There are three divisions I would make in the portion before us, in order to examine it more conveniently: First, the unbelieving rejection of Christ in "His own country55"; secondly, the mission of the Twelve; thirdly, the power - yet, alas! fatal weakness, withal - of an unpurged conscience, as illustrated in King Herod's behaviour to John the Baptist.
First, the unwearied Servant comes into His own country, followed by His disciples. "And when the Sabbath was come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and many hearing Him, were astonished, saying, Whence has this man these things? and what is the wisdom that is given to Him,56 and such works of power are done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter,57 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 in Him."
But what a lesson! The power of His teaching was owned, and the mighty works done by His hands; but even the despised Nazarenes stumbled at the lowly Lord - the lowly Servant - of all. The meanest of mankind is not free from the same spirit of the world which blinds the highest. In truth, the god of this world blinds all that are lost. The fact may come out more conspicuously in the princes of this world, where resources cannot help them to discern and proclaim the Lord of glory; but the universality of the moral blindness is shown in such conduct as that of the men of Nazareth to the Lord Jesus. That the true heir to the throne of David, to speak of His regal glory, should be a "carpenter" was and is too much for flesh and blood. And yet, when it is believed, the grace of His humiliation is as striking as the need for it was urgent and absolute, if God was to be glorified and man delivered according to His mind. It is clear, also, that the grace of all He became and endured is only rightly seen by those who see in Him the Son - He is the true God and eternal life.
Here, however, even as prophet He is rejected; and Jesus bows to it is the common lot of those who labour for God in a world which knows them too well to pay them honour, and yet knows them not, as it knew Him not. "A prophet," said He, "is not despised, save in his own country, and among his kinsmen, and in his own house." And as thus He speaks, so He acts, or rather does not act. For "He could there do no work of power, save that He laid His hands upon a few infirm persons, and healed them." How admirable the perfection of His service! It seems to me that nothing displays it more than such ways as these: "He could there do no work of power." Yes, He, the Creator of all, the Sustainer of all, could do nothing mighty there. He was the ever-dependent and obedient man who had come to do, not His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made"; (Joh_1:3) yet He could there do no mighty work. Blessed Lord! greater art Thou to me in Thy weakness thus than in Thy strength, whereby all things consist. And yet there was the gracious exercise of healing as far as was morally consistent with the people and the place in God's eyes. For "He laid His hands upon a few infirm persons, and healed them." "And He marvelled," adds the Spirit of God, "because of their unbelief."58 This did not, however, hinder His testimony in the neighbourhood; for He "went round about the villages teaching."
Secondly, He called the Twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two, and gave them power over unclean spirits, and commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only, etc. I do not think the importance of the Lord's sending out His servants, whether the Twelve or others, is adequately estimated by most. It was not yet, it could not be till His death and resurrection, that their mission could have its full character of world-wide grace. Still, it is a most precious principle, this sending out of His messengers with a message of grace, as it was a new thing in the earth. And what a tale it told of the real, though hidden, glory of Him who sent them! For who could thus commission and qualify with power over unclean spirits, save one who was consciously Divine? And what injunctions for His ambassadors! "No wallet, no bread, no money in their belt '59 but shod with sandals, to put not on two coats." Truly, His kingdom and His service were not of this world, else would the Lord have provided otherwise. Yet they went forth with the fullest sense of authority. "And He said to them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart thence." How wise and careful of the dignity of His messengers, as well as watchful lest the message should be compromised by the self-seeking of those charged with it! "And whatsoever place* shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony to them."† That He was the Son of God, the Saviour, did not lessen, but aggravate, the criminality of those who despised Him in their persons. The substance of this preaching was that men should repent. There is no Divine work in the sinner without repentance. There may be a sort of belief of no value without it; indeed, nothing is more common in Christendom. But it is not so where the Holy Spirit is at work, who ploughs up the conscience as well as brings home to the heart the good seed that may be sown. External signs accompanied them; for they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
*"Whatsoever place": Edd., with BL, 69, etc. "Whosoever" has the support of AD, later uncials, almost all cursives, Old Lat. Syrsin pesch.
†The latter part of this verse [in T.R.] seems an accommodation from Matt. 11 and Luke 10, with changes. Yet the ancient testimony is ample (B.T.). The authorities supporting the words "Verily, I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom or Gomorrha in [the] day of judgment than for that city" are AEΠΣ etc., 1, 69, most Syrr. Memph. Edd. follow BCDLΔ Syrsin Old Lat. and Jerome's Vulgate.
The third point to be noticed now is the solemn history of conscience in King60 Herod, who, on hearing the fame of Jesus, imputed the miracles to John the Baptist, as risen from the dead. There was the usual variety of opinion and uncertainty among men, but Herod's bad conscience made him positive that it was John, whom he had beheaded. What a torment even here it is, unless in the yet more desperate case of those who are religiously seared! The Holy Spirit then turns aside to give the account of the circumstances, and to explain why Herod was thus uneasy and perplexed. The wicked Herodias, whom the tetrarch had guiltily married, though she was his brother's wife, had sought her revenge in vain. For, spite of his censure, John stood high in Herod's esteem as a just and holy man; and Herod, having heard Him, did much,* and listened gladly. But there the fair show ended. Satan found the way to shut him up to a course from which there was no escape, save by repentance and the acknowledgment of his sins. It grew out of a royal revel where Herodias' daughter† danced to the content of Herod and his guests, and drew from the king the rash promise, with an oath, to give her what she asked, to the half of his kingdom. Now was the opportunity of the vindictive adulteress, who instructed her daughter to demand at once the head of John the Baptist upon a dish. And the king (whose fear for John had no higher source than nature), while very sorry, yields for the sake of his character before his guests, immediately sends one of the guard to despatch the prisoner,62 and presents his head to the damsel, as she also does to her mother. What an evident net of Satan's laying for the feet of one who was not without feeling! and how powerless is conscience where God's servant is in one scale and the poor plighted honour of man in the other! How simple it all is in God's presence! The devil's promises are better broken than kept.
*"Did many things": so ACD, etc., all cursives, Old Lat. Syrsin hcl, etc. (see note 61 at end). Edd. follow ABL, Memph. for "was perplexed."
†"The daughter of the same Herodias": so Nestle, etc., with AC, later uncials, most cursives, all vv. (including Syrsin). Hort "His daughter Herodias," which is the reading of BDLΔ
The latter part of the chapter, as well as the former, is singularly full of instruction for the service of the Lord. First of all we had the Lord's own portion. Not only was He refused in His title of King or the Messiah, but despised as God's servant. They heard His doctrine and were astonished at His wisdom no less than His power, but there was one thing that outweighed all in their minds - "Is not this the carpenter?" And so He was. It appears, hence, that our Lord really thus wrought. He was not only the son of a carpenter, but a carpenter Himself. The Creator of heaven and earth spent a considerable part of His sojourn in this world in this lowly labour day by day.
Our Lord accordingly, shut up from doing great deeds, turns to an unobtrusive work. Although debarred by their unbelief from rendering a conspicuous testimony to His glory, He did lay His hands upon "a few infirm persons, and healed them." There was no such thing in our Lord as mortified feeling; He turns calmly from the scorn that hindered His mighty works there to occupy Himself with cases few and inconsiderable. Can we overlook even in this Christ's perfection as the servant?
The next thing we saw was the sending out of the Twelve. There was the combination of two elements in them hard to reconcile. They were to be placed in circumstances that would leave them open to the contempt of everyone. They were to have no money in their belt, not even two coats, not shoes but sandals; they were to be without wallet or provision for the way. What could seem to be more helpless or more dependent than their condition? Yet none the less they, being sent forth as the messengers of the King, were invested with His own power. One remarkable proof of it was the power given them over unclean spirits. "He began to send them forth by two and two [there was association in their service], and gave them power over unclean spirits." And so sent out, not only did they preach that men should repent, but they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them. The paramount thing in the mind of the Lord was the dealing with the power of Satan. There is much unbelief among men as to this. The world has grown old in material inventions, and as times pass over the earth men get so accustomed to the power given to man over external nature that they are apt by these very circumstances to forget and deny the unseen power and wiles of Satan. It was therefore of great importance that the disciples, who were called and sent by God's authority, in going forth through the land of Israel, should be clothed with the Divine power, as far as it was communicable, for Christ's sake.
But there is another thing, too, which is of great importance for the service of the Lord. As they called men to repent, so there is an astonishing answer in the conscience. The word reaches the heart even where it is least likely, as in the case of Herod, who is the instance the Spirit of God gives us here. Where men do not repent, still there is conscience, and the word does not fail to probe it. They may not heed the warning, they may turn from it, they may try to forget it, and may succeed for a time in stifling all right feeling, but the barb is there, and although, as in a strong man, the effect of a wound may not be palpable for a time, still, when the day of weakness comes, then the old wound reappears, and what youthful vigour enabled him to slight may give increasing trouble till the whole scene is closed. We have in Herod the history of a soul that had his conscience reached by the word of God, but nothing more. We know well that there is such a thing as resisting the Holy Ghost on the part of unconverted men; it is the commonest thing possible where God's word is known, though it is not only resisting the word, but the Spirit, of God. Therefore it was that Stephen said, when addressing the Jews, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." (Act_7:51) The Holy Ghost so far uses the word as to touch the conscience, and whosoever refuses this resists both the word and Spirit of God. In Herod's case it was only John's testimony, but it was a mighty one, as far as the conviction of sin was concerned. John the Baptist did not pretend to bring in redemption; his main object was to point to One who was coming. But there was a mighty work produced through him in leading men to the sense that they could not do without the Lord. Thus he brought before men that all was ruined in the sight of God, and that, so far from things being prosperous or happy, the axe was lying at the root of the tree, judgment was at the door. And so it was, only that, first of all, the judgment that man deserved fell, by grace, upon Christ. That was the unlooked-for form in which Divine judgment took place then in the cross. It was a most real dealing of God, but it was a judgment for the time stayed from falling upon the guilty, which fell upon the guiltless Son of God, and thereby redemption is accomplished. The whole work of Christ for the Church of God has come in during the time of man's - Israel's - being left by the Lord to himself. It is the time of God's long-suffering, the world being permitted to follow its own way in the rejection of the Gospel as much as in the crucifixion of Christ. This is what the world is doing now, and soon to consummate, when judgment will come. Thus, conscience is shown in a man that felt what was right, and heard the word gladly for a time. But there was no repentance, no submission of his soul to the conviction that for a moment passed before his mind of what was true, just, and of God. The consequence was that circumstances were so managed by the enemy and permitted of God that Herod should evince the worthlessness of natural conscience even as regards the very person whom he had owned as a prophet. But at any rate all was lost now, and a guilty hour at a banquet, where the desire to gratify one as bad or worse than himself, ensnared his weakness and involved his word. There is the end of natural conscience. Herod orders what he would not have conceived it possible for him to do. But we little know the power of that unclean and subtle adversary the devil. It is just the counterpart of what the Lord was doing in grace by His disciples - He gave them power over the unclean spirit. Men repent, and the power of Satan must be broken in order to this. Here, on the contrary, was a man who knew he was in an evil case; but the power of Satan was never really broken. There was no going to God in the sense that he could not deliver himself. The result was that Herod went on till in this evil hour the terrible deed was done; all was over, and he, no doubt, given over to despair or indifference. Had there been the sense of the grace which is in Christ, there was grace enough to have blotted out that or any sin; but the heart that refuses to bow in conscience to God never acknowledges the grace there is in Christ.
Mat_14:13-21; Luk_9:10-17; Joh_6:1-13.
Having thus again a little sketched the truth in this part of the chapter as regards the principles of God for guiding in service, we may pass on. The Apostles gathered themselves unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. Now, there was great simplicity in this, and a most wholesome thing it is for anyone engaged in the Lord's work to go to Jesus with what has been done and taught. It is well to examine, and perhaps rehearse; but to whom can we do it with safety but to Jesus? There is such a thing as going out in service, but there should be the returning and telling Jesus all that we have had to do or say. There may be occasions where it is well and comely to cheer others with the wonderful works of God; but there is no time where it is not well and wholesome to go to the Lord about it. In His presence there is no danger of being puffed up, and thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. There we learn how little we are, and the defectiveness even of that which we most desire for the edification of one another. Our Lord thoroughly shows His interest and sympathy in this, and says to them: "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat." Well for us if we needed thus to rest more - that is to say, if our labours were so abundant, our self-denying efforts for the blessing of others were so continual, that we could be sure that this was the Lord's word for us, "Come ye into a desert place, and rest awhile"! I am afraid that sometimes we rather need to be stirred up to feel what a claim souls have upon us, what we owe, not merely to the saints of God to seek their blessing, but to every creature, for we are debtors to all. Having such a Christ as we have, we ought to feel that we have riches enough for everything - riches of grace in Him, not merely for the saints of God, but for the poorest of sinners. The Twelve had so discharged their mission that our Lord could tell them thus to turn aside and rest awhile. There was more than rest for the body: with Him what repose for the soul! It is a good thing at times to be thus alone, and yet not alone - alone from man that we may be with the only One who can give us fresh strength and, at the same time, adequate lowliness for the better discharge of our service, whatever it may be.
They depart, then, into a desert place by ship privately. Now, it is the Lord's way of goodness that I think so well worthy of note in this place. We do not make enough of the Lord; we are not quite simple in our thoughts of His interest with us in all the details of circumstances day by day; we do not always think of Him as a real, living, tender friend occupied with us and intent upon our good, and even deigning to care for our bodies as well as our souls. Here is the proof of it as to the Twelve.
"And many saw them departing, and recognised them,* and ran together there on foot out of all cities, and outwent them. And [Jesus] when He came out, saw a great crowd, and was moved with compassion for them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things." This is exceedingly sweet, because His object in retiring was to have given His disciples leisure, they had not time so much as even to eat, and the haste of the multitude was really an intrusion, and yet the Lord at once turns to the crowd in love. Here, again, there is no such thing as the slightest expression of disturbed feeling. There was no coldness shown to the intruders. On the contrary, He enters upon this fresh service with the same alacrity that He had turned aside with His disciples in order to give them a little rest by the way. More than that, He looks with compassion upon the multitude, "because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things." He at least knew no leisure; at any rate, where did He ever take advantage of it, although there was infinitely more to try and weary Him as a man than ever fell upon any other? At once He turns to teach these needy men that which they little knew they needed.
*"Recognised them": so Edd., after AKL, etc., many cursives, including 33, Syr. Memph. AEth. EFG, etc., 69, have "him"; whilst BD and Amiat. have neither "him" nor "them." This is an illustration of W. H.'s "conflate" readings (Introduction, p. 95 ff.).
"And when it was already late in the day,63 His disciples came unto Him and said, This is a desert place, and it is already late in the day. Send them away that they may go into the country and into the villages round about, and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat."* Oh, do we not see the reflection of ourselves here? "Send them away." Was that all the disciples could think or say? Had they not profited more by the past experience of their Master? Had they not profited by the grace the Lord had been for so long a time displaying towards poor, shepherdless Israel? "Send them away." Send them away from Jesus! Without refreshment from Jesus! This was what even disciples could propose to the Lord Himself. Is not this what we learn of our own hearts? Do we not continually discover our little ability to count upon grace and to turn its boundless resources to meet present difficulties? When we have seen the Lord's ways we may admire them, but faith is especially shown in knowing how to avail ourselves of what is in Christ for the want that is actually before us. Here the lack was in others; but what a lack in themselves when the unbelief of disciples thus vents itself to the Lord! "Send them away that they may go and buy bread. But He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat." It is always so that He acts - "give." He loves a bountiful giver; He was so Himself, and He was now about to open the hearts of the disciples to feel aright. It was not only what was needed in an authoritative mission throughout the land of Israel when the kingdom was going to be set up, but now it was a heart for the poor, despised, and wretched in Israel. The Lord would give the disciples His own sympathies. He would make them know what they themselves lacked - teach them to feel what there is in Christ even for the men who had no feeling for His wants, no consideration for the Lord in the retirement that He had sought. But this does not change the grace that is in Christ. Whatever may be the fault of another, we have to look well to it that it brings out from us the patient wisdom of grace. It is the hardest thing we have to learn. Here the disciples break down; but it was in the presence of One who only turned it to the account of leading them to a perception of His own grace. This is the great point of the whole chapter; it is the fitting of others for the service on His own approaching and entire rejection.
*Edd.: "buy themselves something" (, fragments) "to eat," with B(D)LΔ Syrsin Memph. Text (the "received") is that of AE, etc., and other Syrr.
Here we have not only adequate power, but adequate affection. Power over the unclean spirit we have seen, moral power through the word, even over a natural man's conscience, had been proved; but now we have the perception of the Lord's feelings, His compassion for a multitude, even though unbelieving. There are many who truly believe in the love the Lord has for the Church, but they do not at all understand the deep pity He has toward poor man as such. Now, this the Lord was showing here. It is not a question merely of believers, but we have persons who, it is plain, were merely seeking to get what they could from Jesus, following Him on their own account - not for life eternal, not because of their sins, nor was it for the miracles even that they had seen, but for what He could give them for this life. The Lord did not refuse even this, but the disciples knew nothing of this grace. They had authority conferred on them they had proved communicated power along with this they had come and told the Lord what they had done and taught. But where was their affection answering to the Lord's? That they had it not is betrayed by their words to Him. The Lord had now to communicate His own thoughts and feelings to them, and He does it after this sort: "He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat." They do not need to go: they do not need to buy. What Jesus tells them is to give - "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?" This is another working of unbelief in them. Not that they had the least thought of going and buying; but they wanted to put their insuperable difficulty before their Master. But what do we need such a one as Christ for if not for that which we cannot even touch? The greater the difficulty, the more suited is the occasion for the Lord to display Himself. He is Lord of all; and if He is, what can a difficulty be but only an appeal to His power, and which shows it was ever beyond measure. "Give ye them to eat."
"He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? Go [and] see. And when they knew, they say, Five and two fishes." This is a feature that I think it well to notice, because it is important practically. The Lord loves, however truly working in His own power, to make use of that which we might despise in human wisdom. Moses may plead his impotence, but the Lord will make use of that man of slow speech. If He employ Aaron too, He will put the sentence of death upon everything that flesh leans upon. So now our Lord draws upon the resources that were already in the hands of the disciples. Not that such things as they had could have availed without Him; but that He is ever with us, in one way or another, ever ready to work and bless, according to His almighty power and goodness.
When they brought word that there were five loaves and two fishes, doubtless it was with the conviction that no answer could be less satisfactory. How wise they were in thinking it a vain thing that such a multitude could be fed by anything that they possessed! But it is the way of God to make use of the weak and little as truly as to abase that which is self-confident of its greatness. And as the Lord was about to act upon this very principle with the Twelve, He was now teaching them the same as to the feeding of the multitude then around them. It was the exerting His own creative power on that which was utterly contemptible - at least, in human eyes. The five loaves and two fishes seemed to be absurd for such a multitude. But what was it not in the hands of Jesus?
But He does another thing. He commands that they should sit down by companies upon the green grass, and they sat down in ranks by hundreds and fifties.64 The Lord is not unmindful of outward order and decorum in His arrangements. He was about to work a stupendous miracle, and He arranges the people carefully, bringing before their eyes the conviction of what there was in Him for the need of man. He was really there, the promised One, that was to feed His poor with bread (Psa_132:15). Where were they that they had never thought of Him, that they did not count upon such love as this for a still greater want than the bread that perishes for the body? But it was the Lord acting from His own goodness, and in no respect even according to the mind of a disciple. The multitude was unprepared for the work, but the disciples were just as blind. They no more expected what was coming than the multitude. Our being believers is no proof at all we shall have faith for any particular exigency before us. Present dependence upon God is necessary to give us a just thought of the Lord's ways; otherwise we may be as foolish as if we had no faith at all, and we shall be sure to be so if we do not measure the difficulties by Jesus. Bring Him in and the difficulty is at an end.
But, further, the Lord employs the disciples between Himself and the multitude. How continually we find the Lord returning good for their evil, putting honour upon the poor disciples who so little appreciated His feelings of love and compassion! He does not distribute the bread directly, as if He made no account of His servants. He meant to show His disciples that the love of Christ delights to work in human channels. The same unbelief, which on one side sees nothing in Jesus, on the other is apt to overlook and deny the use Jesus makes of suited instruments to dispense His blessings in this world. But as it was Jesus alone who was the source of it all, the disciples were to be the. channels, both learning and teaching what grace could do to them, and through them. The disciples, accordingly, take the bread from the hands of Jesus, and thus it is that the supply is provided for the vast multitude. It was the Lord's way then, and it is His way now. The wonders of His grace are not, as it were, all reserved for His own exclusive hand: for although He alone is the constant, active spring of grace, yet at the same time He works by whom He will, and He puts often the most honour upon the least comely member; for as we know it is in Nature the most vital and essential member that is the most guarded and the least apparent, so it is in His body the Church: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1Co_1:31) He Himself was among them as "he that serveth." It is in no way the Lord showing the worth of this one or that one, but displaying His own grace and power according to His own sovereign will. But the disciples must learn that, if they were rebuked and their unbelief made most apparent, the Lord's grace was not altered towards them - nay, His grace could employ them immediately afterwards to be the distributors to the famishing multitude of the bread of His providing. What grace toward them!
The whole scene is most instructive, and particularly so as giving us to see the manner of His own service and the failure of others. "When He had taken the five loaves and two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and kept giving them to His disciples to set before them. And the two fishes He divided among all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve hand-baskets full of the fragments and of the fishes. And they that ate of the loaves were five thousand men."* The very fragments far exceeded the provision they had at first, but even the fragments were not to be forgotten or despised. What simplicity of care, even where He ensured that there should be the testimony before their eyes of the miraculous character of the whole transaction!
*, 1 and some other copies with Arm. have "about 5,000 men."
The next scene has also its lesson for us. "Immediately He constrained His disciples to go on board ship, and to go on before to the other side, to Bethsaida,65 while He sends away the crowd. And when He had dismissed them, He departed into the mountain to pray." It was one of the great signs of the Messiah that He would satisfy His poor with bread, as you may remember in Ps. 132. The Lord ought to have been thus recognised, but He was not. Accordingly He sent them away. The people, instead of being gathered to the Lord as to their King, have been for a season at least put aside. He has dismissed the multitude because of their unbelief; He has departed from Israel for a time, and gone on high to take the place of intercession. And while the Lord is there the disciples are exposed to all the storms and fluctuations of this lower scene. "And when evening was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land. And He saw them toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary to them." It is a little picture of what was to be accomplished by-and-by. The Lord is gone on high now; He is not with the multitude, neither is He in bodily presence with the disciples. He has left the Jews for the time; He is also away from the disciples. They have their work to do, but apparently they make no progress. But in the midst of the contrariety of all things around them He comes again. "About the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea; and would have passed by them. But when they saw Him walking upon the sea they supposed it had been an apparition, and they cried out. For all saw Him, and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them, and says to them, Be of good courage; it is I; be not afraid. And He went up to them into the ship, and the wind ceased."65a
Then we find that, having come to shore with the disciples, the Lord accomplished all that was spoken. "When they had come out of the ship they recognised Him immediately, and ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about on couches those that were ill, where they heard He was. And whithersoever He entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market-places, and besought Him that they might touch, if it were but the border of His garment; and as many as touched Him were healed." It is a little picture of what will be the consequence of the Lord's return to the earth. When the Lord and His disciples rejoin the shore that He has left, when He comes back again, whatever there is of human woe, wretchedness, weakness, sickness, in this world, all will flee before the presence and touch of the Son of God. He will then and thus manifest His goodness. Accordingly, what we have here is the consummation and triumph of all ministry in His own ministry. The disciples are shown in their weakness meanwhile, but encouraged by the prospect of His return in power and glory, when all shall be made good that the Lord has ever promised, and that He has led His people to expect in this world. It is a good thing for our souls to realize that while our Lord is away we are not to be discouraged by difficulties - not cast down if the wind is contrary and ourselves toiling in vain, yet not in vain. It is He who has sent us across that troubled sea; it is He who meanwhile intercedes for us, and as surely will He come to us; and when He does return, all that is lacking He will supply, all that hinders will be removed, and then will the universe duly, fully exult in its Lord, our Lord and Master, when He shall be exalted from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. This is what the final circumstances of the chapter typify. It may cheer us in any little service that is before us now. It is instruction for the service of the Lord, beginning with His own rejection in shame and ending with His glorious return, when all sickness and misery disappear before His presence.
NOTES ON MARK 6.
55 Mar_6:1. - "His own country." See note 22; also Réville i. 390.
56 Mar_6:2. - Some remarks have already been made in note 23 upon the "education" (speaking κατὰ ἄνθρωπον of our blessed Lord. It is quite needless to consider whether He in youth ever entered the portals of such an academy as in the Talmud is called a yesheybah ()$ for the accuracy of the Jews in the taunt recorded in the passage of John cited in the earlier note may remain unquestioned. His "new doctrine" (Mar_1:27) was His prophetic word, as to which cf. Amo_7:14 f. It was creative, not created (Schlottmann, § 144; cf. Joh_7:46). Wernle, in "Beginnings of Christianity," vol. i., p. 36, describing the Lord as "Layman," says that He "redeemed His listeners from the theologians" (p. 99). May we not add that such redemption is to be had in our day from the critics likewise? As Sir R. Anderson has said in a recent book, we do not propose to exchange thraldom to the one set of men for bondage to the other. Wernle's book has been translated by one cleric and edited by another. "All laymen," we are told by him, "accept the most obvious contradictions, and do not strive after any inner harmony" (p. 379), Surely those who live in the proverbial glass house might withhold their stones. "Laymen" are not so idiotic (see Greek of 1Co_14:23). Wernle's countryman Weizsäcker ("Textbibel") has rendered ἰδιῶται by Uneingeweihte, "uninitiated" (shall we say in "mysteries"?). Cf. 2: 14 there. The writer of that Epistle co-ordinates them with ἄπιστοι Ungläubige, "unbelievers." Lawyers, describing critics as "laymen," will tell these that they are miserable judges of evidence, in statements that seem to conflict.
57 Mar_6:3. - "The carpenter." As to the humiliation of this pursuit, see "Ecclesiasticus," xxxviii. 24-34, and cf. Delitzsch, "Jewish Artisan Life in the Time of Christ" (1902).
In Mat_13:55 we have the "carpenter's Son." That is one of the variations from Mark's record found in the first and third Evangelists which some critics idly imagine represent a later tendency to tone down Mark's language, so as to divest the record of the Master of what was considered derogatory to it; whilst others represent Mark as "secondary," because he does not speak of Christ as son of Joseph (Schmiedel, col. 1846). True, such is what "literary analysis" can accomplish. How very appropriate to the second Gospel is the disclosure that the servant Son of God thus wrought with His own hands, sanctifying all human service, and doubtless maintaining a widowed mother!
It is on record that when the Emperor Julian ("the Apostate") was engaged in his last campaign, a Christian soldier was asked by a scornful officer, What was the Carpenter doing just then? The answer received was, "Making a coffin." The Emperor fell in that very battle (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History," v. 8).
"The son of Mary" (cf. Luk_4:22, "the son of Joseph"). It is common for critics to allege against the virgin-birth of the Lord being historical the fact that Mark is silent about it. In this strain writes Menzies. Mary herself "knows nothing of His having been born in any extraordinary way." If, however, our second Gospel were the earliest, what could be more reasonable than to conclude that during the lifetime of the Lord's mother the circumstances of His birth Divine wisdom and propriety of human feeling combined to withhold? The perfection of the Bible does, of course, lie in its matchless fusion of Divine and human, a truism constantly urged by critics, but feebly apprehended in any helpful, fruitful way by themselves. The Tübingen scholar Baur, who adhered to Matthew's priority, used this verse in support of his idea that Mark did know of the virgin-birth! See, further, note in Farrar, "Life of Christ," p. 63.
As to there being no genealogy in Mark W. Kelly has written: "Who would ask the pedigree of a servant?" ("Exposition of John," p. 8),
58 Mar_6:5-6. - Faith in the Person of Christ attaches in the second Gospel to His function as Prophet; in Luke's to, that of Priest; in Matthew to His being the King. With Mark's narrative cf. Peter's words in Act_3:22.
A comparison of this place with Mat_13:58 affords some critics another illustration of their fad that Matthew, or the "editor" of his Gospel, revised Mark's too naive statements!
A distinction may be made between the "supernatural" and the "miraculous" in respect of the efficacy of ordinary prayer (Drummond, p. 13 f.). Some answers to prayer, however, may fall under the miraculous.
On the general subject of miracles, see notes 27, 54 above.
Schmiedel's discrimination of certain passages of Mark which for him constitute the "foundation pillars for a truly scientific life of Jesus" (cols. 1881-1883 of his article in "Biblical Encyclopaedia"), Fairbairn well characterises as an illusion that mistakes critical ingenuity for historical science ("Philosophy of the Christian Religion," p. 304).
With reference to the passage under consideration, Bousset (p. 56; E.T., p. 49) makes the Lord's being unable all a matter cognizable by human psychology. For the believer it suffices to know the method of the "psychology" which is Divine. Men may have pressure put on them to come within the range of spiritual blessing (Mat_20:17-19), but faith is a gracious gift, in no way the result of compulsion. In the first Gospel (Mat_11:12) force is exerted by men themselves, who seek God with all their heart (Deu_4:29). According to Mat_22:11-12, a man already in the presence of the Host is found not to have accepted that vesture which, according to the custom of ancient princes, was offered by them to their guests (cf. Php_3:12).
One may be sure that Richard Hooker did not foresee the use which would be made in our day of his position in the "Ecclesiastical Polity" that God is Himself governed by His own laws.
59 Mar_6:8. - "No money in their belt." Dr. R. F. Horton, according to his "Revelation and the Bible" (p. 367), has allowed himself to be strangely misinformed as to the practice of Christians whom he describes as "the most emphatic in maintaining the Divine infallibility of the Bible." He alleges that they "reject the inference of St. Paul in favour of paid ministry." He would be right if by "paid" he merely meant stipulated remuneration, which is unknown in the community amongst whom W. Kelly laboured. It contains most of the few who really act upon the precepts of Scripture bearing on hired ministry (1Co_9:9, etc.). Material support of ministry exercised in faith is a Divine obligation which they ever recognise.
60 Mar_6:14. - "The King." Herod's title was "Tetrarch," strictly not "King." Dr. A. B. Bruce, on Mat_14:9, says that "it was natural for Mark," writing for Romans, "to use this title, as it was applied freely in Rome to all Eastern rulers" (Cf. Réville, i. 236; and Farrar, "Life of Christ," p. 305, where it is described as a "courtesy title").
60a Mar_6:15. - With the Greek of this verse, cf. end of Jdg_16:11, in LXX, "a man like any other ordinary man." Wellhausen's "scarcely Greek" (ad loc.) is poor criticism (cf. notes 1, 78).
61 Mar_6:20. - Field ("Notes on the Translation of the New Testament," p. 29 f.) inclined to the reading ἐποίει "did" (many things). "Herod," he remarks, did all but the vital thing - "dismissing his wife."
62 Mar_6:21. - Wellhausen (ad loc.) relies on the statement of Josephus that the Baptist was executed at Machaerus, on the other side of the Jordan. Even so, there was nothing to prevent the Tetrarch's summoning his Galilean courtiers thence. We meet with scribes and Pharisees "from Jerusalem" among Christ's audience in Galilee or Perea; so in the first verse of the next chapter (cf. Luk_13:31-34). According to the critic's view, such ministry must have been exercised in the very neighbourhood of the metropolis. From exaggeration in idea of "local colouring," Wellhausen would place the scene of verse 27 here in Galilee ("into the sea"), and not Judea (cf. Burkitt, p. 61).
63 Mar_6:35. - "Late in the day" i.e., between three and six p.m., which time already the French still describe as soir, the first of the Jewish two evenings. In verse 47 we have the second evening (six o'clock to dusk).
64 Mar_6:40. - The description here is explained by Luk_9:14. The people were arranged as one hundred in front and fifty deep.
65 Mar_6:45. - Wellhausen here avails himself of an old difficulty created by comparison of Joh_6:17 with Mark's statement. In Mark we find πρός "Bethsaida"; in John εἰς "Capernaum." Indeed, εἰς τὸ πέραν which is sufficiently accredited by the textual evidence (its omission in the Sinaitic Syrian version is insignificant), exhibits the difference of prepositions involved. They occur together again in 11: 1, where εἰς stands for the direction taken; πρός for the point arrived at or actually reached (cf. the quotation in Luk_4:26). There is no inconsistency, nor "conversion of B. into C.," as Wellhausen puts it. Trench ("Miracles," p. 296) says: "This Bethsaida (cf. Joh_1:44) lay on the west side of the lake, in the same direction as Capernaum, and near to it." Wellhausen himself has "not far from Capernaum."
65a Mar_6:52. - ἐπὶ τοῖς ἄρτοις should not be rendered by concerning the loaves, as R.V., or about, etc., as in the "Workers' New Testament," but by through, etc., as Wellhausen. The loaves supplied the ground of the disciple's misapprehension (cf. ἐπι τῳ ὀνόματι μου in Mar_9:37, Mar_13:6).