These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 6:45-56 Explained – Bible Study Guide With Questions
What did Jesus do when everyone had left? How is your prayer life? Are you faithful to pray to the Lord on your own or just at church?
How far had the disciples gotten while Jesus was praying?
Did Jesus go help them immediately? How long did he wait (until the 4th watch, 3-6 AM)? Why do you think He waited so long to help them?
What was their reaction to seeing Jesus walking on the water?
What happened when Jesus got on the boat? Why were they so surprised when Jesus did so many miracles?
Verse by Verse Commentary
Jesus made His disciples go first. Perhaps this was because Jesus knew His disciples were very tired from their preaching trip and needed a rest. He had planned to give them a rest before when the crowds went to the place they were going to have a “retreat” and flooded it. Jesus hadn’t forgotten His disciples, but still was compassionate toward them.
Jesus left for the mountain to pray. While reading through the gospels you often see this type of refrain. It is not an isolated occurrence, but a regular part of who Jesus is and what He does. As we have discussed before, Jesus was a busy man. He was so busy that many times He didn’t even have enough time to eat. And yet, He always found time alone to pray. On this note, we should evaluate our own prayer lives. Do we place the priority on it that Jesus did? How is your prayer life? Do you only pray if you have time and something urgent to pray about (ie: need something)? Or do you make time to pray no matter how busy you are? Do you have quality time in prayer on your own or just mutter a few quick words before a meal? The Word and prayer are the two most basic spiritual disciplines. We cannot be growing Christians without them. One thing you will notice while studying through books of the Bible is that most of the most famous Bible characters were men of prayer. They often had quality time with the Lord. If someone wrote a biography of you, is that what you would be known as?
In the evening Jesus noticed them straining at the oars. This would indicate that they hadn’t made it very far, so Jesus was still able to spot them from land. It wasn’t until the fourth watch (3-6 AM), that Jesus went out to them. How long is it from evening until the fourth watch? Depending on what time the sun set, it would probably be a minimum of about 6 hours and as long as 13 hours. Jesus did not go to help them immediately. Why do you think that is? While we do not know the exact reason in this case, we do know that God doesn’t always save us out of trials immediately. See Romans 5:3-5. Sometimes God sees fit to let us experience trials for awhile in order to develop our character. Jesus saw His disciples struggling against the wind. Actually they were already very tired at this point and this would have pushed them almost to the point of exhaustion. But for their own long-term benefit He didn’t step in. As a father, I sometimes may notice Caleb struggling to do something. Is it always in his best interest for me to step in and do it for him? No. Some things he needs to struggle with in order to learn. Maybe he needs to learn how to do it. Or maybe he just needs to learn that he can’t do it. By letting him struggle with it for a while he could learn to be humble. He could learn his own limitations. He could learn how to ask for help and not rely on himself. There are many possibilities. For the disciples, they were able to witness once again Jesus’ miraculous power. Because they had struggled already for a long time against the wind Jesus’ miracle of stopping the wind became even more amazing and highlighted His divine strength against their human weakness.
Application: Do not grow bitter with God if He doesn’t immediately save you from a trial you are facing. Just as Jesus was nearby and ready to help the disciples when it was really best for them, God is also nearby even in our trial and will step in when we need Him to, but not necessarily when we want Him to. Instead of blaming God or growing impatient or angry, when facing trials, we should look at ourselves and ask what lessons we can learn. Maybe we need to be more dependent on God, more patient, more faithful, etc. Sometimes not stepping in and helping one is a sign not of apathy, but of discernment.
Jesus walked on the water – This is not a magic trick. It wasn’t achieved by illusion or trick cameras or a high salt content. The disciples were experienced sailors and the sight was enough to scare them to the point where they cried out (a modern translation might read “screamed like girls”). The text says that they were “terrified.” It wasn’t surprise or excitement, but sheer terror. At the beginning they couldn’t tell what this figure walking on water was (it was night so the light wouldn’t have been great although there was evidently a moon). Jesus, however, didn’t leave them in their terror, but revealed Himself to them. “Take courage, it is I,” He said. The first order of business was to assuage their fears. Next He decided to do another miracle to help with the trial they were facing, stopping the wind which was set against them. At the right time God can and will step in, even powerfully, to help us.
Astonishment – Why were the disciples astonished when the wind stopped? Since they had seen many of Jesus’ miracles, including the feeding of the five thousand the same day, you would think they wouldn’t be surprised anymore. But they were. The text says that their hearts were hardened. It wasn’t easy for them to change their perspective or their worldview. Instead they often quickly forgot what they had just learned. It would be easy to sit here in the living room while having the Bible study and blame them for their short-term memories. Should we blame them or not? Probably it would be unwise to blame them since we do the same thing. I was at my dad’s house a couple days ago for dinner and I heard him reminding the family to shut a door in order to save electricity. Basically this reminder was no different than the ones I heard growing up as many as 25 years ago. But even after 5 or 10 or 25 years, people still forget. We often forget what we read in the Bible today or learned in church or Bible study last week. Even if we remember the words, we often don’t do them. In reality, in this area, we are not any different than the disciples were. How we can have victory to keep practicing what we have learned? How can we overcome our spiritual short-term memories?
Verses 53-56 Discussion Questions
What did Jesus do for the people of Gennesaret? How come when they saw Him they immediately ran around gathering up the sick people of the area to be healed?
Verse by Verse Commentary
Once again, Jesus and His disciples were unable to rest. As soon as they landed they were recognized and people ran through the countryside gathering the sick to Him for healing. It is easy to understand how the people felt. They had likely heard stories of Jesus and many of them had clearly seen Him. It was known that He could heal people. That means they should make hay while the sun shines. Jesus didn’t come to their area everyday so if their sick friends and relatives wanted to be healed, now was the time. They weren’t about to miss this chance!
Jesus was popular in this region. Why? Because people were able to get something from Him. The people were not mostly intentionally taking advantage of Jesus. But they saw an opportunity and took it. Most of us wouldn’t enjoy people following us around and asking for things all the time. Jesus maybe didn’t always enjoy it either. But He kept doing it. The point is He wasn’t focused on Himself. He didn’t go to bed at night moaning about how “life isn’t fair” and He didn’t sit around at meals complaining to His disciples about the people’s lack of gratitude. He saw a need and He filled without any need for recognition or appreciation.
Application 1: Do not get upset if you feel people are taking advantage of you. Instead have compassion on their lost souls.
Application 2: When you see a need, fill it, even if you are a tired.
Application 3: Make sure that you show proper appreciation and consideration for others when asking favors.
Proverbs 19:4 – Wealth attracts many friends…
Proverbs 19:20 – The poor are shunned even by their neighbors…
How is this story similar to the feeding of the five thousand? How is it different? Are there any additional insights/lessons you can learn from it? Compare and contrast the disciples’ attitudes in Mark 6 and here.
Verse by Verse Commentary
This was likely in Decapolis (Mark 7:31), which was primarily a Gentile region. This is the same region Jesus healed the man possessed by legion. Because it was a Gentile region, we see God’s grace and Jesus’ ministry extended beyond the Jews.
It is likely that many of the people coming heard about Jesus from that man and now had an opportunity to meet Jesus for Himself. It seems Jesus was following a similar strategy as Paul did later, which is to visit places, preach and teach, and then go back again for more encouragement and follow-up.
Once again, Jesus’ compassion is highlighted. The people had mostly not eaten for days. Obviously Jesus’ teachings were very powerful, which made them want to keep staying and listening to Him.
The disciples still didn’t seem to get it. You would think they might just immediately say, “Here’s some bread. Do another miracle like last time.” This idea was so foreign to their normal human logic that none of them said this and perhaps even thought about it. While it is only two chapters apart, we are not sure how much time has elapsed. If a month or two or more had gone by that could also help explain why they didn’t immediately think about it.
The crowds were commanded to sit on the ground. No record is shown of an explanation. They needed to obey without necessarily knowing why.
This time, there were seven loaves and a few fish. The exact number is not important. What’s more the fact that a different number is reported each time shows us that the number is real (and not an allegory) and that the reporting and writing is very accurate and precise down to the simplest details. Each loaf then needed to feed about 600 people (not counting women and children) and then fill up a very large basket (the word means something like hamper, which a person could fit into).
Jesus blessed the food again, reminding us of the principle of giving thanks before eating.
People ate, were satisfied, and there was lots leftover. His miracle was more than sufficient. It was abundant.
Jesus knows our needs. He can abundantly supply our needs. We have a responsibility to obey His commands even when we don’t know why and trust that He has a good reason for them.