Mark 4:1-9. And he began to teach by the seaside — See notes on Matthew 13:1-17. He taught them many things by parables — After the usual manner of the eastern nations, to make his instructions more agreeable to them, and to impress them the more upon attentive hearers. A parable signifies not only a simile, or comparison, and sometimes a proverb, but any kind of instructive speech, wherein spiritual things are explained and illustrated by natural. Proverbs 1:6, To understand a proverb and the interpretation. The proverb is the literal sense, the interpretation is the spiritual; resting in the literal sense killeth, but the spiritual giveth life. Hearken — This word he probably spoke with a loud voice, to stop the noise and hurry of the people.
Mark 4:10-12. When he was alone — That is, retired apart from the multitude. Unto them that are without — So the Jews termed the heathen: so our Lord terms all obstinate unbelievers; for they shall not enter into the kingdom; they shall abide in outer darkness. So that seeing they may see, and not perceive — They would not see before; now they could not, God having given them up to the blindness which they had chosen.
Mark 4:13-20. Know ye not this parable — Which is, as it were, the foundation of all those that I shall speak hereafter; and is so easy to be understood? See notes on Matthew 13:19-23. The desires of other things choke the word — A deep and important truth! The desire of any thing, otherwise than as it leads to happiness in God, directly tends to barrenness of soul. Entering in — Where they were not before. Let him therefore who has received and retained the word, see that no other desire then enter in, such as perhaps till then he never knew. It becometh unfruitful — After the fruit had grown almost to perfection.
Mark 4:21-25. And he said, Is a candle, &c. — As if he had said, I explain these things to you, I give you this light, not to conceal, but to impart it to others. And if I conceal any thing from you now, it is only that it may be more effectually manifested hereafter. Take heed what ye hear — That is, attend to what you hear, that it may have its due influence upon you. With what measure ye mete — That is, according to the improvement you make of what you have heard, still further assistances shall be given. And to you that hear — That is, with improvement, shall more be given. For he that hath — That improves whatever he has received, to the good of others, as well as of his own soul.
Mark 4:26. So is the kingdom of God — The gospel dispensation, whereby God overthrows the kingdom of Satan, collects subjects to himself, and erects and establishes his own kingdom. The grace of God in the soul is also included, erecting that kingdom which is within men, and is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, Romans 14:17. As if a man should cast seed into the ground — The seed of God’s word a preacher of the gospel casts into the field of the world, and into the hearts of the penitent and believing. And sleeps and rises night and day — That is, he has it continually in his thoughts. Meantime, it springs and grows up, he knows not how — Even he that sowed it cannot explain how it grows. Here we are taught, “that as the husbandman does not by any efficacy of his own, cause the seed to grow, but leaves it to be nourished by the soil and the sun; so Jesus and his apostles, having taught men the doctrines of true religion, were not by any miraculous force to constrain their wills; far less were they, by the terrors of fire and sword, to interpose visibly for the furthering thereof, but would suffer it to spread by the secret influences of the Spirit, till at length it should obtain its full effect. Moreover, as the husbandman cannot, by the most diligent observation, perceive the corn in his field extending its dimensions as it grows, so the ministers of Christ cannot see the operation of the gospel, [and of divine grace,] upon the minds of men; the effects, however, of its operation, when these are produced, they can discern, just as the husbandman can discern when his corn is fully grown and fit for reaping. In the mean time, the design of the parable is not to lead the ministers of Christ to imagine that religion will flourish without due pains taken about it. It was formed to teach the Jews in particular, that neither the Messiah nor his servants would subdue men by the force of arms, as they supposed he would have done; and also, to prevent the apostles from being dispirited when they did not see immediate success following their labours.” — Macknight. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself — Greek, αυτοματη, spontaneously. For, as the earth, by a certain curious kind of mechanism which the greatest philosophers cannot fully comprehend, does, as it were, spontaneously, without any assistance from men, carry the seed through the whole progress of vegetation, and produce first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear; so will the gospel gradually spread in the world; and so the penitent, believing soul, in an inexplicable manner, brings forth first weak graces, then stronger, then full holiness: and all this of itself, as a machine whose spring of motion is within itself. Yet, observe the amazing exactness of the comparison: the earth brings forth no corn, (as the soul no holiness,) without both the care and toil of man, and the benign influence of Heaven. When the fruit is brought forth — That is, when the corn is full and ripe; he putteth in the sickle — God cutteth down and gathereth the fruit into his garner.
Mark 4:30-34. Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God, &c. — See notes on Matthew 13:31-32. He spake the word unto them as they were able to hear it — Adapting it to the capacity of his hearers, and speaking as plainly as he could without offending them. A rule never to be forgotten by those who instruct others. But without a parable, &c. — See note on Matthew 13:34-35.
Mark 4:35-41. The same day, when the even was come — See note on Matthew 8:18. They took him even as he was in the ship — They carried him immediately, in the same vessel from which he had been preaching to the people. And there arose a great storm — See note on Matthew 8:23-27. He was asleep in the hinder part of the ship — So we translate the words επι τη πρυμνη, for want of a proper English expression for that particular part of the vessel near the rudder, on which he lay. Peace — Cease thy tossing; be still — Cease thy roaring. The Greek word, πεφιμωσο, is, literally, Be thou gagged.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany