Markby Robert M. Solomon
After the great miracle, Jesus sent His disciples across the lake to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd and spent time praying alone on a mountainside (vv. 45-46). The growing crowds and the death of John the Baptist had made Jesus long for some solitude in which to pray.
Jesus could see that the disciples on the boat were having a tough time rowing against the strong wind (v. 48). Later, at about 3 a.m. (″the fourth watch″), they were still struggling on the lake, and He went out to them. They saw that He was walking on the water! He was moving faster than they were and had quickly caught up. They were terrified to see someone walking on the water and mistook Him for a ghost (v. 49). Jesus appeared to pass them by (cf. Luke 24:28). Then He spoke to the disciples: ″Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid″ (v. 50).
Jesus got into the boat and ″the wind died down.″ The disciples were ″completely amazed″ (v. 51). ″They had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened″ (v. 52). This was the reason for their fear and amazement. They didn't seem to have learned from previous experience. Jesus had already calmed a terrible storm once before in Mark 4:35-41 (the same one, perhaps), when He was with them in a boat. Even though this time He was initially outside the boat, no wind or wave could stop Him from getting into it. And they didn't understand the significance of the loaves- if Jesus could miraculously feed such a large crowd, would He not be capable of walking on water and other supernatural things? Had He not already demonstrated that He was the Son of God? They still seem to have harboured doubts and anxieties. Their hearts were hardened into old ways of thinking and they had difficulty accepting and understanding the new revelation of Christ.
Did the rest of the journey pass in silence or did Jesus teach them further? We don't know. But when they landed on the shore, ″people recognised Jesus″ (v. 54) and soon a great crowd thronged around Jesus to be healed-″all who touched [his cloak] were healed″ (v. 56). Jesus was at the height of His popularity, but dark clouds were gathering.
Why do you think Jesus needed time alone to pray (v. 46)? Martin Luther observed that the busier we become, the more we need to pray. How is your own prayer life in this regard?
The disciples struggled against the wind, and Jesus helped them in His own time. Reflect on some of the winds that you are presently struggling against as they impede your progress. How do you think Jesus is helping you?