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.
And he began again to teach by the sea-side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude - or, according to another well-supported reading, 'a mighty,' or 'immense multitude' [ ochlos (Greek #3793) pleistos (Greek #4118)].
And sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land - crowded on the seashore to listen to Him. See the notes at .
And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, [ didachee (Greek #1322)] - or 'teaching.'
After this parable is recorded, the Evangelist says,
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
No JFB commentary on these verses.
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve - probably those who followed Him most closely and were firmest in discipleship, next to the Twelve.
Asked of him the parable. The reply would seem to intimate that this parable of the Sower was of that fundamental, comprehensive, and introductory character which we have assigned to it (see the note at Matthew 13:1).
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:
No JFB commentary on these verses.
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? Probably this was said not so much in the spirit of rebuke, as to call their attention to the exposition of it which He was about to give, and so train them to the right apprehension of His future parables. As in the parables which we have endeavoured to explain in , we shall take this parable and the Lord's own exposition of the different parts of it together.
THE SOWER, THE SEED, AND THE SOIL
In Mark 4:3. we read: "Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow." What means this? It is explained in the following verses:
The sower soweth the word.
The sower soweth the word - or, as in Luke (Luke 8:11), "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God." But who is "the sower?" This is not expressed here, because if "the word of God" be the seed, every scatterer of that precious seed must be regarded as a sower. It is true that in the parable of the Tares it is said, "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man," as "He that soweth the tares is the devil" (Matthew 13:37-38). But thee are only the great unseen parties, struggling in this world for the possession of man. Each of these has his agents the among men themselves; and Christ's agents in the sowing of the good seed are the preachers of the word. Thus, as in all the cases about to be described, the Sower is the same, and the seed is the same, while the result is entirely different, the whole difference must lie in the soils, which mean the different states of the human heart. And so, the great general lesson held forth in this parable of the Sower is, That however faithful the preacher, and however pure his message, the effect of the preaching of the word depends upon the state of the hearer's heart. Now follow the cases.
FIRST CASE: THE WAY-SIDE
In Mark 4:4. it reads: "And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way-side" - by the side of the hard loath through the field, where the soil was not broken up.
And the fowls [of the air] came and devoured it up, [ tou (Greek #3588) ouranou (Greek #3772) is wanting in support]. Not only could the seed not get beneath the surface, but "it was trodden down" (Luke 8:5), and afterward picked up and devoured by the fowls. What means this?
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.
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 - or, more fully, Matthew 13:19, "When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which wee sown in his heart." The great truth here taught is, that Hearts all unbroken and hard are no fit soil for saving truth. They apprehend it not (Matthew 13:19), as God's means of restoring them to Himself; it penetrates not, makes no impression, but lies loosely on the surface of the heart, until the wicked one-afraid of losing a victim by his "believing to salvation," Luke 8:12) - finds some frivolous subject by whose greater attractions to draw off the attention, and straightway it is gone. Of how many hearers of the word is this the graphic but painful history!
SECOND CASE: THE STONY, OR RATHER, ROCKY GROUND
In Mark 4:5 it reads: "And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth" [ to (Greek #3588) petroodes (Greek #4075)] - 'the rocky ground;' in Matthew (Matthew 13:5), 'the rocky places' [ ta (Greek #3588) petroodee (Greek #4075)]; in Luke, 'the rock' [ teen (Greek #3588) petran (Greek #4073)]. The thing intended is, not ground with stones in it, which would not prevent the roots striking downward, but ground where a quite thin surface of earth covers a rock. What means this?
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive is with gladness;
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.
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. "Immediately" the seed in such case "springs up" - all the quicker from the shallowness of the soil - "because it has no depth of earth." But the sun, beating on it, as quickly scorches and withers it up, "because it has no root" (Mark 4:6), and "lacks moisture" (Luke 8:6). The great truth here taught is that Hearts superficially impressed are apt to receive the truth with readiness, and even with joy (Luke 8:13); but the heat of tribulation or persecution because of the word, or the trials which their new profession brings upon them quickly dries up their relish for the truth, and withers all the hasty promise of fruit which they showed. Such disappointing issues of a faithful and awakening ministry-alas, how frequent are they!
THIRD CASE: THE THORNY GROUND
In Mark 4:7 it reads: "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit." This case is that of ground not thoroughly cleaned of the thistles, etc., which, rising above the good seed, "choke" or "smother" it, excluding light and air, and drawing away the moisture and richness of the soil. Hence, it "becomes unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22); it grows, but its growth is checked, and it never ripens. The evil here is neither a hard nor a shallow soil-there is softness enough, and depth enough; but it is the existence in it of what draws all the moisture and richness of the soil away to itself, and so starves the plant. What now are these "thorns?"
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And these are they which are sowen among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in [or "the pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14)], Choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. First, "The cares of this world" - anxious, unrelaxing attention to the business of this present life; second, "The deceitfulness of riches" - of those riches which are the fruit of this worldly "care;" third, "The pleasures of this life," or "the lusts of other things entering in" - the enjoyments, in themselves it may be innocent, which worldly prosperity enables one to indulge. These "choke" or "smother" the word; drawing off go much of one's attention, absorbing so much of one's interest, and using up so much of one's time, that only the dregs of these remain for spiritual things, and a fagged, hurried, and heartless formalism is at length all the religion of such persons. What a vivid picture is this of the mournful condition of many, especially in great commercial countries, who once promised much fruit! "They bring no fruit to perfection" (Luke 8:14); indicating how much growth there may be, in the early stages of such a case, and promise of fruit-which after all never ripens.
FOURTH CASE: THE GOOD GROUP
In Mark 4:8 it reads: "And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred." The goodness of this last soil consists in its qualities being precisely the reverse of the other three soils: from its softness and tenderness, receiving and cherishing the seed; from its depth, allowing it to take firm root, and not quickly losing its moisture; and from its cleanness, giving its whole vigour and sap to the plant. In such a soil the seed "brings forth fruit," in all different degrees of profusion, according to the measure in which the soil possesses those qualities. So,
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.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some an hundred. A heart soft and tender, stirred to its depths on the great things of eternity, and jealously guarded from worldly engrossments, such only is the "honest and good heart" (Luke 8:15), which "keeps" [ katechousi (Greek #2722)] - that is, "retains" the seed of the word, and bears fruit Just in proportion as it is such a heart. Such "bring forth fruit with patience" (Mark 4:15), or continuance, 'enduring to the end;' in contrast with those in whom the word is "choked" and brings no fruit to perfection. The "thirty-fold" is designed to express the lowest degree of fruitfulness; the "hundred-fold" the highest; and the "sixty-fold" the intermediate degrees of fruitfulness. As 'a hundred-fold,' though not unexampled (Genesis 26:12), is a rare return in the natural husbandry, so the highest degrees of spiritual fruitfulness are too seldom witnessed. The closing words of this introductory parable seem designed to call attention to the fundamental and universal character of it. Mark 4:9 states: "And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
In it states: "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them ... " See the notes at Matthew 13:10-17.
And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
And he said unto them, Is a candle [or 'lamp,' ho (Greek #3588) luchnos (Greek #3088)] - brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? - "that they which enter in my see the light" (Luke 8:16). See the note at Matthew 5:15, of which this is nearly a repetition.
For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. See the notes at ; but the connection there and here is slightly different. Here the idea seems to be this: 'I have privately expounded to you these great truths, but only that ye may proclaim them publicly; and it ye will not, others will. For these are not designed for secrecy. They are imparted to be diffused abroad, and they shall be so; yea, a time is coming when the most hidden things shall be brought to light.'
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. This for the second time on the same subject (see the note at Mark 4:9).
And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
And he saith unto them, Take heed what ye hear, [ ti (Greek #5100)]. In Luke (Luke 8:18) it is, "Take heed how ye hear" [ poos (Greek #4459)]. The one implies the other, but both precepts are very weighty.
With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you. See the note at Matthew 7:2,
And unto you that hear - that is, thankfully, teachably, profitably, "shall more be given."
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath - or "seemeth to have," or 'thinketh he hath' [ ho (Greek #3588) dokei (Greek #1380) echein (Greek #2192)]. See the note at Matthew 13:12. This "having" and "thinking he hath" are not different; because when it hangs loosely upon him, and is not appropriated to its proper ends and uses, it both is and is not his.
This beautiful parable is special to Mark. Its design is to teach the Imperceptible Growth the word sown in the heart, from its earliest stage of development to the ripest fruits of practical righteousness.
And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
And should sleep, and rise night and day - go about his other ordinary occupations, leaving it to the well-known laws of vegetation under the genial influences of heaven. This is the sense of "the earth bringing forth fruit of herself," in the next verse.
And the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full grain in the ear. Beautiful allusion to the succession of similar stages, though not definitely-marked periods, in the Christian life, and generally in the kingdom of God.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
But when the fruit is brought forth [to maturity], immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. This charmingly points to the transition from the earthly to the heavenly condition of the Christian and the Church.
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
For the exposition of this Portion, see the notes at .
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. Had this been said in the corresponding passage of Matthew, we should have concluded that what that Evangelist recorded was but a specimen of other parables spoken on the same occasion. But Matthew (Matthew 13:34) says, "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables;" and as Mark records only some of the parables which Matthew gives, we are warranted to infer that the "many such parables" alluded to here mean no more than the full complement of them which we find in Matthew.
But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
But without a parable spake he not unto them. See the note at Matthew 13:34.
And when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. See the note at Mark 4:22.
(1) In the parable of the Sower, we have, an illustration of the principle that our Lord's parables illustrate only certain features a subject, and that though others may be added as accessory and subsidiary, no conclusions are to be drawn as to those features of the subject which are not in the parable at all. (See the note at Matthew 22:2, etc., 25:1, where, though the subject in both is a marriage, the Bride appears in neither. ) Thus, the one point in this parable is the diversity of the soils, as affecting the result of the sowing. To make this the clearer, the sower and the seed are here supposed to be the same in all. But were one to refer from this that the preacher and his doctrine are of no importance, or of less moment than the state of the heart on which the word lights, he would fall into that spurious style of interpretation which has misled not a few.
(2) Perhaps our Lord's own ministry furnishes the most striking illustration of this Parable of the Sower. Look first at Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Jerusalem-what a hard wayside did they present to the precious seed that fell upon it-yielding, with few exceptions, not only no fruit, but not so much as one green blade! Turn next to him who said to Him, "Lord, I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest," and the crowds that followed Him with wonder and heard Him with joy, and cast in their lot with Him-until the uncompromising severity of His teaching, or the privations and the obloquy they had to suffer, or the prospect of a deadly conflict with the world, stumbled them, and then they went back, and walked no more with Him: this was the Rocky Ground.
As for the Thorny Ground-not hard, like the wayside; nor shallow, like the rocky ground; but soft enough and deep enough; in which, therefore the good seed sprang up, and promised fruit, and would have ripened but for the thorns which were allowed to spring up and choke the plant-this kind of hearers had scarcely time to develop themselves before the Lord Himself was taken from them. But Judas-in so far as he bade so fair as a disciple as to be taken into the number of the Twelve, and went forth with the rest of the apostles on their preaching-tour, and in every other thing acted so faithfully to all appearance as to inspire no suspicion of his false-heartedness up to the very night of his treason-perhaps he may be taken as one of a class which, but for one or more predominant sins, cherished until they become resistless, would have borne fruit unto life eternal. Of honest and good hearts there were but too few to cheer the heart of the Great Sower.
But the Eleven certainly were such, and as many as received Him, to whom He gave power to become sons of God;" and them He deigned to call "His brother, and sister, and mother." As to the varying fruitfulness of these, Peter and John might perhaps be taken as examples of the "some who brought forth an hundred-fold;" Andrew, and Nathanael (or Bartholomew), and Matthew, and Thomas, and it may be others, sixty-fold; and the rest thirty. But from age to age these diversified characters are developed; and some more in one, some in another. There are periods of such spiritual death in the Church, that its whole territory presents to the spiritual eye the aspect of one vast wayside, with but here and there, at wide distances, a green spot. There are periods of intense religious excitement, in which, as if all were Rocky ground, the sower's heart is gladdened by the quick up-springing of an immense breadth of beautiful green "blade," as if the Latter Day of universal turning to the Lord were about to dawn; and a goodly portion of it comes into "ear," but of "the full grain in the ear," scarce any is there to reward the reaper's toil. And there are periods of high orthodox belief, fair religious profession, and universally proper outward Christianity, in which the all-engrossing pursuit of wealth in the walks of untiring industry, and the carnal indulgences to which outward prosperity ministers, starve the soul and suffer no spiritual fruit to come "to perfection." These are the thorny-ground periods.
Of good-ground periods have there been any? In a partial sense there certainly have; but on any great scale it is rather to be expected in the times of refreshing which are coming upon the earth, than referred to as an experienced fact. Perhaps every congregation furnishes some of all these classes; but would to God we could see more of the last!
(3) What encouragement may not be fetched from the parable of the imperceptible growth of the good seed! It is slow; it is gradual; it is unseen-alike in the natural and the spiritual kingdom. Hence, the wisdom of early sowing, and long patience, and cheerful expectancy.
(4) Illustrative preaching has here the highest example. Not more attractive than instructive is this style of preaching; and the parables of our Lord are incomparable models of both. If there be such a thing in perfection as "apples of gold in a framework of silver," these are they. It is true that to excel in this style requires an original capacity, with which every preacher is not gifted. But the systematic observation of nature and of human life, with continual reference to spiritual things, will do a good deal to aid the most unapt, while luxuriant fancies, which are apt to overpower with their illustrations the thing illustrated, have quite as much need of pruning. For both classes of mind the careful study of that grand simplicity and freedom, and freshness and elegance, and whatever else there be, which combine to render our Lord's parables indescribably perfect, both in the truths they convey and the mode of conveying them, would be a fruitful exercise.
(5) The command to take heed what we hear is to be taken as a hint supplementary to the parable of the sower, and is just on that account the more worthy of attention. For since the quality of the seed sown had nothing to do with the design of that parable-it being supposed in all the cases to be good seed-a supplementary caution to look well to "what" we hear, as well as "how," must have been intended to teach us that, in point of fact, the doctrine taught requires as much attention as the right frame of mind in listening to it. For in respect of both, "the word which we hear, the same shall judge us at the last day."
The time of this section is very definitely marked by our Evangelist, and by him alone, in the opening, words.
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
And the same day [on which He spoke the memorable parables of the preceding section, and of Matt
13], when the even was come. See the note at Mark 6:35. This must have been the earlier evening-what we should call the afternoon-since after all that passed on the other side, when He returned to the west side, the people were waiting for Him in great numbers (Mark 4:21; Luke 8:40).
He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side - to the east side of the Lake, to grapple with a desperate case of possession, and set the captive free, and to give the Gadarenes an opportunity of hearing the message of salvation, amid the wonder which that marvelous cure was fitted to awaken and the awe which the subsequent events could not but strike into them.
And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship - that is, without any preparation, and without so much as leaving the vessel, out of which He had been all day teaching.
And there were also with him other little ships - with passengers, probably, wishing to accompany Him.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And there arose a great storm of wind, [ lailaps (Greek #2978) anemou (Greek #417)] - 'a tempest of wind.' To such sudden squalls the sea of Galilee is very liable from its position, in a deep basin, skirted on the east by lofty mountain-ranges, while on the west the hills are intersected by narrow gorges through which the wind sweeps across the lake, and raises its waters with great rapidity into a storm.
And the waves beat into the ship, [ epeballen (G1911) eis (G1519) to (G3588) ploion (G4143)] - 'kept beating' or 'pitching on the ship,'] so that it was now full, [ hooste (Greek #5620) auto (Greek #846) eedee (Greek #2235) gemizesthai (Greek #1072)] - rather, 'so that it was already filling.' In Matt. (Matthew 8:24), "insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves;" but this is too strong. It should be, 'so that the ship was getting covered by the waves' [ hooste (Greek #5620) to (Greek #3588) ploion (Greek #4143) kaluptesthai (Greek #2572)]. So we must translate the word used in Luke (Luke 8:23) - not as in our version - "And there came down a storm on the lake, and they were filled [with water]" - but 'they were getting filled' [ sunepleerounto (Greek #4845)], that is, those who sailed; meaning, of course, that their ship was so.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he was in the hinder - or stern, part of the ship, asleep on a pillow, [ epi (Greek #1909) to (Greek #3588) proskefalaion (Greek #4344)] - either a place in the vessel made to receive the head, or a cushion for the head to rest on. It was evening; and after the fatigues of a busy day of teaching under the hot sun, having nothing to do while crossing the lake, He sinks into a deep sleep, which even this tempest raging around and tossing the little vessel did not disturb.
And they awake him, and say unto him, Master, [ Didaskale (Greek #1320)] - or 'Teacher.' In Luke (Luke 8:24) this is doubled-in token of their life-and-death-earnestness - "Master, Master" [ Epistata (Greek #1983), Epistata (Greek #1983)].
Carest thou not that we perish? Unbelief and fear made them sadly forget their place, to speak so. Luke has it, "Lord, save us, we perish." When those accustomed to fish upon that deep thus spake, the danger must have been imminent. They say nothing of what would become of Him, if they perished; nor think whether, if He could not perish, it was likely He would let this happen to them: but they hardly knew what they said.
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he arose, and rebuked the wind - "and the raging of the water." (Luke 8:24). And said unto the sea, Peace, be still - two sublime words of command, from a Master to His servants, the elements [ Sioopa (Greek #4623), pefimooso (Greek #5392)].
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. The sudden hushing of the wind would not at once have calmed the sea, whose commotion would have settled only after a considerable time. But the word of command was given to both elements at once.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
And he said unto them, are ye so fearful? There is a natural apprehension under danger; but there was unbelief in their fear. It is worthy of notice how considerately the Lord defers this rebus until He had first removed the danger, in the midst of which they would not have been in a state to listen to anything.
How is it that ye have no faith? - next to none, or none in present exercise. In Luke it is, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" Faith they had, because they applied to Christ for relief; but little, because they were afraid, though Christ was in the ship. Faith dispels fear, but only in proportion to its strength.
And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
And they feared exceedingly (were struck with deep awe), and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? - `What is this? Israel has been singing about Yahweh all along, "Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them"! "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea" (Psalms 89:9; Psalms 93:4). But, lo, in this very boat of ours is One of our own flesh and blood, who with His word of command hath done the same! Exhausted with the fatigues of the day, He was but a moment in a deep sleep, undisturbed by the howling tempest and we had to awake Him with the cry of our terror; but rising at our call, His majesty was felt by the raging elements, because they were instantly hushed - "WHAT MANNER OF MAN IS THIS?"'
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Easter