Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night, he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Mark tells us in verse 31 Jesus started this journey to get some rest. But the crowd followed. He took pity on them, taught them and fed them. Now He was able to break away from both His disciples and the crowd. So, He went off to pray.
Jesus sent His disciples off in a boat. He went to the mountains to pray.
Calvin, in his commentary, observed noises and interruptions destroy our prayers. We allow ourselves interruptions. Calvin goes on to say Christ was giving an example of how we are to get away. We need to be alone in prayer. I agree with Calvin. But, this is a descriptive text, not a prescriptive text. In other words, this text it is not a commandment find a place of solitude to pray.
Calvin does go on to say this is not a fixed rule. In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul told Timothy to pray everywhere. Christ often prayed in the presence of others.
Mark describes what Jesus did in prayer. Mark is not prescribing how we should pray. Nonetheless, Jesus is modeling what He prescribes elsewhere. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus told His disciples to pray in private. They were not to make a show of it. Jesus modeled that behavior here. He went into the mountains to pray.
Jesus must have spent most of the night in prayer. We know he fed the crowd in the evening. And He walked by the disciple in the fourth watch. The fourth watch is before daybreak. It is between 3 AM and 6 AM. The time between sending the disciples off in the boat and walking past them, Jesus spent in prayer.
The disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea. This vision terrified them. The did not recognize Jesus. They thought they saw a ghost. Mark tells us they did not understand about the loaves when Jesus fed the crowd. We may think they were pretty dense. But men are no different today. All nature declares God and His nature. Yet, men do not see it. Men do not understand the loaves God has given us.
Mark tells us immediately Christ spoke to them. He revealed to them who He was. The Greek translated “it is I” is literally “I am”. That is how the Septuagint translated the name God revealed to Moses. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
Their hard hearts prevented their understanding. Their hard hearts prevented them from recognizing Christ. Their hard hearts filled them with fear. Christ relieved their fears. Christ revealed Himself to them. He revealed He was God by His words and power.
The Lord indulges our weakness and shows us mercy. When we see His power. We fear. Yet He calms our fears.
Christ knowing all things knew they would face a strong wind. Christ knew they would see him on the water. Christ knew they would be afraid. You may argue Christ scared them on purpose. He did it to soften their hearts. He did so they would know He was the God incarnate.