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

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-34




Harmony pages 60-66 and Matthew 13:1-53; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18.

We come now to our Lord’s first great group of parables and it will be necessary for us to dwell here somewhat at length in order to get certain definitions and principles fixed in our minds before we try to expound this great section.

First, what is a parable? There are two words used in the Greek for parable –

one by John and the other by the Synoptics. The word used by John is paroimia, which means, literally, "something by the way " Secondarily, it means a figura- tive discourse, or dark saying, suggesting more than meets the ear. The word used by the Synoptics is parebole,which, Anglicized, gives us our word "parable." The verb of this word means to throw, or to place, side by side, for purposes of comparison. The noun means an utterance involving a comparison, as "the kingdom of heaven is like, etc." which is a similitude. In the wider sense it means (a) an adage or proverb.(Luke 4:23), (b) a dark saving Matthew 15:15), (c.) pithy instruction in the form of an aphorism (Luke 14:7). In the more restricted sense it is a story of a scene in human life, or a process in nature, true in its character, though it may be fictitious in fact, suggesting a spiritual lesson. As the child gave it when asked to define a parable, “It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." The ideas in the word are these: (1) To place two things side by side for comparison; (2) veil ing the truth in a story, but with the veil so thin that the spiritually minded may easily apprehend it.

Second, there are several other words of similar, or kindred meaning, which should claim our attention here for purposes of distinction, such as proverb, simile, similitude, metaphor, allegory, fable, and myth, the definitions of which will follow in their order. A parable, as we have already defined, is a narrative true to nature or life, used for the purpose of conveying spiritual truth. A proverb is a short pithy saving and may contain a condensed parable. A simile is a simple comparison in which one thing is likened to another in, some of its aspects. A similitude is more comprehensive than a simile and borders on the realm of the parable, as in Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World. A metaphor ig a simile without the comparative word, as "that man is a fox." instead of "that man is like a fox," which is a simile. An allegory is an expanded metaphor, or the description of one thing under the imagery of another, as Pilgrims Progress. A fable is a story in which inanimate objects or lower animals are represented as acting in the capacity of human beings, the purpose of which is to instruct or to impress some moral lesson. It differs from a parable in that it is not true to nature or to life. A myth is a tale of some extraordinary personage or country, formed purely by the imagination.. It is fictitious and usually has an element of the supernatural in it.

In the Bible we find an example of the proverb, the simile, the similitude, the metaphor, the allegory, the fable, and the parable (let the reader search out examples of each), but there is no myth in the Bible. But why did our Lord use parables in his teachings? (1) To get the attention of the people. There is nothing more interesting than a good story well told. (2) To reveal conduct and character without being too direct. Thus our Lord often revealed the very heart and life of the enemy without becoming too offensive and by so doing precipitating a clash with his foes. (3) To enforce truth by way of illustration. This principle of teaching is too evident to need comment. (4) To stimulate inquiry. This we find to be the effect so often in his ministry: "What is the meaning of the parable of the tares?" (5) To fasten truth in the mind and aid the memory. This, too, is self-evident and needs no comment.

Here I append a list of the parables of Jesus, showing the pages of the Harmony where found, the references to the scriptures containing them and the leading thought of each. This will enable a Bible student, at a glance, to locate each parable in the Harmony, to find its setting in the Scripture and to give its interpretation in a nutshell. They are arranged in chronological order and therefore a careful study of them will reveal to the student of the Bible the occasion and frequency of Christ’s use of parables as well as to furnish a convenience of interpretation.

It will be observed that quite a number of these parables are very short and might be called similes or proverbs. The first great group commences with number 31, the parable of the sower, the second great group with number 68, the parable of the lost sheep, and the third great group with number 83, the parable of the two sons. All the parables of the first group are "kingdom parables," and relate to some phase of the kingdom, and that leads me to say that there are two general classes of parables, viz: "kingdom parables" and "homiletical parables." In interpreting a parable one should first deter mine its class, then its central truth, or point of illustration and then let all the details conform to this central point deducing no doctrine from the parable that cannot be found elsewhere in the Bible in unparabolic language. Also we must be careful not to try to spiritualize all the points. Much o the parable is often mere drapery, designed only to round out an Oriental story.

Here let the reader study closely and compare the points of the two parables which Christ interpreted himself, viz: the parable of the sower and the parable of the tares. These suggestions are brief, but they will serve as timely cautions in interpreting the many parables of our Lord. The three great groups of parables in the Gospels are as follows: First, there is the group here, Matthew 13:3-23; second, the five great parables in Luke 15-16; third, the three parables of his last day in the Temple. (Let the reader search out each of these groups and name the parables in each group.)

We will now look at the first great group of parables and take a general view of them in their relation to each other. Our Lord had made many disciples since his baptism, who followed him from place to place, growing in knowledge and grace as they heard his words, witnessed his deeds and imbibed his Spirit. After long companionship of this kind he purposed to select from the many a few as authorized teachers of his doctrine. Accordingly, after spending a whole night in prayer, he chose from the multitude of the disciples twelve men whom he ordained as apostles, to be with him and that he might send them forth to preach and to have authority over demons; but that they might know and understand what to preach before they went out alone, he, in their hearing on one occasion, expounded the principles and relations of his kingdom in the matchless Sermon on the Mount; and soon after that, on another occasion, he delivered a great group of very striking parables, illustrating the same principles. All of these many parables, as Mark tells us, he expounded privately to the twelve apostles; not just two of them, but all of them. Of the great number of parables delivered on this one occasion, only eight are recorded by the gospel historians, and the exposition of only two is recorded. The scene is Galilee, the Sea of Galilee. The pulpit is a boat. The preacher is sitting in a boat. The congregation are all gathered on the shore, and from that boat he delivers the parables. When the parables are spoken and he enters the house, he privately expounds them to his immediate disciples. The eight parables recorded are, the sower, the seed growing of itself, the tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the hid treasure, the pearl of great price and the net. The two whose expositions are recorded are the sower and the tares. But in connection with the eight are also given two subsidiary parables, making ten in all. These two parables, the lighted lamp and the householder’s treasure, are called subsidiary, because they were given to show the disciples what to do with the knowledge contained in the eight.

As the reader will readily infer, the object of one discussion covering so much ground, cannot be to expound in detail all of the eight parables. Therefore, let us generalize, if we can find a single thread of thought on which to string, like beads of pearl, the eight parables, making one necklace to be worn around memory’s neck as an ornament of beauty and value. It may not be done quite as fast as stringing beads, but it need not take much time, as only prominent and general meanings from one standpoint will be given. The thread of thought that unites all the eight parables into one is this: The discouragements and encouragements to religious teachers suggested by the eight parables. And just here, instead of quoting these parables, I would like to cause to pass before the reader a panorama of eight pictures.

Look at the first: It is a plowed field. The plowed surface looks all alike. If there be underlying rock or buried seeds thorns they do not appear. It has been sowed down wit seed. There is the sower. We see him. He is the religion teacher. The only thing in sight, birds flying away. That all. We look at that picture until that plowed field turn green, carpeted with the upspringing grain; but we see in certain parts of the field the stalks turn yellow and die – a rock under them. We see in the beaten path no grain coming up. Those birds explain. We see in another part thorns and briers choking the grain that we plant. Discouragements. It seems that three parts of what I sow is lost. Three parts gone. It discourages me. The devil took some of the seed. A superficial nature in the hearers prevented others from bringing forth fruit to maturity. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the exactions of society choke to death other seeds that I planted. It is discouraging. But brother, look where some did fall in good ground and yielded thirty-fold and sixty-fold and one hundredfold of fruit. Think of that. Slide that picture out of sight.

I see another, and there is a field again, plowed, and sowed with good seed. There is a sower. He is asleep, but in the night anxiety awakes him. Watch him get up and go out in the field and dig down in the dirt and take the seed up to see if it has sprouted; see him in the day anxiously look for clouds that promise rain. See his fear of cold, blighting seasons and his desire for a warm, sunshiny day. See him trying to mark even a day’s development. See him trying to comprehend the inscrutable. He rises up night and day. What is the difficulty? He is anxious for seed-sprouting and seed growing and seed-maturing and rain falling and sunshine, and with all of it he has nothing under heaven to do. As far as that discouragement is concerned it is all pure gratuity. We borrow every bit of that. Why will not a man let God’s part alone? We cannot make the seed. Here in this Book is the seed ready made. We do not have to make them. Nor can we make them sprout. The Spirit of God does that. That is regeneration. We cannot make them grow and mature. That is sanctification. We cannot bring the gentle dews and the rains and sunshine. Those are the showers or manifestations of grace. We do not have to puzzle our minds over the inscrutable mystery of the Spirit’s work in regeneration and sanctification. Let our anxieties stop with our responsibilities. What is the encouragement? Well, while I cannot make seed, God can, and there is plenty of it. While I cannot give an increase, God can, and he does it. While I cannot regenerate men, he can. I cannot sanctify, he can. I cannot tell how it sprouts nor how it grows. There is a mystery, an inscrutable mystery, in the work of the Spirit of God. I have nothing to do with that.

We see another picture. It is a field – a plowed field, a field that has been sowed down with good grain, and there is the sower. He is asleep. He has done his work and night has come and he has gone to bed; but lo! while he sleeps there creeps up a shadowy figure from the pit and sows other seeds all over that field. The seeds of the day sower and of the night sower come up together and look much alike until the fruit discriminates – the one nutritious food, the other a deadly poison. What is the lesson? Well, we understand that the darnell, the tare, is so nearly like wheat that the wheat planter can hardly tell the difference until it heads for fruit. Here then is a difficulty not in the mind of the hearer as in the first parable. There is here no beaten path, no underlying rock, no difference in the soil; this soil is all good; no thorns in it; it is not poisoned with briers; the field is all good. What is the difficulty? The difficulty here is that an enemy has sowed something so like wheat that one cannot tell it from wheat until it begins to fruit. It is the difficulty of the hypocrite – the counterfeit Christian. We see the devil come in again. He took away the good seed in the first parable lest it might lead a man to conversion. He does not take away any of these seeds; he cannot get at them; they have gone down into the good and honest heart and he cannot take them away. But what can he do? Why, he will bring that religion into disrepute by passing counterfeits on it. That bank’s reputation is high. He will flood the country with counterfeit bills. Surely that is a great discouragement. Men will point to the counterfeit as an example of religion, and will tell us that it is a fruit of our preaching. No, sir, I did not sow those seeds – never. Those seeds did not come from God; the devil sowed them, and the hypocrite is the son of the devil and not a son of God. But where is the encouragement? The encouragement is twofold: Every time we look at a hypocrite we see a compliment to religion. As the counterfeit proves the value of the genuine, so his masking in the garb of piety shows that piety passes current among men. What other encouragement? We see the time coming when God’s angels shall gather the hypocrites out of the world – for the field is the world, not the church; there is no church in this – the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom of God and the tares are the children of the evil one. In the world there are hypocrites that bring discredit upon religion and that discourages the religious teacher, but God says, "Wait! You cannot persecute him, you cannot hang him because he is a hypocrite. You cannot put him in jail because he is a hypocrite. You may not tear up and destroy that darnell lest you destroy wheat. You may not persecute him for religion’s sake. Wait. The angels will get him. They will take him and bind him and his fellows in bundles and burn them." Now, that is an encouragement. And now let that picture pass by.

We see that sower again and he has a seed in his hand, and we have to look close or we cannot see it. It is a very tiny, seed. It is not bigger than a mustard seed. How distrustfully he looks at it. What is the matter with it? He is discouraged; discouraged about what? Oh, it is such a little thing. Ah, me, if I could only plant a seed as big as a house! If I could do some great thing!

Brother, let not the smallness of the seed discourage thee, but be encouraged by this thought, that while the seed is small there is no limit to its expansiveness. As that mustard seed grew into a plant and spread out its branches and attracted the birds of heaven, so is the kingdom of God. Do not despise the day of small things. God calls upon us to attempt great things and to expect great things, but he does not tell us to expect them at the beginning – never.

Replace that picture by another. This time we see a woman with a bread tray in her hand! What a great batch of dough in it, and such dough! Now, if she makes this up into biscuit, they will be flat and hard. Ah, me, the inbred corruption of the human heart; that discourages the religious teacher. Why, if I lead this man to Christ, even after conversion, he will find a law in his members warring against the law of his mind and bringing his soul into captivity. He will cry out: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" If, when I lead a soul to God, that soul could stand in the maturity of Christian manhood, and never make a mistake and never stumble and never fall, I would like to be a teacher. But brother, stop. Look back at the woman putting a little leaven in the dough. So for us there is a little leaven. It is spiritual leaven. Consider the woman, putting a little leaven in her dough – just a pinch of it. Does she say, "Why cannot I wave my hand over that batch of dough and say, ’Rise at once?’ " And why should we kneel down and pray, "O, Lord God, in answer to my prayer, sanctify me, body, soul and spirit, in a minute." That is not God’s way. He put in the leaven and it will work. It works little by little, but it works. It works out and enlarges, and, blessed be God, ultimately it leavens the whole lump, and then sanctification is complete. But I would be silly if I were to kneel down and pray for it to all come at once.

Behold next, a double picture. See a field with a mine in it, a recently discovered gold mine – a hidden treasure; and then in another part of the picture a pearl, a valuable pearl. What about the difficulty here, the discouragement? Well, here it is: One cannot get that mine unless he sell everything he has. Nor that pearl at the same price. What are you discouraged about, brother? I am discouraged about the cost. Just look at those doleful scriptures: "No man can be my disciple unless he will deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me." "Except a man hate father and mother and brother and sister, he cannot be my disciple." "Go and sell all that you have and come and follow me." Well, that is discouraging, from one standpoint. But there is a standpoint that reveals encouragement. Frankly admit all the costs. Never deny or abate that. Never dilute it.

Tell the people plainly that it means absolute and total surrender. It means that in the whole realm of the soul there shall not be a reserved spot as big as the point of a cambric needle that denies the sovereignty of God. The surrender must be complete. Don’t disguise that. But while it costs all we have, yet what we get for it is infinitely better and more valuable. The hidden treasure is worth more than what we surrender. The pearl is worth more than what we give for it.

If we would put matters on a business footing, let me ask, "What will it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? And what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Religion is no child’s play. It reduces itself to this great alternative: Everything for Christ, or everything for the devil and hell. And mark this: Whoever sees the value of the kingdom of heaven will not whine about the cost. He asks for no pity because of his sacrifices. But one must be born from above to see the kingdom. Then, like Moses (Hebrews 11), and like Paul (Phil.), he will gladly pay the price.

So we come to the last picture. What do we see now? We see an ocean and a great net let down into its waters that sweeps it from end to end. Is the net the church? Why, the church does not enter even the parable of the tares, where there is at least a nominal profession and outward form of religion in the hypocrite – even there the field was the world, not the church. But those bad fish in the net are not even called hypocrites. It is simply good fish and bad fish. That net is the providence of God, that drags over all the ocean of time and lands all its people on the shore of eternity. What is there here then for discouragement? Just this: Here in time, there are so many bad people mixed with the good. We go down the street, thinking about good things, and lo I there is a saloon. We cannot help it; there it is. We hear the ribald jest, we see the bloated face and the blotched eye and the pimpled skin and the haggard visage of the drunkard. We hear the rattle of the dice. We know that behind that screen the gambler, a beast of prey, is lurking for an unsuspecting victim. In this world, too, our world, are liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, blasphemers. "Oh," says one, "it discourages me. Lord God, I would like to preach if thou wouldst put me in a world where there were only good people." What need to preach in such a world? Be not foolish, thou scribe of God. The contiguity of bad men belongs to the present condition. There is no escape from them yet. They vexed Lot’s righteous soul and mocked at the preaching of Noah. They tried Abraham sorely and worried Paul. Our Lord himself – our great exemplar – patiently endured their contradiction and gainsaying. Tares will appear in the wheat field till Satan is bound, and bad fish in the sea of time with the good till the net of Providence shall strand all alike on eternity’s shore and the angels shall sort them.

Let us now inquire somewhat into the import of the two parables which tell what to do with the eight. They read: "No man when he hath lighted a lamp covereth it with a vessel or putteth it under a bed, but putteth it on a stand that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is veiled that shall not be unveiled, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. Give heed, therefore, to what you hear and take heed how you hear it. With what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you, and more shall be given unto you. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away that which he thinketh he hath," or, as the margin expresses it, "He seemeth to have." "Have ye understood all these things? They said unto him, yea. And he said unto them: Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven [or every teacher who has been instructed in the principles of the kingdom of heaven], is like a householder who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."

Let us briefly expound the more important words of this passage. First, the word "scribe." Originally a scribe was merely a copyist of the law; that is, one skilled in making careful manuscript copies of the books of the Old Testament. And then, from his familiarity with the text, coming from frequent transcription of it, he naturally became an expounder of that text, and the latter meaning, "an expounder," gradually became the greater meaning, so that in our text today the word "scribe" means "teacher." "Every teacher instructed in the principles of the kingdom of heaven." The next word of the passage that needs explanation is "hid" or "veiled." "For whatsoever is hid shall be made manifest." This reference is to the nature of parabolic teaching. A parable is a dark or veiled saying, and yet the veil is designedly thin and semitransparent, instead of opaque. It was not intended by it to hide the truth from the devout and thoughtful searcher after truth, but only from the idle and careless and hardhearted. So it is declared. "For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest." "I speak to these people in parables. A parable veils my teaching, but there is nothing veiled in these parables that shall not be made manifest to you. I lift the veil. I let you see what it means." The next word that needs explanation is, "The lighted lamp." The lighted lamp represents the disciple who heard the exposition of the parable. Mark you, when he used the parable of the lighted lamp, he did not use it in connection with the delivery of a parable; he used it in connection with the exposition of a parable. The exposition is the light. The understanding hearer is the lighted lamp. Merely to hear the parables does not make one a lighted lamp, but to know the meaning of the parables makes one a lighted lamp. The sense of it, the spiritual import of it, as expounded by the Spirit of God – that is the light. The next word is this: "Putteth it not under a vessel, but on a stand." This means that one who hears and understands the exposition must not keep it to himself. It was given him for others, that they who enter in may see the light. "Let your light so shine before men." Hence the caution. "Give close attention to this exposition. Take heed to what you hear. Take heed how you hear." This is the light. The parable was veiled. The exposition lifts the veil; therefore notice closely, give attention. The light comes with the exposition. Thus it was in the days of Ezra, for the Scripture says, "So they read in the books, in the law of God, and read distinctly and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." Truly that was a wonderful scene. All the people were gathered together, the men, the women and the children, every child, as the text says, "that had sense enough to understand" – the whole of them. Thousands of them were gathered together, and Ezra stood on a pulpit of wood, and he first read the text of the law distinctly so that they got the words. Then they gave the sense, so as to cause the people to understand the meaning of the words, and the light came with the meaning; and no light comes from memorizing words of a scripture which we do not understand. It is about the same as speaking in an unknown tongue, which profits nobody unless it is interpreted. "Understandest thou what thou readest?" said Philip to the eunuch, and hence our Saviour’s question following his exposition of the parables: "Have ye understood all these things?" The emphasis is not on the "all"; it is on "these things," as indicated by the order in which they come in the Greek, "Have ye understood these things all?" Not, "Have you heard the words?" Have you understood? Do you know what they mean?

The Bible is not a precious book to those who do not understand it, but the entrance of God’s Word into the understanding giveth light. A teacher must himself understand before he can give the sense to others. A preacher who does not know the meaning of Gods Word is an unlighted lamp. How can he shine? He is a blind guide leading the blind. He may know everything else in the world, but if he be ignorant of the meaning of God’s Word he has no ministerial education, and he cannot preach. He is worse than an ignoramus, though he have diplomas from every college in the world. He teaches falsehoods instead of truths, and wrecks the souls of men. We would not allow a man ignorant of medicine to doctor our bodies, nor entrust a case of property or of honor or of life to a pettifogger ignorant of law, but we count it a little thing to trust our immortal spirits and our eternal interests to preachers who cannot call off the names of the books of the Bible, who perhaps never read all of the Bible, or have not diligently and prayerfully studied even one of its books, and could not stand a creditable examination upon the text, much less the spirit of one chapter.

Oh, we are guilty along this line, preachers and people! I repeat, I make no reference whatever to ministerial education in other things, but surely a preacher ought to have profoundly and prayerfully studied the One Book. Our Saviour prescribed no educational test in mathematics, or the sciences, in rhetoric or elocution for his preachers, but he sent out no man to preach until he had carefully instructed him in what to preach. When then I say ministerial education, I mean Bible education – education in the Bible. How long a time he kept these men right with him, hearing his words, witnessing his deeds, imbibing his spirit, expounding the principles of his kingdom to them, precept by precept and line upon line, and now illustrating by striking and vivid images, in parables those same principles, and all before he sends them out to preach God’s Word! An educated preacher is a scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of God; that is, he is a teacher who hath been instructed in the principles of the kingdom of heaven. That alone is an educated preacher.

That leads to the next thing that needs explanation, "the householder’s treasure." Here the figure changes. Before the exposition was "light"; now it is "treasure." "Have you understood all of these things? Yes. Then I say unto you that every scribe instructed in the principles of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder who bringeth forth out of his treasures things new and old." Not the treasure of a traveler, but of a householder who has stored away the accretions and accumulations of years. A rolling stone gathers no moss. A boarder, or a man always moving, accumulates no property. "Three moves are equal to a fire." A householder has old things that are precious, which have been proved as to their value in many times of trial. They are sacred with memories. He has new things also, but recently acquired, and he brings out on fitting occasions both new and old. What does this mean? What is the spiritual import of this parable? I see its meaning. It stands embodied before me. The householder is a religious teacher, rich in the knowledge of the meaning of God’s Word. He has devoutly studied it for years. It is the one living oracle whose utterances settle all of bis perplexities. In the time of spiritual drought and scorching heat, that book has been to him what the well with the old oaken bucket was to Woodworth. And now, when we call him out of life’s problems and experiences, he brings forth from his treasure things new and old. Yes, some of them are old. Some of them came to him when his heart was first given to Jesus, when God for Christ’s sake forgave his sins. He opens the book, the sacred volume, and points out the very passage in God’s Word whose sense or meaning brought to him peace and rest, long, long ago. And he never forgets it. He opens it again and brings forth another treasure. It came to him perhaps when his first baby died.

How well I recollect when my first child died, and out in the old cemetery, when the preacher who kindly conducted the funeral services of that child, Brother Richard Burleson, with that reverence so peculiar to him, opened the Book of God, and his voice rings in my ears today, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord." I never see him in my memory but I hear him saying that, and that day that scripture, in the spirit of it and in the sense of it, so entered my soul that I can never forget.

He turns to yet another passage. It came to him in connection with his anxieties concerning a revival of religion, and one day when feeling lonely beyond expression, his eye fell upon this passage, "I am with you," and the actual presence and power of the eternal Spirit of God came upon him as never before. Mark you, that the light comes with the exposition and experimental realization of the Scriptures, and a scribe who has been instructed in the principles of the kingdom of God, bringeth forth from his treasures things new and old. He turns to some that came last year. (Last year I got into the heart of this passage.) He turns to one that came last month, one that came yesterday, one that came today, and these are the new, and all of them are treasures – priceless treasures – the spiritual interpretation of the Word of God.

He does not keep his face to the past and dwell on memories of treasures found long ago, for where we do not acquire new treasures we lose the old.

But we retain the old if we can say, "This manna fell last night; it is fresh from God; it has the dew on it. It came straight from a present, not a historic God; it came not to one who was, but who is, his disciple and his child. It is not the cold, stale food left over from last year’s banquet, but fresh and hot from the kitchen of heaven it is served to him hungry now." I say that this Book is an ocean without shores; that to its interpretation there is no ultima thule. We never do get to its outer boundary and say, "I have compassed it all." We might look at it and apostrophize it:

“O thou precious Bible, thou exhaustless mine of gold and silver and diamonds, who has found thy last treasure? Thou shoreless ocean, who has brought up from thy depth the last tinted shell or beautiful coral or pearl of ray serene? Thou range of mountains, whose tops touch the stars and kiss the skies and come in touch with God; the climber who reaches thy summit looks out upon ever-increasing landscapes of beauty, and there burst upon his vision prospects of future glory never yet dreamed of, until at last he gets so high that he looks out and finds no horizon."

That is heaven I New and old I Old as creation and new as God!

Now the last word to explain in this passage: "What measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you, and more shall be given unto you. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and whosoever hath not from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath." What does it mean? What does it mean in this connection? Will you please recall a point made just now, that the lamp was lighted for the benefit of others? The Saviour expounded to one that he might tell that exposition to another. Said he, "It is given to you to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God. I whisper in your ear the meaning of the parables. You publish it on the housetops. If you dispense what I give you, if you measure out what I give you, I give you more. As you measure so I mete." Oh, what a significance! Hear a secret, ye misers, who would hoard the gold of truth:

Knowledge not imparted to others dies to the man who has it.

So long as one teaches mathematics he remembers mathematics. So long as one teaches Latin or Greek these things are easy to him, but let him cease the imparting and his treasure at once begins to shrink in bulk, to get lighter in weight, to diminish in value. "There is that withholdeth and it tendeth to poverty. There is that scattereth abroad and it maketh rich." Oh, young convert, when God has given the sense of just one precious scripture to you – it may be this: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest;" it may be this: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" – but whatever it is, young convert, when God lights that lamp let it shine, and be eager to say in the language of David, "Come all ye that fear God and I will tell you what great things he hath done for my soul;" hide not the righteousness of God in your heart. Oh, preacher, if you have found the exposition of a passage of God’s Word, if Jesus has whispered an interpretation into your ear, give it out, let the world have it, let others use it. Raise no whining cry of plagiarism on God-given interpretations.

Do not jealously guard your little stock of cast iron sermons. Preach them, and get new ones fresh with the dew of heaven and alive with the breath of the Spirit of God.

Give out and God will give to you. Look at Spurgeon. What cared he for his old sermons? Not a thing in the world. For thirty years he published a sermon every week, and the more he published the more he had to publish.

Why, I can well recollect with what shrinking and horrible dread I heard Brother Cranfill’s proposition calling upon me to let him publish a sermon of mine every week. I supposed it would bankrupt all the material I had in six months, and how foolish I was I

I never did in my life, freely, lovingly, and tenderly, give out one exposition that Jesus had given to me but he gave me another. I never did empty my bucket of water upon the thirsty lips of the famished but I could the more readily let it down into the well of salvation and draw it up filled again to the brim, fresh-dripping and glowing from the cool and living fountain, inexhaustible.

Impart! Give out! Scatter abroad! It will come back to you good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over into your bosom and into your soul.

A scribe, then, is a religious teacher. Ministerial education, then, is having the meaning of the Bible. The lamp is the preacher. Exposition from God lights the lamp. The lamp being lighted should shine. As it radiates the light given, more light comes. The householder is a preacher. His treasure is the accumulation of scriptural meanings, passages which he has understood, passages upon which he has experimentally fed and nourished his soul. Unless he acquire new treasure he loses the old. If he faces the past only, that past becomes ever dimmer to him, until it will at last seem to be only a dream of a flickering, vague and uncertain fancy, without reality.

Now, these are two subsidiary parables, the parable of the lighted lamp and the parable of the householder’s treasure, and they tell what to do with the eight.


1. Where do we find our Lord’s first great group of parables?

2. What two words are used in the Gospels for "parable" and what the meaning of each in both the narrower and the wider senses?

3. Give a good definition of "parable."

4. Distinguish between parable, proverb, simile, similitude, metaphor, allegory, fable, and myth.

5. Give a biblical example of each of these except myth, and give an example also of a myth.

6. Why did our Lord use parables in his teaching?

7. From the table of "the parables of our Lord" give the interpretation of each parable as there indicated.

8. What can you say in a general way of this list of parables and what the two great classes of parables?

9. What brief rules here given for interpreting parables?

10. Compare the two parables which Christ interpreted himself with their interpretation, and note the points in each not interpreted,

11. What three great groups of our Lord’s parables and what parables in each group?

12. Give a general survey of our Lord’s ministry up to this point.

13. What is the scene, the pulpit, and the congregation of this first group of parables?

14. What two subsidiary parables in connection with this group and why so called?

15. What is the thread of thought that unites all these eight parables into one necklace?

16. What is the first parable here, what is its details and what is its lesson?

17. Give the details of the parable of the good seed growing of it self, and its lesson.

18. Relate the story of the parable of the tares, and show its lesson.

19. Give the parable of the mustard seed and its lesson.

20. Give the parable of the leaven and its lesson.

21. Give the double picture in the parable of the hid treasure and the pearl of great price, and their lessons.

22. Recite the parable of the dragnet and its lesson.

23. What is the import of the parable of the lighted lamp and what is the meaning and application of the terms used therein?

24. What is the import of the parable of the householder’s treasure and what is the meaning and application of the terms used in it?



Part VII


Harmony -pages 66-75 and Matthew 8:18-23; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 13:54-58; Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 4:34-5:20; Mark 6:1-29; Luke 8:22-40; Luke 9:1-9.

When Jesus had finished his discourse on the kingdom, as illustrated in the first great group of parables, he crossed over the Sea of Galilee to avoid the multitudes. While on the bosom of the sea a storm swept down upon them, as indicated by Luke, but our Lord had fallen asleep. So the disciples awoke him with their cry of distress and he, like a God, spoke to the winds and the sea, and they obeyed him. Such is the simple story of this incident, the lesson of which is the strengthening of their faith in his divinity.

Upon their approach to the shore – the country of the Gadarenes – occurred the thrilling incident of the two Gadarene demoniacs. The story is graphically told here by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and does not need to be repeated in this interpretation, but there are certain points in the story which need to be explained. First, there are some difficulties: (1) The apparent discrepancy of long standing, relating to the place, is cleared up by Dr. Broadus in his note at the bottom of page 67 (see his explanation of this difficulty);

The long famous instance of "discrepancy" as to the place in this narrative has been cleared up in recent years by the decision of textual critics that the correct text in Luke is Gerasenes, as well as in Mark, and by Dr. Thomson’s discovery of a ruin on the lake shore, named Khersa (Gerasa). If this village was included (a very natural supposition) in the district belonging to the city of Gadara, some miles south-eastward, then the locality could be described as either in the country of the Gadarenes, or in the country of the Gerasenes

(2) Matthew mentions two demoniacs, while Mark and Luke mention but one. This is easily explained by saying that the one mentioned by Mark and Luke was probably the prominent and leading one, and that they do not say there was only one. Second) there are some important lessons in this incident for us: (1) We see from this incident that evil spirits, or demons, not only might possess human beings by impact of spirit upon spirit, but they also could and did possess lower animals. (2) We see here also that these evil spirits could not do what they would without permission, and thus we find an illustration of the limitations placed upon the Devil and his agencies. (3) There is here a recognition of the divinity of Jesus by these demoniacs and that he is the dispenser of their torment. (4) There is here also an illustration of the divine power of Jesus Christ over the multitude of demons, and from this incident we may infer that they are never too numerous for him. (5) The man when healed is said to have been in his right mind, indicating the insanity of sin. (6) The new convert was not allowed to go with Jesus, but was made a missionary to his own people) to tell them of the great things the Lord had done for him. (7) The Gadarenes besought him to leave their borders. Matthew Henry says that these people thought more of their hogs than they did of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alas I this tribe is by far too numerous now.

In Section 55 (Matthew 10:1-42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6) we have the first commission of the twelve apostles. The immediate occasion is expressed in Matthew 9:36. (See the author’s sermon on "Christ’s Compassion Excited by a Sight of the Multitude.") These apostles had received the training of the mighty hand of the Master ever since their conversion and call to the ministry, and now he thrusts them out to put into action what they had received from him. The place they were to go, or the limit of their commission, is found in Matthew 10:5-6. This limitation to go to the Jews and not to the Gentiles seems to have been in line with the teaching elsewhere that salvation came first to the Jews and that the time of the Gentiles had not yet come in, but this commission was not absolute, because we find our Lord later commissioning them to go to all the world. What they were to preach is found in Matthew 10:7 and what they were to do in Matthew 10:8. The price they were to ask is found in the last clause of Matthew 10:8. How they were to be supported, negatively and positively, together with the principle of their support, is found in Matthew 10:9-11. The principle of ministerial support is found also, very much elaborated, in 1 Corinthians 9:4-13, and is referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:14 as an ordinance of our Lord. The manner of making this operative on entering a city is found in Matthew 10:11-12. The rewards of receiving and rejecting them are found in Matthew 10:13, while the method of testimony against the rejectors is expressed in Matthew 10:14-15.

The characteristics of these disciples are given in Matthew 10:16: "Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." If they should have had the characteristic of the dove alone they would have been silly; if the serpent alone, they would have been tricky. But with both they had prudence and simplicity. In this commission we find also that they were to be subject to certain hazards, recorded in Matthew 10:18. Their defense is also promised in Matthew 10:19-20. The extent of their persecutions is expressed in Matthew 10:21-22. Their perseverance is indicated in the last clause of Matthew 10:22. In Matthew 10:23 we have the promise that the Son of man would come to them before they had gone through all the cities of Israel. What does that mean? There are five theories about it, all of which are amply discussed by Broadus (see his Commentary in loco).

The consolations offered these disciples, in view of their prospective persecutions, are as follows (Matthew 10:24-31): (1) So they treated the Lord, (2) all things hidden shall be made known, (3) the work of their persecutors is limited to the body, but God’s wrath is greater than man’s and touches both soul and body, and (4) the Father’s providential care. The condition of such blessings in persecution, and vice versa, are expressed in Matthew 10:32-33. From this we see that they were to go forth without fear or anxiety and in faith. The great issue which the disciples were to force is found in Matthew 10:34-39. This does not mean that Christ’s work has in it the purpose of stirring up strife, but that the disturbance will arise from the side of the enemy in their opposition to the gospel and its principles, whose purpose means peace. So there will arise family troubles, as some yield to the call of the gospel while others of the same family reject it. Some will always be lacking in the spirit of religious tolerance, which is not the spirit of Christ. In this connection our Lord announces the principle of loyalty to him as essential to discipleship, with an added encouragement, viz., that of finding and losing the life. In Matthew 10:40-42 we have the identity of Christ with the Father which shows his divinity and also his identity with his people in his work. Then follows the blessed encouragement of the promise of rewards. When Jesus had thus finished his charge to his disciples, he made a circuit of the villages of Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

From this incident come three important lessons for us: First, we have here the origin and development of a call to the ministry as follows: (1) Christ’s compassion for the perishing and leaderless, (2) prayer to God that he would send forth laborers, and (3) a positive conviction that we should go. Second, there is also suggested here the dangers of the care for fine preaching: (1) If it has its source in anxiety and selfishness it restrains spirituality; (2) it manifests itself in excitement and excess which adulterates spirituality; (3) it leads to weariness or self-seeking and thus destroys spirituality. Third, we have here several encouragements to the preacher: (1) The cause is honorable; (2) the example is illustrious; (3) the success is certain; (4) care is guaranteed; (5) the reward is glorious; (6) the trials become triumphs; (7) the identification with Christ.

The account of the miracles wrought by the disciples of Jesus on this preaching tour impressed Herod Antipas, as well as those wrought by Jesus himself, the impression of which was so great that he thought that John the Baptist was risen from the dead. The account in the Harmony throws light on the impression that was made by the ministry of John. Some were saying that Jesus was Elijah or one of the other prophets, but Herod’s conscience and superstition caused him to think it was John the Baptist, for he remembered his former relation to John. Then follows here the story of how John had rebuked Herod which angered his wife, Herodias, and eventually led to John’s death at the band of the executioner. Josephus gives testimony relative to this incident. (See chapter X of this "Interpretation.")

There are some lessons to be learned from this incident. First, we are impressed with the courage and daring of the first Christian martyr, a man who was not afraid to speak his convictions in the face of the demons of the pit. Second, the life must leave its impress, but that impress will be variously interpreted according to the antecedents and temperaments of the interpreters. Third, the influence of a wicked woman, often making the weak and drunken husband a mere tool to an awful wicked end. Fourth, the occasion of sin and crime is often the time of feasting and frivolity. Just such a crime as this has often been approached by means of the dance and strong drink. Fifth, we have here an example of a man who was too weak to follow his conviction of the right because he had promised and had taken an oath. He had more respect for his oath than he had for right. Sixth, there is here also an example of the wickedness of vengeance. It is a tradition that when the daughter brought in the head of John and gave it to Herodias, her mother, she took a bodkin and stuck it through the tongue of John, saying, "You will never say again, It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife."


1. Give the time, place, circumstances, and lesson of Jesus stilling the tempest.

2. Tell the story of the two Gadarene demoniacs.

3. What two difficulties here, and how is each explained?

4. What seven important lessons for us in this incident?

5. Give the story of the second rejection of Jesus at Nazareth and its several lessons.

6. What was the immediate occasion of sending forth the twelve apostles on their first mission?

7. What preparation had they received?

8. Where were they to go, or what was the limit of this commission?

9. Why was it limited, and was it absolute?

10. What were they to preach, and what were they to do?

11. What price were they to ask?

12. How were they to be supported, negatively and positively, and how do you harmonize the Synoptics here?

13. What was the principle of their support and where do we find this principle very much elaborated?

14. How is this principle referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:14?

15. What was the manner of making it operative on entering a city?

16. What rewards attached to receiving and rejecting them?

17. What was the method of testimony against those who rejected?

18. What was to be the characteristics of these disciples?

19. To what hazards were they subject?

20. What was to be their defense?

21. What was to be the extent of their persecution?

22. What was text on the perseverance of the saints, and what was its immediate application to these apostles?

23. Explain "till the Son of man be come."

24. What were the consolations offered these disciples?

25. What was the condition of such blessings?

26. In what spirit were they to go forth?

27. What great issue must they force? Explain.

28. What principle of discipleship here announced?

29. What proof here of the divinity of Jesus Christ?

30. What promise here of rewards?

31. What did Jesus do immediately after finishing his charge here

32. What lessons here on the origin and development of a call to the ministry?

33. What dangers of the care for fine preaching?

34. What seven encouragements from this incident to the preacher of today?

35. How was Herod and others impressed by the miracles of Jesus and his disciples?

36. What several conjectures of Herod and others?

37. What part was played in this drama by John? by Herod? by Herodias and by Salome, the daughter of Herodias?

38. What testimony of Josephus on this incident?

39. What lessons of this incident?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Mark 4". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/mark-4.html.
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