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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 4

Introduction

§ 49. PARABLES, Mark 4:1-41.4.35 .

(See notes on Matthew 13:0.)

Verse 1

1. Sat in the sea That is, he sat in the boat, and the boat was in the sea. Here our Lord delivered the great series of parabolic discourses of which a sketch is given in Matthew 13:0.

Verse 2

2. In his doctrine That is, in his teaching.

Verse 3

3. Behold, there went out a sower to sow The Greek has the article the; the sower. The sower of the seed is the preacher, and the original sower is the Lord himself. Our Lord had, no doubt, during his preaching in Galilee, plentiful experience of the various classes of hearers he describes in this parable.

Verse 11

11. Them that are without The division between the within and the without was a very customary one with ancient philosophers. Those within were the people who listened and received their philosophy and became learned; those without were the common mass of men, who remained in unphilosophical ignorance. From the Greek words which designate this difference were derived the English words exoteric and esoteric. The exoteric, or those without, in Christianity, are not those who are incapable of learning for the Gospel is not, like a philosophy, abstruse and difficult but they are those who refuse to be wise when the Gospel, simple enough for a child, proposes to make them wiser than philosophy can make them.

Verse 12

12. That Many learned men understand this that to mean so that. Others interpret it in order that. The former meaning indicates that parables were here used so that the effects described in this verse do really follow, but not with the divine intention that they should follow. The latter indicates that parables are used with the intention and purpose that such results should follow. Now the latter is the more ordinary sense, though not the necessary one, of the Greek word here rendered that. It here indicates that parables were used for the purpose that men who chose might remain blind. Not that their blindness is a primary purpose of the Almighty; but that blindness which is their choice may be accorded to them. These negative verbs not perceive and not understand, express intentional unintelligence. These men do not fall into passive ignorance, but they actively ignore. Lest This lest depends upon this ignoring. They ignore lest they should be converted. Obdurate sinners are sometimes afraid they will be converted. They fear that the truth will become so clearly truth that they cannot stand, and will in the trying moment yield to it. To prevent the evil use they would make of his truth Jesus wraps it in parables, and so accommodates their wish to his truth in order to avoid conversion. And their sins should be forgiven them Silly are these men who are so afraid of conversion. For what is the worst that would happen if they should be converted? Simply this: their sins would be forgiven, and they would be healed.

Verse 13

13. All parables Of which this is the first, and in a great degree the key.

Verse 15

15. Satan cometh Through his emissaries, symbolized by the fowls. Temptations have wings, and they come in flocks, and they have open beaks to snatch up the word of life and carry it off or devour it up. And how easily the seed of the word does go! People on Monday have forgotten both the sermon and the text of Sunday. The birds have come and devoured them both up.

Verse 24

24. Shall be measured to you In proportion to our earnest listening to the word, and listening with the heart, does God measure out our profit. Much is said nowadays about good preaching, and it is doubtless important. But far more important is good listening. The poorest Gospel preaching, well listened to, is better than eloquence merely enjoyed as a pleasant song that dies with the last sweet note.

Verses 26-29

26-29. Mark here gives a beautiful simile of our Lord, which is furnished by no other evangelist. It compares the growth of the word in the heart to the growth of the seed to full maturity and fruit.

Verse 27

27. Should sleep, and rise night and day That is, who sleep, night, and rise, day. He knoweth not how He knows what must be done by him in order that the process may take place, but the process itself is a secret to him. The plants grow while he sleeps. But if he were awake, nature nevertheless works in secret before his eyes.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Mark 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/mark-4.html. 1874-1909.