued her, then passed by again when she was of marriageable age and married her (Ezek. 16:8). In a similar way, Jesus, as God’s Messiah and representative on earth, intended to pass by the disciples in a manner in which they would see him and the situation would develop from there. Jesus’ walking on water was a teaching moment about trusting God for miracles and also Jesus continuing the process of the disciples recognizing him as the Messiah, which they fully acknowledged in Mark 8:29.(top)
“a ghost.” The Greek word is phantasma (#5326 φάντασμα) and it means “something that appears,” from phaino, to appear. Thus an apparition or a ghost of some kind. The only other appearance of the word is in Matthew 14:26, where it is used in a sentence and translated “ghost.” It was a long-held belief that the sea was the home of spirits of various kinds, and that the disciples saw what they thought was an apparition, a disembodied spirit coming towards them on the water filled them with terror and they cried out in fear.(top)
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“Gennesaret.” This is where Jesus and the disciples landed, and it is confirmed in Matthew 14:34 (see commentary there).(top)
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