A great variety of observable passages we have, in this chapter,
concerning our Lord Jesus, the substance of all which we had before in
Matthew, but divers circumstances we have, which we did not there meet
with. Here is,
I. Christ contemned by his countrymen, because he was one of them, and
they knew, or thought they knew, his original,
II. The just power he gave his apostles over unclean spirits, and an
account given of their negotiation,
III. A strange notion which Herod and others had of Christ, upon which
occasion we have the story of the martyrdom of John Baptist,
IV. Christ's retirement into a desert place with his disciples; the
crowds that followed him thither to receive instruction from him; and
his feeding five thousand of them with five loaves and two fishes,
V. Christ's walking upon the sea to his disciples, and the abundance
of cures he wrought on the other side of the water,
|The Contempt Poured on Christ.
1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country;
and his disciples follow him.
2 And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the
synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From
whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this
which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought
by his hands?
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of
James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters
here with us? And they were offended at him.
4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour,
but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own
5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his
hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round
about the villages, teaching.
Here, I. Christ makes a visit to his own country, the place not
of his birth, but of his education; that was Nazareth; where his
relations were. He had been in danger of his life among them
and yet he came among them again; so strangely doth he wait to be
gracious, and seek the salvation of his enemies. Whither he went,
though it was into danger, his disciples followed him
for they had left all, to follow him whithersoever he went.
II. There he preached in their synagogue, on the
It seems, there was not such flocking to him there as in other places,
so that he had no opportunity of preaching till they came together on
the sabbath day; and then he expounded a portion of scripture with
great clearness. In religious assemblies, on sabbath days, the word of
God is to be preached according to Christ's example. We give
glory to God by receiving instruction from him.
III. They could not but own that which was very honourable concerning
1. That he spoke with great wisdom, and that this wisdom was
given to him, for they knew he had no learned education.
2. That he did mighty works, did them with his own hands, for
the confirming of the doctrine he taught. They acknowledged the two
great proofs of the divine original of his gospel--the divine
wisdom that appeared in the contrivance of it, and the divine
power that was exerted for the ratifying and recommending of it;
and yet, though they could not deny the premises, they would not admit
IV. They studied to disparage him, and to raise prejudices in the minds
of people against him, notwithstanding. All this wisdom, and all
these mighty works, shall be of no account, because he had a
home-education, had never travelled, nor been at any university, or
bred up at the feet of any of their doctors
Is not this the Carpenter? In Matthew, they upbraid him with
being the carpenter's son, his supposed father Joseph being of that
trade. But, it seems, they could say further, Is not this the
Carpenter? our Lord Jesus, it is probable, employing himself in
that business with his father, before he entered upon his public
ministry, at least, sometimes in journey-work.
1. He would thus humble himself, and make himself of no
reputation, as one that had taken upon him the form of a servant, and
came to minister. Thus low did our Redeemer stoop, when he came to
redeem us out of our low estate.
2. He would thus teach us to abhor idleness, and to find
ourselves something to do in this world; and rather to take up
with mean and laborious employments, and such as no more is to be got
by than a bare livelihood, than indulge ourselves in sloth. Nothing is
more pernicious for young people than to get a habit of
sauntering. The Jews had a good rule for this--that their young men
who were designed for scholars, were yet bred up to some trade, as Paul
was a tent-maker, that they might have some business to fill up their
time with, and, if need were, to get their bread with.
3. He would thus put an honour upon despised mechanics, and encourage
those who eat the labour of their hands, though great men look upon
them with contempt.
Another thing they upbraided him with, was, the meanness of his
relations; "He is the son of Mary; his brethren and
sisters are here with us; we know his family and
kindred;" and therefore, though they were astonished at his
yet they were offended at his person
were prejudiced against him, and looked upon him with contempt; and for
that reason would not receive his doctrine, though ever so well
recommended. May we think that if they had not known his pedigree, but
he had dropped among them from the clouds, without father, without
mother, and without descent, they would have entertained him with any
more respect? Truly, no; for in Judea, where this was not know, that
was made an objection against him
As for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. Obstinate
unbelief will never want excuses.
V. Let us see how Christ bore this contempt.
1. He partly excused it, as a common thing, and what might be
expected, though not reasonably or justly
A prophet is not despised any where but in his own country. Some
exceptions there may be to this rule; doubtless many have got over this
prejudice, but ordinarily it holds good, that ministers are seldom so
acceptable and successful in their own country as among strangers;
familiarity in the younger years breeds a contempt, the
advancement of one that was an inferior begets envy, and men
will hardly set those among the guides of their souls whose fathers
they were ready to set with the dogs of their flock; in such a case
therefore it must not be thought hard, it is common treatment, it was
Christ's, and wisdom is profitable to direct to other soil.
2. He did some good among them, notwithstanding the slights they
put upon him, for he is kind even to the evil and unthankful; He
laid his hands upon a few sick folks, and healed them. Note, It is
generous, and becoming the followers of Christ, to content themselves
with the pleasure and satisfaction of doing good, though they be
unjustly denied the praise of it.
3. Yet he could there do no such mighty works, at least not so
many, as in other places, because of the unbelief that prevailed among
the people, by reason of the prejudices which their leaders instilled
into them against Christ,
It is a strange expression, as if unbelief tied the hands of
omnipotence itself; he would have done as many miracles there as
he had done elsewhere, but he could not, because people would not make
application to him, nor sue for his favours; he could have wrought
them, but they forfeited the honour of having them wrought for them.
Note, By unbelief and contempt of Christ men stop the current of his
favours to them, and put a bar in their own door.
4. He marvelled because of their unbelief,
We never find Christ wondering but at the faith of the Gentiles
that were strangers, as the centurion
and the woman of Samaria, and at the unbelief of Jews that were his own
countrymen. Note, The unbelief of those that enjoy the means of grace,
is a most amazing thing.
5. He went round about the village, teaching. If we cannot do
good where we would, we must do it where we can, and be glad if we may
have any opportunity, though but in the villages, of serving Christ and
souls. Sometimes the gospel of Christ finds better entertainment in the
country villages, where there is less wealth, and pomp, and mirth, and
subtlety, than in the populous cities.
|The Apostolic Commission.
7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them
forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their
journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in
9 But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
10 And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an
house, there abide till ye depart from that place.
11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye
depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony
against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable
for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that
12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many
that were sick, and healed them.
I. The commission given to the twelve apostles, to preach and work
miracles; it is the same which we had more largely,
Mark doth not name them here, as Matthew doth, because he had named
them before, when they were first called into fellowship with him,
Hitherto they had been conversant with Christ, and had set at his feet,
had heard his doctrine, and seen his miracles; and now he determines to
make some use of them; they had received, that they might
give, had learned, that they might teach; and
therefore now he began to send them forth. They must not always
be studying in the academy, to get knowledge, but they must preach in
the country, to do good with the knowledge they have got. Though they
were not as yet so well accomplished as they were to be, yet, according
to their present ability and capacity, they must be set to work, and
make further improvements afterward. Now observe here,
1. That Christ sent them forth by two and two; this Mark takes
notice of. They went two and two to a place, that out of the mouth of
two witnesses every word might be established; and that they might be
company for one another when they were among strangers, and might
strengthen the hands, and encourage the hearts, one of another; might
help one another if any thing should be amiss, and keep one another in
countenance. Every common soldier has his comrade; and it is an
approved maxim, Two are better than one. Christ would thus teach
his ministers to associate, and both lend and borrow help.
2. That he gave them power over unclean spirits. He commissioned
them to attack the devil's kingdom, and empowered them, as a specimen
of their breaking his interest in the souls of men by their doctrine,
to cast him out of the bodies of those that were possessed. Dr.
Lightfoot suggests, that they cured diseases, and cast out devils, by
the Spirit, but preached that only which they had learned from the
mouth of Christ.
3. That he commanded them not to take provisions along with
them, neither victuals nor money, that they might appear,
wherever they came, to be poor men, men not of this world, and
therefore might with the better grace call people off from it to
another world. When afterward he bid them take purse and scrip
that did not intimate (as Dr. Lightfoot observes) that his care of them
was abated from what it had been; but that they should meet with worse
times and worse entertainment than they met with at their first
mission. In Matthew and Luke they are forbidden to take staves
with them, that is, fighting staves; but here in Mark they are bid to
take nothing save a staff only, that is, a walking staff, such
as pilgrims carried. They must not put on shoes, but
sandals only, which were only the soles of shoes tied under
their feet, or like pumps, or slippers; they must go in the readiest
plainest dress they could, and must not so much as have two
coats; for their stay abroad would be short, they must return
before winter, and what they wanted, those they preached to would
cheerfully accommodate them with.
4. He directed them, whatever city they came to, to make that house
their head-quarters, which happened to be their first quarters
"There abide, till ye depart from that place. And since ye know
ye come on an errand sufficient to make you welcome, have such charity
for your friends that first invited you, as to believe they do not
think you burthensome."
5. He pronounces a very heavy doom upon those that rejected the gospel
"Whosoever shall not receive you, or will not so much as hear
you, depart thence (if one will not, another will), and shake
off the dust under your feet, for a testimony against them. Let
them know that they have had a fair offer of life and happiness made
them, witness that dust; but that, since they have refused it, they
cannot expect ever to have another; let them take up with their own
dust, for so shall their doom be." That dust, like the dust of Egypt
shall turn into a plague to them; and their condemnation in the great
day, will be more intolerable than that of Sodom: for the angels
were sent to Sodom, and were abused there; yet that would not bring on
so great a guilt and so great a ruin as the contempt and abuse of the
apostles of Christ, who bring with them the offers of gospel grace.
II. The apostles' conduct in pursuance of their commission. Though they
were conscious to themselves of great weakness, and expected no secular
advantage by it, yet, in obedience to their Master's order, and in
dependence upon his strength, they went out as Abraham, not
knowing whither they went. Observe here,
1. The doctrine they preached; They preached that men should
that they should change their minds, and reform their lives, in
consideration of the near approach of the kingdom of the Messiah. Note,
The great design of the gospel preachers, and the great tendency of
gospel preaching, should be, to bring people to repentance, to a new
heart and a new way. They did not amuse people with curious
speculations, but told them that they must repent of their sins, and
turn to God.
2. The miracles they wrought. The power Christ gave them over
unclean spirits, was not ineffectual, nor did they receive it in
vain, but used it, for they cast out many devils
and they anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Some think this oil was used medicinally, according to the
custom of the Jews; but I rather think it was used as a sign of
miraculous healing, by the appointment of Christ, though not
mentioned; and it was afterward used by those elders of the
church, to whom by the Spirit was given the gift of
It is certain here, and therefore probable there, that anointing the
sick with oil, is appropriated to that extraordinary power which
has long ceased, and therefore that sign must cease with it.
|The Death of John the Baptist.
14 And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread
abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the
dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.
15 Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a
prophet, or as one of the prophets.
16 But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I
beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John,
and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's
wife: for he had married her.
18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to
have thy brother's wife.
19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have
killed him; but she could not:
20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an
holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many
things, and heard him gladly.
21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his
birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief
estates of Galilee;
22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and
danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king
said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will
give it thee.
23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I
will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I
ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.
25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and
asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger
the head of John the Baptist.
26 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake,
and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.
27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded
his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the
28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the
damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up
his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
I. The wild notions that the people had concerning our Lord Jesus,
His own countrymen could believe nothing great concerning him, because
they knew his poor kindred; but others that were not under the power of
that prejudice against him, were yet willing to believe any thing
rather than the truth--that he was the Son of God, and the true
Messias: they said, He is Elias, whom they expected; or, He is a
prophet, one of the Old-Testament prophets raised to life, and
returned to this world; or as one of the prophets, a prophet now
newly raised up, equal to those under the Old Testament.
II. The opinion of Herod concerning him. He heard of his name
and fame, of what he said and what he did; and he said, "It is
certainly John Baptist,
As sure as we are here, It is John, whom I beheaded,
He is risen from the dead; and though while he was with us he
did no miracle, yet, having removed for awhile to another world, he
is come again with greater power, and now mighty works do show forth
themselves in him."
1. Where there is an idle faith, there is commonly a working
fancy. The people said, It is a prophet risen from the dead; Herod
said, It is John Baptist risen from the dead. It seems by this,
that the rising of a prophet from the dead, to do mighty
works, was a thing expected, and was thought neither impossible nor
improbable, and it was now readily suspected when it was not
true; but afterward, when it was true concerning Christ, and
a truth undeniably evidenced, yet then it was obstinately gainsaid and
denied. Those who most wilfully disbelieve the truth, are commonly most
credulous of errors and fancies.
2. They who fight against the cause of God, will find themselves
baffled, even when they think themselves conquerors; they cannot gain
their point, for the word of the Lord endures for ever. They who
rejoiced when the witnesses were slain, fretted as much, when in three
or four days they rose again in their successors,
The impenitent unreformed sinner, that escapeth the sword of Jehu,
shall Elisha slay.
3. A guilty conscience needs no accuser or tormentor but itself. Herod
charges himself with the murder of John, which perhaps no one else dare
charge him with; I beheaded him; and the terror of it made him
imagine that Christ was John risen. He feared John while he lived, and
now, when he thought he had got clear of him, fears him ten times worse
when he is dead. One might as well be haunted with ghosts and furies,
as with the horrors of an accusing conscience; those therefore who
would keep an undisturbed peace, must keep an undefiled conscience,
4. There may be the terrors of strong conviction, where there is not
the truth of a saving conversion. This Herod, who had this notion
concerning Christ, afterward sought to kill him
and did set him at nought
so that he will not be persuaded, though it be by one risen from the
dead; no, not by a John the Baptist risen from the dead.
III. A narrative of Herod's putting John Baptist to death, which is
brought in upon this occasion, as it was in Matthew. And here we may
1. The great value and veneration which Herod had some time had for
John Baptist, which is related only by this evangelist,
Here we see what a great way a man may go toward grace and glory, and
yet come short of both, and perish eternally.
(1.) He feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and a holy.
It is possible that a man may have a great reverence for good men, and
especially for good ministers, yea, and for that in them that is good,
and yet himself be a bad man. Observe,
[1.] John was a just man, and a holy; to make a complete good
man, both justice and holiness are necessary; holiness toward God, and
justice toward men. John was mortified to this world, and so was a good
friend both to justice and holiness.
[2.] Herod knew this, not only by common fame, but by personal
acquaintance with him. Those that have but little justice and holiness
themselves, may yet discern it with respect in others. And,
[3.] He therefore feared him, he honoured him. Holiness and
justice command veneration, and many that are not good themselves, have
respect for those that are.
(2.) He observed him; he sheltered him from the malice of his
enemies (so some understand it); or, rather, he had a regard to his
exemplary conversation, and took notice of that in him that was
praiseworthy, and commended it in the hearing of those about him; he
made it appear that he observed what John said and did.
(3.) He heard him preach; which was great condescension,
considering how mean John's appearance was. To hear Christ himself
preach in our streets will be but a poor plea in the great day,
(4.) He did many of those things which John in his preaching
taught him. He was not only a hearer of the word, but in part a
doer of the work. Some sins which John in his preaching
reproved, he forsook, and some duties he bound himself to; but it will
not suffice to do many things, unless we have respect to
all the commandments.
(5.) He heard him gladly. He did not hear him with terror as
Felix heard Paul, but heard him with pleasure. There is a flashy joy,
which a hypocrite may have in hearing the word; Ezekiel was to his
hearers as a lovely song
and the stony ground received the word with joy,
2. John's faithfulness to Herod, in telling him of his faults. Herod
had married his brother Philip's wife,
All the country, no doubt, cried shame on him for it, and reproached
him for it; but John reproved him, told him plainly, It is
not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. This was Herod's
own iniquity, which he could not leave, when he did many things that
John taught him; and therefore John tells him of this particularly.
Though he were a king, he would not spare him, any more than Elijah did
Ahab, when he said, Hast thou killed and also taken possession?
Though John had an interest in him, and he might fear this
plain-dealing would destroy his interest, yet he reproved him; for
faithful are the wounds of a friend
and though there are some swine that will turn again, and rend
those that cast pearls before them, yet, ordinarily, he that
rebuketh a man (if the person reproved has any thing of the
understanding of a man), afterwards shall find more favour than he
that flattereth with his tongue,
Though it was dangerous to offend Herod, and much more to offend
Herodias, yet John would run the hazard rather than be wanting in his
duty. Note, Those ministers that would be found faithful in the work of
God, must not be afraid of the face of man. If we seek to please men,
further than is for their spiritual good, we are not the servants of
3. The malice which Herodias bore to John for this
She had a quarrel with him, and would have killed him; but when
she could not obtain that, she got him committed to prison,
Herod respected him, till he touched him in his Herodias. Many that
pretend to honour prophesying, are for smooth things only, and love
good preaching, if it keep far enough from their beloved sin; but if
that be touched, they cannot bear it. No marvel if the world hate those
who testify of it that its works are evil. But it is better that
sinners persecute ministers now for their faithfulness, than curse them
eternally for their unfaithfulness.
4. The plot laid to take off John's head. I am apt to think that Herod
was himself in the plot, notwithstanding his pretences to be displeased
and surprised, and that the thing was concerted between him and
Herodias; for it is said to be when a convenient day was come
fit for such a purpose.
(1.) There must be a ball at court, upon the king's birth-day, and a
supper prepared for his lords, high captains, and chief estates of
(2.) To grace the solemnity, the daughter of Herodias must dance
publicly, and Herod must take on him to be wonderfully charmed with her
dancing; and if he be, they that sit with him cannot but, in
compliment to him, be so too.
(3.) The king hereupon must make her an extravagant promise, to give
her whatever she would ask, even to the half of the
kingdom; and yet, that, if rightly understood, would not have
reached the end designed, for John Baptist's head was worth more than
his whole kingdom. This promise is bound with an oath, that no
room might be left to fly off from it; He sware unto her, Whatsoever
thou shalt ask, I will give. I can scarcely think he would have
made such an unlimited promise, but that he knew what she would ask.
(4.) She, being instructed by Herodias her mother, asked the head of
John Baptist; and she must have it brought her in a charger,
as a pretty thing for her to play with
and there must be no delay, no time lost, she must have it by and
(5.) Herod granted it, and the execution was done immediately while the
company were together, which we can scarcely think the king would have
done, if he had not determined the matter before. But he takes on him,
[1.] To be very backward to it, and that he would not for all the world
have done it, if he had not been surprised into such a promise; The
king was exceeding sorry, that is, he seemed to be so, he said
he was so, he looked as if he had been so; but it was all sham and
grimace, he was really pleased that he had found a pretence to get John
out of the way. Qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare--The man who
cannot dissemble, knows not how to reign. And yet he was not
without sorrow for it; he could not do it but with great regret and
reluctancy; natural conscience will not suffer men to sin easily; the
very commission of it is vexatious; what then will the reflection upon
[2.] He takes on him to be very sensible of the obligation of his oath;
whereas if the damsel had asked but a fourth part of his kingdom, I
doubt not but he would have found out a way to evade his oath. The
promise was rashly made, and could not bind him to do an unrighteous
thing. Sinful oaths must be repented of, and therefore not performed;
for repentance is the undoing of what we have done amiss, as far as is
in our power. When Theodosius the emperor was urged by a suitor with a
promise, he answered, I said it, but did not
promise it if it be unjust. If we may suppose that Herod knew
nothing of the design when he made that rash promise, it is probable
that he was hurried into the doing of it by those about him, only to
carry on the humour; for he did it for their sakes who sat with
him, whose company he was proud of, and therefore would do any
thing to gratify them. Thus do princes make themselves slave to those
whose respect they covet, and both value and secure themselves by. None
of Herod's subjects stood in more awe of him than he did of his
lords, high captains, and chief estates. The king sent an
executioner, a soldier of his guard. Bloody tyrants have
executioners ready to obey their most cruel and unrighteous decrees.
Thus Saul has a Doeg at hand, to fall upon the priests of the
Lord, when his own footmen declined it.
5. The effect of this is,
(1.) That Herod's wicked court is all in triumph, because this
prophet tormented them; the head is made a present of to the
damsel, and by her to her mother,
(2.) That John Baptist's sacred college is all in tears; the
disciples of John little thought of this; but, when they heard of
it, they came, and took up the neglected corpse, and laid
it in a tomb; where Herod, if he had pleased, might have found it,
when he frightened himself with the fancy that John Baptist was
risen from the dead.
|The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.
30 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus,
and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they
31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a
desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and
going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and
ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came
together unto him.
34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved
with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not
having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto
him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far
36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round
about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they
have nothing to eat.
37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And
they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of
bread, and give them to eat?
38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And
when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon
the green grass.
40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he
looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave
them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes
divided he among them all.
42 And they did all eat, and were filled.
43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and
of the fishes.
44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand
In there verses, we have,
I. The return to Christ of the apostles whom he had sent forth
to preach, and work miracles. They had dispersed themselves into
several quarters of the country for some time, but when they had made
good their several appointments, by consent they gathered themselves
together, to compare notes, and came to Jesus, the centre of their
unity, to give him an account of what they had done pursuant to their
commission: as the servant that was sent to invite to the feast, and
had received answers from the guests, came, and showed his Lord all
those things, so did the apostles here; they told him all
things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
Ministers are accountable both for what they do, and for what
they teach; and must both watch over their own souls, and watch
for the souls of others, as those that must give account,
Let them not either do any thing, or teach any thing, but
what they are willing should be related and repeated to the Lord Jesus.
It is a comfort to faithful ministers, when they can appeal to Christ
concerning their doctrine and manner of life, both which perhaps have
been misrepresented by men; and he gives them leave to be free with
him, and to lay open their case before him, to tell him all
things, what treatment they have met with, what success, and what
II. The tender care Christ took for their repose, after the fatigue
He said unto them, perceiving them to be almost spent, and out
of breath, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest
awhile. It should seem that John's disciples came to Christ with
the mournful tidings of their master's death, much about the same time
that his own disciples came to him with the report of their
negotiation. Note, Christ takes cognizance of the frights of
some, and the toils of others, of his disciples, and provides
suitable relief for both, rest for those that are tired, and refuge for
those that are terrified. With what kindness and compassion doth Christ
say to them, Come, and rest! Note, The most active servants of
Christ cannot be always upon the stretch of business, but have bodies
that require some relaxation, some breathing-time; we shall not be able
to serve God without ceasing, day and night, till we come to heaven,
where they never rest from praising him,
And the Lord is for the body, considers its frame, and not only allows
it time for rest, but puts it in mind of resting. Come, my people,
enter thou into thy chambers. Return to thy rest. And those that
work diligently and faithfully, may cheerfully retire to rest. The
sleep of the labouring man is sweet. But observe,
1. Christ calls them to come themselves apart; for, if they had
any body with them, they would have something to say, or something to
do, for their good; if they must rest, they must be
2. He invites them not to some pleasant country-seat, where there were
fine buildings and fine gardens, but into a desert place, where
the accommodations were very poor, and which was fitted by nature only,
and not by art, for quietness and rest. But it was of a piece with all
the other circumstances he was in; no wonder that he who had but a ship
for his preaching place, had but a desert for his resting place.
3. He calls them only to rest awhile; they must not expect to
rest long, only to get breath, and then to go to work
again. There is no remaining rest for the people of God till
they come to heaven.
4. The reason given for this, is, not so much because they had been in
constant work, but because they now were in a constant
hurry; so that they had not their work in any order; for there
were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to
eat. Let but proper time be set, and kept for every thing, and a
great deal of work may be done with a great deal of ease; but if people
be continually coming and going, and no rule or method be observed, a
little work will not be done without a deal of trouble.
5. They withdrew, accordingly, by ship; not crossing the water,
but making a coasting voyage to the desert of Bethsaida,
Going by water was much less toilsome than going by land
would have been. They went away privately, that they might be by
themselves. The most public persons cannot but wish to be private
III. The diligence of the people to follow him. It was rude to do so,
when he and his disciples were desirous, for such good reason, to
retire; and yet they are not blamed for it, nor bid to go back,
but bid welcome. Note, A failure in good manners will easily be excused
in those who follow Christ, if it be but made up in a fulness of good
affections. They followed him of their own accord, without being called
upon. Here is no time set, no meeting appointed, no bell tolled; yet
they thus fly like a cloud, and as the doves to their windows. They
followed him out of the cities, quitted their houses and shops,
their callings and affairs, to hear him preach. They followed him
afoot, though he was gone by sea, and so, to try them, seemed to
put a slight upon them, and to endeavour to shake them off; yet they
stuck to him. They ran afoot, and made such haste, that they
out-went the disciples, and came together to him with an
appetite to the word of God. Nay they followed him, though it was into
a desert place, despicable and inconvenient. The presence of
Christ will turn a wilderness into a paradise.
IV. The entertainment Christ gave them
When he saw much people, instead of being moved with
displeasure, because they disturbed him when he desired to be private,
as many a man, many a good man, would have been, he was moved with
compassion toward them, and looked upon them with concern, because
they were as sheep having no shepherd, they seemed to be
well-inclined, and manageable as sheep, and willing to be taught, but
they had no shepherd, none to lead and guide them in the right
way, none to feed them with good doctrine: and therefore, in compassion
to them, he not only healed their sick, as it is in Matthew, but
he taught them many things, and we may be sure that they were
all true and good, and fit for them to learn.
V. The provision he made for them all; all his hearers he generously
made his guests, and treated them at a splendid entertainment:
so it might truly be called, because a miraculous one.
1. The disciples moved that they should be sent home. When
the day was not far spent, and night drew on, they said, This
is a desert place, and much time is now past; send them away to
This the disciples suggested to Christ; but we do not find that the
multitude themselves did. They did not say, Send us away (though
they could not but be hungry), for they esteemed the words of
Christ's mouth more than their necessary food, and forgot
themselves when they were hearing him; but the disciples thought it
would be a kindness to them to dismiss them. Note, Willing minds will
do more, and hold out longer, in that which is good, than one would
expect from them.
2. Christ ordered that they should all be fed
Give ye them to eat. Though their crowding after him and his
disciples hindered them from eating
yet he would not therefore, to be even with them, send them away
fasting, but, to teach us to be kind to those who are rude to us, he
ordered provision to be made for them; that bread which Christ and his
disciples took with them into the desert, that they might make a quiet
meal of it for themselves, he will have them to partake of. Thus was he
given to hospitality. They attended on the spiritual food of his word,
and then he took care that they should not want corporal food. The way
of duty, as it is the way of safety, so it is the way to supply. Let
God alone to fill the pools with rain from heaven, and so to make a
well even in the valley of Baca, for those that are going Zion-ward,
from strength to strength,
Providence, not tempted, but duly trusted, never yet
failed any of God's faithful servants, but has refreshed many with
seasonable and surprising relief. It has often been seen in the
mount of the Lord, Jehovah-jireh, that the Lord will
provide for those that wait on him.
3. The disciples objected against it as impracticable; Shall we go,
and buy two hundred penny-worth of bread, and give them to eat?
Thus, through the weakness of their faith, instead of waiting for
directions from Christ, they perplex the cause with projects of their
own. It was a question, whether they had two hundred pence with them,
whether the country would of a sudden afford so much bread if they had,
and whether that would suffice so great a company; but thus Moses
Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them? Christ would
let them see their folly in forecasting for themselves, that they might
put the greater value upon his provision for them.
4. Christ effected it, to universal satisfaction. They had brought with
them five loaves, for the victualling of their ship, and two
fishes perhaps they caught as they came along; and that is the bill
of fare. This was but a little for Christ and his disciples, and yet
this they must give away, as the widow her two mites, and as the
church of Macedonia's deep poverty abounded to the riches of their
liberality. We often find Christ entertained at other people's
tables, dining with one friend, and supping with another: but here we
have him supping a great many at his own charge, which shows that, when
others ministered to him of their substance, it was not because
he could not supply himself otherwise (if he was hungry, he
needed not tell them); but it was a piece of humiliation, that
he was pleased to submit to, nor was it agreeable to the intention of
miracles, that he should work them for himself. Observe,
(1.) The provision was ordinary. Here were no rarities, no
varieties, though Christ, if he had pleased, could have furnished his
table with them; but thus he would teach us to be content with food
convenient for us, and not to be desirous of dainties. If we have for
necessity, it is no matter though we have not for delicacy and
curiosity. God, in love, gives meat for our hunger; but, in
wrath, gives meat for our lusts,
The promise to them that fear the Lord, is, that verily they shall be
fed; he doth not say, They shall be feasted. If Christ and his
disciples took up with mean things, surely we may.
(2.) The guests were orderly; for they sat down by companies
on the green grass
they sat down in ranks by hundreds and by fifties
that the provision might the more easily and regularly be distributed
among them; for God is the God of order, and not of confusion. Thus
care was taken that every one should have enough, and none be
over-looked, nor any have more than was fitting.
(3.) A blessing was craved upon the meat; He looked up to heaven,
and blessed. Christ did not call one of his disciples to crave a
blessing, but did it himself
and by virtue of this blessing the bread strangely multiplied, and so
did the fishes, for they did all eat, and were filled, though
they were to the number of five thousand,
This miracle was significant, and shows that Christ came into the
world, to be the great feeder as well as the great healer; not only to
restore, but to preserve and nourish, spiritual life; and in him there
is enough for all that come to him, enough to fill the soul, to fill
the treasures; none are sent empty away from Christ, but those that
come to him full of themselves.
(4.) Care was taken of the fragments that remained, with which they
filled twelve baskets. Though Christ had bread enough at
command, he would hereby teach us, not to make waste of any of God's
good creatures; remembering how many there are that do want, and that
we know not but we may some time or other want such fragments as we
|Christ Walking on the Sea.
45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the
ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he
sent away the people.
46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain
47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the
sea, and he alone on the land.
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.
49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it
had been a spirit, and cried out:
50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he
talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I;
be not afraid.
51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased:
and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and
52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for
their heart was hardened.
53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of
Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.
54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they
55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to
carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he
56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or
country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that
they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as
many as touched him were made whole.
This passage of story we had
&c., only what was there related concerning Peter, is omitted here.
Here we have,
I. The dispersing of the assembly; Christ constrained his
disciples to go before by ship to Bethsaida, intending to follow
them, as they supposed, by land. The people were loth to scatter, so
that it cost him some time and pains to send them away. For now that
they had got a good supper, they were in no haste to leave him. But as
long as we are here in this world, we have no continuing city, no not
in communion with Christ. The everlasting feast is reserved for the
II. Christ departed into a mountain, to pray. Observe,
1. He prayed; though he had so much preaching-work upon his
hands, yet he was much in prayer; he prayed often, and prayed long,
which is an encouragement to us to depend upon the intercession he is
making for us at the right hand of the Father, that continual
2. He went alone, to pray; though he needed not to retire for
the avoiding either of distraction or of ostentation, yet, to set us an
example, and to encourage us in our secret addresses to God, he
prayed alone, and, for want of a closet, went up into a
mountain, to pray. A good man is never less alone than when alone with
III. The disciples were in distress at sea; The wind was
so that they toiled in rowing, and could not get forward. This
was a specimen of the hardships they were to expect, when hereafter he
should send them abroad to preach the gospel; it would be like sending
them to sea at this time with the wind in their teeth: they must
expect to toil in rowing, they must work hard to strive against so
strong a stream; they must likewise expect to be tossed with waves, to
be persecuted by their enemies; and by exposing them now he intended to
train them up for such difficulties, that they might learn to endure
hardness. The church is often like a ship at sea, tossed with
tempests, and not comforted we may have Christ for us, and 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
IV. Christ made them a kind visit upon the water. He could have checked
the winds, where he was, or have sent an angel to their relief; but he
chose to help them in the most endearing manner possible, and therefore
came to them himself.
1. He did not come till the fourth watch of the night, not till
after three o'clock in the morning; but then he came. Note, If Christ's
visits to his people be deferred long, yet at length he will come; and
their extremity is his opportunity to appear for them so much the more
seasonably. Though the salvation tarry, yet we must wait for it; at
the end it shall speak, in the fourth watch of the night, and
2. He came, walking upon the waters. The sea was now tossed with waves,
and yet Christ came, walking upon it; for though the floods lift up
their voice, the Lord on high is mightier,
No difficulties can obstruct Christ's gracious appearances for his
people, when the set time is come. He will either find, or force, a way
through the most tempestuous sea, for their deliverance,
3. He would have passed by them, that is, he set his face and
steered his course, as if he would have gone further, and took no
notice of them; this he did, to awaken them to call to him. Note,
Providence, when it is acting designedly and directly for the succour
of God's people, yet sometimes seems as if it were giving them the
go-by, and regarded not their case. They thought that he
would, but we may be sure that he would not, have passed by
4. They were frightened at the sight of him, supposing him to have been
an apparition; They all saw him, and were troubled
thinking it had been some dæmon, or evil genius, that haunted
them, and raised this storm. We often perplex and frighten ourselves
with phantasms, the creatures of our own fancy and imagination.
5. He encouraged them, and silenced their fears, by making himself
known to them; he talked familiarly with them, saying, Be of
good cheer, it is I; be not afraid. Note,
(1.) We know not Christ till he is pleased to reveal himself to us.
"It is I; I your Master, I your friend, I your Redeemer and
Saviour. It is I, that came to a troublesome earth, and now to a
tempestuous sea, to look after you."
(2.) The knowledge of Christ, as he is in himself, and near to us, is
enough to make the disciples of Christ cheerful even in a storm, and no
longer fearful. If it be so, why am I thus? If it is Christ that
is with thee, be of good cheer, be not afraid. Our fears are
soon satisfied, if our mistakes be but rectified, especially our
mistakes concerning Christ. See
Christ's presence with us in a stormy day, is enough to make us of good
cheer, though clouds and darkness be round about us. He said, It is
I. He doth not tell them who he was (there was no occasion), they
knew his voice, as the sheep know the voice of their own shepherd,
How readily doth the spouse say, once and again, It is the voice of
Song of Solomon 2:8,5:2.
He said, ego eimi--I am he; or I am; it is
God's name, when he comes to deliver Israel,
So it is Christ's, now that he comes to deliver his disciples. When
Christ said to those that came to apprehend him by force, I am
he, they were struck down by it,
When he saith to those that come to apprehend him by faith, I am
he, they are raised up by it, and comforted.
6. He went up to them into the ship, embarked in the same bottom
with them, and so made them perfectly easy. Let them but have their
Master with them, and all is well. And as soon as he was come into the
ship, the wind ceased. In the former storm that they were in, it
is said, He arose, and rebuked the winds, and said to the sea,
Peace, be still
but here we read of no such formal command given, only the wind ceased
all of a sudden. Note, Our Lord Jesus will be sure to do his own work
always effectually, though not always alike solemnly, and with
observation. Though we hear not the command given, yet, if thus the
wind cease, and we have the comfort of a calm, say, It is because
Christ is in the ship, and his decree is gone forth or ever we are
Song of Solomon 6:12.
When we come with Christ to heaven, the wind ceaseth presently; there
are no storms in the upper region.
7. They were more surprised and astonished at this miracle than did
become them, and there was that at the bottom of their astonishment,
which was really culpable; They were sore amazed in themselves,
were in a perfect ecstasy; as if it were a new and unaccountable thing,
as if Christ had never done the like before, and they had no reason to
expect he should do it now; they ought to admire the power of Christ,
and to be confirmed hereby in their belief of his being the Son of God:
but why all this confusion about it? It was because they considered
not the miracle of the loaves; had they given that its due weight,
they would not have been so much surprised at this; for his multiplying
the bread was as great an instance of his power as his walking on the
water. They were strangely stupid and unthinking, and their heart was
hardened, or else they would not have thought it a thing incredible
that Christ should command a calm. It is for want of a right
understanding of Christ's former works, that we are transported at the
thought of his present works, as if there never were the like
V. When they came to the land of Gennesaret, which lay between
Bethsaida and Capernaum, the people bid them very welcome; The men
of that place presently knew Jesus
and knew what mighty works he did wherever he came, what a universal
Healer he was; they knew likewise that he used to stay but a little
while at a place, and therefore they were concerned to improve the
opportunity of this kind visit which he made them; They ran through
that whole region round about, with all possible expedition, and
began to carry about in beds those that were sick, and not able
to go themselves; there was no danger of their getting cold when they
hoped to get a cure,
Let him go where he would, he was crowded with patients--in towns, in
the cities, in the villages about the cities; they laid the sick in
the streets, to be in his way, and begged leave for them to touch
if it were but the border of his garment, as the woman with the
bloody issue did, by whom, it should seem, this method of application
was first brought in; and as many as touched, were made whole.
We do not find that they were desirous to be taught by him, only to be
healed. If ministers could not cure people's bodily diseases, what
multitudes would attend them! But it is sad to think how much more
concerned the most of men are about their bodies than about their