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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

Mark 4

Verses 1-3


LIV.
THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES.
(Beside the Sea of Galilee.)
Subdivision A.
INTRODUCTION.
aMATT. XIII. 1-3; bMARK IV. 1, 2; cLUKE VIII. 4.

a1 On that day went Jesus out of the house [It is possible that Matthew here refers to the house mentioned at Mark 3:19. If so, the events in Sections XLVIII.-LVI. all occurred on the same day. There are several indications in the gospel narratives that this is so], and sat by the sea side. b1 And again he began again to teach by the sea side. [By the Sea of Galilee.] And there is {awere} bgathered unto him a very great multitude, {agreat multitudes,} bso that he entered into a boat, and sat in the sea [that the multitudes might be better able to see and hear him]; and all the multitude astood on the beach. bwere by the sea on the land. c4 And when a great multitude came together, and they of every city resorted unto him, he spake by a parable: a3 And he spake to them many things b2 And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his teaching, {asaying,} b3 Hearken [While Jesus had used parables [328] before, this appears to have been the first occasion when he strung them together so as to form a discourse. Parable comes from the Greek paraballo, which means, "I place beside" in order to compare. It is the placing of a narrative describing an ordinary event in natural life beside an implied spiritual narrative for the purpose of illustrating the spiritual.]

[FFG 328-329]

Verses 4-25


LIV.
THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES.
(Beside the Sea of Galilee.)
Subdivision B.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER.
aMATT. XIII. 3-23; bMARK IV. 3-25; cLUKE VIII. 5-18.

aBehold, c5 The sower went forth to sow his seed [Orientals live in cities and towns. Isolated farmhouses are practically unknown. A farmer may therefore live several miles from his field, in which case he literally "goes forth" to it]: b4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed {aseeds} fell by the way side, cand it was trodden under foot, and the birds of heaven acame and cdevoured it up. {athem:} [Palestine is an unfenced land, and the roads or paths lead through the fields. They are usually trodden hard by centuries of use. Grain falling on them could not take root. Its fate was either to be crushed by some foot, or to be carried off by some bird.] b5 And other {aothers} fell upon the rocky places, con the rock; bwhere it {athey} bhad not much earth; and straightway it {athey} bsprang up, because it {athey} bhad no deepness of earth: 6 and when the sun was risen, it was {athey were} bscorched; and because it {athey} bhad no root, it {athey} withered away. cand as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture. [This seed fell upon a ledge of rock covered with a very thin coating of soil. Its roots were prevented by the rock from striking down to the moisture, and so under the blazing Syrian sun it died ere it had well begun to live.] b7 And other {aothers} bfell among {aupon camidst} bthe thorns, and the thorns grew up, cwith it, band [329] choked it, {athem:} band it yielded no fruit. [Palestine abounds in thorns. Celsius describes sixteen varieties of thorny plants. Porter tells us that in the Plain of Gennesaret thistles grow so tall and rank that a horse can not push through them.] 8 And others {cother} bfell into {aupon} bthe good ground, cand grew, and brought forth a hundredfold, band yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. {asome a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.} [Thirty-fold is a good crop in Palestine, but it is asserted that a hundred-fold has been reaped in the Plain of Esdraelon even in recent years. These four several conditions of soil may be readily found lying close to each other in the Plain of Gennesaret. A sowing like this described may have been enacted before the eyes of the people even while Jesus was speaking.] cAs he said these things, he cried [a method of emphasis rarely employed by Jesus], b9 And he said, a9 He that {bWho} hath ears to hear, let him hear. [A saying often used by Jesus. He intended it to prevent the people from regarding the parable as merely a beautiful description. It warned them of a meaning beneath the surface, and incited them to seek for it.] 10 And when he was alone [that is, after he had finished speaking all the parables. The explanation of the parable is put next to the parable to aid us in understanding it], athe disciples came, bthey that were about him with the twelve c9 and his disciples basked him of the parables. cwhat this parable might be. aand said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? [Their questions show that as yet parables were unusual.] 11 And he answered and said unto them, Unto you is given to know the mysteries {bis given the mystery} aof the kingdom of heaven, {bof God:} abut to them cthe rest ait is not given. [save] cin parables; bunto them that are without, all things are done in parables. [Jesus adapted his lessons to the condition of his pupils; hence his disciples might know what the multitude must not yet know ( 1 Corinthians 2:6-11). [330] Jesus already drew a line of demarcation between disciples and unbelievers; which line became more marked and visible after the church was organized at Pentecost. The word "mystery" in current language means that which is not understood; but as used in the Scriptures it means that which is not understood because it has not been revealed, but which is plain as soon as revealed. Bible mysteries are not unraveled by science, but are unfolded by revelation-- Colossians 1:26, 1 Timothy 3:16, Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:26, Revelation 17:5, Daniel 2:47.] a12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. [To understand this saying, we must remember that it was the teaching of Jesus which was under discussion. In the beginning of his ministry Jesus taught plainly, and all his hearers had equal opportunity to know his doctrine and believe in him. But from now on his teaching would be largely veiled in parables. These parables would enrich their knowledge and understanding of the believers; but they would add nothing to the store of unbelievers, and their efforts to understand the parables would withdraw their minds from the truths which they had already learned, so that they would either forget them or fail to profit by them. If we improve our opportunities, they bring us to other and higher ones; but if we neglect them, even the initial opportunities are taken away.] 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: b12 that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; {cthat seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.} abecause seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. blest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them. a14 And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah [ Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10], which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing. [331] And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, and I should heal them. [The language here is an elaboration of the thoughts contained in the Matthew 13:12. The people saw Christ’s miracles, but not in their true light; they heard his words, but not in their true meaning. Jesus could thus teach without hindrance, but, unfortunately for the unbelieving, they were hearing without obtaining any blessing. In the original passage which Matthew quotes, Isaiah is apparently commanded to harden the hearts of the people. If read superficially, it might seem that God desired to harden their hearts. The true meaning is that God commanded Isaiah to teach, even though the people, by hardening themselves against his teaching, should be made worse rather than better by it. Thus, though rebellious, Israel might not be blessed by Isaiah’s teaching; they might, by their example, waken a wholesome fear in their posterity, and cause it to avoid like a sin.] 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. [Jesus here addresses his disciples, who were a cheering contrast to the unbelievers.] 17 For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not. [Our Lord here gives us a glance into the very hearts of the prophets, and reveals to us their desire to be witnesses of Messiah’s ministry. But knowing they were not to see their visions realized, they contented themselves with trying to understand the full meaning of their visions, that they might anticipate the days which were to come-- 1 Peter 1:10-12.] b13 And he saith unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables? [This is a concession rather than a reproof. Parables could not be understood without a key; but a few examples of parables explained would furnish such a key.] a18 Hear then ye the parable of the sower. c11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of [332] God. b14 The sower soweth the word. 15 And these {cthose} bby the way side, where the word is sown; aare they that have heard; band when they have heard,; cthen bstraightway cometh Satan, cthe devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, bwhich hath been sown in them. cthat they may not believe and be saved. a19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the way side. [The four soils are four hearts into which truth is sown. The first heart, represented by the wayside, is one which is too hardened for the Word to make any impression. It represents several classes of people, as: 1. Those whose hearts have been made insensible by the routine of meaningless rites and lifeless formalities. 2. Those who had deadened their sensibilities by perversity and indifference. 3. Those whose hearts were hardened by the constant march and countermarch of evil thoughts. God’s word lies on the surface of such hearts, and Satan can use any insignificant or innocent passing thoughts as a bird to carry out of their minds anything which they may have heard. The preacher’s voice has scarcely died away until some idle criticism of him or some careless bit of gossip about a neighbor causes them to forget the sermon.] b16 And these {cthose} bin like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky places, {crock} bwho, when they have heard the word, straightway receive it {cthe word} with joy; b17 and they {cthese} bhave no root in themselves, but endure {cwho believe} for a while; bthen, when affliction or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway they stumble. cand in time of temptation fall away. a20 And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; 21 yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because [333] of the word, straightway he stumbleth. [This shallow, rock-covered soil represents those who are deficient in tenacity of purpose. Those who receive the word, but whose impulsive, shallow nature does not retain it, and whose enthusiasm was as short-lived as it was vigorous. Any opposition, slight or severe, makes them partial or total apostates. As sunlight strengthens the healthy plant, but withers the sickly, ill-rooted one, so tribulation establishes real faith, but destroys its counterfeit.] b18 And others are they that are sown {cwhich fell} among the thorns, these are they that have heard, bthe word, cand as they go on their way bthe cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. cthey are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. a22 And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choked the word, and he becometh unfruitful. [This third class represents those who begin well, but afterwards permit worldly cares to gain the mastery. These to-day outnumber all other classes, and perhaps they have always been so.] b20 And those are they that were sown upon {c15 And that in} the good ground; these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard {bhear} cthe word, hold it fast, band accept it, and bear cand bring forth fruit with patience. bthirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. a23 And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. [Christianity requires three things: a sower, good seed or a pure gospel, and an honest hearer. All hearers are not equal in faithfulness. But we are not to take it that the diversity is limited to the three rates or proportions specified. Of the four hearts indicated, the first one hears, but heeds nothing; the second one heeds, but is checked by [334] external influences; the third heeds, but is choked by internal influences; the fourth heeds and holds fast until the harvest. Gallio exemplifies the first ( Acts 18:17). Peter and Mark for a time exemplified the second ( Mark 14:66-72, Acts 12:25, Acts 13:13, Acts 15:37-39). The rich ruler and Demas represent the third ( Matthew 19:22, 2 Timothy 4:10), as does also Judas Iscariot. Cornelius and the Beræans ( Acts 10:33, Acts 17:11) show us examples of the fourth.] b21 And he said unto them, Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under a bed, and not to be put on the stand? c16 No man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they which enter in may see the light. [A passage similar to this is found at Matthew 5:15. See page 235.] b22 For there is nothing hid, save that it should be manifested; {cthat shall not be made manifest;} bneither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light. {cthat shall not be known and come to light.} b23 If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. [This passage is often taken to indicate the exposure of all things on the day of judgment. While all things shall be revealed at the judgment, this passage does not refer to that fact. Jesus did not come to put his light under a bushel; that is, to hide his teaching. All inner instruction and private information was but temporary. Our Lord’s design was to reveal, not conceal. What was now concealed was only to keep back that in the end it might be more fully known. Jesus covered his light as one might shelter a candle with his hand until the flame has fully caught hold of the wick.] 24 And he said unto them, cTake heed therefore how {bwhat} ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you; and more shall be given unto you. cfor whosoever {bhe that} hath, to him shall be given: cand whosoever {bhe that} hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. {cwhich he thinketh he hath.} [Most of this passage has been explained just [335] above. See page 331. It warns us as to what we hear--things carnal or spiritual--and how we hear them, whether carefully or carelessly. As we measure attention unto the Lord, he measures back knowledge to us.]

[FFG 329-336]

Verses 26-29


LIV.
THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES.
(Beside the Sea of Galilee.)
Subdivision C.
PARABLE OF THE SEED GROWING ITSELF.
bMARK IV. 26-29.

b26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth; 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. [In the kingdom of grace, as well as in the kingdom of nature, we are laborers together with God. As preachers, teachers, or friends we sow the seed of the kingdom and God brings it to perfection ( 1 Corinthians 3:6-9). The seed here spoken of, being wheat or barley, needed no cultivation, and hence the planter let it alone, and did not know how it grew, whether fast or slow, or even whether it grew at all.] 28 The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is ripe, straightway he putteth forth the sickle, because the harvest is come. [Truth, spoken, lies hidden in the human breast, and we do not see its earliest stages of its development, but as it proceeds toward perfection, it becomes step by step more visible. In both fields the sower has little to do with the field between the time of sowing and reaping. In the spiritual field, however, it is well to keep sowing until the grain shows signs of sprouting.]

[FFG 336]

Verses 30-34


LIV.
THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES.
(Beside the Sea of Galilee.)
Subdivision E.
PARABLES OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND LEAVEN.
aMATT. XIII. 31-35; bMARK IV. 30-34.

a31 Another parable set he before them, saying, b30 And he said, How shall we liken the kingdom of God? or in what parable shall we set it forth? [These questions are intended to emphasize the superior excellence of the kingdom.] 31 It aThe kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: ba grain of mustard seed, which, [337] when it is sown upon the earth, though aindeed bit be {ais} bless than all the seeds that are upon the earth [that is, the smallest of all the seeds that are sown in a garden], abut b32 yet when it is sown, groweth up, and awhen it is grown, it is {bbecometh} greater than all the herbs, and putteth out great branches; aand becometh a tree [in Palestine it attains the height of ten feet], so that the birds of the heaven come and bcan lodge under the shadow thereof. ain the branches thereof. [This parable sets forth the smallness of the beginning of the kingdom, and the magnitude of its growth.] 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened. [In Oriental housekeeping, yeast is not preserved in a separate form. A piece of leavened dough saved over from the last baking is added to the new dough to ferment it. Three measures contained the quantity usually taken for one baking. Leaven represents the quickness, quietness, thoroughness, and sureness with which gospel truth diffuses itself through human society. A woman is named because baking was part of her household duty.] 34 All these things spake Jesus in parables unto the multitudes; b33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it [that is, as they had leisure or opportunity to listen]; 34 and without a parable spake he not {anothing} unto them [that is, he used nothing but parables on that occasion, for both before and after this he taught without parables]: 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet [at Psalms 78:2 which is usually attributed to Asaph, who is called a seer ( 2 Chronicles 29:30). His teaching typified that of Christ], saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world. [Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in a notable manner, being the only teacher in history distinguished in any marked degree by the use of parables.] bbut privately to his own disciples he expounded all things. [338]

[FFG 337-338]

Verses 35-41


LV.
JESUS STILLS THE STORM.
(Sea of Galilee; same day as last section)
aMATT. VIII. 18-27; bMARK IV. 35-41; cLUKE VIII. 22-25.

b35 And that day, {cone of those days,} bwhen the even was come [about sunset], awhen Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. {bhe saith unto them, Let us go over unto the other side.} [Wearied with a day of strenuous toil, Jesus sought rest from the multitude by passing to the thinly settled on the east side of Galilee.] a19 And there came a scribe [Literally, one scribe. The number is emphatic; for, so far as the record shows, Jesus had none of this class among his disciples], and said unto him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes [caves, dens], and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of [341] man [Daniel’s name for the Messiah-- Daniel 7:10-13] hath not where to lay his head. [This scribe had heard the wonderful parables concerning the kingdom. He, like all others, expected an earthly kingdom and sought to have a place in it. Jesus so replied as to correct his false expectations.] 21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. [This disciple must have been one of the twelve, for these only were required to follow Jesus ( Mark 3:14). It may have been James or John, whose father, Zebedee, almost certainly died before Jesus did. He may have just heard of his father’s death. *] 22 But Jesus saith unto him, Follow me; and leave the dead to bury their own dead. [Let the spiritually dead bury the naturally dead. This was a very exceptional prohibition, intended to show not that it was ordinarily wrong to stop for burying the dead, but wrong when in conflict with a command from Jesus. God bids us recognize the claims of filial duty, but rightfully insists that our duties toward him are superior to those due our parents.] c22 Now it came to pass that he entered into a boat, himself and his disciples; a23 And when he was entered into a boat, his disciples followed him. cand he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake: and they launched forth. b36 And leaving the multitude, they take him with them, even as he was, in the boat. [They took Jesus without any preparation for the journey. The crowd, doubtless, made it inconvenient to go ashore to get provisions.] And other boats were with him. [The owners of these boats had probably been using them to get near to Jesus as he preached. They are probably mentioned to show that a large number witnessed the miracle when Jesus stilled the tempest.] c23 But as they sailed he fell asleep. [knowing his labors during the day, we can not wonder at this]: b37 And there ariseth cand there came down ba great storm of wind, con the lake; a24 And, behold, [342] there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the boat was covered with the waves: band the waves beat into the boat, insomuch that the boat was now filling. cand they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. [These storms come with great suddenness. See McGarvey’s "Lands of the Bible," page 519.] b38 And {abut} bhe himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion [The cushion was the seat-cover, which, as Smith remarks, was probably "a sheepskin with the fleece, which, when rolled up, served as a pillow." The stern was the most commodious place for passengers. The tossing ship has been accepted in all ages as a type of the church in seasons of peril]: a25 And they came to him, and awoke him, {bthey awake him,} and say unto him, {asaying,} Save, Lord; we perish. cMaster, master, we perish. bTeacher, carest thou not that we perish? [There was a babble of confused voices, betraying the extreme agitation of the disciples.] 39 And he awoke, aThen he arose, and rebuked the winds, {bwind,} aand the sea; cand the raging of the water; band said unto the sea, Peace, be still. cand they ceased, bAnd the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. [In addressing the winds and waves Jesus personified them to give emphasis to his authority over them. The calm showed the perfection of the miracle, for the waves of such a lake continue to roll long after the winds have ceased.] c25 And he said unto them, Where is your faith? bWhy are ye yet fearful? have ye not yet faith? aO ye of little faith? [They had little faith or they would not have been so frightened; but they had some faith, else they would not have appealed to Jesus.] b41 And they feared exceedingly, cAnd being afraid they athe men marvelled, band said one to another, csaying one to another, aWhat manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? cWho then is this, that he commandeth even the winds, and the water, and they obey him? [Jesus’ complete lordship over the realm of nature made his disciples very certain of his divinity.] [343]

* I do not concur in this statement.--P. Y. P.

[FFG 341-343]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Mark 4". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/mark-4.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.