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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 4

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-9

18 Simon was called "the Cananite" or "the Zealot" (which means the same) in order to distinguish him from Simon Peter. The term "Cananite" is easily confounded with "Canaanite", an inhabitant of Canaan. But no alien could possibly have been chosen to be an apostle.

19 The choice of Judas Iscariot seems to be a mystery to many. But it is merely one manifestation of the wider problem of evil. Some have supposed that the Lord did not know at the time how he would turn out. But the Scriptures assure us that the Lord was not ignorant and knew from the beginning that Judas was to be His betrayer ( Joh_13:21 ). It must needs be that offenses come. It was part of God's plan that Christ should be betrayed, for it had already found a place in the prophetic Scriptures. Why, then, should He not choose the instrument?

22-27 Compare Mat_12:24-30 ; Luk_11:14-23 .

22 It is significant that scribes from Jerusalem commit the "unpardonable sin", or, as it is also called, the eonian sin. This consists in ascribing the casting out of unclean spirits to their head, the chief of the demons. In the evangel of the kingdom there is not the appeal to pure, unsupported faith which characterizes the evangel of God or the conciliation, which is the evangel for today. A foretaste is given of the powers of the coming eon, by means of signs, which prove the ability of Christ to cope with the powers of darkness and disease, which must be overthrown before the kingdom can come. But if these are ascribed to the unclean spirits themselves, there is no possibility of repentance and pardon because of its very nature. The sin is eonian. It cannot be corrected for the eons. Such as committed it will have no place in the millennial reign or the subsequent kingdom of the Son in the new earth during the last eon. Their salvation waits until the eons are past. The "unpardonable sin" is not one of such enormity as to be beyond the ability of grace. In this economy grace has no limits. Where sin increases, grace superexceeds ( Rom_5:21 ). Grace reigns, and no sin is sufficiently heinous to dethrone it. Its character is what determines the "unpardonable", eonian sin.

28-30 Compare Mat_12:31-32 .

29 Compare Luk_12:10 ; Luk_12:31-35 Compare Mat_12:46-50 ; Luk_8:19-21 .

32 The Lord's brothers would hardly have summoned Him had they believed on Him, or recognized His true dignity. We are not even told that He met them. Instead, He turns our thoughts to others who are summoning Him, and whose call He cannot but hear. He claims kinship with all who serve God and is too busy serving them to be drawn aside by natural ties.

1-9 Compare Mat_13:1-9 ; Luk_8:4-8 .

1 We now come to a distinct change in our Lord's ministry. He begins to use parables in speaking to the throngs. It is erroneous to suppose that He does this in order to illustrate and simplify the truth. The parable is used in order to put the truth into such veiled and obscure form that those who are not spiritual can never comprehend it. Even His disciples could not understand His parables until He explained them.

3 The parable of the sowing is a resume of His ministry hitherto. He Himself was the Sower. The four classes were those in Israel who heard His word. The usual trinity of evil, Satan, the flesh and the world, hinder its fruitfulness. Only one class out of the four, represented by His disciples, was really fruitful, and only a few of these in abundant measure. A farmer would say that this was a very poor crop. The proclamation of the kingdom has failed to produce the effect necessary for its realization. His miracles and signs now take on a new note. There is often delay or danger, to indicate that the kingdom is no longer so near, and that it will not be established for some time, and then only after suffering on the part of the disciples.

9 The formula "who has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing! " is also significant. Though openly and apparently He speaks to all, it is couched in such language that only those who have spiritual perception will apprehend what He is saying. The rest hear the sound but do not grasp the sense. Parables are puzzles which only they can solve who have the key.

Verses 10-34

10-13 Compare Mat_13:10-17 ; Luk_8:9-10 .

11 The kingdom of God had been foretold and typified in their sacred Scriptures, but now the

Lord is unfolding a phase of its history which was unknown to the prophets. It is not a mystery , in the sense of something mysterious or inexplicable, but merely a secret, easily understood once we are initiated into it. The disciples imagined that the Lord's proclamation of the kingdom would continue until He would gain the support of the populace and then seize the sovereignty for Himself. He could not keep on proclaiming the kingdom and at the same time openly teach that the proclamation would be rejected, so He conveys this important fact to His disciples and those spiritual enough to understand, yet conceals it from the multitude by speaking in parables.

12 It cannot be reiterated too often that parables were not used by our Lord in preaching the evangel that they might receive the pardon of sins, but for the very opposite end. He spoke in parables lest the penalty of their sins should be pardoned. It is not gospel, but judgment. To "apply" it to the evangel for this day of grace is utterly contrary to the spirit of the conciliation which we should preach ( 2Co_5:19 ). We seek to assure men that God is not imputing their offenses to them. We do not veil our message in figures which they cannot understand. The Spirit of God has told us explicitly, not in veiled figures, that this economy will end in apostasy ( 1Ti_4:1 ).

13 The twelve apostles themselves did not perceive the significance of the parable, so He explains its symbols to them. Every detail of the picture He paints was most familiar to them all. In the East there are no fences and the roads go right through the fields or grain. There is but one Sower, the Lord Himself. The figure is important, for it postpones the kingdom until the harvest. He has not been reaping, as the apostles supposed. The end is still far off. By that time three classes who have heard the word will fail of fruition. It is the old kingdom refrain: those who endure to the consummation shall be saved.

14-20 Compare Mat_13:18-23 ; Luk_8:11-15 .

21-23 Compare Mat_5:14-16 ; Luk_8:16-17 ; Luk_11:33 .

21 It is evident that the light He has just given them is the lamp of which He speaks. He would not have them hide the light beneath self-satisfaction or indolence, which are suggested under the figure of a measure or couch. It would be very fine for them to enjoy the measure which had been given to them and repose in the illumination which had been granted to them, but that is not the purpose for which He had given them the light.

24-25 Compare Luk_8:18 . See Mat_7:2 ; Luk_6:38 ; Luk_19:26 .

24 In this parable He carries on the previous thought concerning the measure. As they impart to others what they had received their own measure will be increased. Spiritual blessings, unlike the physical, increase the more they are distributed.

25 This enigmatical statement can only be understood in the light of the circumstances in which it was spoken. Those who had received spiritual blessing from Christ were to receive more: those who received none would lose even the physical privileges which they had as


26 Here they have an even more emphatic hint that the kingdom would not come immediately, but by a gradual process like the growing of grain. Later on in His ministry He postpones the harvest to the conclusion of the eon ( Mat_13:39 ). The disciples were anxious to put their sickle to the grain while it was in the blade. Even after His resurrection, when the grain was in the ear, the pentecostal era showed that it was not yet ripe. The kernels will not be full until the end time.

30-32 Compare Mat_13:31 ; Luk_13:18-19 .

30 Ordinarily, wild mustard does not assume such dimensions, but, under favorable conditions, it might well grow into a tree. It was the smallest seed sown by the farmer and became the greatest of all his garden greens. This quick growth is quite in contrast to the previous parable, and the pungent mustard is not food, like grain. The flying creatures of heaven have a sinister significance, being interpreted as Satan in the parable of the sowing. Is not this a forecast of that false premature phase of the kingdom spoken of under the figure of great Babylon?

33-34 Compare Mat_13:34-35 .

Verses 35-41

35-41 Compare Mat_8:18-27 ; Luk_2:22-25 .

37 The lake of Galilee is subject to sudden squalls when the wind sweeps down from the mountains on the east. In a short time it changes from a placid mirror-like surface to a leaping, boiling cauldron, in which a small ship could hardly live. There must have been a marvelous calm in His own heart or He would have been roused by the pitching of the ship, or at least He would have been disturbed by the terror of His disciples. No mere man could have preserved his calmness in such danger. And how foolish for a mortal to take the wind to task and talk to the sea! But the wind and the waters were obedient to His will! Again we have a picture of the career of the kingdom, now that its proclamation has not been received. The sea speaks of the nations ( Rev_17:15 ), the storm of the time of the great affliction, the wind of the spiritual powers which will stir up the nations at the time of the end to persecute and destroy the people of the kingdom. When He comes to rescue His saints then He will say again, "Be still! " And there will be the millennial calm.

1-17 Compare Mat_8:28-34 ; Luk_8:26:37 .

This thrice-told story shows the fiercest display of the enemy's power entirely subject to the Lord. Mark dwells more fully than Matthew on the desperate condition of the man, in accord with the scope of this account in which service rendered to man is portrayed.

1 The name of this place is so variously given in the MSS. that we have appealed to the topography of the country to settle it, and come to the same conclusion as the editor of Sinaiticus ( S2 ), Alexandrinus has it Gadarenes, Vaticanus has Gerasenes, as also Sinaiticus,

before being edited. This is probably a variant of Gergesenes. Gadara was a well-known Greek city, celebrated for its temples, its theater, and its warm baths, but it was several hours distant from the southern shore of lake Galilee. The little town of Gergesa, the ruins of which the Arabs call Chersa, is "on the other side" from Galilee, and is the only part of the shore line which combines all the features necessary to the narrative. A steep mountain dips almost immediately into the lake, with hardly any beach, Tombs are cut in the rock above the city. Every natural feature accords with the inspired account. Hence we have chosen Gergesenes as the true reading.

8 It is the unusual which should strike us in each of our Lord's signs and miracles, for therein lies the special lesson each of His recorded acts is intended to teach. Here we find a man obsessed with many demons, who do not come out at His first command, and they are sent into the sea. On another occasion the Lord speaks of Israel at the end time as possessing seven times as many demons as formerly ( Mat_12:43-45 ). Their last state will be much worse than their first. This is suggested here by the legion of demons who infested the unfortunate demoniac. A Roman legion was about six thousand strong. Israel has kept herself from idolatry for many a century, but when the great image is set up, many will worship the wild beast ( Rev_13:8 ). The first proclamation of the kingdom is unheeded even as His first charge to the legion who were in the demoniac. But subsequently they find their way into the sea, just as

Satan will be sent into the abyss.

15 The previous condition of the demoniac, restless, insubordinate, self-torturing, corresponds to their history under the law. The chains and fetters of the law never were strong enough to hold them. They were often engaged in insane internecine wars among themselves. Judah was fighting against Israel, one party was pitted against another, and to this very day they are inclined to torture themselves. What a change when they, like the demoniac, find rest and righteousness and reason at His feet in the day of the Lord!

16 It is quite probable that there were other herds of hogs being kept contrary to the law, and that their owners feared that they, also, would be destroyed if the Lord remained in that country. It will be noted that the Lord's purpose was to send the demons into the abyss, but they begged to go into the hogs. He only gave His permission, for it was not apart of His mission at this time to enforce the law of Moses. Yet, by that inscrutable law of God which always conspires to carry out His will, both the keepers of the hogs and the demons were judged in accord with His purpose.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Mark 4". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/mark-4.html. 1968.
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