And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
And he saw them toiling in rowing,.... He saw them either with his bodily eyes from the mountain on which he was; or he perceived in his Spirit, he knew, by virtue of his omniscience as God, what distress his disciples were in; being tossed about with the waves of the sea, and were labouring with all their might and main against the wind: and were vexed and tortured, as the word signifies; they were in the utmost pain and uneasiness of mind, as well as fatigue of body, assisting the men in rowing; for the ship they were in was no other than a vessel managed by oars; and hard work it was to keep it from being overset:
for the wind was contrary unto them; it blew from the other side they were making to, full in their face, hard against them; so that it was with great toil and difficulty, that they got any thing forward:
and about the fourth watch of the night; or three o'clock in the morning: so that it is very likely, that as the evening when they took to the vessel was sun setting, or about six o'clock, they had been nine hours at sea, and had got but twenty five or thirty furlongs from shore; See Gill on "Matthew 14:25";
he cometh unto them walking upon the sea: being in this distress, Christ came down from the mountain to the sea side; and then, by his divine power, as the mighty God, that treadeth on the waves of the sea, he walked upon the surface of the waters of it; "as on dry land", as the Persic version adds:
and would have passed by them; that is, he made as though he would; see Luke 24:28. By the course he steered, by the swiftness of his motion, and his seeming negligence of them, it looked as though he intended to have gone by them, and said nothing to them, though this was far from his real design.