GHOST ON THE SEA

Mark 6: 45-52

BRIEF INTRO: As the crowds are disbursed and the disciples are sent off in the boat, the twelve still did not get the rest they needed (v.31)! Ironically, these men are tired and hungry from their mission, in much need of rest, but the multitudes kept encroaching; kept invading their space if you will, and so rather than rest and food for themselves, they are kept busy feeding well over 15-20 thousand people (when you add the women and children).

Verse 45 is the 16th “immediately” that I counted in Mark’s writing. This reminds us of how “fast paced” his account is.

Why does Jesus make the disciples get into a boat and leave (immediately)? Why does Jesus go into the mountain to pray rather than joining them? Why do these people keep following after Jesus? Do the disciples comprehend who Jesus truly is? Let’s jump into it and see if we can find the answers.

45 And immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself *dismissed the crowd. 46 And after saying goodbye to them, He left for the mountain to pray.

FOCUS ONE: Crowds disbursed

In Mark’s fast paced accounting of events, he gives us little explanation, actually he gives none, as to why Jesus sends His disciples away so quickly. Some assume that it is because He is compassionate and understands that they still have not received ANY rest since He sent them out. Others, lookin over the other gospels think a bit differently: “But John says that after He had done the miracle, the people wanted to take Him and make Him a king, John 6 verses 14 and 15. They were ready to start a revolt, a revolution.You have to understand that the Kingdom at this point, as we look at it here, the Kingdom at this point is all in one little boat. This is not very impressive. This Kingdom is not at all impressive. It is a poor Kingdom by any human estimate. A wooden boat in the middle of a storm, and the vice regents and future rulers and proclaimers of this King and His Kingdom can’t control the boat.


This is a very dangerous moment for the Kingdom. Nazareth has rejected Him. Galilee has rejected Him. Herod wants to kill Him. The Pharisees and scribes want to kill Him. The leaders in Jerusalem want to kill Him.

And now, even those who are His apostles, first generation of gospel preachers, the ones who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, these men are in a dire situation. Their rescue is essential and so is their complete devotion to Him. Future hope for gospel preaching depends on their survival and it depends on their faith.” Sure, Jesus is compassionate, BUT there is more at stake here than these men eating and resting, as important as that is.

MacArthur writes: “They (the multitudes) were sure of His amazing, miraculous power. They knew now that He would not only heal their bodies, deliver them from disease, raise their dead, but He would be the source of permanent food supply. And so, they were ready to make Him a king. They were certainly ready to have Him overthrow Herod and all the other petty Herodians who had pieces of Israel over which they ruled under the allowances of Rome. They were ready to take on Rome itself with Jesus as their leader. This was the crowd’s response to the massive nature of this miracle and what it demonstrated about His power to provide for them.”

Jesus, knowing that these men could easily be influenced by the crowds and perhaps get swept away with the excitement that filled the air, quickly sends them away from the multitudes to the other side of the sea.

Jesus then goes to the mountain to pray (often goes here). Jesus is very busy and normally does not get alone time; but he makes time! Jesus knows the will of the people and He knows the susceptibility of the twelve men He chose to the electricity in the air of a long awaited “messiah,” king. He knows the future kingdom work rests organically in these men, so He prays!

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 Seeing them [a]straining at the oars—for the wind was against them—at about the [b]fourth watch of the night, He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

FOCUS TWO: Disciples in fear
The twelve are in the boat for several hours, many of them spent straining at the oars in rough waters. Mark says that it was evening when they were in the boat and about “the fourth watch” Jesus came to them. How long is it between “evening” and the 4th watch? Approximately six hours!

Imagine that. Jesus sees them “straining at the oars” (v. 48) and yet does not go to them for several hours? And then we read that He walks on the water to them “intending to pass by.” Those two facts together tell me that these men, especially Peter, were about to have their faith in Christ tested!

Why pass by?

  1. 1. God does not always deliver from trials but uses them to produce (endurance, humility, dependence, how to ask for help).
  2. 2. Test of faith (how do we act when God does not answer immediately (bitterness, anger, impatient)?

These men were terrorized at what they saw. You would think that after all they had seen being accomplished by Jesus, and all they had done recently by His power, they would instantly recognize and appreciate Jesus walking on the water to get to them. Instead, they were in great fear thinking it was a ghost and they were astonished that He stopped the wind!

That statement makes sense only in light of what we read later in verse 52, which we’ll talk about in our next focus!

49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought that it was a ghost, and they cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were [a]terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they [b]had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but [c]their hearts were hardened.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus is divine

Can I say it? These men are slow to gain wisdom or insight as to who Jesus is and what He can do! BUT, I am too and so are you. We most likely would have reacted the same way if we were in that boat.

Mark reveals that these men were:

  1. Afraid (terrorized in the greek)
  2. And ignorant
  3. And tired

“So when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost and screamed.” These are grown men who probably have been doing a lot of yelling up to now anyway. But this is the shrieking scream of someone who is just in panic. They thought He was a ghost. The Greek word is phantasma, phantom, fantasy. Popular belief at the time was that spirits of the night brought disaster. That was hanging around in the superstitions of that time and that place. Maybe all of a sudden it was true in their experience.”

“For they all saw Him and were terrified,” tarassō that word means to throw into panic. They were literally thrown into panic. There was no – there was no way to process what they saw, a person walking on water. Well, the Lord didn’t let their shaking terror last very long – I love this. ‘He spoke with them and said ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.’” Easy for you to say, right” (Macarthur).

So we see Jesus as:

  1. Encouraging
  2. He did not rebuke them
  3. And He gave them hope

This was a miracle that again reveals His deity:

  1. Power
  2. Authority
  3. Sovereignty

And all that He did was get into the boat and it stopped!

“The OT provides an important background for understanding Jesus’ action of walking on the water. Jesus is acting with divine power (2:7), because it is God alone who walks on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8), who makes His way through the sea and His path through mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16). The OT also makes sense of the otherwise puzzling note that Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples. The language is similar to that used of God’s revelation of His glory to Moses (Exodus 33:17-34:8). . . For Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples, therefore, means that He desired to reveal His glory to them” (Exegetical guide to the Greek New Testament, pg. 116).

But they missed it. Their hearts were hardened (v. 52).

The Synoptics show us that the disciples understood only by degrees. Therefore their statements must not be interpreted as if they had a “post resurrection” understanding of Him. They always seem to come around to the same point over and over again, each time at a deeper level of understanding. But always with a mixture of apprehension! They haven’t arrived yet, AND neither have we!

That night they went from fear to faith. That night they went from confusion to confession. That night they went from wondering to worshiping!

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