Origens Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew by Origen
5. The Disciples in Conflict. Jesus Walks Upon the Waters.
The reason why we have taken up this subject is the passage under discussion which tells that Jesus separated the disciples from the multitudes, and constrained them to enter into the boat and to go before Him unto the other side until He Himself should send the multitudes away; for the multitudes were not able to go away to the other side, as they were not in the mystic sense Hebrews, which are by interpretation, |dwelling on the other side.| But this was the work of the disciples of Jesus -- I mean to go away to the other side, and to pass beyond things seen and material, as temporal, and to go on to things unseen and eternal. To be dismissed by Jesus was a sufficient act of kindness bestowed on the multitudes by Jesus; for just because they were multitudes they were not able to go away to the other side; and this kind of dismissal no one has the power to effect save Jesus only, and it is not possible for any one to be dismissed unless he has first eaten of the loaves which Jesus blesses. Nor is it possible for any one to eat of the loaves of blessing of Jesus unless he has done as Jesus commanded and sat down upon the grass as we have told. Nor again was it possible for the multitudes to do this unless they had followed Jesus from their own cities, when He withdrew into a desert place apart. And at first, when He was asked by the disciples to send away the multitudes, He did not send them away until He had fed them with the loaves of blessing; but now He sends them away, having first constrained the disciples to enter into the boat; and He sends them away, while they were somewhere below, -- for the desert was below, -- but He Himself went up into the mountain to pray. And you must observe this, that immediately after the five thousand had been fed, Jesus constrained the disciples to embark into the boat, and to go before Him unto the other side. Only, the disciples were not able to go before Jesus to the other side; but, when they had got as far as the middle of the sea, and the boat was distressed |because the wind was contrary to them,| they were afraid when about the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them. And if Jesus had not gone up into the boat neither would the wind which was contrary to the disciples who were sailing have ceased, nor would those who were sailing have gone across and come to the other side. And, perhaps, wishing to teach them by experience that it was not possible apart from Him to go to the other side He constrained them to enter into the boat and go before Him to the other side; but, when they were not able to advance farther than the middle of the sea, He appeared to them, and did what is written, and showed that he who arrives at the other side reaches it because Jesus sails along with him. But what is the boat into which Jesus constrained the disciples to enter? Is it perhaps the conflict of temptations and difficulties into which any one is constrained by the Word, and goes unwillingly, as it were, when the Saviour wishes to train by exercise the disciples in this boat which is distressed by the waves and the contrary wind? But since Mark has made a slight change in the reading, and for |Straightway He constrained the disciples to enter into the boat and to go before Him to the other side,| has written, |And straightway He constrained His disciples to enter into the boat and to go before Him unto the other side unto Bethsaida,| we must attend to the word, |He constrained,| when first we have seen to the slight variation in Mark who indicates something more definite by the addition of the pronoun; for the same thing is not expressed by the words, straightway |He constrained the disciples.| Something more than |the| disciples simply is written in Mark, namely, |His| disciples. Perhaps, therefore, to attend to the expression, the disciples who found it hard to tear themselves away from Jesus, and could not be separated from Him by any ordinary cause, wished to be present with Him; but He having judged that they should make trial of the waves and of the contrary wind, which would not have been contrary if they had been with Jesus, put on them the necessity of being separated from Him and entering into the boat. The Saviour then compels the disciples to enter into the boat of temptations and to go before Him to the other side, and through victory over them to go beyond critical difficulties; but when they had come into the midst of the sea, and of the waves in the temptations, and of the contrary winds which prevented them from going away to the other side, they were not able, struggling as they were without Jesus, to overcome the waves and the contrary wind and reach the other side. Wherefore the Word, taking compassion upon them who had done all that was in their power to reach the other side, came to them walking upon the sea, which for Him had no waves or wind that was able to oppose if He so willed; for it is not written, |He came to them walking upon the waves,| but, |upon the waters;| Just as Peter, who at first when Jesus said to him, |Come,| went down from the boat and walked not upon |the waves,| but upon |the waters| to come to Jesus; but when he doubted he saw that the wind was strong, which was not strong to him who laid aside his little faith and his doubting. But, when Jesus went up with Peter into the boat, the wind ceased, as it had no power to energise against the boat when Jesus had gone up into it.