1. Mark 6:45–56 (ESV)
  2. Structure and outline

Unity of Mark 6:45-52 and 6:53-56

Mark 6:45–56 (ESV)

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.

The last section of Mark 6 is usually divided into two pericopes: Jesus walks on the water (Mark 6:45–52) and Jesus heals the sick in Gennesaret (Mark 6:53–56). Both these events, however, are closely related. They follow each other immediately in chronological order (Mark 6:53–54: the coming of the people follows the arrival of the boat). They are also connected: Jesus’ walking on the lake is not an isolated happening but a special way of coming to this new area of labour. The disciples too were not sailing without purpose: they went ahead to the next field of work. Their sailing across the lake is the introduction to something that must follow. Jesus’ work during this night (praying to God on the mountain) is also a sign of preparation for new tasks.

Most illustrative in this connection is the remark that later in the night Jesus (walking on the water) wanted to pass by the struggling rowers of the boat (Mark 6:48). All sorts of attempts have been made to give a different meaning to this sentence (compare Snoy123), but this is in fact what it says: He meant to pass by them. One cannot weaken this (by stating “it seemed as if he wanted to pass by them,” or something like that), for it states clearly enough that Jesus meant to pass by them. Not in order to remain unobserved (in fact, he specifically came to them over the water during the fourth watch of the night, Mark 6:48), and also not in order to remain unknown in passing by them (he makes himself known when that appears to be necessary, Mark 6:50: It is I).

We can only conclude that Jesus, simply and without trying to hide, wanted to pass by his disciples in order to go ahead of them to their common end destination. If the apostles had not been of such little faith, it would not have been necessary for him to come aboard and for the sea to become quiet. This manner of Jesus’ walking on the sea, whereby without detours he walks past the disciples, is part of the preparation for the work of the next day.

We therefore treat the end of Mark 6:46–56 as a unit. It describes what Jesus was going to do the next day and how he prepared himself for it and went there with his disciples.4