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Bible Commentaries
Mark 4

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-20

The Parable of the Sower (Our Justification) (Matthew 13:1-23 , Luke 8:4-15 ) Mark 4:1-20 gives us the foundational parable of all of Jesus’ parables, which is called the Parable of the Sower. Jesus states its importance in Mark 4:13 when He tells His disciples, “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” By this statement, we understand that all other parables can be understood only when one first understands the Parable of the Sower; for we must first receive God’s Word that is sown into our hearts before we can go on to understand more principles of the Kingdom of God.

We can also note that these four parables found in Mark 4:1-34 teach us about the four stages of our spiritual journey from the perspective of the theme of Mark’s Gospel, which is the preaching of the Gospel with signs following. The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) emphasizes the aspect of our justification in our spiritual journey in the Kingdom of God. It teaches us how the sowing of the Word of God, which is the preaching of the Gospel, results in some good harvest that bears fruit. Thus, this parable reveals the process of justification in the lives of those who hear the Gospel.

In Jesus’ public ministry of preaching and healing, He has given His disciples many opportunities to see how the Word of God is sown and how it is received by many differ types of people. Mark’s Gospel shows us how His ministry grew from teaching a few people in the synagogues of Capernaum (Mark 1:21-34) to teaching the multitudes by the seaside (Mark 3:7-12) and He demonstrated to His disciples how to face adversity and unbelief (Mark 2:18 to Mark 3:6). Jesus uses this important parable to explain to His disciples the various conditions of men’s hearts as they respond in various ways to the Gospel; for they have seen an array responses to Him ministry. This parable is used to help them understand what is going on in the hearts of the people around them.

The First Recorded Parable of Jesus According to the Synoptic Gospel accounts, the Parable of the Sower is the first parable that Jesus Christ taught to the people (Matthew 13:3, Mark 4:2, Luke 8:4). Jesus explains in Mark 4:13 that this parable is a key to understanding all of the other parables He will teach. This implies that all other parables teach on various aspects of this parable or base their truths upon the principles laid down in the Parable of the Sower. This implication is seen in Mark’s record of the parables that follow this opening parable (Mk).

Mark 4:13, “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?”

The Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower - Here is the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower:

The Sower - The sower is the man who is sent by God to preach the Gospel. Since he does not know the condition of every man’s heart, he must understand that he will receive a variety of responses. He is called to sow the seed of the Gospel to every man’s heart, and not become by negative responses. However, when Christians support a minister who is preaching the Gospel, he must carefully consider the fruitfulness of this ministry. On November 4, 2001, I had a dream where I saw one person scattering seeds randomly and with no cultivation and care. I then saw a well-maintained field, cultivated and well watered. I believe that the first picture is representative of how many believers are ministering the Gospel and receiving very little results. The second picture represents a ministry that is producing results for the Kingdom of God. I believe that Lighthouse Television is one of these productive ministries. We often focus on the harvest of the seed in this parable. It is clear that the sower is making a decision on just where to cast his seed. I believe that the sower represents ministries that used various methods of spreading the Gospel. Some ministries are much more productive than others are because they find good soil and cultivate the seed that is sown. Other ministries, with very little leadership from God, scatter seed so randomly that the harvest is poor.

The Seed - The seed represents the Word of God.

The Soils - In the Parable of the Sower, the soil represents the spirit of man, and the different types of soils represent the different types of hearts that are found in man. God sends His Word to all people, into all types of hearts. Andrew Wommack notes that the life of the plant is in the seed, and not in the soil. We must learn to be nourished by God’s Word rather than by man or circumstances. As individuals, we can prepare our lives and hearts to become more and more receptive to God’s Word as we grow in Christian maturity, so that God’s Word can eventually take root and produce fruit in our lives. [93] Note other passages that give an analogy of man's heart in comparison to soil.

[93] Andrew Wommack, “Laying a Sure Foundation,” in the series “A Sure Foundation,” [on-line]; accessed 4 January 2010; http://www.awmi.net/podcasts/television/MP3 Audio; Internet.

Jeremiah 4:3, “For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground , and sow not among thorns.”

Hosea 10:12, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground : for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.”

1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry , ye are God's building.”

The different types of soil also reveal to us the progression of events in the development of every believer’s life. The soil in the roadside represents the initial proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the hardened hearts of the world. Satan is often able to steal this Word out of their hearts before they are saved. For those hearts that are receptive, the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World is the first step in discipleship. We find in the four Gospels and Acts an emphasis upon the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

The stony soil represents the heart that has received the message of the Gospel, but it has no depth. That is, this person has not learned the doctrines of the Church in order to become established. He has not grown in the grace and knowledge of the things of God. We find Church doctrine in the nine Church epistles of Romans through 2 Thessalonians. If they will become established in the teachings of the Word of God, they will be able to persevere. But others will be offended because of persecutions from the world. We find in the epistles of Hebrews, James and 1 Peter the exhortations to persevere under persecution from the world.

The soil with thorns represents the heart in which the Word of God is choked out because of worldly pursuits. This person has grown in the doctrines of the Word of God and even overcome persecutions. However, in the life of a believer, he must persevere not only amidst persecutions, but also against backsliding due to false doctrines embraced by the Church itself. We see exhortations to persevere despite false doctrines from within the Church in the epistles of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John and Jude. These epistles place emphasis upon the believer’s perseverance against false doctrines; for, if they are embraced, a believer will fall back into the deceptions of the world and be overcome.

Finally, the fertile soil represents the heart that fully embraces the Word of God and grows thereby. This person has become established in the doctrines of the Church. He has persevered against persecutions (stony soil) and against false doctrines (thorny soil). He has come to a place of producing fruit for the Kingdom of God. The degrees of fruit described as thirty, sixty and one hundred-fold represent the fact that there are various levels of Christian maturity. Another insight is to say that growth of a person’s fruit may be based upon the talents given to him initially by God; or, we can say that the 30-60-100-fold harvest is determined by how much of the Word of God a person applies to his life.

When trying to understand the meaning of “30-60-100 fold” we may go to Romans 12:2 and note that there are three levels of which a believer can walk within God’s will. He may be walking in God’s good acceptable or perfect will. Perhaps these three levels of walking within God’s will produce three levels of fruit, just as we read in Mark 4:20, “and bring forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”

Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Thus, the Parable of the Sower reveals the first aspect of our spiritual journey when a believer first embraces the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is justified by faith. The next parable of the Light Under the Bushel (Mark 4:21-25) explains how he then becomes rooted and grounded in the faith through the knowledge of the doctrines of the Church. With such a foundation, he is able to move into divine service and persevere against persecutions and false doctrines while continuing to sow his seed, as reflected in the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29), so that he can reach the goal of his salvation, which is glorification in Heaven with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is reflected in the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32).

Mark 4:1 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

Mark 4:1 “And he began again to teach by the sea side” Comments Mark’s narrative material makes it clear in the opening chapters of his Gospel that more and more people were coming to hear Him, so much so that he no longer could enter into the cities as He did during the early part of His public ministry. Thus, Jesus now taught in open places, such as by the seashore.

Mark 1:45, “But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.”

Mark 4:1 says Jesus again taught by the seaside, since He taught by the Sea of Galilee earlier in Mark 2:13. Mark does not record what Jesus taught the first time, while he records the sermon of His second teaching.

Mark 2:13, “And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.”

Mark 4:1 Comments Jesus Christ now had multitudes following Him and He knew how many would fall away. Thus, it was an appropriate time for the teaching on the Parable of the Sower, because Jesus Christ is now sowing much seed into the multitudes, and He knows how the seed works in the hearts of men.

Jesus knew that His Word would change some lives and be fruitless in other lives.

Mark 4:3 Comments A sower goes forth with a purpose and a plan to sow.

Mark 4:4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

Mark 4:4 Comments We know that Satan often attempts to cut off a work of God in its infancy. We see the examples of how the Devil tried to destroy Moses and Jesus Christ while they were yet babes. There are testimonies today of how great men of God were almost taken by death before they grew into maturity.

Mark 4:5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

Mark 4:5 “immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth” - Comments Seed that is planted deeper in the soil takes much longer to sprout out of the ground than seeds planted in shallow ground.

Mark 4:9 Comments Not everyone has a heart to hear what God has to say to him. In the Parable of the Sower, the soils represent the different types of hearts in man. Some hearts are open to the voice of God and other hearts are dull and insensitive. In addition, there are seasons in men’s lives when a heart becomes more sensitive. A person can hear and understand the Gospel for the first time, having heard it for years. Therefore, Jesus makes the statement in the following verses to explain to His disciples the different between men’s hearts (Mark 4:10-12).

Jesus will again ask in Mark 4:23 for those receptive hearts to hear and receive His words.

Mark 4:23, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

Mark 4:10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

Mark 4:10 Comments We find a passage in Luke 9:18 where Jesus was alone praying, yet His disciples were with him. It becomes clear from the context of Mark 4:10 that the crowds had left Jesus and His disciples alone for a season.

Luke 9:18, “And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?”

Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

Mark 4:12 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.

Mark 4:12 “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand” Comments These phrases are clearly Hebraic with emphasis placed upon the verbs. Thus, it can read, “Although they clearly see, they do not understand what they see, and although they hear every word clearly, they still do not understand.” We see this emphasis translated into several modern English translations.

Rotherham, “They may surely look and yet not see, and surely hear and yet not understand, lest once they should return and it be forgiven them.”

RSV, “so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.”

Mark 4:12 Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This is a quote from the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 6:9-10, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

The phrase, “and their sins should be forgiven them” is not found in either the Masoretic Hebrew or in the Greek Septuagint. However, F. F. Bruce notes that this exact phrase is used in the Targum of Jonathan. This could have happened because it was the Jewish tradition to have a priest read the Hebrew text in the synagogue followed by an oral paraphrase in the Aramaic, which was the local vernacular of the New Testament period.

We see this dual reading instituted when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity. At that time, the Jews began to speak Aramaic while the Scriptures were initially in Hebrew followed with an interpretation. Note:

Nehemiah 8:8, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”

Therefore, it was entirely possible that this Aramaic paraphrase was as well known as the Hebrew text and was thus used in this quote by Jesus. [94] The same thing occurs in John 12:41 and Ephesians 4:8.

[94] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 138.

Mark 4:12 Comments We have to ask the question, “What were these people seeing and what were they hearing?” Within the context of the Gospel of Mark they were seeing the signs and miracles that Jesus performed and they were hearing the Gospel preached to them. We know that these miracles were done because of their unbelief, in order that they might believe in Him.

We also note that the Gospel of Mark is structured around the preaching of the Gospel with signs following.

Jesus will later refer to Mark 4:12 when rebuking His disciples:

Mark 8:17-18, “And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”

Mark 4:13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Mark 4:13 Comments The Parable of the Sower serves as a foundational parable by which we are able to interpret all other parables. That is to say, this parable contains the key to unlock the meanings of others as we apply the meaning of the sower, the seed and the soil that Jesus gave us to these other parables.

The three parables that follow the Parable of the Sower must be interpreted in light of this first parable. Since these four parables symbolize our spiritual journey of justification, indoctrination, perseverance and glorification, Jesus tells us that we must first experience justification before we can understand the following three parables; for until a person is saved (or justified) he cannot understand the things of the Kingdom of God.

1. The Parable of the Sower Mark 4:1-20 Justification

2. The Light Under the Bushel Mark 4:21-25 Indoctrination

3. The Parable of the Growing Seed Mark 4:26-29 Service & Perseverance

4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed Mark 4:30-32 Glorification

Regarding other parables, The Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son give us the true heart of the Sower, how he is to sow in all types of soil, even though some of the seed does not sprout or produce a harvest.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasures and the Pearl of Great Price teach us how important it is to hearken to the Word of God when it is sown in our hearts.

The Parables of the Great Supper and of the Wedding Feast reveal to us those whose hearts have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For example, the Parable of the Ten Virgins tells us that when Jesus Christ returns for His bride, the Church, some will be ready and others will have been in the world, neglecting the duties of the Kingdom of God. The soil with thorns would represent those who were negligent in the things of God. We find a similar parallel in the Parable of the Talents and of the Pounds. Some servants were faithful to produce fruit in the Kingdom of God, some thirty, sixty and one-hundred fold. Others were negligent failed to product any fruit at all, represented by the soil of thorns.

The Parable of the Unprofitable Servant teaches us about the heart that is fertile soil. This person serves faithfully and produces a harvest for the Kingdom of God.

There are many parables that reveal to us how we will be judged on the Day of Judgment. These parables show us how God determines who has born the thirty, sixty and hundred-fold returns. The Parable of the Judgment of the Nations, The Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, of the Laborers in the Vineyard, of the Great Supper all focus on the final day of rewards for those who have borne fruit in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, we find out that each parable can find its place in relation to the Parable of the Sower.

Mark 4:14 The sower soweth the word.

Mark 4:14 Comments We also sow the Word of God into our hearts and lives as we speak it in faith.

Comments Bob Nichols said, “Every witness is a seed sown, and every seed sown is a potential great oak.” [95]

[95] Bob Nichols, “Sunday Morning Sermon,” Calvary Cathedral International, Fort Worth, Texas, 19 May 2002.

Mark 4:15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

Mark 4:15 Comments The Word of God will bring us a victory, but not without a fight. Notice in the word “immediately” how quickly the devil is at war against the proclamation of God's Word. Note how attentive he is to stopping the Gospel of Jesus Christ from spreading. Satan is at war with us as we sow God's Word. We must pray for those souls as they hear the Gospel and we must bind Satan’s work in their lives.

Illustration While a seminary student in the early 1980’s, I was witnessing on the streets in Fort Worth, Texas in a neighborhood called Cow Town. We had finally gotten a group of young teenagers to stop and listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As they began to focus their attention on our message, a gang of unruly older teenagers walked by and began picking at these people we were witnessing too. Quickly two of them began to fight. I was almost hit by them as they fought, so I jumped out of the way. Then I raised my hand and rebuked the Devil in the name of Jesus Christ. Another student followed this lead and jumped between these two boys while they were fighting and he shouted the same. The fight quickly dissipated, but we never were able to get the attention of those teenagers again that night. Hence,

Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Mark 4:16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

Mark 4:17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.

Mark 4:17 Comments The hearers described in Mark 4:17 believe for a while, but never become rooted and grounded in the Word of God, as the Scriptures tell us to do. This means that when a person does not go through the second process of indoctrination after being born again, or justified, he cannot go onto to the others steps of the Christian life, which is divine service and perseverance in the ministry, reaching glorification. We must become “rooted” in order to become “built up in him” (Colossians 2:7).

Colossians 2:7, “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”

When the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked Him if He were the Messiah, Jesus replied, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matthew 11:4-6) Thus, Jesus performed signs and miracles so that the people would believe in Him, rather than being offended.

Offences can also come during times of persecutions (Matthew 10:22, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).

Matthew 10:22, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

1 Thessalonians 3:3, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.”

Mark 4:19 “and the deceitfulness of riches” - Comments It is not the “riches” themselves, but the deceit of pursuing riches, that is the ruin of the Christian life. Note similar passages of Scripture.

Proverbs 23:4-5, “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”

Luke 18:25, “For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Mark 4:19 “choke the word” - Comments Paul, speaking on the same subject, uses the word “entanglement” to describe how the cares of this life affect our Christian lives.

2 Timothy 2:4, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

Mark 4:20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Mark 4:20 “and some a hundred” Comments - We see a hundredfold return in Genesis 26:12, “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.”

Mark 4:20 Comments - When trying to understand the meaning of “30-60-100 fold” we may go to Romans 12:2 and note that there are three levels of which a believer can walk within God’s will. He may be walking in God’s good acceptable or perfect will. Perhaps these three levels of walking within God’s will produce three levels of fruit, just as we read in Mark 4:20, “and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”

Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Mark 4:20 Comments The Lord spoke to me one night (15 March 2010) and said to me, “In the Scriptures, everything exceeds by portions.” I was then reminded of the seven-fold vengeance that God decreed over Cain (Genesis 4:15), of Lamech’s seventy-seven fold revenge (Genesis 4:24), of the double portion anointing that Elisha received from Elijah, of David’s cry for divine vengeance of sevenfold portions (Psalms 79:12), of a thief’s sevenfold return when caught (Proverbs 6:31), of the sevenfold brightness of the sun in heaven (Isaiah 30:26), of the 30-60-100 fold return of the seed sown of the proclamation of the Gospel (Mark 4:20), of Jesus’ promise of a hundredfold return for those who forsake all and follow Him (Mark 10:30), etc.

Genesis 4:15, “And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”

Genesis 4:24, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”

2 Kings 2:9, “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.”

Psalms 79:12, “And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.”

Proverbs 6:31, “But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.”

Isaiah 30:26, “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.”

Mark 4:20 , “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”

Mark 10:30, “But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”

Verses 1-34

Indoctrination Through Preaching and Healing In Mark 1:14 to Mark 4:34 Jesus begins to indoctrinate those who believe in Him through His public ministry of preaching and healing. This section of Mark can be divided into narrative material (Mark 1:14 to Mark 3:35) and sermon material (Mark 4:1-34).

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Narrative: Indoctrination Through Preaching and Healing Mark 1:14 to Mark 3:35

2. Sermon: Jesus Teaches on the Kingdom of Heaven Mark 4:1-34

Verses 1-41

The Preaching Ministry of Jesus Christ Mark 1:14 to Mark 13:37 describes the preaching ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as the miracles that accompanying the proclamation of the Gospel. His public ministry can be divided into sections that reflect God’s divine plan of redemption being fulfilled in Jesus’s life.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Indoctrination - The Preaching of Jesus Christ in Galilee Mark 1:14 to Mark 4:34

2. Divine Service Training the Twelve in Galilee Mark 4:35 to Mark 6:13

3. Perseverance: Preaching against Man’s Traditions Mark 6:14 to Mark 7:23

4. Perseverance - Beyond Galilee Mark 7:24 to Mark 9:50

5. Glorification - In Route to and in Jerusalem Mark 10:1 to Mark 13:37

Verses 21-25

The Parable of the Light Under the Bushel (Our Indoctrination) (Luke 8:16-18 ) In Mark 4:21-25 Jesus gives us the illustration of the light hid under the bushel as way of explaining how hearing and receiving God’s Word works in our lives. He explained that if we will hear and obey what we know to do, more understanding would be given unto us.

The Parable of the Light Under the Bushel teaches us that as the light of the Gospel shines forth into our hearts, we become indoctrinated with God’s Word; and we are not to hide this light and hold back our testimonies of God’s goodness in our lives, but are to continue sowing seeds of God’s Word to others. This light is symbolic of our indoctrination into the Word of God, which follows our justification after having received God’s Word.

As we examine this parallel passage in Luke 8:16-18 we gain further insight into the meaning of this parable. As the Gospel is preached, the hearts of men are exposed to the light and their true qualities identified (Luke 8:17). For those who repent, their hearts are transformed so that they can receive more light. However, for those whose hearts are hardened and reject what little light they have been given, their hearts are darkened even more (Luke 8:18).

Mark 4:22 Comments God desires to reveal all things to His children; but He must do it in His time and in accordance with His divine plan of redemption for mankind. He would have revealed all things to Adam had he not fell from His presence through sin.

Mark 4:24 Comments If we will hear and obey God’s Word to us today, He will continue to reveal more to us so that we can bear more fruit, as Jesus describes in the Parable of the Sower.

Scripture Reference - Note other parallel passages.

Matthew 7:2, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Mark 4:25 For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Mark 4:24-25 Comments Jesus Warns His Hearers - In Mark 4:24-25 Jesus gives a warning to His hearers to listen carefully to what is being said. This warning is placed within the context of a series of parables about the transforming power of the proclamation of the Word of God. It has power to enlighten and set free, and it has power to judge and condemn. When God’s Word comes to our ears, we are to receive it and, as a result, more of God’s Word will be given. This was what was happening to those disciples who were clinging to Jesus. Thus, that person will come into more and more light of the revelation of God’s ways. If we close our hearts to what we hear, then the insight that we have already gained will become dim and the hardening of our hearts will cause even that little light to become dark. This is what Paul the apostle was saying when he described himself figuratively as “a sweet savour of Christ.” For some, it was the savour of death, and for others the savour of life.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

Verses 26-29

The Parable of the Growing Seed (Our Perseverance) In Mark 4:26-29 Jesus tells the Parable of the Growing Seed. This parable is unique to the Gospel of Mark. It is important to understand the Parable of the Sower first in order to understand these three parables that follow it. We find a similar parable, called the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares found in Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:37-43. This parable also follows the Parable of the Sower and has a similar interpretation.

The Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29) explains how God causes the seeds that we sow to grow and produce a harvest as someone is faithful to sow. This parable reveals the need to persevere in sowing the seeds of the Kingdom. In other words, our job is to sow, while God’s work is to cause the increase. One good illustration of this divine principle is found in 1 Corinthians 3:6 where Paul says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”

Mark 4:26 Comments The first parable taught by Jesus, the Parable of the Sower, does not begin with the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like…” simply because it does not describe the characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather, those to whom the Gospel is preached. For those who accept the Gospel, Jesus now describes the principles of this new Kingdom which they have joined.

Mark 4:27 “And should sleep, and rise night and day” Comments The NKJV gives us a smoother translation, “and should sleep by night and rise by day.” Robert Guelich notes that the term night is mentioned before day because the Jewish day begins as sunset. He says this phrase describes “the farmer’s passing of time.” [96] In other words, he goes through the daily routine of sleeping at night and rising each day awaiting the time of the harvest.

[96] Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1-8:26, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 34A, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word, Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 3.0b [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2004), comments on Mark 4:27.

Mark 4:27 “and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how” Comments As we life as members of the Kingdom of God, there are many aspects of our life in which we must trust the Lord, believing that He will work things out in His divine providence. There are things we do not have to understand, but simply trust that He cares about us and will work our problems out as we serve Him. Just as the seed planted in the ground by the farmer takes root and produces a plant that bears fruit, so is the spirit of man created to bear fruit naturally as the Word of God is sown in our hearts. We can rest in the fact that our lives can be transformed as we receive the implanted God’s Word in our hearts (James 1:21).

James 1:21, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Mark 4:28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Mark 4:28 “For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself” Comments Everything that we possess originates from the ground; our clothes, the homes we live in and the cars we drive, everything. It all is made of the dirt that we walk on.

Mark 4:28 “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear” Word Study on “blade” Strong says the Greek word “blade” ( χόρτος ) (G5528) means, “a court, a garden,” and implies a “pasture,” thus, “herbage, vegetation,” and it is translated in the KJV as “blade, grass, hay.”

Word Study on “ear” Strong says the Greek word “ear” ( στάχυς ) (G4719) means, “a head of grain (as standing out from the stalk).”

Word Study on “corn” Strong says the Greek word “corn” ( σῖτος ) (G4621) means, “grain, especially wheat.”

Webster tells us the old English word “corn” means, “A single seed of certain plants, as wheat, rye, barley and maiz; a grain.” Lyndon Kannenberg says that the Eastern world did not know about corn until Columbus' voyage of 1492, when the American Indians show corn to the Europeans for the first time. [97] The English word “corn” was used by the British for grains and cereals in general, such as wheat, barley, rye, and maize. The word “maize” was normally used to describe Indian corn. ( Webster)

[97] Lyndon W, Kannenberg, “Corn,” in The Word Book Encyclopedia, vol. 4 (Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1994), 1062-1063.

Comments - In Mark 4:28 the English words, “blade, ear, corn” are better translated “blade, stalk, grain.”

BBE, “The earth gives fruit by herself; first the leaf, then the head, then the full grain.”

NKJV, “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.”

In botany the three parts of a plant or tree that aid most in identifying its species are the leaf, the bloom or flower, and the seed. These three parts are mentioned in Mark 4:28 as the blade or leaf, as the head of grain comparable to the blooms on some plants, and the grain or seed. From a spiritual application, our fruit of service and victory in the Kingdom of God comes in stages. In other words, God gives us a little to be faithful with before he entrusts us with great tasks. Thus, sometimes our dreams are not manifested as soon as we desire because God wants to take us through phases of spiritual maturity before we can handle great anoints or wealth. Thus, our faith develops in much the same way that a plant grows. In other words, there is a process of the Word of God growing in our hearts, a process that takes time to come to full maturity.

Mark 4:29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

Verses 30-32

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Our Glorification) (Matthew 13:31-32 , Luke 13:18-19 ) In Mark 4:30-32 Jesus tells us the Parable of the Mustard Seed. This parable tells us the end result of our faithfulness to preach the Gospel; for it will cause the Kingdom of God to grow into the greatest kingdom upon the earth. This parable reflects our glorification during and at the end of our journey.

Interpretation of the Parable - The full maturity of the mustard seed reflects the believer who has reached his divine calling and bearing fruit in the Kingdom of Heaven. Andrew Wommack explains that such a large herb requires a large root system to support its growth. He then explains that a child of God should focus on developing the roots of his faith in God and godly character, which are hidden, rather than the immature Christian who takes great effort to present himself before others as some great Christian. He uses the illustration of the tree planted by the rivers of water in Psalms 1:3 to explain the important role of strong roots in the Christian life. [98]

[98] Andrew Wommack, “Laying a Sure Foundation,” in the series “A Sure Foundation,” [on-line]; accessed 4 January 2010; http://www.awmi.net/podcasts/television/MP3 Audio; Internet.

Psalms 1:3, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed also represents the fullness of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, which will take place at the Second Coming of Christ Jesus when He will rule and reign from Jerusalem. Thus, the fowls of the air that lodge under its shadow could symbolize the nations who come to Jerusalem to honor the Lord and find rest and peace as a result of doing so.

Old Testament Analogies - The analogy of a great tree providing shelter for the animals is used a number of times in Scriptures. Note a similar analogy in Ezekiel 17:22-24 of a great tree providing shade and shelter for animals.

Ezekiel 17:22-24, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent: In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.”

In addition, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream in which a tree grew to be the greatest among trees, reaching to the heavens, with the beasts finding shade under it and the birds nesting in its branches (Daniel 4:12).

Daniel 4:12, “The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.”

Mark 4:32 “so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it” - Comments We too are able to rest in faith towards God alone.

Verses 33-34

Conclusion: The Use of Parables (Matthew 13:34-35 ) Mark 4:33-34 explains how Jesus taught the multitudes with parables. Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes so that they would not understand the ways of God and become accountable to live by them. Instead, He revealed the meaning of these parables to those who sought Him, to those who stayed around after the crowds left. So it is today, we must pursue wisdom before God will give it to us.

Mark 4:34 Comments With the exception of the Parable of the Sower, Mark does not record Jesus’ explanations of His parables that Mark 4:34 says He gave His disciples.

Verses 35-41

Divine Service In Mark 4:35 to Mark 6:13 the emphasis moves from indoctrination through preaching the Word of God to preparing the Twelve for divine service, where Jesus begins to train to His disciples about the Kingdom of God. Jesus first trains the Twelve by example (Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:43), then He sends them out preach and heal for themselves (Mark 6:1-13).

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Narrative: Demonstrating Preaching & Miracles Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:43

2. Sermon: Jesus Sends Forth His Disciples to Preach Mark 6:1-13

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Mark 4". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/mark-4.html. 2013.
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