30.  Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.

Here the disciples return from their journey and report to Christ what they had done.  Notice that they are called “apostles” here.  This word “apostle” means one who is sent with authority.  Indeed, these men were sent with authority by the Lord to carry out the commission He gave them.  Now they have fulfilled it, however, and thus return to Him.

31.  And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.

Apparently they were exhausted from their journey and needed some rest.  Rest was not easily found where they were, however, as there was a constant flow of people coming and going, not even leaving them time to eat a meal!  Thus, the Lord leads them into the wilderness to relax.  This is a good example to follow in our day of constant stress and activity.

32.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.

They cast off on a boat to achieve their goal of finding a deserted place to rest.
33.  But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities.  They arrived before them and came together to Him.

The multitudes are not willing to give Him time alone, however, and run ahead to where He is going to land.  Thus, when He comes, they are already there waiting for Him.

34.  And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.  So He began to teach them many things.

The Lord Jesus, upon encountering these people who had come out to disturb His solitude, did not respond angrily or impatiently, as we might have done.  Rather, He was moved with compassion for them.  He recognized them as being like sheep without a shepherd, and knew, no doubt, that He was the Shepherd they needed!  Thus, He responded to their need, and began to teach them.

35.  When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late.

As the day moves on towards night, his disciples start to fret, and bring their worries before the Lord.

36.  “Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”

The disciples were worried about feeding such a crowd.  Thus, they urge Him to send them away into the surrounding country to find food for themselves.

37.  But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.”  And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”

The disciples had not yet cultivated the sort of faith that the Lord wanted them to have.  His command to them to provide the crowd with something to eat only resulted in a frustrated and incredulous response from them, and not a response of faith.  The Lord was patient with them, however, just as He was patient with the multitude.

A denarius was about a day’s wages.  Thus, two hundred denarii was two hundred days’ wages.  A considerable sum indeed, but actually a conservative estimate for feeding such a huge crowd as this was.

38.  But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.”  And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”

These “loaves” were actually more along the lines of what we would call “biscuits,” and the fish were about the size of our sardines.  This small, almost insignificant amount of food was all the Lord needed to feed the multitude.  This is a picture of the way the Lord will deal with hunger and food shortages in the Kingdom.  No one will go hungry there.

39.  Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass.

The Greek wording indicates that they were to sit down in the traditional way.  They would sit in the shape of three sides of a square, facing inward.  The food would be served from the middle of the square, brought in through the fourth side where no one was seated.  The Lord went about this miracle, as He did all His miracles, in an orderly manner.

40.  So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.

The people not only are commanded to sit in this orderly way, but they are also to sit in groups of fifty or one hundred.  This orderly arrangement will make food distribution to them much easier.

41.  And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all.

This custom of the Lord’s of looking to heaven and blessing the bread was no doubt the source of the modern custom of praying or “asking the blessing” before meals.

The Greek words read that He “broke” the loaves once, but that He kept on giving the pieces to His disciples.  Thus, the miracle was in the giving hands of the Lord, not in His breaking of the bread.

42.  So they all ate and were filled.

This makes the miracle all the more astonishing, for food was scarce in Israel at that time, and eating until you were satisfied would have been a most unusual thing indeed.  We might imagine that many of these people were able to eat quite a considerable amount of food before they were filled!

43.  And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.

These twelve baskets were probably carried one apiece by each of the twelve disciples, going in an orderly manner to each of the seated companies.  These “baskets” were wicker traveling baskets, common in that day.  Imagine, twelve baskets filled with the leftovers of a meal that would have fit with room to spare in a single basket originally!

44.  Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.

This tremendous miracle is spelled out for us in the plainest numerical terms.

45.  Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away.

Having fed the multitude both in their spirits with His teaching and in their bodies with His food, He now is ready to send them away and get back to the solitude that He and His disciples had been seeking in the first place.  Thus, He sends His disciples away in the boat immediately, planning to send the multitude away Himself before following them.

46.  And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.

Now, with the multitude dismissed and His disciples on the lake, He departs to a mountain and turns to His Father in prayer.

47.  Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land.

By the time evening comes, his disciples have made it to the middle of the sea.  He, of course, is still alone on the land.

wat48.  Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.  Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.

Christ was able to see the disciples from the land, struggling in their boat.  Whether you and I would have been able to see them or whether this was a miracle is not spelled out.  The sea of Galilee was about seven miles across, so from the shore to the center would have been about three-and-a-half miles.  To see this far without help and to discern what He saw so well as to know that they were straining at their rowing would seem to me to have to have been a miraculous thing.  But in any case He saw their difficulty, and so He started across the sea towards them.

This was the fourth watch of the night, which is between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM.  Certainly the time of night when one might be fooled into thinking he had seen a ghost!  Why He wanted to pass them by is not revealed.  Perhaps He wanted to see if they would recognize Him and follow Him out of the storm through their faith.

49.  And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out;

Rather than looking for help from their Master, all the disciples can seem to look for is phantoms in the night!  They still had far to go in their faith.

50.  For they all saw Him and were troubled.  But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid.”

The disciples are troubled by the fact that they can all see him, for they realize then that He is not something they are imagining, but must be really there.  All they can conclude is that they are seeing a real ghost.  The Lord quickly remedies the disciples’ mistake and their fear by revealing His identity to them.  He tells them to be of good cheer.  They certainly could be, for their salvation had come to them!  We, too, can be of good cheer when we recognize our Lord through His Word.  And we, too, are looking for Him to come and save us, not from a storm, but rather from all the dangers and destruction of sin that we face.

51.  Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased.  And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.

As soon as the Lord goes up into the boat, the wind they had been fighting stops.  This results in a great amazement on their part, far beyond what perhaps they should have had.

52.  For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

In this verse, we learn why the disciples were so exceedingly amazed beyond what they should have been.  The reason was that they had not learned the lesson that they should have learned because of the loaves.  Their hearts had been hardened, and they did not understand.  Some people mistake this statement and get it mixed up with all the other teachings that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples.  They seem to think that the disciples were generally a fairly clueless and befuddled lot who rarely understood a word that their Teacher was saying.  This is directly in contrast with modern scholars, of course, who understand everything He said perfectly.  The fact is, however, that when Christ wanted to teach them something and get it across to them, He was able to do it!  The fact that they did not learn this lesson is explained to us by the fact that their hearts were hardened so that they could not learn it.  Perhaps the problem was that they had quite simply seen so many miracles worked by the Lord that they failed to impact them any longer, no matter how great they may have been.  We as humans are unfortunately likely to react in this way to things that become familiar to us.  How sad it is when some, having grown up among believers and having heard of the love of Christ all their lives, come to the place where they take that love for granted and cease to be amazed by it.  Let us strive to never lose our wonder at the magnitude of what the Lord has done for us!

53.  When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there.

They arrive at their destination on the other side of the sea: a place called Gennesaret.

54.  And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,

The Lord Jesus was becoming a very well-known figure, and the people in this place recognize Him instantly. 

55.  Ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was.

The reaction of these people, Israelites all, is in direct contrast to what many Christians today believe, which is that the people of Israel rejected their Messiah.  This is certainly not rejection, however!  Rather, they are eager to bring people to the Lord, especially the sick that they might be healed.

56.  Wherever He entered into villages, cities, or in the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment.  And as many as touched Him were made well.

This touching of His garment is interesting.  Perhaps the story of the woman with the flow of blood who had been healed by touching His garment had spread abroad.  If so, it had resulted in a great deal of faith on the part of the people.  Perhaps here we have the explanation for the Lord’s insistence on stopping and identifying the woman before He went on, which we saw so frustrated the disciples who wanted Him to hurry and help the synagogue ruler.  His actions in helping her seem to have produced much fruit in bringing these many people to faith in the Lord.