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THE three Evangelists who narrate this miracle agree in placing it in immediate sequence to the feeding of the five thousand, and on the evening of the same day. The two first relate, that when all was over and the multitude were fed, the Lord “straightway constrained his disciples to get into the ship,” a phrase in itself not very easily accounted for, and finding probably its best explanation in the fact which St. John alone relates, that the multitude desired to take Jesus and make him a king. (vi. 15.) It is likely that the disciples had notice of this purpose of the multitude,-indeed they could scarcely have avoided knowing it; and this was exactly to their mind, so that they were most unwilling to be parted from their Master in this hour, as they deemed it, of his approaching exaltation. St. Jerome gives the reason more generally, that they were reluctant to be separated even for a season from their beloved Lord.” While he was dismissing the assemblage, they were to return, according to St. Mark, to Bethsaida, which does not contradict St. John, when he says they “went over the sea towards Capernaum;” since this Bethsaida, not the same which St. Luke has made mention of but just before, and which for distinction was called Bethsaida Julias, but that of which we have already mention, (John i. 44,) the city of Philip and Andrew and Peter, lay on the other side of the lake, and in the same direction as, and in the neighborhood of Capernaum. St. Matthew, and St. Mark with him, would seem to make two evenings to this day,+one which had already commenced ere the preparations for the feeding of the multitude had begun, (ver. 15;) the other, now when
the disciples had entered into the ship and begun their voyage. (ver. 23.) And this was an ordinary way of speaking among the Jews, the first evening being very much our afternoon, (compare Luke ix. 12, where the “evening” of Matthew and Mark is described as the day beginning to decline;) the second evening” being the twilight, or from six o'clock to twilight; on which the absolute darkness followed. It was the first evening, or afternoon, when the preparations for feeding the five thousand commenced; the second, when the disciples had taken ship. But in the absence of their Lord they were not able to make any effectual progress: “the wind was contrary,” and the sea was rough: their sails, of course, could profit them nothing. It was now “the fourth watch of the night,” near morning therefore, and yet with all their efforts and the toil of the entire night, they had not accomplished more than “five and twenty or thirty furlongs,” scarcely, that is, more than half of their way, the lake being forty or forty-five furlongs in breadth. Probably they were ever finding themselves more unable to proceed, the danger probably was ever heightening—when suddenly they see their Lord “walking on the sea,” and already close to their bark.
* 'Opta čevrépa.
+Many have supposed that there is a scoff against this miracle intended by Lucian (Ver. Hist., l. 2, c. 4) in his account of the cork-footed race, (pez26trodec,) whom in his voyage he past éti Toi trežáyovs 6tafféovrac. I confess it seems to me a question whether so expert a scoffer, if he had meant this, would not have done it better; while at the same time the hint which he gives, l. 1, c. 2, that there is something under these absurd and extravagant travellers' tales which he has strung together, that they contain every one allusions to the fables and portents of poets and historians and philosophers, makes it not altogether improbable; and in the Philopseudes, where there seems to me far more evident allusions to the miracles of the Gospel,-as for instance, a miraculously-healed man taking up his bed, (c. 11,) the expulsion of the evil spirit from a demoniac, (c. 16,) reminding one singularly of that recorded Mark ix. 14–29; this also of walking on the water recurs (c. 13) among the incredible things proposed for the wise man's belief. Not otherwise the Golden City of the Blest, with its dia. mond walls, its floors of ivory, and its trees bearing fruit every month, (Ver. Hist, 1.2, c. 11—13) may very well be written in rivalship and in ridicule of the description of the New Jerusalem, Rev. xxi.; as the story of the great multitude of men who are comfortably housed for some years in the belly of a whale, (Ib., l. 1, c. 30–42,) may be intended in the same way to be an outdoing of the story of Jonah and his three days' abode in a like place, which we know from more allusions than one was an especial object of the flouts of the heathen. See AugustiNE, Ep. 102, qu. 6; and Josephus, (Antt. l. 9, c. 10, $2,) who aimed to make his words acceptable to the cultivated Roman world, gets over it with a Żoyor–as some say. On the point of view under which Lucian contemplated Christianity there is an essay by KREBs, De Malitioso Luciani Consilio, die, in his Opusc. Acad, p. 308; and the subject is discussed in Tzschinsen's Fall des Heidenthums, p. 820.
After they had left him, and when he had likewise “sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray, and when even was come, he was there alone.” But from thence, with the watchful eye of love, “he saw them toiling in rowing,” (cf. Exod. iii. 7; Ps. lvi. 8,) and now, so soon as they had made proof that without him they could do nothing, he was with them once more. For it had been his purpose in all this, as Chrysostom well brings out, to discipline and lead them up to ever higher things than they had learned before. In the first storm he was present in the ship with them; and thus they must have felt all along, that if it came to the worst they might rouse him, and the very consciousness of his presence must have given them the sense of comparative security. But he will not have them to be clinging only to the sense of his bodily presence,—as ivy, needing always an outward support, but as hardy forest trees which can brave a blast;-and this time he puts them forth into the danger alone, even as some loving mother-bird thrusts her fledglings from the nest, that they may find their own wings and learn to use them. And by the issue he will awaken in them a confidence in his ever-ready help; for as his walking over the sea must have been altogether unimagined by them, they may have easily despaired of that help reaching them, and yet it does not fail them. When he has tried them to the uttermost, “in the fourth watch of the night,” he appears beside them, thus teaching them for all their after life, in all coming storms of temptation, that he is near them; that however he may not be seen always by their bodily eyes, however they may seem cut off from his assistance, yet is he indeed a very present help in the needful time of trouble.
Nor can we, I think, fail to recognize the symbolic character which this whole transaction wears. As that bark was upon those stormy seas, such is oftentimes the Church. It seems as though it had not its Lord with it, such little way does it make; so baffled is it and tormented by the opposing storms of the world. But his eye is on it still; he is in the mountain apart praying; ever living, an ascended Saviour, to make intercession for his people. And when at length the time of urgent need has arrived, he is suddenly with it, and that in marvellous ways past finding out, and then all that before was laborious is easy, and the toiling rowers are anon at the haven where they would be.”
* Thus Bede: Labor discipulorum in remigando et contrarius eis ventus labores
sanctae Ecclesiae varios designat, quae inter undas seculi adversantis et immundorum
flatus spirituum ad quietem patriae coelestis, quasi ad fidam litoris stationem, pervenire
conatur. Ubi bene dicitur, quia navis erat in medio mari et ipse solus in terra: quia
nonnunquam Ecclesia tantis Gentilium pressuris non solum afflicta, sed et foedata est, The disciples were terrified at the first apparition of the Lord, “for they supposed it had been a spirit:” even as often he is mistaken still, when he comes to his people in some unaccustomed form, by some unwonted way, in the shape of some affliction, in the way of some cross; they too cry out for fear, though indeed he comes charged with blessing. They mistake him for some terrible phantom, till his well-known voice, his “Fear not, it is I,” reassures them, and they know with whom they have to do.; And yet, if indeed it was he, and if he was indeed coming to the help of his own, that which perplexed them the most, being seemingly a contradiction of any such purpose, was, that when he came nigh to the bark, “he would have passed them by.” (Mark vi. 48.) It perplexed them for a moment; it has perplexed others lastingly: for it has been said by those who are seeking to discover inner inconsistencies in the Gospels, Why wish to pass them by and to escape them, when he was coming for this very purpose, that he might reassure them and aid them 7 and when he was no sooner discovered, or at least detained by their cries, than he ascended into the ship where they were 2 There can be no doubt that this, even as every other dealing of God with his people, is difficult to be understood of them, to whom the standing point of faith is altogether strange. This apparent passing by, on the Lord's part, of his disciples, was that by which their prayer was to be called out, that he would not pass them by, that he would not forsake them. Exactly in the same way, walking with his two disciples to Emmaus, after his Resurrection, “he made as though he would have gone further,” thus drawing out from them the entreaty that he would abide. And at the root of what a multitude of God's other dealings
ut, sifieri posset, Redemptor ipsius eam prorsus deseruisse ad tempus videretur.... Videt [tamen] Dominus laborantes in mari, quamvis ipse positus in terrá; quia etsi ad horam differre videatur auxilium tribulatis impendere, nihilominus eos, ne in tribulationibus deficiant, suae respectu pietatis corroborat, et aliquando etiam manifesto adjutorio, victis adversitatibus, quasi calcatis sedatisque fluctuum voluminibus, liberat. Cf. AugustiNE, Serm. 75. So, too, Anselm (Hom. 3): Nam quia insurgunt fluctus, potest ista navicula turbari, sed quia Christus orat, non potest mergi.
* Pávragua = 94aua vuxtepwów. (Job xx. 8.)
+ Calvin : Pii.... audito ejus nomine, quod illis est certum et divini amoris et sua salutis pignus, quasi à morte in vitam excitati animos colligunt, et quasi serenum coelum hilares conspiciunt, quieti in terrà resident, et omnium malorum victores ejus praesidium omnibus periculis opponunt.
f Augustine (De Cons. Evang, l. 2, c. 47): Quomodo ergo eos volebat praeterire, quos paventes ita confirmat, nisi quia illa voluntas praetereundi ad eliciendum illum clamorem valebat, cui subveniri oportebat? Corn. A Lapide: Volebat praeterire eos, quasi eos non curans, nec ad eos pertinens, sedalië pergens, ut in eis metum et clamorem excitaret.
does something of the same kind lie: so that this is not an insulated circumstance, but one which finds its analogies every where in the Scripture, and in the Christian life. What part does Christ sustain here dif. ferent from that which in the parable of the unjust judge, (Luke xviii. 2.) or the churlish friend, (Luke xi. 5) he makes God to sustain? or different from that which he himself sustained when he came not to the help of the sisters of Bethany when their need seemed the highest? And are not all such cries of the faithful in the Psalms as this, “Lord, why hidest thou thy face?” confessions that he does so deal with his servants, that by delaying and seeming to pass by, he calls out their faith, and their prayers that he would come to them soon and abide with them always? But now, being as it were detained by that cry, he at once scatters and rebukes their fears: “Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.” Whereupon follows that characteristic rejoinder of Peter, which, with its consequences, St. Matthew alone records: “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” That “if” must not be interpreted as implying any doubts upon his part whether it was the Lord or not: a Thomas, indeed, may have desired to have him with him in the ship, ere he would fully believe that it was no phantom, but the Lord himself; but the fault of a Peter would not be in this line. Rather do the words mean: “Since it is thou, command me to come unto thee.” He feels rightly that Christ's command must go before his coming. And, doubtless, there was in the utterance of this desire the promptness of love, which made him desire to be where his Lord was. (Cf. John xxi. 7.) It may be, too, that he would fain compensate for that exclamation of terror in which he had joined with the rest, by an heroic act of courage and affiance. Yet, at the same time, was there, as the issue proved, something mingling with all this, which made the whole incident a rehearsal of his greater presumption and greater fall, which should hereafter come to pass. In that “Bid me,” the fault lay. He would go before the other disciples; he would signalize himself by a mightier testimony of faith than any of the others would dare to render. It is but again, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” We should not fail to observe, and with reverence to admire, the wisdom and love of the Lord's answer. Another, having enough of spiritual insight to detect the fault which lurked in Peter's proposal, might yet by a coarser treatment have marred all, and lost for one in Peter's condition the lesson which it so much imported him to receive; had he, for instance, bid him to remain where he was, at once checking the outbreaks of his fervent spirit, which, when purified from all of earthly which clung to them, were to carry him so far in the work of