1. Mark 6:45 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What were Jesus' travel plans here?

Mark 6:45 (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.

After the meal, Jesus forces his disciples (at dusk, Mark 6:35) to go ahead of him to Bethsaida. This can hardly be located at the other side of the lake; the disciples would then have asked how Jesus would ever want to follow across the water! From where they are, this is on the other side of a bay: the crowd had previously come overland from Bethsaida (Mark 6:32–33).

After the departure of the crowd to the surrounding countryside and villages (Mark 6:36), Jesus can easily and quickly follow the disciples to Bethsaida overland. Apparently this indeed happened in the evening, but Jesus did not rejoin his apostles then. He had said a friendly farewell, after which he himself returned to the mountain to pray, while telling the disciples to sail toward Capernaum at night.

In this way, various matters are explained. First of all, we read in Mark 6:46 that Jesus had taken leave of them. The verb used here suggests a friendly and personal farewell. To whom does the them refer? It does not really fit the sending away of a large crowd and is never used in such a situation. The difficulty, that this verb (apotassesthai) in Mark 6:46 would be used for the crowd as an exception, is removed when we assume that the sending away of the crowd follows the announcement of it in Mark 6:45 and that Mark 6:46 assumes that Jesus then, according to his intention, followed the disciples (overland) to Bethsaida, where he (now without any haste as in Mark 6:45) quietly says goodbye to them.

This also better explains that at first the disciples are hastily sent to Bethsaida (at dusk) and that later a boat is mentioned that in high seas tries to sail to Capernaum (in the middle of the night): Mark 6:47, Matthew 14:23–24, John 6:16–17. Matthew and John speak about that night voyage only. Mark also elaborates on the preceding history (the short crossing to Bethsaida before changing direction to the other side of the lake). Apparently Jesus had told his disciples to embark at a specific time (if he had not returned from his prayer) to Capernaum. When it started getting late, they left (John 6:17 notes that Jesus had not come).1