Mark 4:1 MKJV And He began again to teach by the seaside. And there was a great crowd gathered to Him, so that He entered into a boat and sat in the sea. And the whole crowd was on the land by the seaside.
The foregoing chapter began with Christ’s entering into the synagogue (Mar_4:1); this chapter begins with Christ’s teaching again by the sea side. Thus he changed his method, that if possible all might be reached. To gratify the nice and more genteel sort of people that had seats, chief seats, in the synagogue, and did not care for hearing a sermon anywhere else, he did not preach always by the sea side, but, having liberty, went often into the synagogue, and taught there; yet, to gratify the poor, the mob, that could not get room in the synagogue, he did not always preach there, but began again to teach by the sea side, where they could come within hearing.
Jesus often used a boat as His “pulpit” (Mar_2:9). It gave Him a place to speak away from the press of the crowds, provided good acoustics, and probably a nice backdrop.
When Jesus taught from a boat, surely that was a new thing. We can imagine some critic saying, “You can’t do that! Teaching belongs in the synagogue or in some other appropriate place.” It would be easy to come up with objections: “The damp air might make people sick” or “There are a lot of mosquitoes down at the shore” or “Someone might drown.” But Jesus knew that teaching from a boat suited His purposes well enough.
Mark 4:2 MKJV And He taught them many things by a parable. And He said to them in His teaching:
The prophet had foretold that our Lord would open his mouth in “parables” and in “dark sayings.” (Psa_78:2)
The parable is etymologically the setting forth of one thing by the side of another, so that the one may be compared with the other. The parable is the truth presented by a similitude. It differs from the proverb inasmuch as it is necessarily figurative. The proverb may be figurative, but it need not of necessity be figurative. The parable is often an expanded proverb, and the proverb a condensed parable. There is but one Hebrew word for the two English words “parable” and “proverb,” which may account for their being frequently interchanged. The proverb (Latin) is a common sentiment generally accepted. The parable (Greek) is something put by the side of something else. Theologically, it is something in the world of nature which finds its counterpart in the world of spirit. The parable attracts attention, and so becomes valuable as a test of character. It reveals the seekers after truth, those who love the light. It withdraws the light from those who love darkness.
Mark 4:3 MKJV Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.
Mark 4:4 MKJV And as he sowed, it happened that indeed some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and ate it up.
Mark 4:5 MKJV And another fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth. And it sprang up at once, due to not having deepness of earth.
Mark 4:6 MKJV And when the sun rose, it was scorched. And because it had no root, it withered away.
Mark 4:7 MKJV And another fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
In this parable, Jesus described something they were all familiar with – a farmer casting seed on the ground, and the seed falling on different types of soil.
The seed fell on three areas without lasting success: on the pathway (the wayside), on the rocky ground (on rock), and on the thorny ground (among thorns). But some of the seed fell on good ground.
Why wouldn’t the farmer only cast seed on good soil? Some fell on the pathway by accident (some fell by the wayside), but most of the seed was sown on ground that was plowed after the seed was cast. Therefore, you didn’t know where rocks were or where thorns might grow.
Hearken, behold, there went out a sower to sow. By whom is meant Jesus Christ, who came forth from God as a teacher, and went out into the land of Judea to preach the Gospel, which is sowing spiritual things among men; and this may be also applicable to any faithful minister of the word.
Mark 4:8 MKJV And another fell on good ground and yielded fruit, going up and increasing. And one bore thirty, and one sixty, and one a hundredfold.
Of the seed that fell on the good ground, all of it produced – but not all produced to the same degree.
Though this is commonly called the parable of the sower, it should really be called the parable of the soils. The difference is never the seed, but on the kind of soil it lands on.
The goodness of this last soil consists in its qualities being precisely the reverse of the other three soils: from its softness and tenderness, receiving and cherishing the seed; from its depth, allowing it to take firm root, and not quickly losing its moisture; and from its cleanness, giving its whole vigor and sap to the plant. In such a soil the seed “brings forth fruit,” in all different degrees of profusion, according to the measure in which the soil possesses those qualities.
Mark 4:9 MKJV And He said to them, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Our Lord uses this expression, “he that hath ears to hear,” etc, when the subject-matter is figurative or obscure, as though to rouse the attention of his hearers. He has “ears to hear” who diligently attends to the words of Christ, that he may ponder and obey them. Many heard him out of curiosity, that they might bear something new, or learned, or brilliant; not that they might lay to heart the things which they heard, and endeavor to practice them in their lives. And so it is with those who go to hear sermons on account of the fame of the preacher, and not that they may learn to amend their lives; and thus the words of Jehovah to Ezekiel (Eze_33:32) are fulfilled, “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”
Let us look to the Lord, that by his new-creating grace our hearts may become good ground, and that the good seed of the word may produce in our lives those good words and works which are through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God the Father.
Mark 4:10 MKJV And when He was alone, they who were about Him, with the Twelve, asked Him concerning the parable.
The spiritual meaning of the parable was not immediately apparent. The disciples of Jesus, including the twelve, didn’t know what Jesus meant, and they asked Him about the parable.
Mark 4:11 MKJV And He said to them, To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to those outside, all these things are given in parables
Jesus will answer the disciples’ question about the parable, but first He will teach them why He uses parables.
The disciples, who wanted the things of God, were given to know the mystery of the kingdom – they could be spoken to plainly. But often, others were taught with parables.
In the Bible, a mystery isn’t something you can’t figure out. It is something that you would never know unless God revealed it to you. In the Biblical sense of the idea, you may know exactly what a mystery is, yet it is still a mystery, because you would not have known unless God revealed it.
Notice that even with this “simple” parable, the disciples themselves do not understand (Mar_4:10; Mar_4:13; Mar_4:33-34).
Mark 4:12 MKJV so that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Parables, in their spiritual function, are more like riddles or puzzles than easy illustrations. They can be understood by those who have right “key.”
A parable isn’t exactly an illustration. A good teacher can illustrate by stating a truth, and then illustrating the truth through a story or an analogy. But when Jesus used parables, He didn’t start by stating a truth. Instead, the parable was like a doorway. Jesus’ listeners stood at the doorway and heard Him. If they were not interested, they stayed on the outside. But if they were interested, they could walk through the doorway, and think more about the truth behind the parable and what it meant to their life.
If you don’t understand the key to the parable, you don’t understand it at all. We can imagine what different people in Jesus’ audience might have thought when He taught this parable with no explanation.
None of them could understand the spiritual meaning until Jesus explained the key to them: The sower sows the word (Mar_4:14). If you miss the key, you miss the whole parable. If you think the seed represent money, you miss the parable. If you think the seed represents love, you miss the parable. If you think the seed represents hard work, you miss the parable. You can only understand it by understanding the key: The sower sows the word.
Lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them: By quoting this passage from Isa_6:9, Jesus explained why He used parables. In teaching by parables, Jesus offered His hearers the opportunity to dig deep and find the truth, or to turn a blind eye to an interesting story. This would avoid a greater condemnation for having rejected a clearly understood truth.
Why would Jesus deliberately speak so others would not understand and convert?
Why would he not want to convert and forgive them?
How do we harmonize this scripture?
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Mark 4:13 MKJV And He said to them, Do you not know this parable? And how then will you know all parables?
Jesus considered this parable as essential to understanding His other parables, for it afforded the simplest type or pattern of a Parable.
Know ye not — The Lord expected his disciples to see the drift of this parable without inquiring for an explanation. He expected them to use their common sense in either interpreting the parable for themselves, or in judging the correctness of interpretations offered by others.
and how then will you know all parables? if not this single one, and which is so plain, how will ye be able to understand the numerous parables hereafter to be related, and which will be much more difficult? This parable would serve as a general key for the interpretation of all Jesus’ parables.
He only explained the one parable and left us to find the significance of the others by study, comparison and observation of his methods and principles. Any interpretation out of harmony with the general principles laid down in the Scriptures, or at variance with any plain, direct statement, may be set down as incorrect, whether we see a better one or not.
Mark 4:14 MKJV The sower sows the Word.
The sower sows the word: Jesus says that the word of God is like a seed. It gets “planted” in our heart, and then has the potential to bear fruit. But not every seed grows into a plant and bears fruit. The kind of soil it lands on makes all the difference.
1Pe_1:23 also says that the word of God is like a seed. It says that we have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.
ii. The natural tendency is for the audience to critique the preacher. But here, Jesus the preacher critiques His audience. The issue is how well they will hear, not how well He will preach.
iii. We learn something else here: It is by preaching that the seed is sown. You can study the seed, categorize the seed, analyze the seed, know the seed, or even love the seed. But if you don’t sow it, nothing will grow.
iv. But if the seed is the word, then every preacher must make sure he uses good seed. “It is a high offence against God to change the Master’s seed, to mix it, or to sow bad seed in the place of it.” (Clarke)
v. The Word of God, the entire revelation which God has made to us–the Bible.
Mark 4:15 MKJV And these are those by the wayside, where the Word is sown. And when they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the Word that was sown in their hearts.
Some people are like the ground on the pathway. This was hard ground because people walked on it all the time, and beat it down into a path or a road. People like the wayside are hard to the word of God, and they allow no room for the seed of the word in their lives – it never enters.
“There are some that hear the word, but never meditate upon it, never lay it to their hearts, never cover it with second thoughts.” (Poole)
Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts: It is important to see that Satan doesn’t want the word of God to take root in a person’s heart. Like a bird swooping down and snatching a seed, he wants to “remove” the seed of the word from the “soil” of a person’s heart. This is Satan’s preferred result. He wants to keep the word from ever taking a place in a person’s life, so they can never be fruitful to God.
“Hard hearts must be ‘plowed up’ before they can receive the seed, and this can be a painful experience (Jer_4:3; Hos_10:12).” (Wiersbe)
By the way side — The heart not in a receptive attitude, hard like the wayside path. Paths hard trodden by life’s experiences; sometimes by too great prosperity. Trials, sufferings, and disappointments may plow them up.
Their hearts being solid and compact with selfishness. For such the Lord must, either through trials in the present life or disciplines in the Millennium, plow up their hearts and make them ready for the reception of the truth.
Satan — Our Lord and the apostles were firm believers in a personal devil. Satan and his evil agents are represented by the “birds.”
Taketh away the word — We lose the benefit of that which we do not understand. (Russell)
Have you taken inventory of your heart?
Has your heart hardened with time? (Can you only hear the Truth that you agree with?)
Mark 4:16 MKJV And these are those likewise being sown on stony places; who, when they hear the Word, immediately receive it with gladness.
Mark 4:17 MKJV But they have no root in themselves, but are temporary. Afterward when affliction or persecution arises for the Word’s sake, they are immediately offended.
Some people are like the ground that is rocky, but covered with a thin layer of topsoil. They receive the seed of the word with a flash of enthusiasm that quickly burns out.
The “stony ground” hearer isn’t attacked directly by Satan, but by tribulation or persecution. Jesus knew that many have an immediately favorable reaction to the word of God, but they give it up quickly when it becomes difficult to follow Jesus.
No root in themselves: Some professing Christians have no root in themselves. Their root is in their parents, or in the Christian friends, or in the pastor, or in enthusiastic surroundings. “Then there are many more, whose religion must be sustained by enthusiastic surroundings. They seem to have been baptized in boiling, water; and unless the temperature around them is kept up to that point, they wither away . . . the religion that is born of mere excitement will die when the excitement is over.” (Spurgeon)
Those with little depth of character, merely emotional, shallow, superficial in their love of righteousness. Below the surface are hard, stony, selfish hearts. We cannot see as God sees, we know not the heart, the shallowness of the nature.
Immediately receive it — The first gush of enthusiasm in the Lord’s service, much as we may and do appreciate it, may be but the hasty production of shallow soil in the heart. (Russell)
Mark 4:18 MKJV And these are those being sown among thorns; such as hear the Word,
Mark 4:19 MKJV and the cares of this world, and the deceit of riches, and the lust about other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Some people are like the seed that fell among the thorns. They receive the word but allow the interests and cares of this world choke it out. We might say this ground is too fertile. The word of God grows there, but so does everything else. And everything else soon begins to crowd out the word of God.
Soil that brings forth great thorns is rich, and if devoted wholly to the production of wheat would bring forth large crops. Their talents, influence, means, time–the strength of their hearts, the strength of the soil is absorbed in another direction–in the bringing forth of earthly projects and ambitions whose interests conflict with the interests of the kingdom. They are mistaken who suppose they can love both the Lord and the world. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat_6:24)
Deceitfulness of riches — Money–lust and the excitement of business and pleasure. Experience would lead us to question whether or not prosperous ones are living as near to God as when they were less prosperous. The Lord occasionally finds some to whom he can entrust a stewardship of riches without injury, but such instances are rare. If a Christian grows rich, it should be with fear and trembling. The awful power in money is more dangerous than dynamite. (Russell)
Not much can be expected from the wayside heart of the shallow-hearted, but great possibilities are lost in those in whom the seed of truth is choked by the cares of this life.
Do you allow life to choke out the seed that has been planted in your heart?
Mark 4:20 MKJV And these are those sown on good ground, who hear the Word and welcome it, and bear fruit, one thirty, one sixty, and one a hundredfold.
Some people are like the good ground, and they accept the word, and bear fruit, thus fulfilling the purpose of the seed. This parable shows that when the word is received as it should be, something happens – fruit is produced. If nothing happens, then the word is not being received as it should.
These four categories apply to those who hear the gospel of salvation, but they also apply to those who are already saved who continually hear the word of God. How do you hear it?
• Do you let Satan take it right away?
• Do you take it but then immediately ignore it?
• Do you allow the cares of this world to make your hearing of the word of no effect?
• Do you keep the word and see it bear fruit in your life?
“This parable deals with the problem that is greatest of all to the thoughtful mind: how is it that the scribes and Pharisees can so misrepresent Him? And how is it that His kindred and disciples can totally fail to comprehend Him? Why does not the hearing of the doctrine produce the same result in every heart?” (Cole)
Mark 4:21 MKJV And He said to them, Does a lamp come to be put under a grain-measure, or under a bed? and not to be set on a lampstand?
A candle is not lit up to be put immediately under a measure or a bed, where it can give no light. Its design is to give light. So my preaching by parables is not designed to obscure the truth, but to throw light on it. You should understand those parables, and, understanding them, should impart the truth to others also, as a candle throws its beams upon a dark world.
Speaking especially to his apostles, but through them to all who receive the gospel, our Lord bids those who welcome and value the truth to proclaim it far and wide. It is light intended for the world’s illumination; let it be set up on high, that all in this great dark house of humanity may see their way to God. It is meal for the hungering multitude; let it be dealt forth to every applicant with no sparing hand, no grudging heart. There is light enough for all who are in darkness; bread enough for all who are in danger of starving. It is the office of the members of Christ’s Church to hold forth the light of life, to take of the food and, as it multiplies in their hands, to give to the vast multitude in the barren wilderness.
The responsibility of those who understand the Word of God: (Mar_4:21-23) They are responsible to expose and publish the truth – that is, the word of God.
Where is your lamp?
Mark 4:22 MKJV For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed; nor became covered, but that it might come to the light.
By its very nature, light is meant to be revealed. Truth is the same way, and God promises that it will be revealed. We must not hide this light. If you have the truth of God, you have a solemn responsibility to spread that truth in whatever way God gives you opportunity, even as someone who has the cure for a life-threatening disease has the moral responsibility to spread that cure. God didn’t light your lamp so that it would remain hidden.
Are you letting your light shine?
Please, share with us the different ways in which you are doing this.
Mark 4:23 MKJV If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.
The responsibility of hearing the Word. God provides the seed; but the preparation of the soil is largely in our hands.
When Christ speaks, there are those who do not perceive, who do not understand. Is this the fault of the Word? No, it is the fault of their own inattentive, unreceptive, unsympathizing nature. It is they, the hearers, who are to blame; not the truth which they will not appreciate (Mar_4:12). Yet are there those “who have ears to hear;” and these hear. To them the Word is as music, satisfying their souls, bringing to them the thoughts of the Divine mind, the love of the Divine heart, the secret of the Divine purposes. To them it is said, “Happy are your ears, for they hear!”
Are your ears open to God’s Word?
Who are you listening to?
Mark 4:24 MKJV And He said to them, Take heed what you hear. With that measure which you measure, it shall be measured to you. And to you who hear, more shall be given.
Mark 4:24 GW He went on to say, “Pay attention to what you’re listening to! Knowledge will be measured out to you by the measure of attention you give. This is the way knowledge increases.
Take heed what ye hear. Attend, that is, to these words which ye hear from me, that ye may understand them, and commit them to memory, and so be able to communicate them effectually to others. Let none of my words escape you. Our Lord bids us to pay the greatest attention to his words, and so to digest them that we may be able to teach them to others.
With what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you: and more shall be given untoyou. Our Lord’s meaning is clearly this: If you freely and plentifully communicate and preach my doctrine to others, you shall receive a corresponding reward. Nay, you shall have a return in far more abundant measure. For thus the fountains, the more water they pour out below, so much the more do they receive from above. Here, then, is great encouragement to all faithful teachers of the Word, of whatever kind; that by how much they give to others in teaching them, by so much the more shall they receive of wisdom and grace from Christ; according to those words of the apostle, “He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2Co_9:6).
With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you: This is why it is important to take heed what you hear. God will respond to us as we have responded to Him and His word.
- Charles Spurgeon said, “The hearer of the gospel will get measure for measure, and the measure shall be his own measure.” And it works out just this way. To the one with no interest in the gospel, the preaching of the gospel seems uninteresting. To the one who wants to find fault with the church or the preacher, they find plenty of faults. On the other hand – the more blessed hand – those who hunger find food, and those who want the solid truth receive something from any faithful ministry.
- When we hear the word of God, and receive it with gladness, more will be given to us from God’s spiritual riches. More will be given: More what? More desire to hear. More understanding of what you hear. More personal possession of the blessings you hear about.
- More will be given: Jesus reminds us that spiritual growth follows momentum, positive or negative. When we have the godly habits of receiving the word and living it, more is built on to that. When we lose those godly habits, they are extremely difficult to get back.
with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you; a common proverb among the Jews, used on various occasions, and to different purposes; See Gill on Mat_7:2. Here it seems to intimate, that if the disciples carefully hearkened to what they heard from Christ, and studiously laboured to understand it, and faithfully dispensed it to others, in return, a larger measure, and greater degree of spiritual knowledge, would be bestowed upon them: for it follows, and unto you that hear, shall more be given; that is, that hear so as to understand, keep, and make a good use of what they hear, more shall be communicated to them; they shall have an increase of knowledge in the doctrines of grace, and mysteries of the Gospel.
Are you taking heed to what you are hearing?
Are you sharing what you are learning?
Is your understanding increasing?
Mark 4:25 MKJV For he who has, more shall be given to him; and he who has not, from him shall be taken even that which he has.
Mark 4:25 GW Those who understand these mysteries will be given more knowledge. However, some people don’t understand these mysteries. Even what they understand will be taken away from them.”
For he that hath, to him shall be given. He that uses his gifts, whether of intellect or of goodness, bestowed upon him by God, to him shall be granted an increase of those gifts. But from him who uses them not, God will gradually take them away. Christ here encourages his apostles and disciples to diligent and earnest preaching of his gospel, by promising them in return yet greater influxes of his wisdom and grace.
Matthew 25:29-30 ERV Everyone who uses what they have will get more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what they have will have everything taken away from them.’ 30 Then the master said, ‘Throw that useless servant outside into the darkness, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.’
What are you doing with what you have?
Mark 4:26 MKJV And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
This shows that the word of God works invisibly within us. God promised that His word would accomplish the purpose for which He sends it (Isa_55:11). So when you hear the word it works in you – even as you sleep! In works in you spiritually, in a way that it invisible to our eyes.
“The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil nor in the weather nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature.” (Robertson)
Has the “seed” been planted in you?
Mark 4:27 MKJV and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knows not how.
Night and day — Illustrating slow, gradual, methodical development, covering the entire period of this Gospel age.
Because Jesus said that the Parable of the Soils was a key for understanding other parables (Mar_4:13), we can say that the seed He speaks of here represents the Word of God, as it did in the Parable of the Soils. Therefore, with this parable, Jesus shows the way the word of God works with hidden and mysterious power, just like a seed.
We need not inquire too minutely who the Sower is, though primarily it refers to the Lord Himself. It is the property of the seed which is intended to engage our attention, the secret energy of its own, the principle of life and growth within itself, whereby it springs up and grows.
Is the seed that was planted in you growing?
Mark 4:28 MKJV For the earth brings out fruit of itself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full grain in the ear.
This parable is recorded by St. Mark alone. It differs greatly from the parable of the sower, although both of them are founded upon the imagery of the seed cast into the ground. In both cases the seed represents the doctrine of the gospel; the field represents the hearers; the harvest the end of the world, or perhaps the death of each individual hearer. So is the kingdom of God, in its progress from its establishment to its completion. The sower casts seed upon the earth, not without careful preparation of the soil, but without further sowing. And then he pursues his ordinary business. He sleeps by night; he rises by day; he has leisure for other employment; his work as a sower is finished. Meanwhile the seed germinates and grows by its own hidden virtues, assisted by the earth, the sun, and the air, the sower knowing nothing of the mysterious process.
First the blade. There is a law of orderly development in natural growth, so also is it in reference to spiritual growth. Compare 1Jn_2:12-14. Some growths are quicker than others, but in all there is growth. And we have no right to look for the end at the beginning, the ripened Christian experience in the young convert, the full corn in the first appearance of the blade. Observe, too, that we can know that there is growth by its results, though we know not how, and that each stage of the growth is more apparent than the preceding stage.—Johnson
The earth beareth fruit of herself. In like manner, by degrees, the faith of Christ increases through the preaching of the gospel; and the Church grows and expands. And what is true of the Church collectively is true also of each individual member of the Church. For the heart of each faithful Christian produces first the blade, when it conceives good desires and begins to put them into action; then the ear, when it brings them to good effect; and lastly the full corn in the ear, when it brings them to their full maturity and perfection. Hence our Lord in this parable intimates that they who labour for the conversion of souls ought, with much patience, to wait for the fruit of ’their labour, as the husbandman waits with much patience for the precious fruits of the earth.
Mark 4:29 MKJV But when the fruit has been brought out, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.
The seed sown may mean the gospel which he was preaching. In Judea its beginnings were small; yet he would leave it, commit it to his disciples, and return to his Father. The gospel, in the meantime, left by him, would take root, spring up, and produce an abundant harvest. In due time he would return, send forth the angels, and gather in the harvest.(Barnes)
Matthew 13:39 KJV The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Have you done a study on the “Harvest” in the scriptures?
What is the Harvest?
Mark 4:30 MKJV And He said, to what shall we compare the kingdom of God? Or by what parable shall we compare it?
Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it!
This shows the great care which Jesus had to adapt his instructions to the capacity of his disciples. He sought out the most plain and striking illustrations – an example which should be followed by all the ministers of the gospel. At the same time that the instructions of the pulpit should be dignified as our Saviour’s always were they should be adapted to the capacity of the audience and easily understood. To do this the following things are necessary in a minister:
- 1.“Humility.” A freedom from a desire to shine, and to astonish the world by the splendor of his talents, and by his learning and eloquence.
- “Good sense.” A satisfaction in being understood.
- Acquaintance with the habits of thought and manner of speaking among the people. To do this, frequent contact with them is necessary.
- “A good sound education.” It is the people of ignorance, with some smattering of learning, and with a desire to confound and astonish people by the use of unintelligible words. and by the introduction of matter that is wholly unconnected with the subject, that most often shoot over the heads of the people, and by long winded explanations. Preachers of humility, good sense, and education are content with being understood, and free from the affectation of saying things to amaze and confound their auditors.
Mark 4:31 MKJV It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that are in the earth.
Mark 4:32 MKJV But when it has been sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out great branches, so as to enable the birds of the air to roost under its shade.
The kingdom of God, that is, his Church on earth, is like a grain of mustard seed. By this image our Lord shows the great power, fertility, and extension of the Church; inasmuch as it started from a very small and apparently insignificant beginning, and spread itself over the whole world. It is not literally and absolutely true that the grain of mustard seed is less than all seeds. There are other seeds which are less than it. But the expression may readily be allowed when we compare the smallness of the seed with the greatness of the results produced by it. It is one of the least of all seeds. And so the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of the Church was one of the smallest of beginnings. The mustard plant shoots out large branches, which are used as fuel in some countries, quite large enough for shadow for the birds. A traveler in South America says that it grows to so large a tree upon the slopes of the mountains of Chili that he could ride under its branches.
It grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches: Some regard this as a beautiful picture of the church growing so large that it provides refuge for all of the world. But this mustard seed plant has grown into a monstrosity, and it harbors birds – who in the parables are emissaries of Satan, according to the foundational parable of the soils (Mar_4:13).
“The growth of the kingdom will not result in the conversion of the world. In fact, some of the growth will give opportunity for Satan to get in and go to work!” (Wiersbe)
Jesus, in considering the growth of the work of God, reminds us that size and status are not necessarily benefits. There has never been a great curse upon the world than corrupt Christianity, of the form of godliness without the power.
It is the neglect to preach the Gospel of the “narrow way” that has brought such prosperity and made it a desirable place for the fowls of the air, Satan and his deluded ones. Babylon, nominal Christendom, “the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Rev_18:2)
Mark 4:33 MKJV And with many such parables He spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it.
Mark 4:34 MKJV But he did not speak to them without a parable. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
Withmany such parables; such, that is, as he had just been delivering—plain and simple illustrations which all might understand; not abstruse and difficult similitudes, but sufficiently plain for them to perceive that there was heavenly and Divine truth lying hidden beneath them, so that they might be drawn onwards through that which they did understand, to search into something hidden beneath it, which at present they did not know.
Not necessarily easily understood. If our Lord’s parables and dark sayings be taken as plain, literal statements of truth, they will lead to all kinds of errors and misapprehensions.
When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples: “This does not necessarily imply that the multitude understood nothing, but only that Jesus, by further talk, made the disciples understand better.” (Expositor’s)
Mark 4:35 MKJV And evening having come, He said to them on that day, Let us pass over to the other side.
Mark 4:36 MKJV And when they had sent away the crowd, they took Him with them as He was in the boat. And there were also other little boats with Him.
They took Him along in the boat as He was: Jesus taught the multitude from a boat just off the shore of the Sea of Galilee. When the teaching was finished, He didn’t return to shore. He just said to the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.”
“The Lake of Galilee is 13 miles long at its longest, and 8 miles wide at its widest. At this particular part it was about 5 miles across.”
Even as he was in the ship – They took him without making any preparation for the voyage; without providing any food or raiment. He was sitting in a ship, or boat, instructing the people. In the same boat, probably ill fitted to encounter a storm on the lake, they sailed. This would render their danger more imminent and the miracle more striking.
There were with him other little ships – Belonging probably to the people, who, seeing him sail, resolved to follow him.
“The disciples sailed off with him just as he was in the boat out of which he had been teaching the people; and they did not wait to provide any accommodations for the passage.”
“Now the teaching was over; He was weary; He was craving for a period of rest. And so He bade His disciples to cross the lake, and that is the moment to which our text refers – they took Him even as He was . . . They had not waited till any cloaks were brought. They had not sent a messenger ashore. Weary, and probably hungry, they had taken Him even as He was.” (Morrison)
We must take Him as He was.
• Not as we wish Jesus was.
• Not as others may present Jesus.
• Not as you might see Him in the lives of others.
Mark 4:37 MKJV And there arose a windstorm, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was now full.
The Sea of Galilee is well known for its sudden, violent storms. The severity of this storm is shown by the reaction of the disciples (we are perishing). Several of the disciples were experienced fishermen on this very lake, and they were frightened and feared perishing in this storm.
Called Laelaps, a wind that is suddenly whirled about upwards and downwards, and is said to be a storm, or tempest of wind with rain; it was a sort of a hurricane:
“Stirred up, likely, by the devil to drown Christ and his disciples.” (Trapp)
There must have been some reason for the allusion to these boats; and the wider the reach of the tempest, the greater would appear the Divine power through Christ in stilling it, and the greater the amount of testimony to the reality of the miracle. The miracle was wrought to show his power over all creation, the sea as well as the dry land; and that they, his disciples, and all who were with him might believe in him as the Son of God. But further, this tempest on the sea of Galilee was a type and symbol of the trials and temptations which should come on the Church. For the Church of God is as a ship in a storm, ever tossed upon “the waves of this troublesome world.” And then, moreover, as the rude storm urges the ship onwards, so that it more quickly reaches the desired haven, so afflictions and temptations quicken Christ’s disciples to the greater desire of holiness, by which they are borne onwards more speedily to “the haven where they would be.”
The storms may seem to come from the world, but really beyond the world is the Adversary. We do not wish to intimate that every storm is of Satanic origin, but we do hold that some of them are supernatural and of the Adversary.
It must not surprise us if a dark hour is before us, if the time will come when the stormy winds will be so fierce that many will cry out in fear and trembling.
Are you in the middle of a great storm right now?
Mark 4:38 MKJV And He was in the stern of the boat, asleep on a headrest. And they awakened Him and said to Him, Master, do You not care that we perish?
Jesus’ true humanity is shown by His sleep on the boat. He became weary, and sometimes caught a bit of sleep wherever He could.
a. Think of all the worries that might have kept Jesus awake. He could worry about the religious and political leaders who plotted against Him. He could worry about His family who thought He was crazy. He could worry about the overwhelming crowds with their overwhelming needs. He could worry about the disciples He chose. He could worry about the future, because He knew what His mission was. With all these things to worry about, Jesus wasn’t worried. He slept in a rocking boat.
b. “The Lord’s sleep was not only the sleep of weariness: it was also the rest of faith, for there is a rest of faith as well as a watch of faith.” (Cole)
And they awoke Him: The wind didn’t wake Him, the arguing of the disciples didn’t wake Him, and water splashing over the boat didn’t wake Him. But at the cry of His disciples, He instantly awoke. Jesus is like the mother who sleeps through all kinds of racket, but at the slightest noise from her little baby, she instantly awakes.
Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? Notice the “we.” Their idea was, “Hey Jesus, You’re in trouble here too. Maybe You had better wake up, get a bucket and start bailing along with us, because we are perishing!”
- “It was not a request to Him to do anything; but a protest against His apparent indifference.” (Morgan)
- The disciples were afraid, but at the same time there were several experienced fishermen among them. They knew they were in jeopardy (Luk_8:23), but probably felt they knew what to do. They worked hard at bailing out the water, at rowing in a certain rhythm, at piloting the boat in a certain direction. They were annoyed that Jesus didn’t help them.
- We are often the same way. We feel we know the situation. We’re experts on this one, and all we want Jesus to do is help us bail out our boat. We want Jesus’ help, but we want His help to work out our plan. “I am afraid, too, that we rely too much upon ourselves. Was it not Dr. Gordon who, when he lay a-dying, said that the secret of strength in faith in Christ was having no faith in ourselves? I am inclined to think that the secret of weak faith in God is our having a good deal of self-reliance; but when you cannot trust to yourselves, then you hang upon Christ, and cling to him as your only hope; then you give the grip of a sinking man, and there is no hold like that.” (Spurgeon)
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow; more literally, he himself was in the stern asleep on the cushion. He had changed his posture. He was weary with the labour of addressing the great multitude. He had sought the momentary rest which the crossing of the lake offered to him. He was resting his head upon the low bench which served both for a seat and for a pillow. Master, carest thou not that we perish? This question savours of impatience, if not of irreverence. Who so likely to have put it as St. Peter? Nor would he be likely afterwards to forget that he had put it. Hence, probably, its appearance in St. Mark’s Gospel.
Is Jesus asleep in your boat?
Are you trying to control things yourself or are you asking him for help?
Mark 4:39 MKJV And He awakened and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace! Be still! And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Jesus didn’t merely quiet the wind and the sea; He rebuked the wind and the sea. This, together with the disciples’ fear and what Jesus will encounter at His destination, give the sense that Satan had a significant hand in this storm.
a. Rebuked . . . “Peace, be still!” The same terminology is used when Jesus rebuked and silenced demons. This was a spiritual battle as much as a weather crisis. “Jesus addressed the raging storm as a ‘force’ threatening him and his disciples. The force of the sea was muzzled as Jesus subdued it with his sovereign word of authority.” (Lane)
b. As well, Mark tells us other little boats were also with Him. When Jesus calmed the stormy Sea of Galilee, He did not only rescue Himself and the disciples, but all the others in the little boats.
St. Augustine says that “when we allow temptations to overcome us, Christ sleeps in us. We forget Christ at such times. Let us, then, remember him. Let us awake him. He will speak. He will rebuke the tempest in the soul, and there will be a great calm.” There was a great calm. It is observable that, as in his miracles of healing, the subjects of them usually passed at once to perfect soundness, so here, there was no gradual subsiding of the storm, as in the ordinary operations of nature, but almost before the word had escaped his lips there was a perfect calm.
In the storms of life whoever can by faith take hold upon the Lord will find a great peace and calm come into his heart and all his affairs.
Are you taking hold of the Lord in your storms of life?
Mark 4:40 MKJV And He said to them, Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?
Jesus didn’t say, “Wow, what a storm!” Instead, He asked, “Why is it that you have no faith?” The storm could not disturb Jesus, but the unbelief of His disciples disturbed Him.
i. It was not their fear of the storm that made Jesus say they had no faith. A small boat in a big storm is a scary place, and the initial fear itself isn’t wrong. What the disciples chose to do with the fear made all the difference.
ii. Jesus could say they had no faith because they did not believe His word. They each heard Jesus say, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake” (Mar_4:22). Jesus did not say, “Let’s do the best we can and maybe we’ll all drown.” He promised a safe arrival, and the disciples could have chosen to trust in that promise, but they didn’t. In this sense they had no faith.
iii. Jesus could say they had no faith because they accused Jesus of a lack of care towards them. When they woke Him, they said, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mar_4:38) When we think Jesus doesn’t care about us, it shows we have no faith, because we don’t believe the truth about Jesus. It takes great faith to trust the sleeping Jesus, to know that He cares and works for us even when it does not seem like it. But this is the kind of trust God wants to build in us.
iv. Jesus could say they had no faith because they forgot the big picture. The disciples should have known that God would not allow the Messiah to perish in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Could the story of Jesus possibly end with Him drowning in a boat accident on the Sea of Galilee? “Was it reasonable for these men to think that he, who could foresee the future, would take them on board a ship when he foreknew that a storm would wreck them? Would so kind a leader have taken them to sea to drown them? Was it reasonable to think that he who was so favored of God would be left to perish? Would he have gone to sleep if they had really been in danger? Was it reasonable to believe that the King of Israel was about to be drowned, even he whom they knew to be the light of the world? Our unbelief, my brethren, seldom deserves to be reasoned with. Our fears are often intensely silly, and when we get over them, and ourselves look back upon them, we are full of shame that we should have been so foolish. Our Lord kindly censured their unbelief because it was unreasonable.” (Spurgeon)
v. We could put the emphasis: How is it that you have no faith? Of all people, Jesus’ own disciples should have had faith. Would Jesus put the same question to us? “After all I have done in you and for you, how is it that you have no faith?”
Mark 4:41 MKJV And they feared exceedingly and said to one another, What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?
They feared exceedingly: The total calm of the sea should have filled them with peace, but instead, they were just as afraid when He calmed the storm as when they were in the midst of it.
All this shows the abiding care Jesus has for His people. “There are many Christians today who seem to think the boat is going down! I am tired of the wailing of some of my friends who take that view. The boat cannot go down. Jesus is on board.” (Morgan)
What manner of man — The experience was a valuable lesson showing the wonderful power of God exerted through their Master; and the same lesson is for us.
Commentaries used for this study: David Guzik, Charles Russell, The Expositor’s Bible, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, E.W. Bullinger, Matthew Henry and more.