The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52

1. Growing division, 6:1-8:21

v] Jesus walks on the water


Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus sends his disciples by boat to Bethsaida. Jesus, in the meantime, spends time in prayer. Jesus, aware that the boat is struggling in a high wind, walks out to the boat and is about to "pass them by." The disciples are terrified, but Jesus quietens them, along with the wind. The disciples response is amazement, rather than faith, for "they did not understand about the loaves."


The Lord Jesus will carry God's children safely to their haven of rest.


i] Context: See 6:30-44.


ii] Structure: Jesus walks on the water:

Jesus stills the storm, v45-52:

The scene is set in v45-47;

the central action follows in v48-50;

the stilling of the sea, and the disciples reaction, v51-52.

Jesus heals in Gennesaret, v53-56.


Guelich argues that the story line is somewhat "awkward"!


iii] Interpretation:

The account of Jesus' walking on water follows immediately on from the feeding of the 5,000. The language is tied closely to the feeding and exhibits the heightened emotions of an eye witness. Like the feeding, this story is full of theological imagery. As in Psalm 107:23-32, where the Lord carries his people to their haven of rest, so Jesus miraculously reveals himself as the one who can take his people across the sea to their haven of rest. The story images Israel's crossing of the Reed Sea and the River Jordan. Yet, as with the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples do not understand the significance of the miracle and therefore do not come to faith.

In form-critical terms we have here a mixed rescue story and epiphany story. The epiphany answers the question "who is this", although it is only the reader who will supply the answer, the disciples are left amazed, and without faith. Mark is at pains to draw out this point, even explaining the reason behind the disciples' lack of faith, namely, their failure to understand the meaning of the feeding miracle, v52.

Marcus thinks that the story is encapsulated in a chiasm with the midpoint being Jesus' walking over the sea. This seems a bit forced. He is also of the view that Mark has substantially reworked his received tradition, but again, the evidence is limited. There is, of course, no doubt that Mark underlines the elements of the account he wishes to emphasise, eg. Jesus' volition. It is not overly clear that Mark is shaping the story as an epiphany, a manifestation of the divine. Mark seems more interested in revealing the messianic overtones evident in the story, of Christ as corporate Israel. As with the feeding of the five thousand, the story reeks of Exodus typology.


iv] Synoptics:

Matt.14:22-35 (John 6:15-21). At first glance it seems that Mark has stitched together the stories of Jesus walking on the sea and the feeding of the five thousand, but it is more likely that these two seemingly independent stories were linked in oral tradition long before Mark came across them and, of course, may well be historically sequential. It is, of course, the Exodus typology, so prominent in both stories, which glues them to each other.

Unlike Mark's account, Matthew draws out the issue of faith with Peter's attempted walk on the water. Peter's fear overcomes him and prompts Jesus' response, "How little faith you have", cf., Matt.14:28-33.

It has long been noted that the story bears many similarities with Mark's account of Jesus stilling the storm. John's account of Jesus walking on water, 6:16-21, is a simple Jesus walks on water story, minus the stilling of the storm. So, has Mark conflated two separate stories? The answer is probably no. It is more likely that over the period of oral tradition there has been some interchange between the two stories, given that on both occasions the disciples faced rough weather. This may serve again as further evidence that John's account comes from an apostolic eye witness, a view not widely accepted. The author of John's gospel, the editor, does not claim for himself apostolic status, but claims that his material is sourced from an eyewitness, namely, John the apostle, cf., Jn.21:24-25.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Jesus walks on the water.

Text - 6:45

Jesus walks on the sea, v45-56. i] The scene is set, Jesus dismisses the crowd while the disciples struggle in difficult weather, v45-47. Mark gives no hint as to why Jesus hurriedly sends his disciples away by boat. John tells us that the people saw in Jesus a political messiah and so tried to make him their king, Jn.6:14f. Jesus was certainly tempted to become a king "like unto the nations", but Mark simply says that Jesus sends his disciples away and goes off by himself for a time of prayer.

hnagkasen (anagkazw) aor. "made" - [and immediately] he compelled, forced [the disciple of him]. The weaker "strongly urged" is possible. Jesus hurries the disciples away from the crowd that has gathered for the miraculous feeding of the loaves and fishes. What is Jesus so concerned about that he "compels" his unwilling disciples to depart? Does he want to preserve the messianic secret (hiding his messianic credentials from a people who are looking for a warrior king rather, than a suffering servant)? The disciples could easily drop the secret to the crowd, and so Jesus is possibly removing the temptation. Or, is Jesus trying to protect the disciples from a crowd bent on making him a king? They could easily be caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment. France argues that the word is just another example of Mark's vivid language, and that it is unwise to build a scenario on a turn of phrase (particularly a scenario imported from John's gospel). Mark doesn't describe the crowd as out of control. Jesus simply dismisses them, and heads off for a time of prayer. "He immediately had his disciples get into the boat", Goodspeed.

embhnai (embainw) aor. inf. "get into [the boat]" - to embark, get in [into the boat and to go before him]. The infinitive, as with "to go before", introduces an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what Jesus "ordered / organised" his disciples to do, namely, "get into the boat and go before him."

eiV to peran "-" - into the other side of the lake, [to bethsaida]. The words cause a geographical problem since Jesus and his disciples are on the northeastern shore close to Bethsaida (according to Luke). Mark simply identifies it as a "solitary place." This leaves some commentators to suggest that there may be another Bethsaida (meaning "fishing village") on the western shore of lake Galilee. The words are missing in some manuscripts, but it is more likely they were dropped to solve the geographical problem, than that they were added. Interestingly, none of the texts drop "to Bethsaida", the most obvious way to solve the problem. Note that in Matthew's gospel, "to Bethsaida" is missing. In the weaving together of gospel tradition, the gospel writers will often retain little descriptives preserved in the oral tradition, but not necessarily relevant to the preceding, or following, episodes in the construction of their gospel. None-the-less, although Luke edits out the story (or didn't know of it), Jesus' walking on water does seem to be integrally linked to the feeding of the 5,000. So, the problem of "to the other side, to Bethsaida" remains, although maybe it's Luke's problem and not Mark's. "Precede him to the other side", NAB.

eJwV "while" - until. Temporal conjunction. With the present tense of "dismissed" the action is ongoing, therefore "while" rather than the usual "until".

apoluei (apoluw) "dismissed [the crowd]" - [he] lets loose, sets free, releases, sends away, dismisses [the crowd]. Jesus sent the disciples on their way "while he took leave" of the crowd.


apotaxamenoV (apotassomai) aor. mid. part. "after leaving" - [and] having taken leave of, said farewell to, said good-by to, given parting instructions to. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "after he had taken leave of them", ESV.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - them. Dative of direct object after the apo prefix verb "to say farewell to." Either referring to the crowd, or the disciples; commentators are divided.

eiV "up on" - [he departed] to, into [the mountain]. Spatial; expressing direction of action, and arrival at. He went "to" the hill, not "up" it; "he went off to the hillside to pray", Phillips.

proseuxasqai (proseucomai) aor. inf. "to pray" - to pray. The infinitive forms a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to pray."


genomenhV (ginomai) aor. part. gen. "when [evening] came" - [and evening] having come. The genitive participle with its genitive subject "evening", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV. The phrase usually refers to late afternoon, or early evening, but here it is possibly just referring to some time during the night. As Jesus came to the disciples during the fourth watch, 3am-6am, possibly dawn. It would be difficult to argue that Jesus saw their plight in the early evening, but then let them suffer until it was nearly dawn before he came out to them. So, we will say that they left the shore some time during the night, struck a headwind, were getting nowhere, when at dawn Jesus "passed by."

en + dat. "in" - [the boat was] in. Local, expressing space. "Middle" in exact terms is not indicated; they were on the lake somewhere.

thV qalasshV (a) gen. "of the lake" - [the middle] of the lake. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

autoV monoV "he was alone" - [and] he himself was alone [on the land]. Emphasising that, except for Jesus, the disciples were stuck. "By himself", TH.


ii] The central action - Jesus' epiphany and the disciples fearful reaction, v48-50. Jesus was still in prayer when he saw the disciples sailing into a stiff breeze and getting nowhere. About dawn, he came to them walking on the water. The phrase, "he was about to pass by them" is alluding to Exodus 33:19 and 1 Kings 19:11. The disciples are actually witnessing a theophany, a manifestation of the divine. The disciples are filled with fear because they thought Jesus was a water spirit, the one who comes with a white fringe of fire at its crest; the one who comes with destroying power. Jesus reassures them with a friendly greeting. Interestingly, the Greek can be translated "I am." We well remember that God addressed himself as "I am" when he spoke with Moses.

idwn (oJraw) aor. part. "he saw" - [and] having looked at, seen [them]. The participle is adverbial, probably forming a temporal clause. Obviously Jesus sees the disciples in difficulty from his high vantage point. Mark, of course, may be suggesting that Jesus miraculously sees the disciples' distress in his mind's-eye. "When he saw them buffeted", Moffatt.

basanizomenouV (basanizw) pres. pas/mid. part. "straining" - straining, stressing, struggling [in the rowing]. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "them", standing in a double accusative construction and stating a fact about the object. There are two possible meanings to this participle: if passive, it means literally "being tormented", "being buffeted"; if middle, it means "exerting themselves." The disciples were not in danger, but they are just not getting anywhere.

gar "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples were in trouble.

enantioV adj. "[the wind was] against" - [the wind was] against, contrary, opposed. Predicate adjective. "The wind was dead against them", Barclay.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - them. Dative of indirect object / interest, disadvantage.

peri + acc. "shortly [before dawn]" - about [fourth watch of the night]. Temporal use of he preposition.

peripatwn (peripatew) pres. part. "walking" - [he comes toward them] walking about. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Jesus' coming to the disciples, or possibly instrumental, expressing means. Taylor suggests that the boat was close to shore and that Jesus was walking on a sandbar. Whatever turns you on!!!!

epi + gen. "on" - on, upon [the sea, lake]. Spatial, "on" rather than "at" or "near" the sea. Mark clearly intends the reader to view this episode as a miracle.

parelqein (parercomai) aor. inf. "to pass by" - [and he willed, wished, desired, intended] to go by, pass by [them]. Complementary infinitive completing the sense of the verb "he willed", "Jesus was wanting to pass them by." The NIV takes mellw, "about to" as an equivalent of qelw, but "intended" is better. It is possible that this sentence expresses what the disciples thought. They thought Jesus intended to pass them by. Lightfoot suggests it expresses what Jesus thought. Given the disciples little faith, Jesus would have gladly passed them by. Some suggest Jesus was just testing their faith. Yet, it seems more likely that the language suggests that Jesus' action is a theophany - "the Lord is about to pass by", 1Ki.19:11-13, "and Yahweh passed by before" Moses, Ex.34:6. Jesus does not intend to walk past his disciples and ignore them in their distress, but rather he "went out to them" to further reveal himself to them, ie., the incident serves to reveal exodus typology.


oiJ de "but" - they but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here a change in subject to the disciples.

idonteV (oJraw) aor. part. "when they saw" - seeing [him]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

peripatounta (peripatew) pres. part. "walking" - walking [upon the lake]. The participle, with the prepositional phrase "upon the lake", serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "him" so forming a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object; "having seen him walking upon the lake."

oJti "-" - [they thought, supposed] that. Forming a dependent statement of perception expressing what they thought.

fantasma (a atoV) "a ghost" - [it is] an apparition. Predicate nominative. The word is used only here and in Matthew's parallel account. The disciples have not recognised that the apparition is Jesus.

anekraxan (anakrazw) aor. "they cried out" - [and] they cried out, screamed. "They screamed in terror", TH.


gar "because" - for [all, everyone saw him and they were disturbed, troubled]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples cried out. "All of them saw him and were terrified", CEV.

met (meta) + gen. "[he spoke] with [them]" - [and immediately he spoke] with [them]. Expressing association.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [and says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

egw eimi "it is I" - [be of good cheer, be brave, be confident,] i am. Although the Greek would normally just mean "it is I" ("it's me"), there is the possibility that the divine "I am" is intended, Ex.3:14. This is particularly so if we understand "pass by" as reflecting the language of an Old Testament theophany - more exodus imagery?? So, the choice is, "Cheer up, it's your old mate", or "Take courage, I AM."

mh "don't" - [do] not [be fearful, afraid]. Some argue that this negation is used with a command to cease an action in progress. "Stop being afraid."


iii] Jesus calms the elements, v51-52. Once Jesus was in the boat, the wind died down and they were all on their way again. With Jesus beside them, they move toward their "rest", although not quite where they were heading. Sadly, the response of the disciples was one of amazement, for they didn't understand the significance of "the loaves", and so they didn't understand the point of Jesus walking on water. They were still thinking in the square and so failed to recognise Israel's wilderness motifs in the signs, and therefore, failed to recognise Jesus as the promised messiah. Only when the disciples trust Jesus as the messiah can they then share in the journey of God's children to their haven of rest.

kai "then" - and [he went up toward them into the boat]. Coordinative.

ekopasen (kopazw) aor. "[the wind] died down" - [and the wind] ceased, dropped. Although it is not unreasonable for the wind to die down of its own accord, it is likely that Mark is continuing to describe a miraculous situation. Both the sea and the wind is subject to Jesus' mission.

lian adv. "completely [amazed]" - [and] very much. Intensifying adverb. Their response is not one of faith, but rather of amazement. Mark does not depict the response of amazement positively. Note how the gospel ends - the women leave the tomb "trembling", "bewildered", and "afraid." We may well be amazed by the empty tomb, along with all the miraculous events in Jesus' life, but only faith will save. "The disciples were very exceedingly amazed in themselves / they were awestruck."

ek perissou "-" - from remaining = exceedingly, beyond measure. Idiomatic variant reading; "exceedingly amazed."

en + dat. "-" - [they were amazed] in [themselves]. Expressing space, metaphorical, inward emotion; "beside themselves with amazement."


gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they are amazed.

ou sunhkan (sunimi) aor. "they had not understood" - they did not understand, comprehend. The disciples hadn't understood the messianic significance of the sign of the loaves and the fishes, and so they weren't able to make the quantum leap necessary for them to understand the messianic significance of Jesus' "passing by" - a theophany of significant import. "They had not the sense to see the Old Testament imagery revealed in Jesus' feeding a people in the wilderness. Even that miracle had not opened their eyes to see who he was", Phillips.

epi + dat. "about [the loaves]" - upon = about [the bread, loaves]. Temporal use of the preposition, "on the occasion of the loaves", or reference / respect, "with respect to the loaves." The disciples had failed to understand the revelatory truth manifest at the time of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand.

all "-" - but. The adversative serves to introduce the second reason why the disciples have responded with amazement rather than faith, so Decker.

hJ kardia (a) "hearts" - the heart [of them]. Nominative subject of the periphrasis "was hardened." To the Semitic mind, the heart is the seat of rational thought, the stomach the centre of feelings, so "the mind of them didn't comprehend." "Their minds were closed", CEV .

hn\ .... pepwrwmenh (pwrow) perf. pas. part. "were closed" - was having been hardened, callused. The participle + the verb to-be forms a periphrastic pluperfect construction translated as a finite verb, "had been hardened". Both signs, the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water, are grounded in the imagery of Israel's wilderness wanderings. The failure of the disciples to recognise the obvious, evidences an inability to think beyond the square. From here on, Mark makes a point of exposing the disciples' failure to move beyond amazement, but at the same time, describes Jesus ongoing patience with them.


The healings at Gennesaret, v53-56. Jesus is confronted with great excitement and a string of miracles follow. Mark is continuing to use exodus images; faithful Israel has passed through the wilderness and has crossed the sea (River Jordan), and so now the walls of Jericho fall down. There is no mention of Jesus teaching the people. The crowds certainly have faith in his power to heal, even to touch his clothing is enough, yet his words are stilled before the frenzied mob. So, it is likely that Mark has stitched this episode to the two main miracles to convey the dynamism now evident in messiah's mission, and the enthusiasm and excitement generated in the crowds. Mark conveys this sense with his use of the imperfect tense.

diaperasanteV (diaperaw) aor. part. "when they had crossed over" - [and] having passed over, crossed over. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

epi + acc. "-" - [they came] upon [the land]. Spatial. The prepositional phrase, "onto the land", modifying hlqon, "they came", takes the sense "came ashore."

Gennhsaret "Gennesaret" - [into] genersaret. Either the village of, or the fertile plain to the south west of Capernaum. Mark is possibly telling us that the disciples' landfall is not as intended, due to the contrary wind.

proswrmisqhsan (prosarmizw) aor. pas. "anchored there" - [and] cast anchor, anchored, made landfall, moored there. Possibly "ran into the shore", "moored against the shore", although "beached the boat" is to be preferred.


exelqontwn (exercomai) aor. part. gen. "As soon as [they] got out" - [and they] having come out, got out. The genitive participle and its genitive subject autwn, "they", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal; "when they had disembarked", Moffatt.

ek + gen. "of" - from [the boat]. Expressing source / origin.

euquV adv. "-" - immediately. Temporal adverb. "The people immediately recognised Jesus", but although it would be an unusual placement of the adverb, it may link with the genitive absolute construction, as reflected in the NIV translation, "As soon ...."

epignonteV (epiginwskw) aor. part. "people recognised" - the people having come to know, recognised, perceived [him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to run around"; "the people recognised Jesus and ran around the whole region ..."


periedramon (peritrecw) aor. "they ran throughout" - they run about, run around [that whole region]. "They hurried all over the countryside", Barclay.

periferein (periferw) pres. inf. "carried" - [and began] to carry about. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "they began", "they began to carry ..." The present tense indicating ongoing action. "They ran all over that part of the country to bring their sick people to him", CEV.

touV econtaV (ecw) pres. part. "the sick" - the ones having [illness]. The participle serves as a substantive.

toiV krabattoiV dat. "[on] mats" - [upon] the pallets, mattresses. "Brought the sick on stretchers", NJB.

oJti "-" - [where they heard] that [he is]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they heard, namely, that Jesus was at a certain place.


oJpou an + imperf. "everywhere" - wherever [he entered into villages, or into cities, or into countryside]. This construction forms an indefinite adverbial local clause, although usually with the subj. except were repeated action (iterative) is being expressed, as here. "Whatever village, or town, or hamlet he went to", Moffatt.

etiqesan (tiqhmi) imperf. "they placed" - [in the marketplaces] they were putting. The imperfect is again iterative, expressing repeated action. The rushing around, visits to numerous villages and the placing of the sick in the marketplace, indicates healings in serial fashion. Mark is emphasising Jesus' healing power.

touV asqenountaV (asqenew) "the sick" - the ones being weak. The participle serves as a substantive.

parekaloun (parakalew) imperf. "they begged" - [and] they were begging, urging [him]. Again, the imperfect is probably iterative; "they kept pleading with him", Barclay. Given the opening clause, it would seem that the subject "they" are those who laid the sick in the marketplace, but as Marcus notes, the final clause "and all who touched it were healed" indicates that the subject is "the sick"; "the sick begged him ...." .

iJna + subj. "-" - that. Here probably introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they "begged" Jesus for, so Cranfield, although Marcus opts for a purpose clause; "pleaded with him in order that they might touch ....."That they might touch only the tassel on his cloak", NAB.

kan "even" - even if. Here adverbial, modifying the verb "to touch." This melding of kai ean takes the sense "if only, even just", Zerwick.

tou kraspedou (on) gen. "the edge" - [they might touch] the fringe. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to touch."

tou iJmartiou gen. "of [his] cloak" - of his garment. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The picture is of Jesus hurrying through the crowds and people being healed on mass by just touching the hem of his clothing.

oJsoi an + imperf. "all who" - [and] as many as = whoever. As with oJpou an above, this construction, forming an indefinite relative clause, is usually followed by the subjunctive, except were repeated action is intended, as here. "Everyone who touched", Barclay.

hJyanto (aJptw) aor. "touched" - touched, grabbed, held [him were being healed]. Here the aorist tense of the verb "touched" underlines a single action and is followed by the imperfect "they were being healed" to again express repeated action, "were being healed one after the other", TH.


Mark Introduction



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