We have in this Chapter, the Parable of the Sower; of the Seed in its secret growth: and JESUS, on the Lake in a Storm.
AND he began again to teach by the seaside: 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. (2) And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, (3) Hearken: Behold, there went out a sower, to sow: (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. (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: (6) But when the sun was up, it was scorched and because it had no root, it withered away. (7) And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. (8) 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. (9) And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (10) And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. (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: (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. (13) And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables ? (14) The sower soweth the word. (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. (16) And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; (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. (18) And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, (19) And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. (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.
I refer the Reader to the observations made on this Parables of the Sower, and our LORD's own explanation of it. Matthew 13:3-23. Everything in it is so plain and obvious, as opened by CHRIST himself, as to supersede the necessity of remarks, by any Commentator. The devil, who is the prince of the power of the air, is strongly figured by the fowls devouring the seed sown; and the way-side and stoney-ground hearers, so strikingly represent hearts of stone, unrenewed by grace; that the persecution such sustain, from the laughter and ridicule of the carnal, may readily be supposed to render the word of GOD unprofitable. None can bring forth good fruit but the good ground made so by sovereign grace.
(21) 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? (22) For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad. (23) If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. (24) And he saith 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. (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.
Our LORD, according to the Eastern method of instruction, dwelt much in figures and parables. We have a cluster of them here. The Gospel is as a light not to be hidden. Even among men the small taper of the night is never put under a covering. So the LORD will manifest his truths to his people. To them there is nothing hidden; neither is there anything in the covenant of grace necessary for them to know, but what shall be made known to them. And, therefore, if any man hath his ears spiritually opened to hear, he shall hear. But to the unawakened, everything must appear a Parable. And, saith our LORD, even to those whose ears are spiritually opened, still it is necessary to take heed what ye hear. No doubt, alluding to what the LORD elsewhere cautioned his people against, false CHRIST's, and false prophets, which should come so speciously, that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the very elect. See Matthew 24:23-26.
I do not think with some Commentators, that these words, with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you, refer to our dealings with men in our concerns with one another: for the LORD is speaking of our hearing the word. Neither do I think with others, that it hath reference to our dealings with GOD. As we deal with GOD, so say such, will GOD deal with us. In answer to which I say, the LORD forbid; for it would be our ruin indeed if so! But I humbly conceive, the words which follow explain the meaning; when it is said, And unto you that hear shall more be given: that is; if I apprehend right, in our dealings with ourselves; if the measure we mete with, according to the measure of the gift of CHRIST, of grace given to us, our spiritual understandings enable us to mete it in improvement; to you, that so hear, saith JESUS, more shall be given. For to him that hath; that is, that hath an awakened soul, by GOD the HOLY SPIRIT to measure it, more shall be given. His vessel, opened and enlarged by grace, shall be filled. But to him that hath not; that is, where there hath been no work of GOD wrought upon the soul, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath; that is, of the outward ministry of the word. I do not presume to speak decidedly on the passage. I only humbly give the above as my view of it.
(26) And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground: (27) And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. (28) For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. (29) But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
I consider this Parable, though short, yet as sweet, as either of our LORD's Parables in the illustration of his grace to his people. So is the kingdom of GOD, which is known by grace here, and glory hereafter, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and sleep and rise, night and day, while the seed springeth and groweth he knoweth not how. We cannot err in considering this seed, as the incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth forever: and that it is so, is evident from its growth and quality. But the man who is said to cast seed into the ground, cannot mean our LORD JESUS CHRIST, for he neither slumbereth nor sleepeth; neither can it be ever said of him, that his seed springeth, and groweth he knoweth not how. Psalms 121:4; Isaiah 27:2-3. His servants are said to minister to the Churches of the Spirit. Galatians 3:5. And of them it may be truly said, the seed groweth they know not how. And although, all faithful dispensers of the word, do watch over the spiritual plantation, and steep the word sown both in tears and prayers; yet, from their natural infirmity, they too often sleep, though not the sleep of spiritual death! The harvest however arrives not, to their consciousness, in the fields of their labors in numberless instances, until they themselves have fallen asleep in Jesus. Many a seedtime, and many a day's labor, followed up with prayer, do faithful ministers of JESUS leave behind them, which are answered, when their poor bodies are mouldering in the grave.
And the latter part of the Parable, is not less beautiful than the former. The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; that is, not the unrenewed heart of man, which the earth figuratively represents; but the renewed heart, now considered, as in the kingdom of grace, which this Parable is said to represent. It bringeth forth fruit void of the husbandman's care, who sleeps night and day, while the seed is growing he knoweth not how. A most precious and blessed proof of the SPIRIT's work in the heart; and that the whole is according to that sweet scripture: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said the LORD. Zechariah 4:6. And the process of the whole proves the work wholly of the same. First the blade, then the ear; after that the full corn in the ear. As in nature, so in grace. The child, though perfect in all its parts, hath to grow from the babe to the young man, and at length to the father in GOD. And when grace is ripened for glory, like the fruit ripe for harvest, Jesus takes home his redeemed to him, to his harvest in heaven. Reader! do not overlook in the beauties of the Parable, the sweet enjoyment of a personal interest in it. The seed cast in the renewed heart, made so by grace, gives the sure earnest of the harvest. Though men sleep, and know not how the advance is made, JESUS both knows, gives the needed supply, and watches over the whole plantation. To you, to me, things may at times appear, as in a wintry dispensation. But to JESUS the progress, is advancing. The promise is absolute from GOD the FATHER. I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:21. And a soul renewed in CHRIST, must be separated from CHRIST, before those promises can fail. Romans 8:39. Blessedly, therefore, the Apostle sings, to the full assurance of faith, when he saith, Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is GOD, who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:5.
(30) And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? (31) It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: (32) But when it is sown, it groweth up, and be cometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. (33) And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. (34) But without a parable spoke he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
These verses are so many different similitudes, to illustrate the progressive work of grace in the soul. A child of GOD is apt to make false conclusions, in forming his view of such scriptures, by what passeth in his own experience. He feels at times such a deadness to divine things, that he is at a loss to ascertain any growth in the divine life. But the truth is, the growth he is looking for, is to be found in the reverse of what he expects to find. He supposes to find himself more holy: whereas, the holiness, the HOLY GHOST is ripening him in, is in CHRIST. He doth indeed make great progress, when, from making every day more discoveries of his own unholiness, he becomes more and more longing for the holiness in JESUS. When a sense of the remains of indwelling sin, makes him more out of love with himself, and more its love with CHRIST. This is indeed, from small beginnings, to arise to large attainments; because, as it begins in CHRIST, so it ends in CHRIST. And CHRIST is the tree of life, under whose branches, his people find both a banquet and a shadow. Song of Solomon 2:3-4.
(35) And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. (36) 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. (37) And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. (38) 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? (39) 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. (40) And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? (41) And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
I refer to Matthew 8:23-27. for observations on those verses.
READER! let you and I pass over numberless other considerations, which arise out of this Chapter, in order to attend to what is always, and ever must be, the first and last, and comprehensive object, and subject of every Chapter; the LORD JESUS CHRIST himself, and our salvation in him. He is both the Seed and Sower; that corn of pure wheat, cast into the ground of our hearts, which soil, when renewed by grace, brings forth, in all his redeemed, sure fruit; some thirty fold, some sixty fold, some an hundred fold. And he it is; to sow the pure seed in his Churches. And none sown by CHRIST can fall to the ground. What though his servants, and those who minister in the Word and doctrine, too often find their labors in the way-side, and in thorny ground, and stony places, unproductive; yet, wheresoever JESUS sends his word, he saith himself, it shall not return void, but it shall prosper in the heart to which he sends it. To thee, then, LORD! let thy people look, both for direction, where to sow the seed, and from whom alone to expect a blessing. Sent and commissioned by thy sovereign power, in due season, they shall reap if they faint not.
Precious LORD JESUS! however to the unawakened and unregenerated all thy truths appear as parables, do thou speak thy sweet word to all thy redeemed, as they are able to bear it. And oh! do thou make it doubly sweet and blessed, when we are alone with thee, by expounding to us all things concerning thyself. And if we are called upon to enter upon the water, or pass through the fire with JESUS oh! let the consciousness that JESUS is with us, hush all our fears, and make us more than conquerors, through thy grace helping us. LORD! do thou speak peace to our troubled souls, as thou didst to the troubled sea, by speaking pardon to our sins. Both winds and storms, and guilt and fear, must all he still at thy command
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Mark 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany