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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Mark 4:2

And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  4. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  5. Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament
  6. Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible
  7. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  8. Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible
  9. The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide
  10. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
  11. John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
  12. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  13. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  14. Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament
  15. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
  16. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
  17. Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
  18. The Expositor's Greek Testament
  19. The Expositor's Greek Testament
  20. F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
  21. F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary
  22. Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
  23. Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels
  24. G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible
  25. John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
  26. William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
  27. Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
  28. Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
  29. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
  30. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
  31. Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  32. Hamilton Smith's Writings
  33. Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
  34. Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible
  35. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
  36. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
  37. J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark
  38. J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark
  39. The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
  40. Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
  41. John Trapp Complete Commentary
  42. Kingcomments on the Whole Bible
  43. The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
  44. Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical
  45. L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
  46. Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible
  47. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
  48. Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible
  49. Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
  50. Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
  51. Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
  52. Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
  53. Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
  54. Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
  55. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
  56. J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels
  57. Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
  58. Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
  59. Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books
  60. Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books
  61. Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
  62. The Biblical Illustrator
  63. The Biblical Illustrator
  64. Expositor's Bible Commentary
  65. The Fourfold Gospel
  66. The Gospels Compared
  67. The Pulpit Commentaries
  68. Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
  69. Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
  70. Wesley's Explanatory Notes
  71. Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Jesus, the Christ;   Jesus Continued;   Sermon;   Thompson Chain Reference - Teacher, Divine;   Teaching;   The Topic Concordance - Bearing Fruit;   Word of God;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Parables;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Apocalyptic;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Allegory;   Education in Bible Times;   Mark, the Gospel of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Discourse;   Doctrines;   Ear (2);   Mental Characteristics;   Preaching (2);   Premeditation;   Seed (2);   Teaching of Jesus;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Doctrine;   Mark, the Gospel According to;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - New Testament;   Parable;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

He taught them many things by parables - See every part of this parable of the sower explained on Matthew 13:1; (note), etc.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


54. The sower (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-29; Luke 8:1-18)

To visit all the towns of Galilee was a huge task. Jesus and his disciples were helped in this work by a group of women who went with them to look after their daily needs (Luke 8:1-3). Crowds of people came to see Jesus wherever he went, and were often a hindrance to the progress of the gospel. It seems that one reason Jesus began to teach extensively in parables was to separate those who were genuinely interested from those who were merely curious (Matthew 13:1-3a; Mark 4:1-2).

The parable of the sower draws its lessons from the four different kinds of soil rather than from the work of the sower. The preacher puts the message of the kingdom into people's hearts as a farmer puts seed into the ground. But people's hearts vary just as the soil in different places varies. Some people hear the message but do not understand it because they are not interested. Others show early interest but soon give up because they have no deep spiritual concern. Others are too worried about the affairs of everyday life. Only a few respond to the message in faith, but when they do their lives are changed and a spiritual harvest results (Matthew 13:3b-9,18-23; Mark 4:3-9; Mark 4:13-20).

Parables may provide a pictorial way to teach truth, but they are more than just illustrations. Their purpose is to make the hearers think about the teaching. Those who gladly receive Jesus' teaching will find the parables full of meaning. As a result their ability to understand God's truth will increase. But those who have no genuine interest in Jesus' teaching will see no meaning in the parables at all. Worse still, their spiritual blindness will become darker, and their stubborn hearts more hardened. Because their wills are opposed to Jesus, their minds cannot appreciate his teaching, and consequently their sins remain unforgiven (Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12).

Although the teaching of parables may cause the idly curious to lose interest in Jesus, the basic purpose of a parable is to enlighten, not to darken. A parable is like a lamp, which is put on a stand to give light, not hidden under a bowl or under a bed. The more thought people give to their master's teaching, the more enlightenment and blessing they will receive in return. But if they are lazy and give no thought to the teaching, their ability to appreciate spiritual truth will decrease, until eventually it is completely gone (Mark 4:21-25).

Returning to the picture of the sower, Jesus shows that good seed will always produce healthy plants and good fruit if given the opportunity. The farmer sows the seed, but he must wait for the soil to react with the seed and make it grow. Likewise the messenger of the gospel must have patient faith in God as the message does its work in people's hearts (Mark 4:26-29).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his teaching,

Practically all of this chapter deals with parables. The Hebrews had but a single word for several English words, including both PARABLE and PROVERB. "A parable is a truth presented by a similitude, being of necessity figurative"; but a proverb may be "figurative, but not necessarily."[3] The reason for Jesus' resort to the method of teaching by parables is complex: (1) He did so in order to fulfill prophecy. (2) He did so to confound the spies of the Pharisees. (3) He thus challenged his disciples to greater spiritual discernment. (4) The Hebrew people were familiar with that method. (5) It made his teachings easier to remember. (6) The parables were interesting in the highest degree. (7) They contained the dynamic teaching of Jesus in language which was unsuitable to the court-charges the Pharisees were anxious to make against him. In short, he, by this method, taught those who wished to know the truth and confounded those who sought to oppose him. In the literature of all the world, there is nothing to compare with the parables of Jesus.


[3] E. Bickersteth. The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16, p. 156.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

See the parable of the sower explained in the notes at Matthew 13:1-9.

See the parable of the sower explained in the notes at Matthew 13:1-9.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament

  1. The Parable
    Mar 4:1-9 And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea.  2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:  3 "Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.  4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.  5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have 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 seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.  8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."  9 And He said to them, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
    1. Remember:  A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.
    2. This was a society that understood planting and harvesting – it understood rocky soil and what weeds would do to a crop.
    3. Jesus is going to take this and make a spiritual lesson out of it…
Copyright Statement
Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament is reproduced by permission of author. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Brown, Jim. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament". 2017.

Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible

The parable of the seed given - : Jesus again taught by the Sea of Galilee. A very large crowd gathered He sat in a boat out on the lake and taught. He taught many things in parables. A parable was taking something that had happened or could happen and teaching a spiritual lesson with that story. One parable was that of a sower that went out to sow his seed. The seed sown had different results.

Some of the seed fell along the road and was eaten by birds. There was some rocky ground and some of the seed feel there. The soil was not deep and so when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and died. Other seed fell among thorns that choked it and it produced no grain. There was some of the seed that feel in good soil and it grew and produced. The seed yielded thirty-fold and sixty-fold and hundred-fold. Jesus repeated the statement "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

The apostles did not understand the parable so they asked the Lord for an explanation. We must all do our best to make sure that we understand the Lord"s teachings also. Jesus told His apostles, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables." These people were unwilling to grasp heaven"s truths because many of these truths would condemn their sinful way of living.

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

taught = was teaching.

by = in. Greek. en. App-104. Not the same word as in verses: Mark 4:31, Mark 4:38.

doctrine = teaching.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. Title: Receive the Implanted Word.
      1. From James 1:21b Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
        1. Msg - In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
    2. Jesus leaves the house He was in, in Capernaum, & walks down the block to Galilee.
      1. Crowds were at epic proportions (& superficial followers multiplied).
      2. So they place him in a small boat, & push him out a little ways. The crowd wraps around the shoreline to hear the Master Teacher preach from his “boat pulpit”!
    3. IN GENERAL (2)
    4. Παραβολή - Para/alongside; ballo/to throw or cast.
      1. Para/medic (to come alongside a medic/doctor)
      2. So, a parable is a story that “comes alongside” a teaching to help us understand its meaning! Parables are truth in picture form.
    5. The kingdom of God is like a seed...a wedding feast…a treasure, etc.
      1. Each clue unveiling the once mysterious kingdom! [mystery=previously unknown, now revealed]
    6. A parable gets the listener deeply involved & compels them to make a personal decision about God’s truth & his/her life.
      1. On the surface, a parable seems like harmless story, but in time it explodes w/ powerful meaning.
    7. It acts as a mirror & a window:
      1. It’s a mirror that forces us to look at ourselves.
      2. It’s a window through which we see God & His truth.
    8. “Jesus explained the kingdom, not by giving a lecture on theology, but by painting pictures that captured the attention of the people & forced them to use their imaginations & think.”
    10. Sowing seed in bible times:
      1. The farmer carried a large bag of seed on his donkey. Then he would fill his leather bag that he would carry under his arm.
      2. * Unlike many countries today where the soil is prepared before the planting takes place, the seed would be scattered widely & then plowed in.
        1. This is not the parable of the Careless Gardner. (person just throwing seed everywhere haphazardly) No, it’s intentionally throwing the seed all over, then tilling.
      3. A footpath often times cut across his field which the public would use. As the farmer would scatter his seed some would always land on this.
        1. The birds would be quick to score a free meal. Often times large flocks would often follow the farmer. [Like the seagulls if you’ve ever been Deep Sea fishing]
      4. Rocks were under the soil & couldn’t be seen, thus no depth of earth.
      5. Many thorn bushes were present. The native farmer would use these in the summer for outdoor fires for cooking meals.
        1. So, he wouldn’t have gotten rid of all of these weed/bushes.
      6. So, this is not wastefulness or inefficiency on behalf of the sower, but it is an illustration of the grace of God.
        1. God’s message, God’s seed is for all, but not everyone will receive it.
        2. Remember, It is not the sower or the seed that is the problem...but the soil!
    11. A PARABLES PURPOSE (10-12)
    12. Because of the superficial followers & antagonists…he hides the meaning.
      1. They can not get it with only their own understanding.
  3. SOILS EXPLAINED (13-20)
    1. ​​​​​​​SPECIAL PARABLE (13)
    2. This parable holds the key to all others. Now He’ll show them how to interpret a parable.
    4. The Sower (14) - Here Christ, but any believer who shares the Word of God w/others.
      1. Sow Plentifully – 2 Cor.9:6 Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
      2. Sow Passionately – Ps.126:5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.
      3. Sow Patiently – Gal.6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
    5. The Word=The Seed. The gospel is always a fruitful seed as to its power, but not as to its produce!
      1. Like seed the Word of God is alive & is able to produce spiritual fruit!
      2. But the seed must be planted & cultivated before that harvest can come.
      3. Seed is fruitful…there is an orchard in an apple; there’s a forest in an acorn.
    6. The Soil = is the human heart. Let’s look at he 4 hearts described.
    7. [1] SUPERFICIAL HEART (15)
    8. The Superficial Heart has a Lack of Understanding.
      1. It may not be some gross sin in their life but simply no interest in God whatsoever.
      2. Or they’re time for contemplation.
      3. Or they might not be hostile to the gospel...just simply disinterested.
    9. Soil becomes hard when too many feet, hooves, wheels tread upon it.
      1. Don’t recklessly open your heart to all kinds of people & influences.
      2. Prov.4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
    10. Hard hearts must be plowed up…which can be pretty painful!
      1. ​​​​​​​Hosea 10:12 NLT Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.
      2. Did the Lord have to plow up some things in your life to get your attention right before you got saved?
      3. Pray for your friends who have hard hearts; And for your own hearts when you go through calloused times.
    11. The Superficial Heart has a Lack of Understanding.
    12. [2] SHALLOW HEART (16,17)
    13. The Shallow Heart has a Lack of Depth.
      1. In much of the land there is a 2-3” thin covering of soil over a limestone bedrock.
      2. This is an emotional hearer! - Easily swayed by “a tender appeal, a good sermon, or a sweet melody.”
      3. This person lives on “impulses, impressions, intuitions, instincts, & largely on their circumstances!”
      4. They joyfully accept God’s Word, but do not really understand the price that must be paid to become a genuine Christian.
      5. They are like the fish that leaps out of the water with great energy,…but it would be foolish to conclude that he has left the water forever.
        1. In a moment the fish is swimming again as if it had never left the stream. The water is still his“home, sweet home”.
        2. They’ve only been “brushed” by Christianity!
      6. You might see great enthusiasm for days, weeks, months; but when the sun of persecution or difficulty comes out, enthusiasm wanes & the joy disappears.
        1. A dazzling profession of faith, but then when something unexpected comes into their life they abruptly fall away.
        2. I believe this is where so many of the enemies of the faith come from!
      7. Man is pretty good at counterfeiting religious feelings.
    14. The Shallow Heart has a Lack of Depth.
    15. [3] SHARED HEART (18,19)
    16. The Shared Heart has a Lack of Weed Killer.
      1. They need a good dose of Round Up.
    17. The Lord desires our whole heart! - Ps.119:2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!
      1. Not a divided heart like the girl to which a young man proposed to. He said, “Darling, I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in the world. I want you to marry me. I’m not rich. I don’t have a yacht or a Rolls Royce like Johnny Brown, but I do love you w/all my heart.” She thought for a minute & then replied, “I love you w/all my heart, too, but tell me more about Johnny Brown!”
    18. This heart receives the Word, but does not truly repent & remove the Weeds out of his or her heart!
      1. See a gardener must not only love flowers & fruit, but also...Hate Weeds!
    19. Unfruitful? - “Fruitless Christians” is an oxymoron.
      1. Lk.8:14 adds “…and bring no fruit to maturity.” (it never ripens!)
      2. Maybe you’ve had this on a fruit tree at home? [little, stunted, sour fruit]
      3. The 1st 3 hearts produced no fruit.
    20. 3’s A CROWD
      1. Cares of this world – worries of this present age.
      2. Deceitfulness of riches – deceptive lure of wealth.
      3. The desire for other things – whatever takes place of the word in your life.
        1. Miscellaneous things can become the cause of spiritual strangulation!
      4. The lust for stuff is a stealthy thing that enters your house a guest, then becomes a host, & then a master.
      5. Haddon Robinson said, “Money has a way of binding us to what is physical and temporal, and blinding us to what is spiritual and eternal.”
        1. It's a bit like the fly and the flypaper. - The fly lands on the flypaper and says, "My flypaper." When the flypaper says, "My fly," the fly is dead. It is one thing to have money, another for money to have you. When it does, it will kill you.
    22. The 3 fruitless hearts were influenced by 3 different enemies:
      1. Superficial Heart – The devil himself snatches the seed.
      2. Shallow Heart – The flesh counterfeits religious feelings.
      3. Shared Heart – The things of this world smothers the growth & prevents a harvest!
        1. 3 ugly enemies we still face :(
    23. The Shared Heart has a Lack of Weed Killer.
    24. [4] SUCCESSFUL HEART (20)
    25. The Successful Heart doesn't Lack...Understanding, Depth, or Weed Killer.
    26. These are true believers…evidence a changed life; they evidence fruit in their lives.
      1. Gal.5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is (1st group of 3 are the inner attitudes, sourced in God) love, joy, peace; (2nd the relational qualities, expressed to others) longsuffering, kindness, goodness; (3rdly, personal qualities, that guides indiv. conduct) faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
    27. Not all true believers are equally as productive.
      1. Experts say, that tenfold is an average harvest, thirtyfold is good, sixtyfold is excellent, one hundredfold is amazing!
      2. But every genuine Christian will evidence some fruit.
      3. Interesting that Isaac sowed in that land(Gerar), and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous. Gen.26:12,13
    28. The Successful Heart doesn't Lack...Understanding, Depth, or Weed Killer.
    29. Example in Jn.4 of the women at the well w/Jesus of a progression of all 4 hearts!
      1. Superficial (vs.9) How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?
      2. Shallow (15) Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.
      3. Shared (20) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.4.   Successful(29) Come see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?
    30. What soil type currently represents your response to God & His Word?
    31. What can you do for your heart to become the kind of soil Jesus is looking for?
    32. Saints, by grace, liberally sow the Word of God to all who you meet!
      1. Let God take their Core Samples. He’ll sort out the alluvium/colluvium of their hearts
      2. You just keep sowing/sharing His precious Word!
    33. James 1:21b Msg - In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide


1 The parable of the sower, 14and the meaning thereof21We must communicate the light of our knowledge to others26 The parable of the seed growing secretly, 30 and of the mustard seed35 Christ stilleth the tempest on the sea.

Ver10. And when He was alone: Gr. καταμόνας, Vulg. singularis, solitary, by Himself.

The twelve that were with Him asked Him. The Greek, Syriac, and Arabic have with the twelve, meaning that the seventy disciples, who, with the twelve Apostles, were followers of Jesus, asked Him what was the meaning of the parable of the Sower.

Ver21. Doth a candle come in, i.e., is it brought into a house, to be put under a bushel or under a bed? That it should be hidden under a vessel? No! but that it should be exposed publicly, and give light to all. Christ signified by this parable that it was not His will that the mysteries of this parable and the other doctrines of the Gospel should be concealed and hidden, but that His disciples should unfold them in their time, and communicate to others who at that time were not able to receive them. It was His will that they should publish and preach them openly. This is plain from what follows.

Ver22. For there is nothing hid which shall not be made manifest; neither was it made secret, but that it may come abroad. This is the Greek and Latin reading. Although the doctrine of the Gospel and My deeds and words are as yet hidden and secret, I do not wish them always to remain so. At the proper time they must be openly proclaimed by you, 0 My disciples. So SS. Jerome and Bede. This is what Christ says in S. Matt. x27, What I say unto you in darkness, that speak ye in light, &c.

Ver24. And He said unto them, Take heed what ye hear. The meaning, says Euthymius, is, "Attend to the things which ye hear of Me, that ye may understand them, and commit them to memory, that when the proper time shall arrive ye may communicate them to others." And He assigns the reason, which, as Theophylact says, is, "That none of My words may escape you." Hear Bede, "He teaches us carefully to hear His words, in such manner that we should carefully digest them in our hearts, and be able to bring them forth for the hearing of others."

In what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you. He means, if ye largely and copiously communicate and preach My doctrine to others, I also will copiously impart to you more understanding and greater wisdom, grace, and glory, as a recompense and reward to you. Thus fountains, the more they pour out above, the more they receive from below. Therefore, let preachers, teachers, and catechists learn from this promise of Christ, that the more pains they bestow in teaching others, the more grace and wisdom they will receive from Christ themselves, according to the words, "He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth in blessings," i.e., abundantly, "shall reap also in blessings" ( 2 Corinthians 9:6), Vulg.

Ver25. For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him. Hath, that is, uses, and shows that he hath by using. For such a one hath indeed, but he who useth not a gift or grace hath it but in name. This is what theologians say, that he who uses his grace hath it in a second act; but he who uses it not hath it only in the first act, that is, in power and possession. The meaning therefore is, he who, by study or by imparting to others, uses learning given him by God, an increase of learning shall be given; but from him who uses not his learning, shall God take it away.

Ver26. And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth. This is another parable, different from that of the Sower, which precedes it. Both, however, are taken from seed, but differently applied and explained. Moreover, by the seed, as SS. Chrysostom and Bede rightly explain, both here and in S. Matthew 13, is signified evangelical doctrine. By the field, hearers; by the harvest, the end of the world, or each one"s death, is meant.

Ver27. And should sleep, that is to say, the sower, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up whilst he knoweth not. Some refer the words rise night and day to the seed; meaning that the seed should germinate, it knoweth not how, that is, like a man sleeping. More obviously, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Maldonatus, and others refer the words to the sower, so that night pertains to the word sleep, day to the word rise. The meaning is, As the husbandman who has sowed is sleeping idly in the night, and is employed in various occupations during the day, and thinks not about the seed, that seed is germinating by its own innate force, and is growing up whilst the husbandman knoweth it not. So also it puts forth first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. So, too, in the same manner is the doctrine and preaching of the Gospel. They were sown by Christ and His Apostles, that is, they were preached from small beginnings. But by degrees they grew insensibly into the mature and mighty harvests of the faithful, whilst Christ was, as it were, sleeping in heaven, and permitting the Jews and unbelieving nations and tyrants to rise up against His Apostles, and persecute and kill them. It increases, I say, and propagates itself gradually, until it fills the world, when, the harvest being ripe, the corn, i.e., the elect, shall be gathered into the granary of heaven.

By this parable, then, is signified the power of the Gospel, which by degrees has pervaded the whole world, and is converting it to Christ. Tacitly, also, it is signified that preachers of the Gospel must not glory in their preaching, as though they by it were converting the world. For, as the Apostle saith, "Neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase ( 1 Corinthians 3:7). Christ further intimates that preachers ought not to be downcast if they see small and tardy fruits of their preaching, because God will, by the few converted by them, gradually convert many more. So S. James, by means of seven, or, as some say, by nine, whom he converted in Spain, converted the whole country.

Ver28. For the earth of itself bringeth forth fruit; first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear. Arabic, Because the earth alone bringeth forth fruit; . . . afterwards the ear is filled, and when the fruit is perfect, then the sickle is applied, because it is harvest. Thus, in like manner, by the preaching of the Gospel, the faith of Christ and His Church grew by various degrees of increase.

Moraliter: Expositors adapt these three expressions, blade, ear, full corn, to a threefold increment of virtues and merits. For the earth of our heart germinates, first, the blade, when it conceives good desires; secondly, the ear, when it proceeds to earnest working; thirdly, the grain, when it brings the works of virtue to full maturity and perfection. Theophylact says, "The blade is the beginning of good; the ear is when we resist temptations; the fruit is perfect work."

Hear S. Gregory (Hom15, in Ezek.), "To produce the blade is to hold the first tender beginning of good. The blade arrives at perfection when virtue conceived in the mind leads to advancement in good works. The full corn fructifies in the ear when virtue makes such great progress that it has its perfect work."

Christ here intimates that the Apostles, and those who work for the conversion of souls, ought with long-suffering to await the fruit of their labours, as husbandmen do. They ought to cherish those who are tender in the faith, and gradually lead them on to the height of virtue by teaching, admonishing, and exercising them. Let no one, therefore, says Bede, who is beheld to be of good purpose in the tenderness of his mind, be despised, because the fruit takes its rise from the blade, and becomes corn.

Symbolically: The Scholiast says the blade was in the law of nature, the ear in the law of Moses, the fruit in the Gospel.

Ver29. And when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he pulleth in the sickle. Greek, όταν δὲ παραδω̃ ό καρπός, that is, when indeed the fruit has brought itself forth; for fruit is here in the nominative case. The Syriac has, when it has become fat; Arabic, when it is perfect. This is a Hebraism, for in Hebrew verbs in the conjugation Hitpael have a passive, or reflex, signification, by which the agent receives the action in himself, so that the agent is the same as the recipient of the action. Wherefore some codices read, when the fruit has produced itself. Otherwise Maldonatus explains, "When the fruit, that is, the seed itself, which was the fruit of former seed, shall have brought forth, that is to say, other seed from itself."

Ver33. And with many such parables He spake the word unto them, as they were able to hear it, that is, as they were worthy to hear, as Maldonatus says, from Bede and Euthymius. More simply and plainly, Theophylact and Franc. Lucas explain with such, i.e., common and easy parables, which all could understand, not with what was abstruse; so that they might take in their literal drift, and perceive that there was something heavenly and divine lying beneath the surface, although they did not comprehend each particular. Thus, by what was known of the parable they were stirred up by Christ to investigate what lay hid.

Ver36. As He was in the ship. The disciples took up Christ upon the deep sea, that they might cross over it with Him; Christ, I say, as He was in the ship, namely, sitting and teaching the people standing on the shore. This is plain from ver1, for afterwards it appears that He changed His position, sleeping in the ship. It marks the ready obedience of the disciples, and in turn Christ"s facile accommodation of Himself to their promptitude, that He might escape the tumult of the thronging multitude. The Syriac translates, when He was in he ship; the Arabic, they took Him up in the ship.

And there were other ships with Him. It happened by the counsel of God that the many persons who were carried in those ships should be spectators and witnesses of the miracle very shortly to be wrought by Christ, namely, the appeasing the tempest. (top)

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Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. 1890.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Shall we turn now in our Bibles to the gospel according to Mark, chapter4.

Beginning in chapter4, we have the beginning of the ministry of Christ in parables. There is often times a mistaken opinion as to the reason why Jesus went to parables. The purpose of a parable is really not to veil the truth, but to illustrate the truth. And many times when people become dull of hearing, where they will not receive just straight teaching, when you"ve lost the attention of your students, a method by which attention can be drawn back again to the subject is by illustration. Tell a story. We are, all of us, very interested in life and in things of life, and when you start to tell a story, suddenly people are paying attention again. And in the story you are able to subtly able to illustrate the truth that you are trying to point out. In each of the parables of Jesus there were truths that were being illustrated, truths that the people would not listen to on just a straight teaching method. And so, the parable form of teaching was adopted, that you might continue to bring them the truth. Only now in a more subtle way.

Some of the parables the people understood, understood very well. In fact, in some of the parables of Jesus, the Pharisees got very angry with Him when they realized, "Uh-oh, that one hit us." And many of the parables were directed against the Pharisees and their attitudes. Sometimes the thought that was being illustrated still went right over their head, but Jesus would then explain it to his disciples when they"d say, "Lord, what were You trying to get across?" And He would explain the parable to them in their private sessions.

Now, Jesus said that these are pretty much the key to all of the parables, these parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. We covered these in Matthew"s gospel, chapter13. And Mark does add just a little bit that Matthew did not give to us.

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 ( Mark 4:1 ).

We remember last week that He ordered a little ship that He might be in it, because at this point the crowds were beginning to throng Him. Someone had discovered that by touching Jesus they were healed. And so, everywhere Jesus would go, people began to reach out to touch Him. In verse Mark 4:10 of the previous chapter, "For He had healed many, insomuch that they pressed upon Him to touch Him, as many as had plagues." And so, it became a common practice if you had something wrong just to touch Him. And you can imagine how, after a time, that could be pretty vexing when people are pushing and shoving to get near you just so that they can touch you.

And so, when the multitudes were gathered . . . and multitudes means multitudes. And we"ll be getting to that in a little bit. When they were out on the other side of the sea, when the people gathered, it said there were five thousand men beside women and children. So, if you assume that for every man there was a woman and maybe one child, you could have as many as fifteen thousand people that had gathered in a deserted area to hear Him. So, you can imagine the tremendous crowds that were now moving with Him, necessitating His having to get a little boat and just shove off and be out in the water just a little bit so that He could address all of the people without being thronged or pressed by them. "And so, he began to teach by the seaside. There was gathered unto Him a great multitude so He entered into a little ship and sat there in the ship by the shore; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land."

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, [that] some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 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 a hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear ( Mark 4:2-9 ).

Now, these people were basically an agrarian society. Practically everyone was involved in some way or other in agriculture. Even those who lived in the cities had their plot of ground in the country. And they all had their stone houses on their plot of grounds with their towers. And they would go out and plant in their fields and they would harvest, and live sort of out during the period of planting and harvesting, and then move into the towns in the winter times. But they were, all of them, close to the soil, an agrarian society. And thus, as Jesus is talking to them about farming, about sowing seed, He"s taking something that is very familiar and very common with all of them. And as He describes the various types of conditions that the seed falls on, it was something that was extremely familiar to all of them.

I heard a very interesting lecture from a sociologist who was talking about the change that is taking place in America, as we have shifted from an agrarian society to an industrial society, urbanization. And the effect that it has had upon our whole social life in the United States, in the family and in our attitude towards children, or having children. In an agrarian society, children are welcome. Every child born to the farmer represents about ten thousand dollars worth of labor by the time the child reaches eighteen years of age. They learn to do their chores early. They learn to drive the tractor. They learn how to plow a field. They learn how to work on the harvesters. And a child is looked upon as a blessing, because he is an asset. And that is the reason why so many times on the farms they had big families, a lot of children. And they were all welcome, and boys more than girls, because they were able to work harder in the fields.

But moving from an agrarian society to our urbanized type of society and industrial type of society, every child that is born represents a liability. They estimate now that it will cost you approximately $60,000 to take and raise your child from infancy to eighteen years old or through college. So, every child that is born, you say, "Who needs it? Another expense." And it definitely affects the way that we look upon children that come into the home. And this sociologist was saying, unless you understand this, you cannot understand the problems that we are faced with in our society today, as far as children are concerned. The rise of child abuse and all of these things that we just can"t understand. It can only be understood by the fact that from the turn of the century, the United States has developed from an agrarian society to more of a urbanized industrial society. Where children are no longer an asset, but a liability. What he said seemed to make a lot of sense.

What Jesus said made a lot of sense. He was talking to people about things with which they are familiar, and that is so important. As He is giving this parable. They all had experienced these very things as they sowed their seed. And He was talking about things that were just down-home.

And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 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: 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 ( Mark 4:10-12 ).

Now, is Jesus trying to hide the truth to keep man from conversion? No. As I said, parables are used to attract attention and to illustrate truth. But they were not listening to the teachings any more. And yet, it was important that they still hear the word. And so parables were adopted, even though in hearing, they did not understand. Yet, it was important that they hear. God will be fair when He judges man. Everyone will have a chance to hear, even though they have closed their minds, their hearts. It"s an amazing thing when a person"s heart is closed to God and to the gospel. It"s amazing how we perceive what is being said.

You know, there are people that come to Calvary Chapel out of constraint; their friends have constrained them to come. And it"s amazing what they hear me say. Because they"re just looking for something to jump on and to get angry about. And they"re not really listening at all to the content of the message that we bring. But they are only listening to find something to fault, something to disagree with, something to get angry about, so that they can say, "I"ll never go back there again." And they want an excuse not to come back. And so, they"re not really hearing and not really wanting to hear.


And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? ( Mark 4:13 )

And Jesus is now giving us a key. And in parables there is this expositional constancy. "If you don"t know this parable, how are you going to know all parables?" Here is a key to the parables, that is: the word . . . or the seed is the word. This is one of the keys to parables. Whenever in a parable you get to the seed being planted or whatever, know that the seed is the word of God. So He"s saying, "Don"t you know this parable? Then how are you going to know all parables?" So, He"s telling you now this expositional constancy of what represents what.

The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts ( Mark 4:14-15 ).

So, the fowls of the air that come and pluck out the seed is actually Satan, who takes away the seed that is sown. It doesn"t even have a chance to get root.

And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard [received] the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and [but they] 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 these are they which are sown 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 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 a hundred ( Mark 4:16-20 ).

So, the parable of the sower is how the word of God is received in the hearts of different people. With some people, the seed never has a chance to even root. They"re not open to the word of God at all. As soon as it is sown, their mind is set against it, and Satan plucks up that which was sown. It has no effect. There are others who get all excited, receive it with gladness and joy. And of course, we"ve observed these people. And they start off with a bang, but when persecution comes, a trial or testing, they fall away because there"s no real depth. All they"ve had is an emotional experience. They"ve had the gladness, the excitement, but there"s no real depth at all. And thus, there is that falling away the moment testings come. This third category is the category I"m interested in, because I think that this category covers probably a greater number of people in the church than almost any other category. Those who receive the word; it begins to develop in their lives, but it is among thorns. And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke out the effectiveness of the word in their lives, and so there is no real fruit brought forth by them.

Now, it is the Lord"s desire that each of us bring forth much fruit. "Herein is the Father glorified" ( John 15:8 ). Now, it is the Lord"s desire that each of us bring forth much fruit. "Herein is the Father glorified, that you bear much fruit." But I think how often a person"s work for God is thwarted or limited. That their lives are not really productive for the kingdom, because their hearts are drawn away. They"re not sinners, they"re not out and out rebellious against God. They love the Lord. They have the right desires for God, but they also have desires for the world, for the things of the world. And thus, their lives never achieve what they should and could achieve for the glory of God because the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for these other things have choked out that full fruitfulness that God would have them to bring forth for Him.

It is so difficult to maintain the right priorities in this world today. The pressures of the world are heavy, and it is so difficult to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in all of the pressures that we are faced in our culture and society, based as it is so much around material things. That"s the one that I would study and be most concerned. In my own life, this is the thing that concerns me most in the parable.

Jesus said to His disciples, "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should be My disciples, and that you should bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain." The greatest desire I have is that my life bring forth fruit that does remain.

"Now these are they which are sown on the good ground; they hear the word, they receive it, and they bring forth fruit in varying degrees, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred."

And then 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? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear ( Mark 4:21-23 ).

The statement that Jesus is always making as He is speaking, is, "Hey, if you have ears to hear, hear." And unless our ears are open by the Spirit of God, we don"t have ears to hear. It is only as the Spirit gives us the capacity. For the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them; they are spiritually discerned. But all the way through in the book of Revelation, when Jesus is talking to the church, again over and over, He is saying, "He that hath an ear to hear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the church."

Now, you are the light of the world. A light is intended to illuminate the darkness, not to be hid under a candlestick. A light that God has given to you is not something that you are to just hold for yourself. It is intended to bring light to others.

And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear ( Mark 4:24 ):

Now, there is a common thing today of people saying, "Well, you know, let"s hear what he has to say." You know, they turn on Channel18 and that guy is talking with his high squeaky voice. And he"s got his flowers and, "Well, let"s listen and let"s see what he"s got to say." The Lord said, "Take heed what you hear." You know, someone says, "Well, I want to hear what they"re saying. I want to know what they"re saying."

I have a friend who had a very remarkable conversion. He lived out in the area of Victorville. He owned about five different businesses out there; he was an extremely successful person. He owned a tractor agency, he owned an excavating company, and just had many business interests. He was an Episcopalian, very nominal Christian, one of the Christmas/Easter variety. And one night, he had a dream in which he was holding a sick little baby in his hands. And he was praying for that baby and it was healed. And he woke up and it was very vivid. He went back to sleep and this dream repeated itself three times. So, in the morning he called up his priest to share with him this dream about praying for a baby and it was healed. The priest said, "I don"t know anything about that. Maybe you should call Paul Smith" (who is my brother), "and he can probably tell you about it." So, this fellow called my brother and my brother talked to him about the Bible, about healing in the Bible and things of this nature. While he was delivering a tractor part to one of his customers in the evening on his way home, the part had come in and the guy was needing it real bad, and he thought, "Well, I"ll drop it by his house on my way home." And when he got there, the fellow wasn"t there. So, he was explaining to the wife just how to tell her husband the procedures by which the part was to be put on the tractor. And as he was getting ready to go, this little child began to cry in the other room. And the mother went to get it. And he was shocked when she brought the child in, it was crying. It was the child he had seen in his dream. And the mother explained how that the little baby had swallowed some gasoline and had burned the stomach lining, and how that the child would wait until the hunger pains were so great that they were greater than the pain of eating. When the child would eat, the stomach, because of the rawness, would just begin to convulse and the child would be in tremendous pain. And there was really nothing they could do about it but just wait for the slow healing processes. And evidently the child was having the hunger pains again and was crying, and so the mother said, "I guess I"ll have to feed it." And she was just really upset. And he said, "Well, ma"am, I don"t what"s going on; I don"t understand this at all, but," he said, "I had a dream and I couldn"t understand the dream. But in the dream I was holding a child in my hands, and as I look at your child, it"s the child I saw in my dreams. And as I was holding it in my hands, I prayed for it and it was healed. Would it be alright with you if I would hold your child and pray for her?" And she said, "Yes, of course." And so, he took the child in his arms and prayed for her. And the child said, "Mommy, I"m hungry." So, the mother said, "Would you mind waiting while I feed the child?" Because in just a few moments, it"ll really start screaming as the food begins to hit the stomach. So, he waited and the child ate. No response at all...completely healed.

Well, this guy didn"t know what to make of it at this point. Something totally new to him. But needless to say, he really started to dig in the word of God, in the gospel and the book of Acts. He decided that the Lord was maybe calling him into the ministry. And so, he sold his businesses and went to the Claremont School of Theology, which is about as liberal as any institution you can attend. There"s more atheism and unbelief, I think, there than probably in most secular universities. And he was sitting in the classes listening to the professors, seeking to discount the miracles, seeking to discount the word of God, seeking to discount Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, resurrection and all of these things. He was only desiring really to get the degree so he could go out and start ministering in the Episcopal priesthood. And so he thought, "I don"t believe this junk that they are telling me." And he thought he had his defenses up, and he thought as this stuff was coming out that he was rejecting it and thoroughly rejecting it, and "I know that isn"t true; all I want is a degree from this place and get out of here and really start serving the Lord." But day-by-day this junk was pouring in and he was hearing it. "Be careful what you hear."

He found that as he was talking with his Christian friends and someone would bring up a scripture, he would say, "Oh, but you can"t believe that. You see, in the original that isn"t there." And he realized that this junk that was coming in was somehow taking root and was affecting his whole attitude and opinion of the Bible. He ended up one evening in an orange grove out in Upland sitting in his car with a .45 pointed to his skull, ready to pull the trigger. He was so confused by the teaching that he was receiving there at the Claremont School of Theology, he was ready to take his life. It just brought him into a complete confusion. And there, the Lord began to speak to him again. And he, of course, quit Claremont School of Theology and opened up a little church in Big Bear and just started to minister. But you"ve got to be careful what you hear, because whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. You cannot sow to your flesh, and reap with the spirit. Be careful what goes in your ears. It"s going to leave its mark; it"s going to have its affect upon you. I don"t appreciate people just dumping garbage in my mind. "Be careful what you hear."

With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you ( Mark 4:24 );

By whatever standard you are judging others, that is the standard by which you are going to be judged.

and unto you that hear shall more be given. [If you hear the truth.] For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. And he said [unto them], So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed [that would be the word,] into the ground; and should sleep, and rises night and day, 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. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come ( Mark 4:24-29 ).

Now, what the Lord is saying is that there is this beautiful unconscious growth taking place as God"s word is being planted in your heart. As you come Sunday nights, and as we go over the word, and as you"re hearing the word, the seed is being sown, the seed is being planted. And you go home, you sleep, you live life as normal, but the word of God is having its effect. You can"t always see it immediately, but there is that growth. First the blade and then the stalk, then the ear, then the full corn. But the word of God will have its effect in your life. And gradually you will see your life being transformed and changed just by the power of the word that is coming into your heart day by day. The glorious power of God"s word changing a person"s life. For if you sow to the Spirit, then of the Spirit you"re going to reap.

Now, sometimes we get restless and we get impatient and we want to see the fruit immediately. You know, we want to plant our seeds like Jack and the Beanstalk and go out the next morning and climb the thing that"s fully matured. We would like instant growth, but our spiritual growth is imperceptible many times. There"s just that unconscious work on our part. But then we look back and we see how far we"ve come. "Wow! I can see the work of God; I can see how far the Lord has brought me." And this is just the beauty and the value of God"s word being sown in your hearts. You know, without even realizing it, by your being here and God"s word being sown in your heart, there are changes that are taking place, slowly gradually, imperceptibly, on a day-by-day basis. But over a period of time, you can see things developing and growing. And oh, how glorious when it begins to really bring forth fruit in your life, when you find that God has really changed your attitudes and things that used to just make you so totally angry and upset, it"s just sort of, "Well, they need help. I"ll pray for them." And you find that, "Hey, is that me saying that? Wow!" And you can see that God"s word has had its effect, a life-changing effect. And it"s so unconscious, really. It"s not struggling, it"s not laboring, it"s not trying so hard. "I"m gonna do this now." It"s not that big works effort, but it"s just that beautiful unconscious work of God"s Spirit, transforming me and changing me into the image of Christ, through the effect of the word of God being planted. The seed planted in my heart.

And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? ( Mark 4:30 )

So, this is a comparison now.

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 eaRuth ( Mark 4:31 ):

A mustard seed is a very tiny little dark seed. It looks like a carnation seed.

But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs ( Mark 4:32 ),

Now, they all had their herb gardens, and they all grew their mint and anise and cumin and rosemary and so forth, their spices, their mustard. And this grows up taller than the rest of those herbs that they grew.

and shooteth out great branches ( Mark 4:32 );

Wait a minute! This isn"t what a mustard plant does. So, here we have an abnormal growth.

so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it ( Mark 4:32 ).

Uh-oh, things are bad when the fowls of the air...because remember what the fowls represent? Satan, coming in, taking away the seed that was sown.

Christianity is a term that was first used in Antioch by the people of Antioch who put this tag upon those who were living like Christ. They said, "Oh, they"re Christ-like." And that is what the term Christian actually means, Christ-like. However, in time, the term has come to a much broader meaning. And it is a term that has been applied like in the Middle East, if you"re not a Muslim, then you"re a Christian. And in America, if you"re not an atheist, you"re a Christian. And we used to say a Christian nation, but it"s far from a Christian nation. Thus, it is quite obvious that those things that have been done recently in West Beirut, in the Palestinian camps, are not at all Christ-like. For Jesus said, "Love your enemies. Do good unto those that despitefully use you. Bless those that curse you. Bless and curse not." He taught us that we were to love, that we were to forgive, that we were to help. And thus, to say that the Christian militia went in and slaughtered the Palestinians is totally wrong. The militia went in to be sure. But not a Christian militia. Had a Christian militia gone in, they would have taken food and clothing and medicines. And they would have helped those people, because that"s what Christ taught us to do. And it is extremely unfortunate that there are enemies of Christ, especially planted in many areas of the news media, who like to pick up on this misnomer of "Christian militia," and to somehow lay the blame of the slaughter of the Palestinians upon all of Christianity or upon all the Jews, whom they also hate.

And so we see very sad caricatures of Christianity or Christians. Such as what was in the Register this week, where you have this ghoulish looking character with a gun smoking and tramping over the bodies in refugee camp number two, and underneath the caption, "Onward Christian Soldiers." The Santa Ana Register is making an attack against everyone of you who believe in Jesus Christ. They are ridiculing your faith. It is a definite attack upon every true child of God. It"s a blasphemous attack. It"s an unfair attack. But they don"t care about fairness in their war. But we, in being Christ-like, must obey and follow Jesus Christ. And we must love and we must forgive.

There is, throughout the world, still a very strong anti-Semitism feeling in the hearts of the many people. This has existed for centuries. And people are just looking for some excuse to hate the Jew or to be mad at the Jew. Paul the apostle represented the feelings of every true Christian where he said, "My heart"s desire and prayer for Israel is that they might be saved. And I could wish myself accursed for God for my brother"s sake, that they might know Jesus Christ." But unfortunately, in the name of Christianity, in the name of the church, the Jews have been persecuted through the centuries.

Our guide in Israel told us that his very first exposure to Christianity was as a boy in Argentina. When he first went to public school, the first day, he was beat up by the other boys, as they called him a Christ-killer. And he said every day he had to run home from school, rocks being thrown at him as he was called a Christ-killer. He said, "I didn"t even know who Christ was. But," he said, "I learned to hate Him because of what was happening to me." How in the world can you ever win someone to Jesus Christ if you hate them like that? Hatred is something far, far from Jesus and the teachings of Jesus, for any group, for any ethnic group. Surely Jesus did teach us that we are all one. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all" ( Galatians 3:28 ). And a true child of God sees it that way. A true child of God has to be colorblind. For God made us all and God loves us all and Jesus died for all. And there is no superior race; we are all one. We all belong to the human race; we are all one.

These attitudes that have arisen have not arisen from true Christianity, though many of them have prevailed in the church. And unfortunately in many churches today, there are still areas of strong feelings of anti-this and anti-that, and that"s sad indeed. And so, within the church, under its shadow, all kinds of horrible things have found refuge. Within the church today, this super World Council of Churches, every kind of fowl exists. Things are being done in the name of the church or Christianity that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Enemies of Christ even, working from within the church. So, "when it is sown, it becomes greater than all of the herbs, shoots out great branches." That"s abnormal growth. That"s not the true growth, that"s abnormal growth. "The fowls of the air may lodge in the shadow."

And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side ( Mark 4:33-35 ).

Notice the words, "Let us pass over to the other side."

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 there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship so that it was now full. 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? ( Mark 4:36-38 )

Jesus must have been extremely tired, having all of these multitudes of people pressing Him, grabbing Him, touching Him. So that, as they started to cross the sea, He fell asleep. And such a deep sleep, that as the storm came up and the ship was being tossed, he continued to sleep. Until finally, the ship was almost full of water. And so they came back and they woke him up and they said, "Master, don"t you care if we perish?"

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 ( Mark 4:39 ).

Tremendous power!

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? ( Mark 4:40 )

First He rebuked the wind and the waves, and then He rebuked the disciples. He rebuked them for having no faith. Why would He do that? The ship was full of water; it looked like it was going to sink. Why would He rebuke them for not having faith? Because you go back to the beginning, what He first said, "Let us pass over unto the other side." He didn"t say, "Let"s go under." He said, "Let us pass over to the other side." And when Jesus said, "Let us pass over to the other side," there"s no way they could go under. You see, this is God speaking, and God"s word must come to pass. And that"s why He rebuked them; for little faith. Because they had His word that they were going to go over to the other side. He had told them, "Now, be careful what you hear." They weren"t careful what they heard, you see.

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? ( Mark 4:41 ) "

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Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Parable of the Sower. Stilling the Tempest

1-9. Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1; Luke 8:4). See on Mt.

10-20. The parable interpreted (Matthew 13:10; Luke 8:9). See on Mt.

21-25. Further remarks upon teaching by parables (Luke 8:16-18). Omitted by Mt, who introduces these sayings in other connexions, viz. Matthew 5:15; Matthew 7:2; Matthew 10:26, which see.

21. A candle] RV 'the lamp.' A bushel] RV 'the bushel.' A bed] RV 'the bed.' A candlestick] RV 'the stand.' St. Matthew introduces this saying into the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:15). There it bids the disciples give to the world the light of a good example. Here it bids them enlighten the world by their teaching.

22. For there is nothing hid] 'Our Lord corrects a false impression which might have arisen from the mention of a mystery (Mark 4:11). If the gospel was for a moment treated as a secret, it was so only because this temporary secrecy was essential to its successful proclamation after the Ascension. Those to whom the secret was now confided were charged with the responsibility of publishing it then' (Swete). See further on Matthew 10:26, where the saying recurs. 23. See on Matthew 11:15.

24. Take heed what ye hear (AV, RV). The context, however, requires that this should be rendered 'Understand (weigh well the meaning of) what ye hear,' a quite possible rendering. With what measure ye mete] i.e. 'ye measure.' 'In that measure in which you measure your attention to My teaching, in the same measure will spiritual understanding be measured unto you' (Euthymius). This proverb occurs in several connexions (Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:38 q.v.).

25. To the diligent student of divine truth more of divine truth shall be revealed. The slothful student shall not only learn no more, but shall even forget what he already knows. In Matthew 13:12; Matthew 25:19, the context being different, these words have a different meaning.

26-29. The seed growing secretly (the only parable peculiar to Mk). Tatian in his 'Diates-saron' places it immediately before the Tares. Such a position for it is suitable, but it is wrong to regard it, with Weiss, as only an imperfect and mutilated version of that parable.

The point of the parable is not so much the secret invisible energy of the seed, or divine Word, as that of the earth into which the seed falls, i.e. the moral and spiritual nature of man. The seed of Christianity will grow, because the soil into which it will fall is suitable to nourish it. The human soul is 'naturally Christian' (Tertullian), and Christianity is the 'natural religion.' Christianity can, therefore, propagate itself without human effort, and often does so.

26. A man] i.e. the apostles and other preachers of the gospel. Cast seed] i.e. preach the gospel by word or example. The ground] i.e. the souls of men.

27. Sleep, and rise] i.e. ministers of the gospel having preached the word are to pursue their ordinary employments without undue anxiety. Visible results may be slow, but the seed is sure to germinate, because the soul of man is specially fitted by God to receive it, and will by its own spiritual activity cause it at last to bear fruit. Christ does not, however, discourage due pastoral care. Though the earth brings forth of herself, 'this does not exclude due cultivation, and rain from heaven, and sunshine' (Bengel).

28. First the blade, etc.] Therefore missionaries who have no results to show, are not to be discouraged. In India at present, few converts are made, but the seed is being sown, and the time of the harvest will come.

29. The harvest] is an earthly harvest. It is gathered in Christian lands, when a faithful pastor, after long waiting, gathers in a harvest of true penitents and genuine servants of Christ. It is gathered in heathen lands, when the hindrances to the gospel are at last removed, and the people ask for baptism. Many, however, regard 'the harvest' here as that at the end of the world.

30-32. The grain of mustard seed (Matthew 13:31; Luke 13:18). See on Mt.

33, 34. Matthew 13:34, Matthew 13:35. See on Matthew 13:10-17.

35-41. Stilling the storm (Matthew 8:18, Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 8:22). See on Mt. St. Mark's graphic details should be noticed—' the other boats with Him,' Mark 4:36, and 'the pillow (cushion) in the stern,' Mark 4:38.

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The setting4:1-2 (cf. Matthew 13:1-3a; Luke 8:4)

Jesus may have taught these parables shortly after the incident Mark just finished recording ( Mark 3:20-35; cf. Matthew 13:1). If Song of Solomon, this was a very busy day in Jesus" ministry. It may have included all the events in Mark 3:19 to Mark 4:41 (cf. Matthew 12:22 to Matthew 13:53; Luke 8:4-25). "Again" looks back to Mark 3:7 and perhaps to Mark 2:13. The boat (Gr. ploion) in which Jesus sat was a vessel larger than a rowboat (cf. Mark 3:7), perhaps a fishing boat.

Matthew recorded Jesus giving two groups of parables on this occasion: four to the multitudes ( Matthew 13:3-35), and four to the disciples ( Matthew 13:36-52). Mark recorded only Jesus" parables to the multitudes. Both evangelists recorded Jesus" explanations to His disciples, though what they recorded Him saying is not identical.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. Jesus" teaching in parables4:1-34

This is the first of three extended teaching sessions that Mark recorded (cf. Mark 7:1-23; Mark 13:3-37). Jesus" three parables in this section describe the character of the messianic kingdom.

Parables are illustrations that teach truth by comparisons (Gr. parabole, lit. "something thrown alongside," similitudes). Some are long stories, but others are short similes, metaphors, analogies, or proverbial sayings (cf. Mark 2:19-22; Mark 3:24-25; Mark 3:27). The popular definition that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning is essentially accurate as far as it goes. The use of parables for teaching was a common rabbinic device that Jesus adopted and used with great skill.

"A parable begins innocently as a picture that arrests our attention and arouses our interest. But as we study the picture, it becomes a mirror in which we suddenly see ourselves. If we continue to look by faith, the mirror becomes a window through which we see God and His truth. How we respond to that truth will determine what further truth God will teach us." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:121.]

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Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

Mark Chapter 4

This introduces the true character and result of His own service, and all the history of the service that should be accomplished unto a far distant future; as well as the responsibility of His disciples, with regard to the share they would have in it, and the quietness of one who trusted in God while thus labouring; the storms also that should occur, that should exercise faith while Jesus apparently took no notice of them; and the just confidence of faith, as well as the power that sustained it.

The whole character of the work at that moment, and until the Lord’s return, is described in this fourth chapter.

The Lord resumes in it His habitual work of instruction, but in connection with the development that had just taken place of His relationship with the Jews. He sows. Fruit He no longer sought in His vineyard. In Mark 4:11 we see that the distinction between the Jews and His disciples is marked. To the latter it was given to know the mystery of the kingdom, but to those that were without all these things were done in parables. I do not repeat the remarks I made in speaking of the contents of this parable in Matthew. But that which follows in Mark 4:21 belongs essentially to the Gospel by Mark. We have seen that the Lord was occupied in preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and He committed the preaching of this gospel to others also. He was a sower, and He sowed the word. That was His service, and it was theirs likewise. But is a candle lit to be hidden? Moreover nothing should be hidden. If man did not manifest the truth he had received, God would manifest all things. Let every one take heed to it.

In Mark 4:24 He applies this principle to His disciples. They must take heed to what they heard, for God would act towards them according to their fidelity in the administration of the word committed to them. The love of God sent the word of grace and of the kingdom unto men. That it should reach their conscience was the object of the service committed to the disciples. Christ communicated it to them; they were to make it known to others in all its fulness. According to the measure with which they gave free course to this testimony of love (conformably to the gift they had received), so should it be measured unto them in the government of God. If they hearkened unto that which He communicated to them, they should receive more; for, as a general principle, he who made that which reached him his own should have yet more, and from him who did not truly make it his own it should be taken away.

The Lord then shews them how it should be with regard to Himself. He had sown, and, even as the seed springs up and grows without any act on the sower’s part, so would Christ allow the gospel to spread in the world without interposing in any apparent way, it being the peculiar character of the kingdom that the King was not there. But, when harvest time comes, the sower has again to-do with it. So should it be with Jesus: He would return to look after the harvest. He was personally engaged in the sowing and in the harvest. In the interval, all went on apparently as if left to itself, really without the interference of the Lord in Person.

The Lord makes use of another similitude to describe the character of the kingdom. The small seed that He sowed should become a great system, highly exalted in the earth, capable of affording temporal protection to those that took shelter in it. Thus we have the work of preaching the word; the responsibility of the labourers to whom the Lord would entrust it during His absence; His own action at the beginning and at the end, at seed-time and at harvest, Himself remaining at a distance during the interval; and the formation of a great earthly power as the result of the truth which He preached, and which created a little nucleus around Himself. One part of the history of His followers was yet to be shewn. They should find most serious difficulties in their way. The enemy would raise up a storm against them. Apparently Christ took no notice of their situation. They call upon Him, and awake Him by cries, which He answers in grace. He speaks to the wind and the sea, and there is a great calm. At the same time He rebukes their unbelief. They should have counted on Him and on His divine power, and not have thought that He was going to be swallowed up by the waves. They should have remembered their own connection with Him-that, by grace, they were associated with Him. What tranquillity was His! the storm does not disturb Him. Devoted to His work, He took His rest at the moment when service did not require His activity. He rested during the passage. His service only afforded Him those moments snatched by circumstances from labour. His divine tranquillity, which knew no distrust, allowed Him to sleep during the storm. It was not so with the disciples; and, forgetful of His power, unaware of the glory of Him who was with them, they think only of themselves, as though Jesus had forgotten them. One word on His part displays in Him the Lord of creation. This is the real state of the disciples when Israel is set aside. The storm arises. Jesus appears to take no heed. Now faith would have recognised that they were in the same ship with Him. That is to say, if Jesus leaves the seed He has sown to grow until the harvest, He is, none the less, in the same vessel; He shares, not the less truly, the lot of His followers, or rather they share His. The dangers are the danger He and His work are in. That is, there is really none. And how great is the foolishness of unbelief. Think of their supposing, when the Son of God is come into the world to accomplish redemption and the settled purposes of God, that by, to man’s eye, an accidental storm, He and all His work should be unexpectedly sunk in the lake! We are, blessed be His name, in the same boat with Him. If the Son of God does not sink, neither shall we.

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Darby, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament". 1857-67.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers


(1-20) He began.—See Notes on .

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) In his doctrine.—Better, in His teaching.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Mark 4:8

The mate of an American whaler, Mr. Whalon, was captured by the cannibals of Hiva-Oa, one of the Marquesan islands, and rescued bravely by the intervention of a native Christian, Kekela, who was subsequently rewarded by President Lincoln for his gallant charity. Mr. Stevenson, in his volume In the South Seas (pp89, 90), quotes an extract from Kekela"s letter of thanks, adding, "I do not envy the man who can read it without emotion".

After telling of the rescue, Kekela proceeds: "As to this friendly deed of mine in saving Mr. Whalon, its seed came from your great land, and was brought by certain of your countrymen, who had received the love of God. It was planted in Hawaii, and I brought it to plant in this land and in these dark regions, that they might receive the best of all that is good and true, which is love.... This is a great thing for your nation to boast of, before the nations of the earth. From your great land a most precious seed was brought to the land of darkness. It was planted here, not by means of guns and men-of-war and threatenings. It was planted by means of the ignorant, the neglected, the despised. Such was the introduction of the Word of the Almighty God into this group of Nuuhiwa."

References.—IV:10-20.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Mark I-VIII. p139. IV:11.—George Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p71. IV:11, 12.—W. Leighton Grane, Hard Sayings of Jesus Christ, p19.

One Thing, Everything

Mark 4:13

There is a great philosophy in this inquiry, as there is in every inquiry propounded by the Son of God. If you know one, you know all. There is a master-key which opens all the locks; if you fail to lay hold of the master-key you will be fumbling round the locks all your days and never open a single cabinet or a single drawer. That is the great teaching of the text. If you do not know this parable you will know no parable at all.

I. What great lessons this text suggests! See the unity of Christ"s teaching. To our poor half-educated eyes the teaching often seems to be disjointed, but who gave us the final vision, what right have we to say that this is correct, and that is only partially correct, or to make any such foolish judgments upon the great scheme of God? You say about a certain Prayer of Manasseh, "He has been very consistent throughout". What do you mean? If he has preached the same sermon twice every Sunday and once every Thursday for thirty odd years, would you say he is consistent! Nothing of the kind; quite a blunder and quite an insult offered to the spirit of consistency. Orthodoxy is not in words; it is in blood-drops, in heart-throbs, in a purpose that cannot be quenched. A man may have verbally contradicted himself every time he has spoken, and yet he may be perfectly consistent in the sight of God as to his purpose and design and holy prayer. I have believed that there is no consistency where there is any growing. Give me the consistency of the growing flower, the expanding, fruit-bearing tree; let the leaves shed themselves every year, and the next year I know the apple will be bonnier, the pear will be sweeter, the tree will be larger and more capacious to receive more sunshine and produce more fruitful benedictions. God bless all growing things. This is the power, this is the beauty of the teaching of Christ; it is all one, it never breaks itself into two opposing and dissevered parts; from the beginning to the end it is one blessing, one gospel, one thought of love and healing and redeeming blood.

II. Notice the surprise of disappointed teachers. What, said Christ, "Know ye not this parable?" I thought you, even you, so young in discipleship and so green in knowledge, even you would have seen the meaning that I have been endeavouring to convey. How often we are disappointed in our hearers, as well as in our preachers! I do not know that that is a subject much talked of abroad; but, you know, it is quite as possible for you to disappoint the preacher as it is for the preacher to disappoint you. It is so disheartening to talk to people who do not answer you in the great silence of love, in the sublime applause of obedience.

III. And yet see, on the other hand, a right disposition towards Christian knowledge. They went and said to Him, "What is the meaning of this parable?" Be that said in memory of these men; they went for the meaning. "Tell us the soul of it." That is the right disposition of the soul towards all Christian teaching. Now, stripping the whole thing of its surroundings, its shells, and searching into the kernel, what does it mean? It all means one thing; the Lord Himself gathered up the whole speech of His heart into one sentence which reads as two: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength, and thy neighbour as thyself. It is a poor philosophy that cannot be wrapped up into one cannon-ball sentence; it is a poor sermon that cannot be condensed into the briefest message.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p107.

Mark 4:14

The sower who casts in the seed, the father or mother casting in the fruitful Word, are accomplishing a pontifical act and ought to perform it with religious awe, with prayer and gravity, for they are labouring at the kingdom of God. All seed-sowing is a mysterious thing, whether the seed fall into the earth or into souls. Man is a husbandman; his whole work, rightly understood, is to develop life, to sow it everywhere. Such is the mission of humanity, and of this Divine mission the great instrument is speech. We forget too often that language is both a seed-sowing and a revelation.

—Amiel"s Journal, 2May, 1852.

In describing the impression made by Millet"s picture, "The Sower," Theophile Gautier writes: "Night approaches, unfurling its grey veil over the brown earth. The sower, covered with dingy rags, a shapeless cap on his head, goes forth with rhythmic steps, scattering the grain in the furrows, followed by a flight of greedy birds. Although bony, emaciated, and thin under his livery of misery, life flows from his generous hand; with a superb gesture, he who has nothing scatters far and wide the bread of the future."

Mark 4:15

Set beside this verse the following entry in Wesley"s Journal for1746: "Fri. May30th (Bristol). I light upon a poor, pretty, fluttering thing, lately come from Ireland, and going to be a singer at the playhouse. She went in the evening to the chapel, and thence to the watch-night, and was almost persuaded to be a Christian. Her convictions continued strong for a few days; but then her old acquaintance found her, and we saw her no more"

Mark 4:16

The man should move towards God in Christ in knowledge and understanding, taking up God"s device of saving sinners by Christ as the Scripture holds it out; not fancying a Christ to himself, otherwise than the Gospel speaketh of Him, nor another way of relief by Him than the Word of God holdeth out.... I mean here also that a man be in calmness of spirit, and, as it were, in his cold blood, in closing with Christ Jesus; not in a single fit of affection which soon vanisheth. He that receiveth the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word and anon with joy receiveth it. A man must here act rationally, as being master of himself, in some measure able to judge of the good or evil of the thing as it stands before him.

—William Guthrie of Fenwick.

References.—IV:16, 17.—"Plain Sermons" by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. ii. p49. IV:17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No2846.

Mark 4:19

"Happy (said I); I was only happy once; that was at Hyres; it came to an end from a variety of reasons, decline of health, change of place, increase of money, age with his stealing steps."

—R. L. Stevenson, Vailima Letters.

References.—IV:21.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I-VIII. p148. IV:21-26.—H. Hensley Henson, Christ and the Nation, p227. IV:22.—A. Martin, Winning the Soul, p181. IV:24.—W. Farquhar Hook, Take Heed What ye Hear, p15. W. L. Watkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv1898, p252. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No2512. IV:25.—E. S. Talbot, Keble College Sermons, 1870-76, p29. W. Lock, ibid. p240.

Spiritual Development

Mark 4:26

I. The beginning of religious life is always an awakening to the greatness that underlies the littleness of our ordinary existence. Now, Christianity was just the greatest of all such awakenings of mankind to the true meaning of life.

II. It is the more remarkable that Jesus Christ, who is in one sense the greatest revolutionist the world ever saw, should so constantly present spiritual life to us, not as the inroad upon our being of something entirely new, but simply as an awakening to something that was always there; not as a sudden revolutionary change by which the link between the past and present was snapped, but simply as the further development and manifestation of a principle which was working in human life and history from its first beginning.

III. And this view of the development of Christianity out of the past is naturally accompanied by a similar view of its future. Several of the parables of the kingdom of God are parables of evolution, in which processes of the spiritual life are compared to the organic processes of nature. We have here a parable which, perhaps more fully than any of the others, brings before us the idea of a spiritual evolution in all its various aspects. By the illustration of the growth of the wheat to the harvest, it calls attention, on one hand, to the quietness, continuity and naturalness of the process whereby spiritual life is developed, which makes it almost entirely escape notice while it is going on; and, on the other hand, to the wonderful transforming power of that process, which we discover when, after a time, we compare the later with the earlier stages of it. A Prayer of Manasseh, or a society of men, sows the seeds of good and evil, conscious of the particular acts they do, but taking no thought of the enormous agencies they are setting in motion. Their minds at the time are occupied with special pleasures or with the gains they think they are making, but they do not attach any great importance to their acts; and, afterwards, they take no thought of what they have done, or perhaps forget all about it. But the spiritual world, like the natural, has its laws of growth, and slowly but certainly within the man or the nation, the seed ripens to the fruit. Inevitably the good or evil act lays the train for the good or evil tendency, and the good or evil tendency spreads out its influence till it permeates the whole life, moulding all the habits, all the manifold ways of thinking or acting, till the development and organization of character in the individual or the nation surprises us with the full-grown harvest of justice or injustice, salvation or moral ruin.

—E. Caird, Lay Sermons and Addresses, p151.

References.—IV:26, 27.—E. C. Paget, Silence, p186. J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p293. Lyman Abbott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. Leviticus 1899, p259. IV:26-28.—H. Jellett, Sermons on Special and Festival Occasions, p87. G. Matheson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. p195. C. W. Stubbs, Christus Imperator, p151. IV:26-29.—J. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi1894, p106; see also vol. xlviii1895, p216. H. Scott Holland, ibid. vol. lii1897, p184. A. B. Davidson, Waiting Upon God, p205. W. Binnie, Sermons, p120. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No1603. Rayner Winterbotham, The Kingdom of Heaven, p16. W. Hay M. H. Aitken, The Highway of Holiness, p47. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p475. IV:26-30.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church"s Lessons for the Christian Year, part iv. p225.

Mark 4:28

The main duty of those who care for the young is to secure their wholesome, their entire growth, for health is just the development of the whole nature in its due sequences and proportions: first the blade, then the ear, then, and not till then, the full corn in the ear.

It is not easy to keep this always before one"s mind, that the young "idea" is in a young body, and that healthy growth and harmless passing of the time are more to be cared for than what is vainly called accomplishment... So cultivate observation, energy, handicraft, ingenuity, outness in boys, so as to give them a pursuit as well as a study. Look after the blade, and don"t coax or crush the ear out too soon, and remember that the full corn in the ear is not due till the harvest, when the great School breaks up, and we meet all divisions and go our several ways.

—Dr. Brown, Horœ Subsesivœ.

Mark 4:28

Epictetus, at the close of his humorous, sensible remonstrance addressed to people who hastily rush into the use of the philosophic garb, employs this figure thus: " Prayer of Manasseh," he exclaims, "first strive that it be not known what you are. Be a philosopher to yourself for a little Fruit grows thus: the seed must be buried for some time, hidden; it must grow slowly if it is to mature. If it produces the ear before the jointed stem, it is imperfect.... So do you consider, my man; you have shot up too soon, you have hurried towards a little fame before the proper season." He uses the same figure elsewhere, as in this paragraph: "Nothing great is produced suddenly. Not even the grape or the fig is. If you tell me now that you want a fig, my answer will be, that requires time. Let it flower first, then put forth fruit, then ripen. If the fruit of the fig-tree is not matured suddenly, in an hour, would you possess the fruit of a man"s mind so quickly and so easily? Do not expect such a thing, not even were I to tell you it could be."

References.—IV:28.—R. S. Gregg, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii1895, p348. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p129. H. Harris, Short Sermons, p192. IV:28, 29.—Edward White, Christian World Pulpit, vol xxxviii1890, p24.

Mark 4:30

What is a farm but a mute gospel? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, sun—it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields.... Nor can it be doubted that this moral sentiment which thus scents the air, grows in the grain, and impregnates the waters of the world, is caught by man and sinks into his soul. The moral influence of nature upon every individual is that amount of truth which it illustrates to him.


With What Comparison

Mark 4:30

Man must have comparisons. He is a born parabolist; it may take another kind of man to put the parable into shape, but the parable, as to its substance and essence, is in every child and every heart. He is always seeking for a likeness, a comparison, something which will tell of something else than itself. It is peculiarly and eternally so in the kingdom of God; it takes up all other subjects, and uses them by first mocking them, by bringing them, in some instances, into ridicule, in order that it may point out the greatness of something else quite beyond words and quite beyond the region of visible picture. We must discover in this, as in all other respects, the way of the Lord.

I. God first belittles that He may afterwards magnify. That is the effect of all great examples. If you have been living amongst little folks you are no doubt a little creature. This is the Lord"s way; He takes us into a new atmosphere, a new relationship, and measures us by a new standard. Comparing ourselves with ourselves we become very wise; but comparing ourselves with God, we are foolish and men of no understanding. When the Lord magnifies Himself against us it is not really to reduce us, but to bring us into that temper of mind in which we can receive a just revelation of our own personality; He reduces us to nothingness in our own esteem that He may afterwards put us together again, and begin by the power of the grace of the Cross to build us up in the true manhood.

II. God makes use of contrasts that He may reveal the Source of all strength. Here is a great work to be done, and God calls to it little children. The picture is a picture of ridicule; we say, Where is the proportion? This great work is to be constructed, and a number of little children have been called to do it. God"s way! God hath chosen the weak things of this world, God hath chosen the foolish things of this world, God hath chosen things that are not, that no flesh should glory in His presence, but reveal Himself as the true source of strength.

III. God uses the partially impossible to magnify the essentially impossible. The great Teacher says, Heaven and earth shall pass away—meaning they shall not pass away—but My word shall not pass away. The mountains shall melt—yet they will not melt—the meaning Isaiah, Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away than My word shall pass away: sooner shall the partially impossible become the actually impossible than My word shall cease to be the life of creation, and the door into the security of true heaven. Sometimes He magnifies the partially impossible that He may magnify the truly impossible. He said, when He saw a mother nursing her child once, Can a woman forget her sucking child? yea, it is partially impossible, but it may be the fact—yet will not I forget Thee. For a small moment have I forsaken Thee, but with everlasting mercies I have gathered Thee. He only speaks of the small moment that He may get your attention to the eternal duration. Thou dost, by thunderstorm or earthquake or great wind or still small voice or in a thousand other ways, strive to get our attention, that foolish man may begin, even late in life, to take his first lesson in the kingdom of God.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p194.

References.—IV:30-32.—J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p81. C. G. Lang, Thoughts on Some of the Parables of Jesus, p41. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii1892, p173. Rayner Winterbotham, The Kingdom of Heaven, p52. IV:33.—J. R. Cohu, The Sermon on the Mount, p11. IV:33, 34.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No1669.

Unreported Interviews

Mark 4:34

These were unreported interviews; these were secret conferences. We do not speak our best things in the public air; our whispers are costlier than our thunder; they may have more life in them, more tenderness, more poetry. We cannot report what we have heard, except in some poor dull way of words. That is hardly a report at all. To hear any man tell over what he has heard you say, that is punishment! He may speak your very words, and leave out your soul with the best intention, he may report the interview upside down. Communications are not in words, except in some rough, commercial, and debtor-and-creditor way. Communications are in the breathing, in the looking, in the touching, in the invisible and the inaudible.

I. Jesus Christ had two speeches. The one to the great multitude. For them He had toys and stories and miracles and parables; He knew them well, He knew precisely what was adapted to their receptive power and their then state of intellectual culture. He always took out with Him toys enough to amuse and interest and haply instruct the gaping mob. To hear Jesus you must wait until He comes into the house; let Him read the Scriptures to you when your number is but small. His greatest tones are in the minor key; the way in which He finds the heart is a way of His own; never man spake like this Man.

II. I live with Christ, and He has taught me that there are two ways of reading everything. Sometimes I have thought my Lord partly amused at the greatness of us when we were really least. I am not quite literally sure, but I think I have sometimes seen the outline of a smile upon His face as He has watched the development of what we call our civilization. He has spoken very frankly to me upon this matter, He has told me that civilization must be very carefully watched, or it will become our ruin; He says that civilization unsanctified is a breach of the very first commandment of the decalogue.

III. Jesus takes us one by one, according to our gift and function, and talks to us alone. What lovely, tender, inspiring talks we may have with our Lord! We come out of them filled with His own inspiration, and enriched with His own patience and forbearance. We, being young, inexperienced, and foolish, want to have everything settled tomorrow. Jesus says, It takes a long time to make a rock; I have been a million ages in making this little pebble at the bottom of the stream, and thinkest thou that a man can be made in no time? If it required a million ages to make half a dozen smooth pebbles, how long will it take to make a redeemed and sanctified Church? Be patient, take larger views of things; the whole process is going on; there are firstborn sons in knowledge, as well as in nature; firstborn sons in prophecy and revelation and Song of Solomon, as well as in estates and titles and inheritances; the whole mystery was settled from the beginning of the creation, and long before the creation was in existence. All things are primordially in God; out of God they come, and God"s will must be done on earth as in heaven, but day by day, five thousand more years, fifty thousand more risings of the sun, a million more revolutions of this planet or of that. But all the revolutions, all the silent dancing of the planets mean final music, beauty, rest.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. ii. p70.

References.—IV:35-41.—J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p61. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I-VIII. p158. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p202. Walter Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii1892, p340. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p119. IV:35; VI:6.—W. H. Bennett, The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p67. IV:36.—D. Sage Mackay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi1904, p22. IV:36-38.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I-VIII. p162.

Mark 4:38

Our worries always come from our weaknesses.


Reference.—IV:38.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No1121.

Mark 4:39

While it is a portentous fact that England still needs, at this stage of history, to be terrified into morality and religion by the threat of temporal retribution, it must be ever a lowering of Carlyle in the scale of greatness that he taught rather like his own Mohammed than like the Master of Light "What can you say of him," asked Ruskin, "except that he lived in the clouds and was struck by lightning?" a beautiful and true summary of the man"s spirit in deed as in word. But struck by lightning he was; he could not wield it with impunity. How much less could he say to the storm raging all through his century, "Peace, be still!" He spoke mighty words, but he had little in common with that dove-like brooding spirit which drew forth strength out of sweetness, and was able to hush the great waters and rebuke the waves. Facta est tranquillitas magna. That is the miracle which Carlyle never wrought on himself or any man that sought his aid.

—From Dr. W. Barry"s Heralds of Revolt, p73.

See Wesley"s Journal for26 July, 1736.

Mark 4:39 with6:50

You have of course remarked the rise from the first storm-calming to the second.... One of the points of difference Isaiah, that He first calms the elements, then the soul, but in the second case the soul and then the elements, which Isaiah, in truth, the difference between the Old Testament and the New. And then there is the remarkable difference in the mode of address. To the elements, Peace, be still!—the command of a sovereign; to the soul, It is I be not afraid—the approach of a friend. You and I will try to feel that it is under this last and higher treatment we are put, that the troubles are kept round us for a while to have our souls made strong in the midst of them.

—Dr. John Ker"s Letters.

Mark 4:39

We are as safe at sea, safer in the storm which God sends us, than in a calm when we are befriended by the world.

—Jeremy Taylor.

Personality and Power

Mark 4:39

In the thirty-seventh verse we read, "And there arose a great storm of wind"; in the thirty-ninth verse we read, "And He arose... and there was a great calm". This is the poetry of life. There is a storm side, and there is a side of great calm.

When Jesus Christ arose there was a great calm. Not only because He rebuked the winds and the waves, but because, primarily and wholly because, He Himself was calm. Peace brings peace; repose is mastery. He arose—but the wind had risen: the wind will retire when its Master arises. Do not consider or concern yourselves about the wind, the storm, the screaming, hurrying tempest Hope thou in God; thou shalt take thy Saviour"s peace as part of thine own tranquillity: My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you; peace, be still; peace, be not afraid. We have a derived peace; tranquillity of our own we have none, but we have the whole river of the grace and peace of God flung through our hearts, and we are at peace because we build our tents for a night by the river of peace.

I. Let us take it in the matter of those little angers, vexations, and bitternesses, that trouble our uncertain and peevish life. When the great Christlike considerations come up, rise in the soul, instantly the anger falls away and a sweet calm supervenes. You were not to be reasoned with in the moment of your anger; you felt that you were superior to all argument; in fact, you felt that there was no argument except your own; you looked down with a kind of contempt upon those who thought they could argue you out of your mean condition of mind. They could do nothing with you; but when Christ arose, when you remembered what He was, what He did, what He Isaiah, what He expects, you were ashamed; and for anger there came great Christly love. It is just as true, therefore, of us as it was of the sea.

II. Take it in the matter of anxiety. Some people are dying of care, thought; they wonder what will happen tomorrow, in anticipation they meet all the difficulties of the next seven years. They set themselves little problems in moral arithmetic, asking, If this should be equal to that, and a third thing should affect both the things now in opposition, what will possibly happen this day five years? The Lord does not ask you to be arithmeticians in that sense; in fact, very little arithmetic will satisfy the Lord. We do not want all this anticipation and multiplication of difficulties and dangers, losses and crosses. We may never live to see tomorrow; some men die in the night-time; in some nights the bridge is lost that connects the days. What then? Watch; be vigilant, be sober; expect the Lord: the great watchword of the Lord"s Church should be, The kingdom of heaven is at hand! The worlds touch one another, not by material tact, but by magnetic, sympathetic, inexpressible relation and ministry. All the wrinkles upon your face were made by thinking about tomorrow.

III. Take it in the matter of social strife. Let Christ arise; Christ will settle all your social disputes, all your trade strikes, all your collisions, oppositions, and competitions. Let the Spirit of Christ work; let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus: and when the Christ Spirit rises in our hearts we will meet one another in mutual apology, in large concession, in noble charity, in generous justice. The storm is not still until Christ calms it, and when He calms it no power can ruffle it again, it is still and tranquil under the sovereignty of Christ.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. iv. p50.

References.—IV:39.—R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p23. IV:40.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No1964. IV:41 (R.V.).—J. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv1903, p260. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No1686. V.—J. McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. ii. p177. V:1-20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No2262. J. Morley Mills, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxv1904, p234. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p212. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p125. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I-VIII. p177. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p218. V:1-24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No2507. V:2.—H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii1898, p123. V:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No2507. V:7.—Ibid. vol. li. No2966. W. Ralph, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii1907, p309. V:15.—W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p81. V:17.—W. Gilbert, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii1905, p134. V:17-19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No2262. V:18, 19.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark I-VIII. p186.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Mark 4:1-9. The Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, Luke 8:4-8).



Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Mark 4:2. : a vague expression, but implying that the staple of that day’s teaching consisted of parables, probably all more or less of the same drift as the parable of the Sower, indicating that in spite of the ever-growing crowds Jesus was dissatisfied with the results of His popular ministry in street and synagogue = much seed-sowing, little fruit. The formation of the disciple-circle had revealed that dissatisfaction in another way. Probably some of the parables spoken in the boat have not been preserved, the Sower serving as a sample.— . In the teaching of that day He said inter alia what follows.



Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER ends with the Lord’s solemn declaration that the relationships He was now going to recognize were those that had a spiritual basis in obedience to the will of God. This statement of His must necessarily have raised in the minds of the disciples some questions as to how they might know what tile will of God is. As we open this chapter we find the answer. It is by His word, which conveys to us tidings of what He is, and of what He has done for us. Out of these things His will for us springs.

There were still great multitudes waiting upon Him, so that He taught them out of a ship; but it was at this point that He commenced speaking in parables. The reason for this is given in verses Mark 4:11-12. The leaders of the people had already rejected Him, as the last chapter has made manifest, and the people themselves were in the main unmoved, save by curiosity and the love of the sensational, and of “the loaves and fishes.” As time went on they would veer round, and support the leaders in their murderous hostility. The Lord knew this, so He began to cast His teaching in such a form as should reserve it for those who had ears to hear. He speaks in verse Mark 4:11 of “them that are without.”

This shows that already a breach was becoming manifest, and those “within” could be distinguished from those “without.” Those within could see and hear with perception and understanding, and so the “mystery” or “secret” of the kingdom of God became plain to them. The rest were blind and deaf, and the way of conversion and forgiveness was being closed to them. If people will not hear, a time comes when they cannot. The people wanted a Messiah who should bring them worldly prosperity and glory. They had no use, as events proved, for a Messiah who brought them the kingdom of God in the mysterious form of conversion and forgiveness of sins.

We have the kingdom of God today in just this mysterious form, and we enter it by conversion and forgiveness, for thus it is that the authority of God is established in our hearts. We are still waiting for the kingdom in its displayed glory and power.

The first parable of this chapter is that of the sower, the seed, and its effects. Having uttered it He closed with the solemn words, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The possession of hearing ears, or their absence, would indicate at once whether a man belonged to the “within” or to the “without.” The mass of His listeners evidently thought it was a pretty story and pleasant to the ear, but left it at that, showing they were without. Some others, along with the disciples, were not content with this. They wanted to arrive at its inner meaning, and pushed their enquiries further. They belonged to the within.

The Lord’s word in verse Mark 4:13 shows that this parable of the sower must be understood or His other parables will not be intelligible to us. It holds the key which unlocks the whole series. The Lord Jesus, when He came, brought in the first place a supreme test to Israel. Would they receive the well-beloved Son, and render to God the fruit that was due under the cultivation of the law? It was becoming evident that they would not. Well then, a second thing should be inaugurated. Instead of demanding anything from them He would sow the Word, which in due season, in some cases at least, would produce the fruit that was desired. This the parable indicates, and unless we grasp its significance we shall not understand that which subsequently He has to say to us.

The Lord Himself was the Sower, without a doubt, and the Word was the Divine testimony that He disseminated, for the “so great salvation... at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him” (Hebrews 2:3). In John’s Gospel we discover that Jesus is the Word. Here He sows the word. Who could sow it like He who was it? But even when He sowed the word, not every grain that He sowed fructified. In only one case out of the four was fruit produced.

It is equally certain that the parable applies in its principles to all those under-sowers who have gone forth with the word as sent by Him, from that day to this. Every sower of the seed therefore must expect to meet with all these varieties of experience, as indicated in the parable. The imperfect servants of today cannot expect better things than those which marked the sowing of the perfect Servant in His day. The seed was the same in each case. All the difference lay in the state of the ground on which the seed fell.

In the case of the wayside hearers the word got no entrance at all. Their hearts were like the footpath well trodden down. There was not even a surface impression made, and Satan by his many agents completely removed the word. Their case was one of complete indifference.

The stony ground hearers are the impressionable yet superficial folk. They respond to the word at once with gladness, but are quite insensible as to its real implications. It was said of true converts that they “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). This affliction, which preceded their gladness, was the result of their being awakened to their sin under the convicting power of the word. The stony ground hearer skips over the affliction, because insensible of his real need, and lands himself into a merely superficial gladness, which fades in the presence of testing; and he fades with it.

The thorny ground hearers are the pre-occupied people. The world fills their thoughts. If poor, they are swamped in its cares: if rich, in its riches and the pleasures that riches bring. If neither poor nor rich, there are the lusts of other things. They have climbed out of poverty, and they lust for more of the good things of the world that seem to be coming within their reach. Engrossed by the world, the word is choked.

The good ground hearers are such as not only hear the word but receive it and bring forth fruit. The ground has come under the action of plough and harrow. Thus it has been prepared. Even so, however, all good ground is not equally fertile. There may not be the same amount of fruit; but fruit there is.

There was great instruction for the disciples in all this, and for us also. Presently He was going to send them forth to preach, and then they too would become sowers. They must know that it was the word they had to sow, and also what to expect when they sowed it. Then they would not be unduly affected when much of the seed sown appeared to be lost; or when, some result appearing, it faded away after a time; or even when, fruit appearing, there was not as much fruit as they had hoped for. If we know what is being aimed at on the one hand, and what to expect on the other, we are greatly fortified and strengthened in our service.

We must remember that this parable applies just as much to the sowing of the seed of the word in the hearts of saints as in the hearts of sinners. So let us meditate upon it with hearts very much exercised as to HOW we ourselves receive the word that we may hear, as well as to how others may receive the word that we present to them.

In verses Mark 4:21-22 there follows the brief parable of the candle, and then in verse Mark 4:23 another warning word as to having ears to hear. At first sight the transition from seed sown in the field to a candle lit in a house may seem incongruous and disconnected, but, if indeed we have ears to hear, we shall soon see that in their spiritual significance both parables are congruous and connected. When the word of God is received into an exercised and prepared heart it brings forth fruit that God appreciates, and also light that is to be seen and appreciated of men.

No candle is lit in order to be hid under a bushel or a bed. It is to shed its beams abroad from the candlestick. The second part of verse Mark 4:22 is rather striking in the New Translation, “nor does any secret thing take place but that it should come to light.” The work of God in the heart by His word does take place secretly, and the eye of God discerns the fruit as it begins to appear. But in due season the secret thing that has taken place must come to light. Every true conversion is like the lighting of a fresh candle.

The bushel may symbolize the business of life, and the bed the ease and pleasure of life. Neither must be permitted to hide the light, just as the cares and the riches and the “other things” should not be permitted to choke the seed that is sown. Have we ears to hear this? Are we letting the light of our little candle to shine? There is nothing hidden which shall not be made manifest, so it is quite certain that if a light has been lit it is bound to shine out. If nothing is manifested, it is because there is nothing to manifest.

This parable is followed by the warning as to what we hear. The dealings of God in His government of men enter into this matter. As we measure things out, so things will be measured out to us. If we really do hear the word in such a way as to enter into possession of it, we shall gain more. If we do not, we shall begin to lose even that which we had. In Luke 8:18, we get similar sayings connected with “how” we hear. Here they stand connected with “what” we hear.

How we hear is emphasized in the parable of the sower, but what we hear is at least of equal importance. Not a few have had taken from them even that which they had by lending their ears to error. They heard, and heard very attentively, but, alas! what they heard was not the truth, and it perverted them. If through our ears error is sown in our hearts, it will bring forth its disastrous crop, and the government of God will permit it, and not prevent it.

Verses Mark 4:26-29 are occupied with the parable concerning God’s secret work. A man sows the seed, and when the harvest is ripe he gets again to work, putting in the sickle to reap. But as to the actual growth of the seed from its earliest stages to the full fruition, he can do nothing. For many a week he sleeps and rises, night and day, and the processes of nature, which God has ordained, silently do the work though he does not understand them. “He knoweth not how,” is true today. Men have pushed their investigations very far, but the real how of the wonderful processes, carried on in God’s great workshop of nature, still eludes them.

So it is in what we may term God’s spiritual workshop, and it is just as well for us to remember it. Some of us are very anxious to analyze and describe the exact processes of the Spirit’s work in souls. These hidden things sometimes exert a great fascination over our minds, and we wish to master the whole process. It cannot be done. It is our happy privilege to sow the seed, and also in due season to put in the sickle and reap. The workings of the word in the hearts of men are secretly accomplished by the Holy Spirit. His work of course is perfect.

Imperfection always marks the work of men. If permitted, as we are, to have a hand in the work of God, we bring imperfection into that which we do. The next parable, occupying verses Mark 4:30-32, shows this. The kingdom of God today exists vitally and really in the souls of those who by conversion have come under God’s authority and control. But it may also be viewed as a more external thing, to be found wherever men profess to acknowledge Him. The one is the kingdom as established by the Spirit. The other the kingdom as established by men. This latter has become a great and imposing thing in the earth, extending its protection to many “fowls of the air;” and what they signify we have just seen—in verses Mark 4:4; Mark 4:15—agents of Satan.

This closing parable of the series was full of warning for the disciples, as the others were full of instruction. They were with Him and being educated before being sent forth on their mission. We have seen at least seven things:—

1. That the present work of the disciple is in its nature, sowing.

2. That what is to be sown is, the word.

3. That the results of the sowing are to be classified under four heads; in only one case is there fruit, and that in varying degrees.

4. That the word produces light as well as fruit, and that light is to be manifested publicly.

5. That the disciple is himself a hearer of the word as well as a sower of the word, and in that connection must take care what he hears.

6. That the working of the word in souls is God’s work and not ours. Our work is the sowing and the reaping.

7. That as man’s work does enter into the present work of extending the kingdom of God, evil will gain an entrance. The kingdom, viewed as man’s handiwork, will result in something imposing yet corrupt. This is the solemn warning, which we have to take to heart.

There were many other parables spoken by the Lord, yet not put on record for us. The others, spoken to the disciples and expounded to them, were doubtless very important for them in their peculiar circumstances, but not of the same importance for us. Those that were of importance for us are recorded in Matthew 13:1-58.

With verse Mark 4:34 His teachings end, and from verse Mark 4:35 to the end of Mark 5:1-43 we resume the record of His wonderful acts. The disciples needed to observe closely what He did and His way of acting, as well as to hear the teachings of His lips. And so do we.

The crowd, who had listened to these sayings of His but without understanding them, was now dismissed, and they crossed to the other side of the lake. It was evening and He was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The lake was noted for the sudden and violent storms that disturbed it, and one of special violence arose, threatening to swamp the boat. Satan is “the prince of the power of the air,” and therefore we believe that his power lay behind the raging forces of nature. At once therefore the disciples were confronted with a test and a challenge. Who was this Person who lay asleep in the stern?

Could Satan wield the forces of nature in such a way as to sink a boat in which was reposing the Son of God? But the Son of God is found in Manhood, and He sleeps! Well, what does that matter?—seeing He is the Son of God. The action of the adversary, raising the storm while He slept, was indeed a challenge. As yet, however, the disciples realized these things very dimly, if at all. Hence they were filled with fear as the resources of their seamanship were exhausted: and they roused Him with an unbelieving cry, which cast a slur upon His kindness and love, though showing some faith in His power.

He arose at once in the majesty of His power. He rebuked the wind, which was the more direct instrument of Satan. He told the sea to be quiet and still, and it obeyed. Like a boisterous hound which lies down humbly at its master’s voice, so the sea lay down at His feet. He was the complete Master of the situation.

Having thus rebuked the forces of nature, and the power that lay behind them, He turned to administer gentle rebuke to His disciples. Faith is spiritual sight, and as yet their eyes were hardly opened to discern who He was. Had they but realized a little of His proper glory they would not have been so fearful. And having witnessed this display of His power they were still fearful, and still questioning as to what manner of man He was. A Man who can command winds and sea, and they do His will, is obviously no ordinary Man. But, who is He?—that is the question.

No disciple can go forth to serve Him until that question is answered and thoroughly settled in his soul. Hence before He sends them forth there must be further exhibitions of His power and grace before their eyes, as recorded for us in chapter 5.

We too, in our day, must be fully assured who He is, before we attempt to serve Him. The question, What manner of Man is this? is a very insistent one. Until we can answer it very rightly and very clearly we must be still.

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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Mark 3:20-35; Mark 4:1-9

The Pharisees circulated this infamous charge-not because they believed it, but to satisfy the questions that were being asked on all sides. What they affirmed they knew to be untrue; but for selfish reasons they would not confess what they really thought. Such denial of truth is a deadly and unpardonable sin, because it injures the sensitiveness of conscience and produces moral death.

Family ties, Mark 3:31-35. The family of Jesus needed to be taught, though with the utmost delicacy, that they must not attempt to control His public ministry. All who love God and do His will are welcomed into the divine family circle and become blood relations of the Son of God.

The sower, Mark 4:1-9. Note the perils of the hearer, that you may guard against the waste of precious seed. There is a grave peril in the effect of light, fanciful, wandering thoughts. There is great peril also in a mere emotional response-the “straightway springing up” which has no root, because the heart is hard. There is danger lest the cares of the poor, the riches of the wealthy, and the too eager pursuit of things by other classes may drain away the strength of the soul, so that the Word of God shall be a slender stalk, without an ear or fruit. It is not enough to hear the Word, we must accept it and bear fruit; otherwise the plowing, sowing, and all the operations of nature are in vain. Live up to what you know. Obedience is the key to understanding.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Chapter 4

1. Teaching by the Seaside. The Parable of the Sower. (Mark 4:1-20. Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-15.)

2. The Word to shine forth in testimony. (Mark 4:21-25. Luke 8:16-18.)

3. The Parable of the Growth of the Seed and the Harvest. (Mark 4:26-29.)

4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed. (Mark 4:30-34. Matthew 13:31-35; Luke 13:18-19.)

5. The Storm on the sea and the wind rebuked. (Mark 4:35-41. Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 8:22-25.)

1. Teaching by the Seaside. The Parable of the Sower., Mark 4:1-20

In the Gospel of Matthew the scene which closes the preceding chapter is followed by the seven parables (Matthew 13:1-58). In the seven parable discourse the Lord teaches the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven in its present form. These parables belong into the first Gospel because it is the Gospel of the King. First He proclaimed the principles of the Kingdom (Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29); then after His rejection He taught in parables the Kingdom in mystery. Only two of these parables are reported by Mark, the parable of the Sower and of the Mustard Seed. Both relate to His work of ministry. Another parable, however, is added, which is found nowhere else in the Gospels.

The parable of the Sower is explained by Himself (Mark 4:13-20). He Himself is the great Sower and His fellow servants sow after Him. That which is sown is the Word, even as He came to preach the Word. The devil, the flesh and the world are the hindering forces.

The Parable of the Sower is very simple. It is also noteworthy that Mark adds a sentence, which is not found elsewhere. “Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye be acquainted with all parables?” It is a fundamental parable and a key to other parables. He graciously explains it. What patience He had with His dull fellow servants! He is the Sower. That which is sown is the Word; for this He came. Man cannot bring any fruit. That which He sows can produce fruit. The devil, the flesh and the world are antagonistic to the Word and the causes of failure and unfruitfulness. Those who hear the Word and receive it (believe) yield fruit. But the devil, the flesh and the world are even then active and influence fruitbearing.

2. The Word to shine forth in testimony., Mark 4:21-25

The Word received in faith gives life and yields fruit. It must also shine forth in testimony. This testimony may be obscured by “the bushel and the bed.” The bushel stands for the cares and material things of this present age; the bed for ease and comfort. The cure for occupation with earthly things and for an ease-loving life, the hindrances of a bright shining testimony, is to remember the coming day of manifestation (Mark 4:22). How bright and perfect the example of the Servant. He did not know the bushel nor the bed.

3. The Parable of the Growth of the seed and the Harvest., Mark 4:26-29

This parable is not recorded by any of the other evangelists. It is closely linked with the words which precede. The day of manifestation is the day of the harvest. The seed sown grows in secret. None knows how. Life is in the Word. The blade, the ear and the full corn, after that the harvest. This is the comforting assurance of the Servant. He sowed the seed and then “slept and rose”--He died and rose from the dead. In view of it He could rejoice in the knowledge that the seed would spring up, increase and bring a harvest. And the sower will put in the sickle. The harvest (the end of the age) is more fully revealed in Matthew 13:1-58. What was His comfort is the comfort of all His true servants who sow the word.

4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed., Mark 4:30-34

The unexpected growth of the Kingdom during the absence of the Sower is taught in this parable. In Matthew it is linked with the parable of the leaven. The external growth (mustard seed) and the internal corruption (leaven) of Christianity are foretold by Him. Christendom has developed into a powerful world institution and become the lodging place of the fowls of the air. These typify unclean beings (Mark 4:4, Mark 4:15). The humble Servant never meant the Word to produce such an abnormal growth.

5. The Storm on the Lake and the Wind rebuked., Mark 4:35-41

The close of the chapter fits in beautifully with the whole. The Servant is seen in chapter 4 as the rejected One. He is sowing the seed. He leaves the earth while the seed groweth unto the harvest. The storm on the lake gives the picture of the trials and dangers of His own during this age; but He is in the ship. Note a statement peculiar to Mark. “They took Him even as He was in the ship.” The Servant, though Lord of all, had a real human body. Here we have a little picture of His weariness as Servant. Yet what a scene! He had perfect rest in the midst of the storm while His disciples were unbelieving. And then He manifested His power in rebuking the wind.

“Reader, do you think that the power of the Son of God and God’s counsels could have failed because of an unexpected storm? Impossible! The disciples were in the same boat with Jesus. Here is a lesson for us. In all the difficulties and dangers of the Christian life, during the whole journey upon the waves, often agitated by the tempestuous sea of life, we are always in the same boat with Jesus, if we are doing His will. It may seem to us that He is sleeping; nevertheless, if He allows the tempest to rise in order to prove our faith, we shall not perish since we are with Him in the storm; evidently neither He or we can perish. His security is our own.”

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. 2. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord being baptized by John with water, is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be baptized by the fire of temptation. "Then," i.e. when the voice of the Father had been given from heaven.

Chrys., Hom. 13: Whoever thou art then that after thy baptism sufferest grievous trials, be not troubled thereat; for this thou receivedst arms, to fight, not to sit idle. God does not hold all trial from us; first, that we may feel that we are become stronger; secondly, that we may not be puffed up by the greatness of the gifts we have received; thirdly, that the Devil may have experience that we have entirely renounced him; fourthly, that by it we may be made stronger; fifthly, that we may receive a sign of the treasure entrusted to us; for the Devil would not come upon us to tempt us, did he not see us advanced to greater honours.

Hilary: The Devil"s snares are chiefly spread for the sanctified, because a victory over the saints is more desired than over others.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., 16, 1: Some doubt what Spirit it was that led Jesus into the desert, for that it is said after, "The Devil took him into the holy city." But true and without question agreeable to the context is the received opinion, that it was the Holy Spirit; that His own Spirit should lead Him thither where the evil spirit should find Him and try Him.

Aug., de Trin., 4, 13: Why did He offer Himself to temptation? That He might be our mediator in vanquishing temptation not by aid only, but by example.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He was led by the Holy Spirit, not as an inferior at the bidding of a greater. For we say, "led," not only of him who is constrained by a stronger than he, but also of him who is induced by reasonable persuasion; as Andrew "found his brother Simon, and brought him to Jesus."

Jerome: "Led," not against His will, or as a prisoner, but as by a desire for the conflict.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The Devil comes against men to tempt them, but since He could not come against Christ, therefore Christ came against the Devil.

Greg.: We should know that there are three modes of temptation; suggestion, delight, and consent; and we when we are tempted commonly fall into delight or consent, because being born of the sin of the flesh, we bear with us whence we afford strength for the contest; but God who incarnate in the Virgin"s womb came into the world without sin, carried within Him nothing of a contrary nature. He could then be tempted by suggestion; but the delight of sin never gnawed His soul, and therefore all that temptation of the Devil was without not within Him.

Chrys.: The Devil is wont to be most urgent with temptation, when he sees us solitary; thus it was in the beginning he tempted the woman when he found her without the man, and now too the occasion is offered to the Devil, by the Saviour"s being led into the desert.

Gloss. ap. Anselm: This desert is that between Jerusalem and Jericho, where the robbers used to resort. It is called Hammaim, i.e. "of blood," from the bloodshed which these robbers caused there; hence the man was said (in the parable) to have fallen among robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, being a figure of Adam, who was overcome by daemons. It was therefore fit that the place where Christ overcame the Devil, should be the same in which the Devil in the parable overcomes man.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Not Christ only is led into the desert by the Spirit, but also all the sons of God who have the Holy Spirit. For they are not content to sit idle, but the Holy Spirit stirs them to take up some great work, i.e. to go out into the desert where they shall meet with the Devil; for there is no righteousness wherewith the Devil is pleased.

For all good is without the flesh and the world, because it is not according to the will of the flesh and the world. To such a desert then all the sons of God go out that they may be tempted.

For example, if you are unmarried, the Holy Spirit has by that led you into the desert, that is, beyond the limits of the flesh and the world, that you may be tempted by lust. But he who is married is unmoved by such temptation. Let us learn that the sons of God are not tempted but when they have gone forth into the desert, but the children of the Devil whose life is in the flesh and the world are then overcome and obey; the good man, having a wife is content; the bad, though he have a wife is not therewith content, and so in all other things.

The children of the Devil go not out to the Devil that they may be tempted. For what need that he should seek the strife who desires not victory? But the sons of God having more confidence and desirous of victory, go forth against him beyond the boundaries of the flesh. For this cause then Christ also went out to the Devil, that He might be tempted of him.

Chrys.: But that you may learn how great a good is fasting, and what a mighty shield against the Devil, and that after baptism you ought to give attention to fasting and not to lusts, therefore Christ fasted, not Himself needing it, but teaching us by His example.

Pseudo-Chrys.: And to fix the measure of our quadragesimal fast, be fasted forty days and forty nights.

Chrys.: But He exceeded not the measure of Moses and Elias, lest it should bring into doubt the reality of His assumption of the flesh.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., 16, 5: The Creator of all things took no food whatever during forty days. We also, at the season of Lent as much as in us lies afflict our flesh by abstinence. The number forty is preserved, because the virtue of the decalogue is fulfilled in the books of the holy Gospel; and ten taken four times amounts to forty.

Or, because in this mortal body we consist of four elements by the delights of which we go against the Lord"s precepts received by the decalogue. And as we transgress the decalogue through the lusts of this flesh, it is fitting that we afflict the flesh forty-fold.

Or, as by the Law we offer the tenth of our goods, so we strive to offer the tenth of our time. And from the first Sunday of Lent to the rejoicing of the paschal festival is a space of six weeks, or forty-two days, subtracting from which the six Sundays which are not kept there remain thirty-six. Now as the year consists of three hundred and sixty-five, by the affliction of these thirty-six we give the tenth of our year to God.

Aug., Lib. 83. Quest. q. 81: Otherwise; The sum of all wisdom is to be acquainted with the Creator and the creature. The Creator is the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the creature is partly invisible, - as the soul to which we assign a threefold nature, (as in the command to love God with the whole heart, mind, and soul,) - partly visible as the body, which we divide into four elements; the hot, the cold, the liquid, the solid. The number ten then, which stands for the whole law of life, taken four times, that is, multiplied by that number which we assign for the body, because by the body the law is obeyed or disobeyed, makes the number forty. All the aliquot parts in this number, viz. 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20, taken together make up the number 50. Hence the time of our sorrow and affliction is fixed at forty days; the state of blessed joy which shall be hereafter is figured in the quinquagesimal festival, i.e. the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost.

Aug., Serm. 210, 2: Not however because Christ fasted immediately after having received baptism, are we to suppose that He established a rule to be observed, that we should fast immediately after His baptism. But when the conflict with the tempter is sore, then we ought to fast, that the body may fulfil its warfare by chastisement, and the soul obtain victory by humiliation.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord knew the thoughts of the Devil, that he sought to tempt Him; he had heard that Christ had been born into this world with the preaching of Angels, the witness of shepherds, the inquiry of the Magi, and the testimony of John. Thus the Lord proceeded against him, not as God, but as man, or rather both as God and man. For in forty days of fasting not to have been "an hungred" was not as man; to be ever "an hungred" was not as God. He was "an hungred" then that the God might not be certainly manifested, and so the hopes of the Devil in tempting Him be extinguished, and His own victory hindered.

Hilary: He was "an hungred," not during the forty days, but after them. Therefore when the Lord hungred, it was not that the effects of abstinence then first came upon Him, but that His humanity was left to its own strength. For the Devil was to be overcome, not by the God, but by the flesh. By this was figured, that after those forty days which He was to tarry on earth after His passion were accomplished, He should hunger for the salvation of man, at which time He carried back again to God His Father the expected gift, the humanity which He had taken on Him.

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Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel".

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

In verses Mark 4:1-2; Mark 4:10-12, we have the explanation of the reason of the parabolic teaching of Jesus. He clothed divine truth in picture forms that men might more easily look upon it and learn it, just as He Himself was veiled in human form that men might have some vision of God suited to their capacity.

In verses Mark 4:3-9; Mark 4:13-20, we have the parable of the sower. He is the Sower. The results following His sowing are indifference, shallowness, insincerity, fruit.

The illustration of the lamp reveals the responsibility entailed by privilege. Light is bestowed that it may lighten.

The parable of development (verses Mark 4:26-29) is peculiar to Mark's Gospel. It is concerned with the responsibility of the disciples for sowing the seed and gathering the harvest. The parable of the grain of mustard seed we have dealt with in Matthew, to which we may refer.

One of the most beautiful touches in this narrative, though full of sadness, is contained in the words, "They take Him with them, men as He was, in the boat." It reveals the weariness of the Master, and how at His word they hurriedly departed with Him that He might have opportunity for rest. How much better had they not disturbed Him. Far better to weather a storm in perfect confidence in Him than to enter a calm He creates, if the price of it is a rebuke from His lips for lack of faith.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he taught them many things by parables,.... As he sat in the ship, and they stood on shore;

and said unto them in his doctrine; as he was teaching them, and delivering unto them the doctrine he had received from his Father: though the Jews sayF3Bereshit Rabba, sect 98. fol. 85. 3. , that

"the Israelites will have no need לתלמודו של מלך משיח, "of the doctrine of the king Messiah, in the time to come"; because it is said, "unto him shall the Gentiles seek", and not the Israelites.'

But it appears from hence, and many other places, that the Israelites both stood in need of his doctrine, and sought after it; and very excellent it was; the doctrine of God, and of the grace of God; and was spoken with authority, and in such a manner as never man spake, and which he delivered to his apostles; and which, if ministers bring not with them, should not be bid God speed.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament



Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25; & Luke 8:4-18. Mark: “And again He began to teach by the sea; and a great multitude were gathered unto Him, so that, entering into a ship, He sat in the sea. The whole multitude was at the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables. And He said unto them in His teaching, Hear ye! Behold, a sower went out to sow, and it came to pass while he was sowing, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it; and others fell among the rocks, where it had not much earth, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth; the sun having risen, it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away. And other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked it out, and it brought forth no fruit; and others fell in good ground, and springing up brought forth fruit, and produced, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold. And He said unto them, Let the one having ears to hear, hear.”

Matthew 8:10 : “And His disciples coming said to Him, Wherefore do You speak to them in parables? And He responding, said to them, Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whosoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” How clearly do we see this law of spiritual thrift universally demonstrated in the kingdom of God! The great preachers are not those favored with brilliant precocity in the outset. Adam Clarke, who became the greatest linguist and theologian of his day, is said to have been proverbial for his juvenile stupidity. The brightest saints did not all receive a Pauline conversion nor a Pentecostal sanctification; but utilizing the germ of grace and spark of fire, they have moved on from the tinkling rill to the swelling river, from the potato-hill to the towering mountain. If you do not cultivate the grace given and utilize it for God, it will be taken from you, and given to others who will magnify the Donor. “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing, they see not; hearing, they hear not; neither do they understand;” i.e., they see with their physical eyes and hear with their mortal ears, while their spiritual senses are locked tight in the death of sin. “The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled unto them, saying, By hearing, ye shall hear, and may not understand; seeing, ye shall see, and may not perceive.” You observe here the contingent tense of these verbs revelatory of grace, which is freely administered by the Holy Spirit to all who will receive it, as He is ever present to open the blind eyes and unstop the deaf ears, soften the stony heart, and quicken the dead spirit into life, thus giving blessed spiritual availability to all who will reciprocate His merciful intervention.

“For the heart of this people has waxed gross, and they hear heavily with their ears, and they have closed their eyes, lest they may see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and turn, and I shall heal them.” (Isaiah 6:9.)

Where E.V. here says “be converted,” the reading is simply “may turn unto Me,” denoting their own spontaneous action, receptive of Divine mercy and spiritual overtures. “Happy are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men desired to see those things which you see, and saw them not; and to hear those things which you hear, and heard them not.” All the prophets, from the days of Abel through the lapse of four thousand years, had hoped and longed to see Jesus come on the earth, but died without the sight. So the saints of the Christian ages have lived and died, longing to see Jesus return in His glory. Shall our faith waver because He tarrieth? God forbid! Mark 4:14 : “The sower soweth the word. Those who are by the wayside, when the word is sown, and when they may hear it, immediately Satan comes, and takes away the word which was sown in their hearts.

And likewise those who were sown upon the rocks are they who, when they may hear the word, immediately with joy receive it. And they have no root in themselves, but are temporary; then tribulation or persecution arising on account of the word, immediately they are offended. And the others, who were sown among the thorns, are they who, hearing the word, and the cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches and desires concerning remaining things come in, choke out the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those which were sown in good ground are they who hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold.” Here, in this notable, beautiful, and exceedingly lucid Parable of the Sower, we have four different sowings — the wayside, the stony ground, the thorny ground, and the good ground. You observe the final failure on the part of all the sowings except the good ground. The wayside sowing was all caught away by the fowls of the air, which emblematize demons. Consequently there were no results whatever in their case. O, what a large proportion of popular audiences belongs to this class! The precious truth on which they are dependent for salvation is snatched up by their guardian demons and carried away, the Word going in at one ear and out at the other, leaving them utterly empty and blank; so they get nothing, thus living and dying under the blaze of gospel day, but in practical heathenism, only hastening to a more dreadful damnation than if they had lived and died in Central Africa. The second sowing is among the rocks, where soil is scarce, and the underlying strata near the surface. It is a well-known fact in agriculture that this sort of land warms early under the vernal sun, germinating quickly, giving farmers the first grass in spring and the first vegetables; yet it is the first to wilt under the scorching summer sun, and to feel the heavy tread of an autumnal drought. What is needed to make this land all right? Blow up the rocks, break them to pieces, using the workable for edifices, fences, and roads, burning the fragments into lime to enrich the ground, thus transforming these almost worthless stony hills into fertile fields and blooming gardens. The stony ground here is the superficial convert, who, as Jesus says, “immediately receives the Word with joy;” i.e., is converted easily and quickly, characteristic of the great, sweeping revivals, in which hundreds and thousands are counted, and after a year we scarcely find a corporal’s guard. The trouble is, they are not “rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:18.) Hence, when tribulation or persecution rises, they are offended; i.e., they fall away. If the work could move on steadfastly, not giving them time to backslide, till the dynamite of the Holy Ghost blows out and breaks up all the stony strata in the deep interior of the heart, thus sanctifying them wholly and transforming them into “good ground,” they would stand all right. The third sowing is in the thorny ground, which is much better and more hopeful than the stony ground. Thorns indicate rich soil, yet they are awfully obnoxious to the crop, and exceedingly difficult to get rid of, surviving every other indigenous bramble, and even making their appearance after the land has been cultivated a hundred years. We need the long, sharp mattock of entire sanctification to dig them out by the roots, then burn them into ashes, and sow it on the fields to enrich the soil, thus developing it into good ground. Jesus tells us that these thorns are the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and desires appertaining to other things; i.e., things other than the kingdom of God. The thorny ground here gets a much better and deeper work of grace than the stony ground, and is apt to get the victory over the seductive temptations to carnal pleasure and worldly amusement incident to the youth, and go on into the sterner responsibilities of middle life, to find accumulating riches, multiplication of worldly business, social and official aggrandizement, preponderant over the citadel of grace in his heart, ultimately getting the door open wide enough for Satan, with a cohort of carnal and worldly imps, to come in, quench the fire of spiritual devotion, and freeze him into a beautiful iceberg, reflecting the splendor of the polar sun, which shines six months without setting, concentrating the admiration of the whole Church, so they elect him a member of the General Conference, promoting him to honors and emoluments, making him a ruling elder; and, finally, preaching him a glorious funeral sermon, while he is with Dives in hell. The digging necessary to take out all the thorn roots is quite a painful ordeal, while the consuming fire of the Holy Ghost, in His sanctifying Pentecost, by the mere mention, brings stampede into a popular Church, filled up with these thorny-ground backsliders. The fourth sowing is on the good ground. Of course you already know what this good ground is. It is the heart which the Holy Ghost has made good, as none are good by nature. In the Divine estimation, pursuant to the great plan of salvation, the ground is not good till all the rocks and thorns are sanctified out. You see ample provisions are made in the economy of gospel grace to make all the ground good; i.e., sanctify every heart. How can you make the hard, dry, wayside land good? Throw the fence of God’s gracious providence around it, and keep stock from treading on it. The vernal showers will soften it, the freezes loosen it up, till it becomes alluvial. Cast fertilization on it, take out all of the rocks, and grub up all of the thorns; let the plow go down deep, and the harrow do thorough work, and before you are aware, you have good ground. You see in the progress of this parable that, out of the four sowings, only one proves a success. The wayside does not so much as receive the seed till it is devoured by the demons. The stony ground germinates quickly, but utterly withers speedily, terminating in total failure; while the thorny ground not only germinates, but grows up and produces fruit; but Luke says it does not bring it to perfection; i.e., it either rots on the stalk, or after it is gathered, as unripe fruit will not keep. Hence you see that the only hope for the first three sowings is to turn all of the land into good ground — i.e., get all hearts sanctified wholly — then every sowing will be a success. You here see the wonderful growth in grace peculiar to sanctified people; as in case of the good ground some produce thirty-fold — i.e., at the end of life had thirty times as much religion as when they were converted; others, sixty; and others, a hundred — i.e., winding up with a hundred times the quantum of regenerating grace. O what an incentive to everybody to come into the good ground — i.e., to get sanctified wholly!

“And He said to them, Whether does the light come, that it may be placed under a bushel or under a bed? is it not that it may be placed on a candlestick? for there is nothing hidden which may not be revealed; nor was there anything secret, but that it may come into the light. If any one has ears to hear, let him hear. And He said to them, See what you hear. With what measure you measure, it shall be measured unto you, and shall be added to those who hear. For whosoever may have, shall be given unto him; whosoever has not, it shall be taken from him whatsoever he hath.”

Thus our Lord winds up this beautiful, lucid, and instructive Parable of the Sower with a few pertinent practical remarks. If you would not put your light under a bushel, you must become good ground, and appreciate the wonderful possibilities of accumulation here specified, one gaining thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred fold. His trite maxim about hearing, He also subjoins. To the unspiritual it sounds insignificant, as the multitude were then hearing His voice; yet it is only the spiritually quickened ear that can hear the voice of God that wakes the dead, physical ears only hearing the voice of the man who can not save. We receive the Man Christ, while the God Christ saves us. He also here very pertinently repeats His wonderful law of spiritual thrift. That if we faithfully utilize the gifts and graces He gives us, He will increase them indefinitely; while if we are lazy and unappreciative, He will take them away altogether, giving us a place with the “unprofitable servant.”

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

The Parable of the Sower (Our Justification) ( , Luke 8:4-15) - Mark 4:1-20 gives us the foundational parable of all of Jesus' parables, which is called the Parable of the Sower. Jesus states its importance in Mark 4:13 when He tells His disciples, "And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?" By this statement, we understand that all other parables can be understood only when one first understands the Parable of the Sower; for we must first receive God's Word that is sown into our hearts before we can go on to understand more principles of the Kingdom of God.

We can also note that these four parables found in teach us about the four stages of our spiritual journey from the perspective of the theme of Mark's Gospel, which is the preaching of the Gospel with signs following. The Parable of the Sower ( Mark 4:1-20) emphasizes the aspect of our justification in our spiritual journey in the Kingdom of God. It teaches us how the sowing of the Word of God, which is the preaching of the Gospel, results in some good harvest that bears fruit. Thus, this parable reveals the process of justification in the lives of those who hear the Gospel.

In Jesus' public ministry of preaching and healing, He has given His disciples many opportunities to see how the Word of God is sown and how it is received by many differ types of people. Mark's Gospel shows us how His ministry grew from teaching a few people in the synagogues of Capernaum ( ) to teaching the multitudes by the seaside ( Mark 3:7-12) and He demonstrated to His disciples how to face adversity and unbelief ( Mark 2:18 to Mark 3:6). Jesus uses this important parable to explain to His disciples the various conditions of men's hearts as they respond in various ways to the Gospel; for they have seen an array responses to Him ministry. This parable is used to help them understand what is going on in the hearts of the people around them.

The First Recorded Parable of Jesus - According to the Synoptic Gospel accounts, the Parable of the Sower is the first parable that Jesus Christ taught to the people ( Matthew 13:3, Mark 4:2, Luke 8:4). Jesus explains in Mark 4:13 that this parable is a key to understanding all of the other parables He will teach. This implies that all other parables teach on various aspects of this parable or base their truths upon the principles laid down in the Parable of the Sower. This implication is seen in Mark's record of the parables that follow this opening parable (Mk).

Mark 4:13, "And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?"

The Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower- Here is the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower:

The Sower- The sower is the man who is sent by God to preach the Gospel. Since he does not know the condition of every man's heart, he must understand that he will receive a variety of responses. He is called to sow the seed of the Gospel to every man's heart, and not become by negative responses. However, when Christians support a minister who is preaching the Gospel, he must carefully consider the fruitfulness of this ministry. On November 4, 2001, I had a dream where I saw one person scattering seeds randomly and with no cultivation and care. I then saw a well-maintained field, cultivated and well watered. I believe that the first picture is representative of how many believers are ministering the Gospel and receiving very little results. The second picture represents a ministry that is producing results for the Kingdom of God. I believe that Lighthouse Television is one of these productive ministries. We often focus on the harvest of the seed in this parable. It is clear that the sower is making a decision on just where to cast his seed. I believe that the sower represents ministries that used various methods of spreading the Gospel. Some ministries are much more productive than others are because they find good soil and cultivate the seed that is sown. Other ministries, with very little leadership from God, scatter seed so randomly that the harvest is poor.

The Seed- The seed represents the Word of God.

The Soils- In the Parable of the Sower, the soil represents the spirit of Prayer of Manasseh, and the different types of soils represent the different types of hearts that are found in man. God sends His Word to all people, into all types of hearts. Andrew Wommack notes that the life of the plant is in the seed, and not in the soil. We must learn to be nourished by God's Word rather than by man or circumstances. As individuals, we can prepare our lives and hearts to become more and more receptive to God's Word as we grow in Christian maturity, so that God's Word can eventually take root and produce fruit in our lives. 93] Note other passages that give an analogy of man"s heart in comparison to soil.

93] Andrew Wommack, "Laying a Sure Foundation," in the series "A Sure Foundation," [on-line]; accessed 4January 2010; 3Audio; Internet.

Jeremiah 4:3, "For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns."

Hosea 10:12, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you."

1 Corinthians 3:9, "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God"s husbandry, ye are God"s building."

The different types of soil also reveal to us the progression of events in the development of every believer's life. The soil in the roadside represents the initial proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the hardened hearts of the world. Satan is often able to steal this Word out of their hearts before they are saved. For those hearts that are receptive, the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World is the first step in discipleship. We find in the four Gospels and Acts an emphasis upon the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

The stony soil represents the heart that has received the message of the Gospel, but it has no depth. That Isaiah, this person has not learned the doctrines of the Church in order to become established. He has not grown in the grace and knowledge of the things of God. We find Church doctrine in the nine Church epistles of Romans through 2Thessalonians. If they will become established in the teachings of the Word of God, they will be able to persevere. But others will be offended because of persecutions from the world. We find in the epistles of Hebrews, James and 1Peter the exhortations to persevere under persecution from the world.

The soil with thorns represents the heart in which the Word of God is choked out because of worldly pursuits. This person has grown in the doctrines of the Word of God and even overcome persecutions. However, in the life of a believer, he must persevere not only amidst persecutions, but also against backsliding due to false doctrines embraced by the Church itself. We see exhortations to persevere despite false doctrines from within the Church in the epistles of 2Peter, 1, 2, 3John and Jude. These epistles place emphasis upon the believer's perseverance against false doctrines; for, if they are embraced, a believer will fall back into the deceptions of the world and be overcome.

Finally, the fertile soil represents the heart that fully embraces the Word of God and grows thereby. This person has become established in the doctrines of the Church. He has persevered against persecutions (stony soil) and against false doctrines (thorny soil). He has come to a place of producing fruit for the Kingdom of God. The degrees of fruit described as thirty, sixty and one hundred-fold represent the fact that there are various levels of Christian maturity. Another insight is to say that growth of a person's fruit may be based upon the talents given to him initially by God; or, we can say that the 30-60-100-fold harvest is determined by how much of the Word of God a person applies to his life.

When trying to understand the meaning of "30-60-100 fold" we may go to Romans 12:2 and note that there are three levels of which a believer can walk within God's will. He may be walking in God's good acceptable or perfect will. Perhaps these three levels of walking within God's will produce three levels of fruit, just as we read in Mark 4:20, "and bring forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some an hundred."

Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Thus, the Parable of the Sower reveals the first aspect of our spiritual journey when a believer first embraces the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is justified by faith. The next parable of the Light Under the Bushel ( ) explains how he then becomes rooted and grounded in the faith through the knowledge of the doctrines of the Church. With such a foundation, he is able to move into divine service and persevere against persecutions and false doctrines while continuing to sow his seed, as reflected in the Parable of the Growing Seed ( Mark 4:26-29), so that he can reach the goal of his salvation, which is glorification in Heaven with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is reflected in the Parable of the Mustard Seed ( Mark 4:30-32).

Mark 4:1 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.

Mark 4:1 — "And he began again to teach by the sea side" - Comments - Mark's narrative material makes it clear in the opening chapters of his Gospel that more and more people were coming to hear Him, so much so that he no longer could enter into the cities as He did during the early part of His public ministry. Thus, Jesus now taught in open places, such as by the seashore.

Mark 1:45, "But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter."

Mark 4:1 says Jesus again taught by the seaside, since He taught by the Sea of Galilee earlier in Mark 2:13. Mark does not record what Jesus taught the first time, while he records the sermon of His second teaching.

Mark 2:13, "And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them."

Mark 4:1Comments - Jesus Christ now had multitudes following Him and He knew how many would fall away. Thus, it was an appropriate time for the teaching on the Parable of the Sower, because Jesus Christ is now sowing much seed into the multitudes, and He knows how the seed works in the hearts of men.

Jesus knew that His Word would change some lives and be fruitless in other lives.

Mark 4:3Comments - A sower goes forth with a purpose and a plan to sow.

Mark 4:4 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.

Mark 4:4Comments - We know that Satan often attempts to cut off a work of God in its infancy. We see the examples of how the Devil tried to destroy Moses and Jesus Christ while they were yet babes. There are testimonies today of how great men of God were almost taken by death before they grew into maturity.

Mark 4:5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

Mark 4:5 — "immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth" - Comments - Seed that is planted deeper in the soil takes much longer to sprout out of the ground than seeds planted in shallow ground.

Mark 4:9Comments - Not everyone has a heart to hear what God has to say to him. In the Parable of the Sower, the soils represent the different types of hearts in man. Some hearts are open to the voice of God and other hearts are dull and insensitive. In addition, there are seasons in men's lives when a heart becomes more sensitive. A person can hear and understand the Gospel for the first time, having heard it for years. Therefore, Jesus makes the statement in the following verses to explain to His disciples the different between men's hearts ( Mark 4:10-12).

Jesus will again ask in Mark 4:23 for those receptive hearts to hear and receive His words.

Mark 4:23, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."

Mark 4:10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

Mark 4:10Comments - We find a passage in Luke 9:18 where Jesus was alone praying, yet His disciples were with him. It becomes clear from the context of Mark 4:10 that the crowds had left Jesus and His disciples alone for a season.

Luke 9:18, "And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?"

Mark 4:11 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:

Mark 4:12 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.

Mark 4:12 — "That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand" - Comments - These phrases are clearly Hebraic with emphasis placed upon the verbs. Thus, it can read, "Although they clearly see, they do not understand what they see, and although they hear every word clearly, they still do not understand." We see this emphasis translated into several modern English translations.

Rotherham, "They may surely look and yet not see, and surely hear and yet not understand, lest once they should return and it be forgiven them."

RSV, "so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven."

Mark 4:12Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - This is a quote from the book of Isaiah.

, "And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed."

The phrase, "and their sins should be forgiven them" is not found in either the Masoretic Hebrew or in the Greek Septuagint. However, F. F. Bruce notes that this exact phrase is used in the Targum of Jonathan. This could have happened because it was the Jewish tradition to have a priest read the Hebrew text in the synagogue followed by an oral paraphrase in the Aramaic, which was the local vernacular of the New Testament period.

We see this dual reading instituted when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity. At that time, the Jews began to speak Aramaic while the Scriptures were initially in Hebrew followed with an interpretation. Note:

Nehemiah 8:8, "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."

Therefore, it was entirely possible that this Aramaic paraphrase was as well known as the Hebrew text and was thus used in this quote by Jesus. 94] The same thing occurs in John 12:41 and Ephesians 4:8.

94] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 138.

Mark 4:12Comments - We have to ask the question, "What were these people seeing and what were they hearing?" Within the context of the Gospel of Mark they were seeing the signs and miracles that Jesus performed and they were hearing the Gospel preached to them. We know that these miracles were done because of their unbelief, in order that they might believe in Him.

We also note that the Gospel of Mark is structured around the preaching of the Gospel with signs following.

Jesus will later refer to Mark 4:12 when rebuking His disciples:

, "And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?"

Mark 4:13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Mark 4:13Comments - The Parable of the Sower serves as a foundational parable by which we are able to interpret all other parables. That is to say, this parable contains the key to unlock the meanings of others as we apply the meaning of the sower, the seed and the soil that Jesus gave us to these other parables.

The three parables that follow the Parable of the Sower must be interpreted in light of this first parable. Since these four parables symbolize our spiritual journey of justification, indoctrination, perseverance and glorification, Jesus tells us that we must first experience justification before we can understand the following three parables; for until a person is saved (or justified) he cannot understand the things of the Kingdom of God.

1. The Parable of the Sower — — Justification

2. The Light Under the Bushel — — Indoctrination

3. The Parable of the Growing Seed — — Service & Perseverance

4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed — — Glorification

Regarding other parables, The Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son give us the true heart of the Sower, how he is to sow in all types of soil, even though some of the seed does not sprout or produce a harvest.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasures and the Pearl of Great Price teach us how important it is to hearken to the Word of God when it is sown in our hearts.

The Parables of the Great Supper and of the Wedding Feast reveal to us those whose hearts have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For example, the Parable of the Ten Virgins tells us that when Jesus Christ returns for His bride, the Church, some will be ready and others will have been in the world, neglecting the duties of the Kingdom of God. The soil with thorns would represent those who were negligent in the things of God. We find a similar parallel in the Parable of the Talents and of the Pounds. Some servants were faithful to produce fruit in the Kingdom of God, some thirty, sixty and one-hundred fold. Others were negligent failed to product any fruit at all, represented by the soil of thorns.

The Parable of the Unprofitable Servant teaches us about the heart that is fertile soil. This person serves faithfully and produces a harvest for the Kingdom of God.

There are many parables that reveal to us how we will be judged on the Day of Judgment. These parables show us how God determines who has born the thirty, sixty and hundred-fold returns. The Parable of the Judgment of the Nations, The Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, of the Laborers in the Vineyard, of the Great Supper all focus on the final day of rewards for those who have borne fruit in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, we find out that each parable can find its place in relation to the Parable of the Sower.

Mark 4:14 The sower soweth the word.

Mark 4:14Comments - We also sow the Word of God into our hearts and lives as we speak it in faith.

Comments - Bob Nichols said, "Every witness is a seed sown, and every seed sown is a potential great oak." 95]

95] Bob Nichols, "Sunday Morning Sermon," Calvary Cathedral International, Fort Worth, Texas, 19 May 2002.

Mark 4:15 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.

Mark 4:15Comments - The Word of God will bring us a victory, but not without a fight. Notice in the word "immediately" how quickly the devil is at war against the proclamation of God"s Word. Note how attentive he is to stopping the Gospel of Jesus Christ from spreading. Satan is at war with us as we sow God"s Word. We must pray for those souls as they hear the Gospel and we must bind Satan's work in their lives.

Illustration - While a seminary student in the early 1980's, I was witnessing on the streets in Fort Worth, Texas in a neighborhood called Cow Town. We had finally gotten a group of young teenagers to stop and listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As they began to focus their attention on our message, a gang of unruly older teenagers walked by and began picking at these people we were witnessing too. Quickly two of them began to fight. I was almost hit by them as they fought, so I jumped out of the way. Then I raised my hand and rebuked the Devil in the name of Jesus Christ. Another student followed this lead and jumped between these two boys while they were fighting and he shouted the same. The fight quickly dissipated, but we never were able to get the attention of those teenagers again that night. Hence,

Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Mark 4:16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

Mark 4:17 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.

Mark 4:17Comments - The hearers described in Mark 4:17 believe for a while, but never become rooted and grounded in the Word of God, as the Scriptures tell us to do. This means that when a person does not go through the second process of indoctrination after being born again, or justified, he cannot go onto to the others steps of the Christian life, which is divine service and perseverance in the ministry, reaching glorification. We must become "rooted" in order to become "built up in him" ( Colossians 2:7).

Colossians 2:7, "Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."

When the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked Him if He were the Messiah, Jesus replied, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is Hebrews, whosoever shall not be offended in me." ( ) Thus, Jesus performed signs and miracles so that the people would believe in Him, rather than being offended.

Offences can also come during times of persecutions ( Matthew 10:22, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).

Matthew 10:22, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name"s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."

1 Thessalonians 3:3, "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto."

Mark 4:19 — "and the deceitfulness of riches" - Comments - It is not the "riches" themselves, but the deceit of pursuing riches, that is the ruin of the Christian life. Note similar passages of Scripture.

, "Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."

Luke 18:25, "For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle"s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

Mark 4:19 — "choke the word" - Comments - Paul, speaking on the same subject, uses the word "entanglement" to describe how the cares of this life affect our Christian lives.

2 Timothy 2:4, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."

Mark 4:20 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.

Mark 4:20 — "and some a hundred" - Comments- We see a hundredfold return in Genesis 26:12, "Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him."

Mark 4:20Comments- When trying to understand the meaning of "30-60-100 fold" we may go to Romans 12:2 and note that there are three levels of which a believer can walk within God's will. He may be walking in God's good acceptable or perfect will. Perhaps these three levels of walking within God's will produce three levels of fruit, just as we read in Mark 4:20, "and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred."

Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Mark 4:20Comments - The Lord spoke to me one night (15 March 2010) and said to me, "In the Scriptures, everything exceeds by portions." I was then reminded of the seven-fold vengeance that God decreed over Cain ( Genesis 4:15), of Lamech's seventy-seven fold revenge ( Genesis 4:24), of the double portion anointing that Elisha received from Elijah, of David's cry for divine vengeance of sevenfold portions ( Psalm 79:12), of a thief's sevenfold return when caught ( Proverbs 6:31), of the sevenfold brightness of the sun in heaven ( Isaiah 30:26), of the 30-60-100 fold return of the seed sown of the proclamation of the Gospel ( Mark 4:20), of Jesus' promise of a hundredfold return for those who forsake all and follow Him ( Mark 10:30), etc.

Genesis 4:15, "And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."

Genesis 4:24, "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold."

2 Kings 2:9, "And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."

Psalm 79:12, "And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord."

Proverbs 6:31, "But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house."

Isaiah 30:26, "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound."

Mark 4:20, "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."

Mark 10:30, "But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."

Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.
Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Sermon: Jesus Teaches on the Kingdom of Heaven - The sermon that follows the narrative material on indoctrination through the proclamation of the Gospel is found in , which gives us the Parable of the Sower along with three related parables. The Parable of the Sower explains the principle of justification as the Gospel is sown into the hearts of men through preaching, explaining how different hearts respond to the proclamation of the Gospel. The other three parables explain to us the other, progressive aspects of sowing through the proclamation of the Gospel, which is indoctrination, perseverance, and glorification.

1. The Parable of the Sower — — Justification

2. The Light Under the Bushel — — Indoctrination

3. The Parable of the Growing Seed — — Service-Perseverance

4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed — — Glorification

5. Conclusion: The Use of Parables —

As we reflect upon the four Gospels, we can note how each one of them has a popular passage. When we think of the Gospel of Matthew, we are reminded of the Sermon on the Mount. The most popular passage in Mark is the Parable of the Sower. A popular passage in Luke's narrative is Jesus' first teaching in His home town of Nazareth and the rejection that followed. John's Gospel opens with the popular poetic passage of Jesus as the Word of God, which was made flesh and dwelt among us. We can understand the significance of each of these popular passages by evaluating their structure in relation to the overall structure of their respective Gospels. The parabolic scheme of these four parables in Mark's Gospel foreshadows the structure of the rest of Mark's Gospel, with the Parable of the Sower being the central passage of the Gospel.

1. Parable of the Sower ( ) — Mark 1:4-13 on Justification

2. The Light Under the Bushel ( ) — Mark 1:14 to Mark 4:34 on Indoctrination

3. The Growing Seed ( ) — Mark 4:35 to Mark 9:50 on Service & Perseverance

4. The Mustard Seed ( ) — Mark 10:1 to Mark 13:37 on Glorification

Here is a summary of the thematic scheme of the parables in :

1. The Parable of the Sower ( Mark 4:1-20) (Justification) - The Parable of the Sower reflects the underlying theme of Mark's Gospel, which is the testimony of Jesus Christ as the Son of God through the preaching of the Gospel. The Parable of the Sower reveals how the proclamation of the Gospel produces justification with God in the hearts of men, and this reflects the emphasis of justification embedded within Mark 1:4-13.

2. The Parable of the Light Under the Bushel ( Mark 4:21-25) (Indoctrination) - The Parable of the Light Under the Bushel teaches us that as the light of the Gospel shines forth into our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel, we become indoctrinated with God's Word, and this reflects the emphasis of indoctrination embedded within Mark 1:14 to Mark 4:34.

3. The Parable of the Growing Seed ( Mark 4:26-29) (Divine Service and Perseverance) - The Parable of the Growing Seed explains how God causes the seeds that we sow to grow and produce a harvest when we are faithful to serve the Lord and persevere in proclaiming the Gospel, and this reflects the emphasis of divine service and perseverance embedded within Mark 4:35 to Mark 9:50.

4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed ( Mark 4:30-32) (Glorification) - The Parable of the Mustard Seed tells us the end result of our faithfulness to preach the Gospel as the Kingdom of God grows into the greatest kingdom upon the earth, and this reflects the emphasis of glorification embedded within Mark 10:1 to Mark 13:37.

Thus, we find in Mark's Gospel that the proclamation of the Gospel goes further than a message of repentance unto justification by faith. The message that Jesus preached in Mark also teaches us about becoming indoctrinated into God's Word, about persevering against the world, and finally, about the believer's glorification into Heaven, through preaching. These aspects of the Gospel can be found in the three parables that Jesus told after the Parable of the Sower.

The Parable of the Sower is the fundamental passage in the Gospel of Mark, upon which the structure of the book is framed. Its fundamental characteristic is reflected in the fact that it is also the most popular passage in Mark, just as the Sermon on the Mount is the most popular passage in Matthew and serves the same fundamental role. An example of the popularity of The Parable of the Sower is seen in Edwin Rice's commentary on Mark, where he makes an effort to sum up the message of Mark's Gospel by placing a picture of a man sowing seed adjacent to the title page of his commentary. 90] Another example of its popularity is noted when Joseph Church refers to this parable when teaching out of the Gospel of Mark to the native Africans. 91]

90] Edwin W. Rice, People's Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The American Sunday-School Union, 1892).

91] Joseph E. Church, Quest for the Highest (Exeter, UK: The Paternoster Press, 1981), 58.

The Parabolic Scheme- The Gospel of Mark contains fewer parables than the other Gospels. In contrast, the other Synoptic Gospels contain a greater number of parables, which are scattered throughout their Gospels. contains the most important parables recorded in this Gospel. When we evaluate the four parables contained in Mark 4:1-41, we find a relationship and order between them, which we call a parabolic scheme; for these parables give us an order of principles which governs the growth of the Kingdom of God. Specifically, we find this growth and development of the Kingdom defined in four stages: justification, indoctrination, perseverance and glorification. The Parable of the Sower ( Mark 4:1-20) emphasizes the aspect of our justification in our spiritual journey in the Kingdom of God. It teaches us how the sowing of the Word of God, which is the preaching of the Gospel, results in some good harvest that bears fruit. Thus, this parable reveals the process of justification in the lives of those who hear the Gospel. The Parable of the Light Under the Bushel ( Mark 4:21-25) teaches us that as the light of the Gospel shines forth into our hearts, we become indoctrinated with God's Word; and we are not to hide this light and hold back our testimonies of God's goodness in our lives, but are to continue sowing seeds of God's Word to others. This light is symbolic of our indoctrination into the Word of God. The Parable of the Growing Seed ( Mark 4:26-29) explains how God causes the seeds that we sow to grow and produce a harvest when someone is faithful to persevere in sowing. This parable reveals the need to persevere in sowing the seeds of the Kingdom. In other words, our job is to sow, while God's work is to cause the increase. The Parable of the Mustard Seed ( Mark 4:30-32) tells us the end result of our faithfulness to preach the Gospel; for it will cause the Kingdom of God to grow into the greatest kingdom upon the earth. This parable reflects our glorification at the end of our journey.

We can also note that these four parables teach us about the four stages of our spiritual journey from the perspective of the theme of Mark's Gospel, which is the preaching of the Gospel with signs following.

1. The Parable of the Sower — — Justification

2. The Light Under the Bushel (labour of love) — — Indoctrination

3. Parable of Growing Seed (Patience in hope) — — Service & Perseverance

4. Parable of Mustard Seed (work of faith) — — Glorification

These four parables teach us how man is justified through the preaching of the Gospel, as well as the role of preaching the Gospel as it indoctrinates us, causing us to persevere and ultimately it brings us into our redemption and glorification in Heaven. In other words, these parables teach us about our spiritual journey of redemption from the perspective of the proclamation of the Gospel, which is the underlying theme of this Gospel. This is called a parabolic scheme by scholars.

Finally, in Jesus explains why He taught in parables, so that those whose hearts were hardened would not understand the precious truths of God's ways and He would not be casting His pearls before swine. This way the Church becomes the custodian of the Gospel, and the world continues in darkness, so that the world has no opportunity to corrupt and propagate the precious Gospel.

5. Conclusion: The Use of Parables —

The Reason Jesus Used Illustrations from Nature- Andrew Wommack believes that Jesus used illustrations from nature in teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven rather than from the Jews social life to convey these truths because the laws of nature are certain and cannot be broken. In contrast, social traditions can easily change. The laws of the Kingdom of Heaven are as sure and certain as the laws of nature. 92]

92] Andrew Wommack, "Laying a Sure Foundation," in the series "A Sure Foundation," [on-line]; accessed on 4January 2010; available on 3Audio; Internet.

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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

1–9.] PARABLE OF THE SOWER. No fixed mark of date. Matthew 13:1-9. Luke 8:4-8. There is the same intermixture of absolute verbal identity and considerable divergence, as we have so often noticed: which is wholly inexplicable on the ordinary suppositions. In this case the vehicles of the parable in Matt. and Mark (see Matthew 13:1-3; Mark 4:1-2) bear a strong, almost verbal, resemblance. Such a parable would be carefully treasured in all the Churches as a subject of catechetical instruction: and, in general, in proportion to the popular nature of the discourse, is the resemblance stronger in the reports of it.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

2.] Out from among the πολλά, the great mass of His teaching, one parable is selected, which He spoke during it— ἐν τῇ διδ. αὐτοῦ.

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Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 4:1-9. See on Matthew 13:1-9. Comp. Luke 8:4-8. Matthew has here a group of parables from the collection of Logia to the number of seven,—a later and richer selection than Mark gives with his three similitudes, the second of which, however (Mark 4:26-29), Matthew has not, because it probably was not embraced in the collection of Logia. See on Mark 4:26 ff. Matthew has worked by way of amplification, and not Mark by way of reducing and weakening (Hilgenfeld).

πάλιν, see Mark 3:7.

ἤρξατο] For from καὶ συνάγεται onward is related what happened after the commencement of His teaching.

Mark 4:2. ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ] in His doctrinal discourse. Of the many ( πολλά) Mark adduces some.

Mark 4:7. συνέπνιξαν] choked the germinating seed, compressing it. Comp. Theophylact, c. pl. vi. 11. 6 : δένδρα συμπνιγόμενα.

Mark 4:8. ἀναβαίνοντα καὶ αὐξανόμενον (see the critical remarks) is predicate of καρπόν, hence ἐδίδου καρπόν (and consequently also καρπὸν οὐκ ἔδωκε, Mark 4:7) is to be understood not of the grains of corn, but of the corn-stalks ascending and growing (shooting upward and continuing to grow). The produce of the grains is only mentioned in the sequel: καὶ ἔφερεν κ. τ. λ. In the classics also καρπός means generally that which grows in the field (Hom. Il. i. 156; Xen. de venat. v. 5; Plat. Theaet. p. 149 E, Crat. p. 410 C), as in the German Frucht, Früchte. Comp. καρποφορεῖ, Mark 4:28.

With the Recepta ἓν τριάκοντα is to be taken as: one bore thirty (neuter: nothing to be supplied), i.e. according to the connection: one grain, which had been sown, bore thirty grains, another sixty, and so on. On the usus loquendi, comp. Xen. Hell. vii. 4. 27: ἓν μέρος ἒλαβον ἀργεῖοι, ἓν δὲ θηβαῖοι, ἓν δὲ ἀρκάδες, ἓν δὲ ΄εσσήνιοι, Arist. Eth. Nic. vi. 1. 5; Sirach 31:23 f. With the reading εἰς τριάκοντα (see the critical remarks) we must render: it bore up to thirty, and up to sixty, etc. If ἐν τριάκοντα be read, the meaning is: it bore in (at the rate of) thirty, etc., so that the fruit-bearing was consummated in thirty, and so on. Observe, further, how Mark 4:8 has changed the primitive form of the Logia-collection still preserved in Matthew, especially as to the climax of the fruitfulness, which in Matthew is descending, in Mark ascending.

Mark 4:9. καὶ ἔλεγεν] “pausa frequens, sermonibus gravissimis interposita,” Bengel. Comp. Mark 2:27.

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Hamilton Smith's Writings


In the fourth chapter of Mark we have four parables, and the incident of the storm on the lake, giving a complete picture of the Lord"s service on earth at His first coming, with the result of that service when left to the responsibility of men during the time of His absence.

(Vv1-20). The rejection of Christ by the Jewish leaders, and the consequent breaking of all links with Israel according to the flesh, on the part of Christ, as set forth in Mark 3, gives occasion to reveal the true character of the Lord"s service. Up to this moment, in His ministry of grace, it might appear that He was seeking fruit from Israel; it now becomes manifest, by the parable of the Sower, that, actually, He was doing a work to produce fruit. His ministry was, indeed, a test for Israel proving that there is no fruit for God from fallen Prayer of Manasseh, as such. If there is to be any fruit it can only be through God"s own work in the souls of men set forth in figure by the sowing of the seed.

Moreover, if a work of God is necessary, it cannot be confined to one nation. It proves that the Jew is as needy as the Gentile, and that both alike are helpless to secure their own blessing. Thus the Lord"s service Of grace has in view all the world. This truth may be indicated by the fact that the Lord "began again to teach by the sea side."

In the strict interpretation of the parable we must all recognise that the Lord is the Sower, and the seed is the word of God. Therefore the Sower was perfect, the sowing was faultless, and the seed good. Nevertheless, owing to the character of the soil, in three cases out of four no lasting result is produced. The parable indicates that when the gospel is preached, it may be listened to by four different characters of hearers. To use the language of the parable, there are "way side" hearers; "stony ground" hearers; some likened to "thorny ground," and, lastly, some "good ground" hearers.

The "way side" hearers are those who hear without the conscience being reached. It is like seed that falls on the hard road, but does not penetrate beneath the surface. The birds of the air can easily devour such seed, and Satan can take away that which is of only passing interest to the mind without touching the conscience.

The seed that falls on stony ground springs up and makes a certain amount of show, but before the heat of the sun it fades away because there is no depth of earth. The Lord explains that this represents those who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness, but there is no work of God in their souls. It is not a good sign when a soul, without previous exercise, receives the word with joy. If God is working with a soul, He deals with the conscience, awakening a sense of sins and guilt. Thus the first effect of the word is not joy but trouble. This leads to self-judgment and repentance towards God. Following upon self-judgment the darkness passes and the light of God penetrates the dark heart producing exercise which is met by the love of God inspiring confidence, when the light has done its work.

The third case is that of one who hears the good news, but the word is choked and produces no lasting result. In each case the Lord is speaking of those who have heard the word, not of those who have never heard the gospel. Hearing the word would denote some kind of profession that would lead to the hope that there is true conversion until proved to be otherwise. The thorny ground hearers represent those who are so overwhelmed by anxiety as to present things, or so active in the pursuit of worldly things, that their profession fades away. The lust of other things chokes the one thing needful. The poor may be crushed by cares; the rich by the deceitfulness of riches. How solemn for the soul to be ruined by cares or lost by riches! What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

The last case is the good ground hearer. Good ground is always prepared ground. The conscience has been reached, and as a result fruit is produced, but, even Song of Solomon, it is in different degrees, some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold. The things which are fatal to the unbeliever may grievously hinder the fruitfulness of the true believer.

(V:21). In the second parable we learn that the one who has received the good seed of the word into the heart is fitted, and responsible, to be a witness before men. That which is fruit for God becomes light to man. The shining of the light is not a question of gift, nor the exercise of gift in preaching and teaching, but rather the new life expressing something of Christ as being like Christ, "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom ye shine as lights in the world" ( Philippians 2:15).

The Lord warns us that, as there are hindrances to the seed becoming effectual, Song of Solomon, when the word has truly wrought in the heart, there may be hindrances to the light shining out to others. Even as the seed may be choked by the cares of this world, or the deceitfulness of riches, so the light may be dimmed, on the one hand, by our lives being absorbed in the business of life, represented by the bushel; or, on the other hand, by seeking to take our ease, as set forth by the bed. The Christian is viewed not as the light, but as the light-holder. Christ is the light, the Christian is the candlestick, or light-bearer.

(V:22). How far we have been faithful, or unfaithful, in bearing witness for Christ, will at last be made manifest. The secret for shining for Christ is having Christ in the heart. "Unless the heart be full of Christ, the truth will not be manifested: if the heart be full of other things, of itself, Christ cannot be manifested" (J.N.D.).

(V:23). How then are our hearts to be filled with Christ? The Lord"s exhortation indicates that if we are to enlighten others we must first hear for ourselves, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." The Lord Himself, can say through the prophet, "The Lord, Jehovah, hath given me the tongue of the instructed, that I should know how to succour by a word him that is weary. He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed." ( Isaiah 50:4 N. Tr.). If we are to have the tongue of the instructed, we must first have the ear of the learner. If we are to know how to succour by a word him that is weary, we must first hear the word of One who is never weary. Like Mary of old, we must sit at His feet, to hear His word, before we can witness to others.

(Vv24, 25). Moreover, in witnessing to others we ourselves shall be blessed, for the Lord can say, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you." The more we give to others, the more will be given to us. If the light we have is allowed to shine, we shall get more light. One has truly said that Heaven"s law is "Scattering for increase". But let us also remember that if we do not use the light we have we shall lose it. It is not life, but light, that we lose.

(Vv26-29). The Lord uses a third parable to show that the time in which the believer"s testimony is rendered, is during His absence. The Kingdom of God was about to take the form in which the King would be absent. It is as if a Prayer of Manasseh, having cast the seed into the ground, does nothing further until the time of the harvest. The Lord had personally sown the seed at His first coming, and at the end of the age will personally return when the judgment of this world is ripe. Between His first and second coming the Lord is at the right hand of God, and though ever working in grace, on behalf of His people, He does not publicly and directly interfere in the affairs of this world. The seed, however, that the Lord has sown grows and brings forth fruit.

(Vv30-34). The last parable sets forth the result of the seed-sowing when left to the responsibility of man. Christianity, which in its beginning was very small in man"s sight, even like a "grain of mustard seed," becomes in the hands of man a great power on the earth. But in its greatness, it becomes a shelter for evil. "The fowls of the air lodge under the shelter of it." That which at the beginning gathered souls out of this world around the Lord, in the end becomes a vast system which shelters every evil thing.

(Vv35-41). The incident of the storm on the lake, presents a picture that completes the teaching of the chapter. We have seen the Lord sowing the good seed, and then learnt that those in whose hearts the seed has become effectual, are left in this world to be a light for Christ. By the third parable we have been instructed that this witness would take place during the absence of Christ. In the last parable we learn that, during His absence, there would grow up a vast religious profession that would become a shelter for evil. Now we learn that, in such a world, the Lord"s true people will meet with trials, but that the Lord Jesus, though absent to sight, is present to faith, and is supreme over all the storms His people have to meet.

The touching scene is opened with the Lord"s words, "Let us pass over unto the other side." His last words to Peter, ere He left this world were, "Follow thou Me." Attracted to Himself by our need, and drawn by His grace, we follow Him in a path that leads to "the other side" - far into those depths of glory where He has gone. If, however, we are in company with Him, we may expect conflict, for the devil is ever opposed to Christ. Thus, in the picture, we read, "there arose a great storm of wind." Nevertheless, Jesus was with them, but He was "asleep on a pillow." As in the parable, having sown the seed, He was as one that slept (verse27), so actually in the storm He was asleep, and thus apparently indifferent to the trials of His people. Such circumstances become a very real test to our faith, and, like the disciples, we may even begin to question whether, after all, He cares for us. But if such circumstances are allowed to prove our faith, they also become the occasion of manifesting His supremacy over all the trials we have to meet. As of old, He "arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still," so today, in His own time and way, He can still every storm and bring us into "a great calm". In the spirit of this striking picture, the apostle can write to the Thessalonian believers saying, "Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all" ( 2 Thessalonians 3:16). Faith realises that whatever storms we may have to meet, the Lord is with us to give peace at all times and in all circumstances. Occupied with "a great storm of wind and the waves" that beat into our little ship, we may forget Christ and selfishly think only of ourselves, and then say, like the disciples, "We perish." But will any storm that the devil can raise ever frustrate the counsels of God for Christ and His people? Not one of His sheep will ever perish; all will be brought home at last. The trouble with the disciples, as too often with ourselves, is that we have but a feeble sense of the glory of the Person that is with us. They but little realised that the Man that was with them was also the Son of God.

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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". 1832.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20)

As previously observed, the Gospel of Mark does not follow a direct chronological order in relating the works and teaching of our Lord. This portion, which corresponds to Matthew 13, gives us an account of parabolic instruction delivered by the sea of Galilee in the summer of a.d. 28, according to the most likely system of time reckoning.

The land rises gently from the particular part of the sea of Galilee where this instruction was given. As the Lord Jesus sat in the fisherman’s boat His audience would be before Him, conveniently seated or standing, as in a natural amphitheater. This natural setting enabled all to hear the voice of the teacher whose message and personality had attracted them to Him. He used parables in teaching them. These parables were illustrations drawn from things with which the hearers were perfectly familiar, so that they could follow Jesus readily if they were so disposed.

Possibly even as Jesus taught them the parable of the farmer, the audience could see a man sowing seed not far away. The sower pictures Christ Himself primarily, though the application is true of every preacher of the Word. We need not be discouraged if much of the seed seems to be lost, for even when the greatest of all sowers was here, there were many who paid no attention to the words of grace that fell from His holy lips. Their hearts were utterly hard and unfeeling, like the well-trodden wayside paths.

“Some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth.” The soil in this instance may have looked fair, but it had not much depth. Underneath there was hard ground, speaking of lack of repentance before God. The seed without root soon withered away. Where there is no divine conviction there will be no lasting effects following a temporary stirring of the emotions.


“Some fell among thorns… and it yielded no fruit.” The careful farmer is commanded to “break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12). Thorn s can more easily be avoided when dealing with individual souls. When addressing men in the mass, necessarily there will be many who are so occupied with worldly affairs the good seed can find little room to lodge.


“Other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased.” The good ground pictures hearts prepared by God to receive the seed of the gospel, though even then all hearts do not produce alike. Much depends both on the depth of the Spirit’s work of conviction before conversion and the time given to soul-cultivation afterward.


“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Thus with these solemn words, the Lord challenged our attention. It is easy to listen only with the outward ear and so fail to get the message into the heart. To those who had ears to hear and desired to understand the parable, Jesus readily gave a full explanation.


The disciples and others who had been pondering the story in their hearts came to Jesus privately and asked for its meaning. It was in the quiet of the evening in all probability, after the day’s activities were ended, that He expounded the parable of the sower to them, assuring them that the mysteries of the kingdom of God would not be hidden from them. However, He would teach in parables without explaining their meaning to those who were content to remain in ignorance, in order that they might go on in their self-chosen path of blindness and indifference to spiritual truth. If they had no desire for instruction, they were to be left in ignorance. This was the righteous judgment of God on those who refuse to turn to Him and so find forgiveness of sins.


The expression, “the mystery of the kingdom of God,” refers to the secrets concerning the coming days when the rejected King would return to Heaven. But as the principles of His kingdom were diffused through the world, a system would develop in which Christ would be recognized as the rightful King, and His Word would be acknowledged as rule. This system is the sphere of profession commonly called Christendom, which means literally “Christ’s kingdom.” In it are found those who are real and unreal, who profess subjection to His authority whether truly born of God or not.


Christ explained the parable by saying that the seed represents the word-the truth He came to proclaim. The wayside hearers are those who are utterly without exercise as to spiritual things. They hear the word with the outward ear but are so under the control of Satan (represented by the birds) that he takes away all consideration for the seed sown in their hearts.


The stony-ground hearers seem at first to give evidence of real conviction. Like Bunyan’s Mr. Pliable, they are easily persuaded to make a Christian profession and just as easily turned from it when difficulties arise. They stumble because they have no root in themselves.

The thorny-ground hearers apparently receive the word with joy, but the quest for wealth and the desire for worldly advantage choke the word so that it becomes unfruitful.


The good ground hearers not only hear the word but also receive it in faith in their hearts. They bear fruit unto God, thus demonstrating the reality of their confession. It is true that all do not produce to the same degree; but all bear fruit to some extent: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.


In considering the work of preaching the gospel we must take into account God’s blessed purpose of grace and the condition of the hearts of men to whom the message comes. To some the gospel message is of no interest. They are indifferent to it from the first and never become concerned. Some are interested for a time. Their emotions are stirred, but there is no depth of commitment. Others have a measure of concern, but they are men of double mind. They would like to make the best of both worlds, and so they never give eternal things their proper place. Others, prepared by the Spirit’s convicting work, are eager to know the way of life, and so “receive with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21) and bring forth fruit unto God.


Parable of the Candle (Mark 4:21-25)

It is possible that in Mark 4:21-25 we have a portion of the sermon on the mount, but on the other hand we may well suppose that Jesus frequently used the same metaphors to enforce the truth of His messages. In these verses the Lord gives further instruction stressing the importance of reality in our profession of faith.


A candle or lamp is not to be hidden under a bushel (which speaks of business), nor under a bed (which suggests the love of ease), but is to be displayed on a lampstand in order that it may give light to all in the house. The meaning is clear. If we profess allegiance to Christ, we are not to allow the claims of business or selfish desires of any kind to hinder our faithful testimony to Him whom we have acknowledged as our Savior and Lord.


All unreality will be disclosed sooner or later. Nothing can be hidden from the holy all-seeing eye of the Lord, nor kept secret from Him who knows the innermost thoughts and intents of the heart. All will be revealed in the clear light of His judgment seat. Happy are we if we are among those who, having ears to hear, give heed to His words!


We are warned to be careful as to what we hear and how we judge, for we ourselves will be dealt with as we deal with others; and as we hear in faith the truth of God, our knowledge will be increased. It is a law of that kingdom that to him who uses well what he has, more will be imparted, and he who has nothing but an empty profession will, at the last, be stripped even of that.


Parables of the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:26-32)

The two parables recorded in Mark 4:26-32 are related to each other morally. These parables are also recorded in Matthew 13 though in a different order.


“So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground.” Preaching the word is sowing the seed, whereby the kingdom of God in its spiritual aspect is spread throughout the world. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). The wonder of the new birth is just as inexplicable as the mystery of life in a seed that leads to the development of a plant. (John 3:6-8).


“First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” The law of growth in the natural world illustrates growth in grace and in understanding of spiritual realities. Men do not suddenly become mature saints. While we are saved in a moment when we trust the Lord Jesus, our growth is a matter of years. It is as we assimilate the truth by study of the Word, prayer, and devotion to Christ that we bear fruit to perfection.


“When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” So the great husbandman is watching over His tilled fields (1 Corinthians 3:9) until the yield is at its best. Then He will take to Himself the fruit for which He has waited so patiently (James 5:7).


“Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God?” Next the Lord Jesus used an altogether different illustration to picture an aspect that the kingdom was to take on after He had gone back to the Father. In this second illustration, very different indeed from the first picture of a field of wheat, He compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. He said that the mustard seed is “less than all the seeds that be in the earth.” It is not exactly that there are no seeds anywhere smaller than those of the mustard plant, but in a garden of herbs the mustard seed is the least of all. This tiny seed pictures the small and seemingly insignificant beginning of the kingdom of God in the world, following the ascension of the Son of man to the right hand of the Father.


“It… shooteth out great branches.” The mustard tree is the largest of all the herbs and fitly pictures the kingdom as a power to be reckoned with in the earth. In other words, the mustard tree represents that which the Lord foresaw Christendom was to become-a vast all-inclusive society where “the fowls of the air” find a hiding place. The fowls of the air are representatives of Satan and his emissaries (Matthew 13:19; Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12). They devour the good seed in the parable of the sower, and now they are seen hiding in the branches of the mustard tree. How well the Lord knew the turn that events would take! The mustard-tree growth of the professing church looks good for a time, but its evanescent character will soon be manifested.


Contrasted Views of the Kingdom. The field of wheat and the mustard tree present very different pictures of the kingdom. A field of wheat is made up of many thousands of stalks, all more or less alike, differing only in the heaviness of the heads of grain. This is what the church of God should be in the world.


The mustard tree is, in a sense, an imitation of a great world-power, such as the cedar tree of Assyria (Ezekiel 31:3-6) or the great tree of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:10-12). In both Old Testament instances, as in this parable, the fowls of the air-the emissaries of Satan-find lodging in the branches. It might have seemed impossible that the kingdom of God could ever become like this. Yet that was what our Lord predicted, and it has come to pass throughout the centuries since.


Importance of Parables (Mark 4:33-34)

The use of parables by our Lord was for a twofold purpose. He taught many deep and important truths in this form in order to test the reality of His hearers’ interest. If truly concerned, they would seek to get the meaning of the story and would become earnest inquirers. If indifferent, they would pay no further attention and would go on in their careless way, hardening their hearts against the truth (Matthew 13:11-15; Luke 8:10). Those whose consciences were exercised would find that these vivid illustrations fixed in their minds the great truths that Jesus taught, making an indelible impression on them (Matthew 13:16-17).


Our Lord was the prince of preachers, and we are told that “without a parable spake he not unto them” (Matthew 13:34 ). The human mind is so constructed that it receives instruction far more readily through apt illustrations than just by the setting forth of either arguments or definitions. Spurgeon said it well: “The sermon is the house; the illustrations are the windows that let the light in.” Those who depend entirely on abstract truth to reach the hearts and consciences of their hearers are far more likely to fail to accomplish their desires than those who brighten up their discourses by relating appropriate and enlightening incidents. In teaching, as in all else, Jesus Christ is our great exemplar. His early followers, whose utterances and letters are recorded in the New Testament, used the same method.


The parables of the Lord Jesus Christ are remarkable for their fidelity to nature and to human life. He drew His illustrations from those things with which His hearers were thoroughly familiar, so that they could understand Him readily. The illustrations and the related lessons would be fixed in their minds if there was a real desire to know that truth which makes free (John 8:32).


Jesus always took into account the moral and spiritual conditions of His hearers and gave the word as suited to each group. He used illustrations of the most clear and yet simple character. If His hearers showed any further interest He was glad to explain the meaning of any similitude that His hearers could not comprehend. He ever ministered to the needs of men. He never sought to charm or allure by “great swelling words,” as do the representatives of evil systems. He used language that was easy to understand and was ever prepared to instruct any seeking soul. In all this He was the master preacher, an example to all who seek to serve Him by proclaiming His Word.


Power over Creation (Mark 4:35-41)

When Jesus had finished teaching by parables and as evening was approaching, He said, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” All was settled in His mind. He did not suggest that His disciples attempt to reach the other side of the lake, which was the country of the Gadarenes (5:1), but He spoke definitely of actually crossing over. If they had remembered these words later, they would have known that no storm could alter His plans.


“They took him even as he was in the ship.” He had been healing and teaching all day and no doubt was physically very weary as they received Him into the boat that was to carry Him across the lake. Note that “other little ships” were also with them.


“There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship.” To the natural eye, conditions had become very critical. But the Lord Jesus Christ slept in peace as the storm raged. In their terror the disciples turned instinctively to the Lord Jesus and roused Him from His slumber with their cry of distress. Of course He cared, but they were as safe in the storm as on a smooth sea when He was in the ship with them.

In a quiet display of His creatorial authority He commanded the wind to die down and the angry waves, which were leaping about the vessel like mad dogs, to be “muzzled,” as the command has been translated. Instantly the elements obeyed their Master, and the storm subsided. Even so He speaks today to troubled hearts and tempest-driven lives!


“Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” It was as though Jesus would call the minds of His disciples back to the words He had spoken before they began their voyage. He had declared they were to pass over to the other side-not be drowned in the midst of the sea. This should have been enough to quiet their fears, and would have been, had there been real faith in His words. The disciples did not yet understand the mystery of His person, and so they questioned one another in perplexity as to His actual identity. All nature acknowledged His power. Could He then be other than God incarnate?


Who raised the storm? Was the raising of the tempest that evening on the sea of Galilee simply a natural phenomenon, or was it of definite Satanic origin? It would seem that it was an effort on the part of the adversary to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ before He could fulfill His mission. But just as when the people of Nazareth tried to shove Him over the cliff and kill Him but were unable to effect their purpose (Luke 4:28-30 ), so in this instance Satan was again foiled. He had no power to take the life of the Son of God. That life could be laid down only voluntarily by Christ Himself in accordance with the Father’s will (John 10:17-18).


The Miracles of Jesus Christ. Rationalists and rationalizing professors of Christianity are fond of trying to explain on purely natural grounds the remarkable things credited to the Lord Jesus in the Gospels. A sample of this kind of reasoning is found in a widely-read book, The Nazarene. But the clear purpose of the Holy Spirit in recording these wonders was to show us that He who so marvelously healed and helped suffering humanity was God Himself come down to earth as man. No far-fetched explanations are needed if we consider who it was who did these things. All were perfectly normal manifestations of divine power at work in response to the needs of men. To deny the miracles is but an effort to belittle Him who performed them.


Jesus Christ our Lord is Master of all circumstances and sufficient for every emergency. Winds and waves obey Him; demons flee before Him; disease and death are destroyed when He appears. Nothing can withstand His power. He has all authority in Heaven and on earth. And the wonderful thing for us to know is that He is our Savior and Redeemer. We who have trusted Him are directed now to cast every care on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Difficulties are but opportunities for Him to display His power. Emergencies give us the privilege of proving His loving interest in us as we confide in His grace and count on His might.





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Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

"And he taught them many things by parables."Mark 4:2

The Scripture employs two beautiful figures to illustrate the reception of the divine testimony. One is the committing of the seed to the ground, as in the parable of the sower. The husbandman scatters the seed in the bosom of the earth, and the ground having been previously ploughed and reduced to a beautiful tillage, opens its bosom to receive the grain. After a little time the seed begins to germinate, to strike a root downward, and shoot a germ upward; as the Lord speaks, "First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."

This emblem beautifully represents how the testimony of Jesus Christ finds an entrance to the soul, takes root downward and carries a shoot upward. The root downward is into the depths of a tender conscience; and the shoot upward is the aspiration, breathing, and longing of the soul for the living God.

The other figure is that of grafting. "Receive," says James, "with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." Now when a scion is first put into the stock, after a little time sap begins to flow out of the stock into the scion, and this sap unites the two together. So it is spiritually when the soul receives the testimony of Christ. The testimony of Christ is received into a broken heart, as the scion is inserted into and received by the stock. As, then, life flows out of the stock into the scion, it creates and cements a sweet and blessed union with God"s word and him of whom the word testifies. Thus it grows up into a living bough, which brings forth blossoms of hope, leaves of a consistent profession, and fruit of a godly life.

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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine — or “teaching.”

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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,

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark

The Parables

"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 taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in His doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow.".

The New Method.

This chapter brings us to another clearly-marked stage in the history of Christ, or at any rate to a new development of His ministry. From this point onward He taught the people "in parables." It is quite clear that He had not hitherto employed this method of teaching, from the surprise expressed by the disciples in Mark 4:10. His preaching up to this time had been perfectly plain, simple and direct, as, for instance, in the great address known to us as the Sermon on the Mount. But from this time onward the "parable" was His favourite method of conveying truth to the multitude, and "without a parable spake He not unto them."

The Origin of the Parable.

Now there must have been a reason for the adoption of the parabolic form of teaching at this particular time, and I want, if possible, to discover what that reason was. But before discussing the reasons why our Lord adopted the "parable" as

—In the Correspondence between the Natural and the Spiritual.

His vehicle for conveying truth just at this juncture, we may profitably look at the facts which make the parable so useful. The Greek word literally means "A placing of one thing beside another," with a view to comparison. Now there is a deep correspondence between this natural world of ours and the spiritual world. "The world of nature and the world of spirit," as Archbishop Trench says, "proceed from the same hand and grow out of the same root." The things on earth are copies of the things in Heaven. The earthly tabernacle is made after the fashion seen in the Mount. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork." It is the same God who reigns in glory who has also made this earth of ours, and by understanding His laws in this lower realm we may gain glimpses into the laws of the realm of spirit and grace. For the invisible things of God are declared to us by the things that are made, and this earth is a ladder by which we can climb to heaven. "This entire moral and visible world," says Archbishop Trench, "from first to last, with its kings and its subjects, its parents and its children, its sun and its moon, its sowing and its harvest, its light and its darkness, its sleeping and its waking, its birth and its death, is from beginning to end a mighty parable, a great teacher of supersensuous truth, a help at once to win faith and understanding."

This Harmony Perceived.

This harmony and correspondence between the natural and the spiritual has been clearly discerned by the people of pure heart and open mind. Professor Henry Drummond—that man of stainless soul—that Bayard of the modern Christian Church—wrote his famous book Natural Law and the Spiritual World just to illustrate and prove this correspondence. But it had been observed long before Drummond"s time. "Creation," Dr. Martineau had said, "is God thinking aloud." "I am thinking," said Kepler, as he traced the movement of the planets, "God"s thoughts after Him." "Earth"s crammed with heaven," wrote Mrs Barrett Browning, "and very common bush"s afire with God." "What if earth," writes Milton, "be but the shadow of heaven and things therein. Each to the other like more than on earth is taught."

—And of our Lord.

But no one ever walked earth who had so pure a heart as Jesus. He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, and consequently no one ever walked earth who had so clear an eye. He saw everywhere heavenly analogies, and the natural everywhere to Him shadowed forth the spiritual. You perhaps remember how Sir Edwin Arnold puts it:—

"The simplest sights we met—

The Sower flinging seed on loam and rock,

The darnel in the wheat; the mustard tree

That hath its seed so little, and its boughs

Wide-spreading; and the wandering sheep; and nets

Shot in the wimpled waters, drawing forth

Great fish and small; these and a hundred such

Seen by us daily, never seen aright,

Were pictures for Him from the page of life

Teaching by parable."

And so He enriched the world for ever with those exquisite parables of the Prodigal Song of Solomon, and the Lost Sheep, and the Talents, and the Sower in this Chapter, which have given us some of our most precious glimpses into the realm of spiritual truth.

The Purposes of the Parable.

Now "speaking in parables" was by no means a new form of instruction. It was a popular method of teaching in the East. This teaching by story and picture was peculiarly adapted to the Eastern mind, and the Rabbis themselves were fond of beginning their lessons with the question, "What is the thing like?" It was an old enough method; the only thing peculiar about Christ"s parables is that by their beauty, their naturalness, their depth, they make all other parables seem paltry and puerile.

Why was it that just at this juncture Jesus betook Himself to the parable? Perhaps we may get some help to our answer if we remember that, as Bacon says, "Parables have a double use to vail and to illustrate, to teach and to conceal."

—To make Truth Plain.

Now, I think we must start from this point—that Christ"s primary object in teaching by parables was to make truth clearer. He used the parable as we use illustrations to-day—to light up His subject and to fasten it upon the minds of the hearers. The parable, as Mr. Lathom says, enshrined an abstract truth in such a portable concrete form that it was made accessible to all men. It puts it into a shape familiar to orientals, a shape to which the Eastern tongue lent itself with ease, and which fitted readily into the minds of men.

—Easily Understood.

Or, to put the matter quite simply—the parable has two immense advantages for teaching purposes. (1) It made truth easily intelligible. Truth is never so easily grasped as when embodied in a tale. For instance, the story of the Pharisee and the Publican puts in a nut-shell the distinction between true and false piety—and a long discourse could not have done it so well. The story of the Good Samaritan taught the meaning of neighbourhood and the duty of love better than any abstract discussion could possibly have done.

—And Easily Remembered.

And (2) the parable made truth easily memorable. These exquisite stories never faded from the minds of those who heard them. They never fade from our minds. The parables are amongst the most familiar and cherished passages of Scripture. We might forget a discourse on the pity of God—but who can ever forget the moving story of the Prodigal Son? We might forget a sermon on Stewardship—but who can ever forget the Parable of the Pounds? We might forget a Sermon on the duty of the rich to the poor—but who can ever forget the story of Dives and Lazarus? The parable was an excellent and indeed almost incomparable method of making truth easily understood and easily remembered. And, seeing that Christ knew that his time for preaching and teaching was short, I have no doubt these great advantages were in His mind when He began to speak unto them in parables.

—But also to Veil Truth.

But that is not a complete account of the case. The parable veils as well as illustrates, it conceals as well as teaches. And I think that Christ had this effect of the parable also in His mind when He adopted the parabolic style of teaching. Remember that the parable is just an earthly illustration with a heavenly meaning. There was an outward and an inward to it. There was a husk and a kernel, a body and a soul.

And so the parable, because of its dual nature might, and as a matter of fact did, have a double effect. As Matthew Henry puts it—"A parable is a shell that keeps good fruit for the diligent but keeps it from the slothful." The effect of the parable illustrated that great law that "to him that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." For those who came with honest hearts and seeking souls and spiritual sympathy found wonderful revelations of truth in these exquisite parables. But the unspiritual, the wordly-minded heard a pretty story, and nothing more.

The Result of Teaching of Parables.

And so this method of teaching by parables became, shall I say, a kind of judgment. It sifted out the tares from the wheat, those who were genuinely spiritually minded from those whose thoughts were of the earth, earthy. For these latter, while they heard the story, missed entirely its heavenly meaning; hearing they heard, but did not understand; seeing they saw, but did not perceive. It was foolishness to them, for these things are spiritually discerned. "Whose fan is in His hand," John had said of Jesus, "and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing-floor" ( Matthew 3:12, R.V.). The parabolic method was part of Christ"s fan. It purged the floor. It discovered the unworthy and casually-minded. To some, as to the disciples, who never rested till they got to the inner meaning of the parable, it was the savour of life unto life; but to the unthinking, unreasoning crowd, who went away saying, "What a pretty tale," it was the savour of death unto death.

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J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark

The Sower and the Soils

"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 taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in His doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 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. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 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. And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable. 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: 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. And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. 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 likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it 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 these are they which are sown 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 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.".

We have thought of the Sower. Let us now think of the Soils. Jesus Christ, as I said, was the Sower, and the seed which He sowed was the Word of the Kingdom. Roughly, we may say that the whole parable consists in an analogy drawn between the fortunes of a seed and the fortunes of the spoken Word.

The Seed and the Word Compared.

Shall we dwell just for a moment on certain analogies between a seed and a word, which make the one an excellent type of the other?

—In Reproductive Power.

In the first place, there is immense reproductive power resident in each. A seed is not a dead thing. It contains vast potencies of life. It is a storehouse of energy. Waving fields of grain lie latent in the seed. And a word is like a seed in this respect. It is not a dead thing; not Luther"s words alone, but all our words are living creatures. They are storehouses of energy. Dropped into a human heart, they may germinate and grow, and bring forth a harvest after their kind. And especially is this true of the Word of God. "The Word of God," says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews "is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword... and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" ( Hebrews 4:12, R.V.).

—In need of Congenial Surroundings.

There is a second point of resemblance in this, that both the seed and the word need to find congenial surroundings before the life latent in each reveals itself. Before the seed multiplies into harvest, it needs to find suitable soil. Seed kept in the granary reveals no signs of life. It needs "the good ground" to develop the forces and potentialities that are in it. And in just the same way the Word, to reveal its life-giving power, must find the good heart. Even the living Word of God falls useless and profitless unless it is received with meekness into believing and obedient souls. Now, it is upon this latter fact, that the fortunes both of the seed and the word depend on the ground into which they fall, that the whole of this parable is built.

—In Dependence on Soil Conditions.

As Jesus sat in the boat teaching, He saw the sower going forth to sow. He saw some of the seed fall on to the trodden path and some on to the ground through which here and there the rock peeped; and some into the corners of the field amongst the thorn bushes; and others into the soft, brown, fertile earth. And Jesus knew that though the seed that fell on the wayside and on the rocky ground and amongst the thorns was in itself every whit as good as the seed that fell into the clear, rich soil, the fanner would get no harvest from it, for the simple reason that it had not found favourable, suitable conditions. And all that reminded Him of His own experience as a preacher. If success depended upon the preacher, and upon the character of the word preached, what success ought to have fallen to Jesus, for His word was truth, and He Himself spake as never yet man spake!

The Word and the Hearer.

But our Lord knew the success of the preaching depended not simply on the word and the preacher, but on the hearer too. And He knew perfectly well that though thousands followed Him, and though He taught them all, that it was only a comparative few who really received His word. In His case, as in the case of that sower before His eyes, some of the precious seed of the Gospel which He was scattering, was falling by the wayside, and some on rocky ground, and some among thorns, and from these He would never see a harvest. Yes, my brethren, the wayside hearer and the rocky-ground hearer, and the thorny-patch hearer, they were all in Christ"s congregation, as they have been in every preacher"s congregation since our Lord"s day.

Now, let us see who the wayside hearer and the rocky-ground hearer and the thorny-ground hearer really are.

The Wayside Hearer.

As the sower went on with his work, some seed fell on the wayside, on a beaten path that seems to have run across the field. Falling on that hard surface, the seed never got into the ground at all; and, lying there exposed to view, the birds soon espied it, and picked it up. Our Lord knew there were in His congregation that day some whose hearts were like that beaten track; they heard the Word of the Gospel, but it never got into them. A hard crust of insensibility kept the Gospel seed outside. That is the wayside hearer—the man of whom the Gospel takes no hold, into whose heart it does not penetrate at all.

How he is made Insensible.

Half-a-dozen things may beget this insensibility. A person"s training and upbringing may beget it. Some people are so trained or untrained as to be almost incapable of religion. The capacity for religion, as Bushnell would say, is almost extirpated by disuse. The Word of God, therefore, does not touch them. Theirs is a crust of insensibility, through which the seed of the Gospel does not penetrate. Then the incessant trampling through the heart of the world"s business and pleasure and care may beget it. And sin may beget it. But, most terrible of all, as Dr. Maclaren points out, the very preaching of the Gospel may beget it. There are many ways in which the human heart may be beaten hard—but the most awful hardening takes place when a man becomes Gospel-hardened.

Whatever be the process by which the heart has arrived at that state, the result is still the same—the seed of the Gospel never gets a chance, for it never really penetrates at all. The Old Book is full of these men with the crust of insensibility: the Pharisees dismissing John"s preaching with the remark, "He hath a devil"; Pilate, who set aside Christ"s solemn words, asking that pitiful jest, "What is truth"; the Athenians, who laughed when Paul made mention of the Resurrection; Festus, who cried out, "Paul, thou art mad." The Gospel really never got at these men. It lay outside of them, like the seed on the wayside. And then what happens? "Straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the Word which hath been sown in them" ( Mark 4:15, R.V.). "Straightway"—the sermon is no sooner over than it is forgotten. It never really got into the mind or heart, and so the slightest thing is sufficient to sweep it all away. They are absolutely uninfluenced and unimpressed. It is a case of "Lost Seed."

The Rocky-Ground Hearer.

"Other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away" ( , R.V.). "And these," said our Lord in His interpretation of the parable, "... are they that are sown upon the rocky places, who, when they have heard the Word, straightway receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, straightway they stumble" ( Mark 4:16-17, R.V.). In the case of the wayside hearer the Word produced no effect; in the case of the rocky-ground hearer, it produces a temporary effect. In the former case the Gospel message took no hold; in this latter it takes only a superficial hold. They endure but for a time.

The rocky-ground hearer is really John Bunyan"s Mr. Temporary. You perhaps remember the conversation between Christian and Hopeful with reference to him.

The case of Mr. Temporary.

"Well then," said Christian to his friend, as they walked on, "did you know about ten years ago one Temporary in your parts, who was a forward man in religion then?"

"Know him?" replied Hopeful, "Yes; he dwelt in Graceless, a town about two miles off of Honesty, and he dwelt next door to one Turn Back."

"Right," responded Christian, "he dwelt under the very same roof with him. Well, that man was much awakened once. I believe that he had some sight of his sins, and of the wages that was due thereto."

"I am of your mind," chimed in Hopeful, "for he would ofttimes come to me, and that with many tears. Truly I pitied the Prayer of Manasseh, and was not altogether without hope of him; but one may see it is not every one that cries, Lord, Lord."

"He told me once," said Christian, "that he was resolved to go on Pilgrimage as we do now, but all of a sudden he grew acquainted with one Save-self, and then he became a stranger to me."

—His Class.

This Mr. Temporary, first cousin to Mr. Turn Back, living, indeed, under the same roof with Mr. Turn Back, is just the rocky-ground hearer. And our Lord knew Mr. Temporary right well. For there were people in His congregation who, when the Word was first preached, received it with all joy. They were full of enthusiasm. They wanted to take Him by force and make Him King. But when He talked strange words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood they turned their backs on Him in shoals. They had been charmed, not changed. The Gospel had touched their emotions, but had not penetrated to the heart. Paul knew Mr. Temporary. Listen, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" ( 2 Timothy 4:10). Listen again. "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" ( Galatians 5:7). Every missioner knows Mr. Temporary, for in the excitement of the meetings numbers go into the enquiry rooms and fall away when faced by the stern realities of the Christian life. And every minister knows Mr. Temporary. For in every Church Year Book you will find a list of "Lapsed or Resigned"—the catalogue of men and women who endured for a time.

The Cause of Failure.

Would you know what is amiss with the rocky-ground hearer? "He has," Jesus says, "no root in himself." Fruitage is always a matter of rootage. You plant a tree by the river of water, and it will bring forth its fruit in its season, and its leaf will not wither. But this seed sown on the rocky ground had no root. It was not able to shoot its fibres down into the fat and nourishing soil, Song of Solomon, because it had not root, it withered away. And the rocky-ground hearer is a disappointment, an unfulfilled prophecy, for the very same reason. He has no root in himself. And what are we to understand by not having root in himself? This, I think. Religion had not penetrated deeply into him. It had touched him superficially, that was all. This is the account Hopeful gave of Temporary"s defection. "Though the consciences of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed; therefore, when the power of guilt weareth away, that which provoketh them to be religious ceaseth." "You are pretty near the business," remarked Christian, "for the bottom of all is for want of a change in their mind and will." That is exactly it. The rocky-ground hearer has not been changed in mind and will. His religion has not gone deep. A religion based on sentiment, a religion that has its seat in the feelings, a religion that has not taken captive both mind and will, can never stand the shock of life"s trials and temptations. The only religion that can last is the religion that has sent its roots deep down, that has laid hold of heart and soul, and mind and will. The man who is rooted and grounded and built up in Christ will stand four square to all the winds that blow.

The Thorny-ground Hearer.

"And other" said our Lord, "fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit" ( Mark 4:7, R.V.). "And others," He said in His explanation, "are they that are sown among the thorns; these are they that have heard the Word, and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful" ( Mark 4:18-19, R.V.). Now, if the wayside hearer stands for the man upon whom the Gospel takes no hold, and the rocky-ground hearer, stands for the man of whom it only takes a superficial hold, the thorny-ground hearer stands for the man of whom the Gospel takes a disputed hold, whose heart is not wholly and entirely surrendered to the love of God. For by the thorny-ground of which our Lord here speaks we are not to understand those bushes into which some of the seed fell by accident The thorns were not visible to the eye—they were buried underground. That is obvious from what our Lord says, "the thorns grew up." To all outward appearance this ground was clean and good. But beneath the surface of the soil thorn roots and seeds lay hidden.

In other words, the fault of this soil was that it was impure. There were other things in possession. There were other seeds in it besides those which the sower scattered upon it, and the result was—two crops struggling for the mastery; and there was not nutriment enough for both. The bearing capacities of the soil are limited. It is equal to bearing one crop, but it is not equal to bearing two, or, at any rate, if two crops are sown in it, the growths from them are bound to be feeble and disappointing.

A Heart Weakness.

Now in this respect the human heart is like the soil. The resources of the heart are limited, and a man is unequal to the task of serving Christ as He asks to be served, and serving somebody or something else at the same time. Listen to this; "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" ( Matthew 6:24). The heart may serve God, or it may serve gold, but no heart in the world is equal to the task of serving both. Listen again to this: "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." ( James 4:4), or as John puts it, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" ( 1 John 2:15). Here are two things that cannot possibly co-exist in the same soil. The growth of the one means inevitably the death of the other. It takes the whole heart to be a Christian. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" ( Mark 12:30). "All!" No man can be a Christian with a divided heart. Now, the rocky-ground hearer is just a man who tries to do that impossible thing. He tries to be a Christian with a divided heart. He tries to serve God and the world at the same time. He cherishes other loves in his soul beside the love of Christ, and so his religion becomes a poor, sickly, stunted growth. These other things take all the sap and strength out of it, and "it becometh unfruitful."

Things that Produce it.


Our Lord mentions specifically some of those thorn roots, which, if they are left in the heart, tend to choke the Word, and take all the strength out of a man"s religion. Here they are—"The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in." "The cares of the world"—they can blight and destroy the spiritual life. "Be not anxious.... what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink" ( Matthew 6:25 R.V.), said our Lord. He knew how easy it is for men to become engrossed in these mundane things, to the forgetting of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, which is the one thing needful. Beware of this thorn. Forethought is right enough in its place, but absorption in the "cares of this world" may mean the starvation of the soul.


"The deceitfulness of riches!" The deceitfulness of riches, notice, i.e, the tendency of wealth to beget the passion for wealth; and also the tendency of wealth to beget the sense of sufficiency, so that a man no longer feels the need of treasure in heaven.

You must have seen the disastrous results of this thorn. I have known men who have grown poorer in soul as they have grown richer in purse. Their increase in wealth has been accompanied by a decrease in piety. Our Lord knew how deadly a thorn this was. "How hardly," He said, "shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God" ( Mark 10:23).


And "the lusts of other things entering in!" What are the lusts? According to Luke"s account, they are "the pleasures of this life," and these pleasures, according to our Lord"s statement, choke the Word. A man may smother his spiritual life by a passion for amusement. Indeed, we see this thing taking place. We see the strength and life being taken out of the religion of scores, and hundreds of young people by their devotion to pleasure. They promised well once upon a time. The seed gave good promise of a harvest; but this thorn was in the heart and it grew up and choked the Word, so that it became unfruitful.

The Fruitful Seed.

"Some on good ground." And as I said before, this is the saving clause. The seed the farmer scattered was not all wasted. Some fell on the good ground, and there it yielded fruit, and brought forth thirty-fold, and sixty-fold, and a hundredfold. And the harvest from the good ground compensated him for all his toil and labour. And Song of Solomon, too, some of the precious seed of the Gospel falls on hearts that are like the good ground; hearers who not only hear the Word but also accept it. They take it in. They "receive with meekness the implanted Word" ( James 1:21 R.V.) as the apostle says, and that implanted Word, received, is able to save their souls. They accept it. They take to themselves its promises; they receive its revelations and obey its precepts. And the Word thus received and accepted brings forth fruit in their lives.

The Necessary Conditions of True Holiness.

The Word is a Word of life, but it profits us nothing unless we accept it. "The Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard" ( Hebrews 4:2). It was not accepted; it did not profit. But whenever it is accepted it brings forth fruit. It has its result in the life. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" ( 1 John 4:11). If we have honestly received that Word, we shall live the kindly and helpful life. "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me" ( Matthew 16:24 R.V.). If we have honestly received that Word, our lives will be marked by sacrifice. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness" ( Matthew 6:33). If we have honestly received that Word, eternal things will be the first object of our seeking and our care.

Does the fruit show, in our case, that we have received the Word? Four classes of soils are spoken of in this parable, but really they reduce themselves to two—the soil that bears fruit, and the soil that does not. In the long run men are divided, not into four classes, but into just two—those who receive the Word, and those who do not. Those who shew the results in life and character, and those who do not. In which class do we stand? "Take heed how ye hear."

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Jones, J.D. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". J.D. Jones's Commentary on the Book of Mark.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

The Parable of the Sower

[An Analysis]

Mark 4

The work of Christ and the general preaching of the Gospel are represented in this simple illustration. From it we learn—1. That a general proclamation is attended by particular results. This is notable, because one would have imagined that any declaration of God"s will would have elicited an instantaneous, universal, and satisfactory response. The only difference which could have been supposed would be that each would be striving to excel the other in prompt and reverent obedience2. We learn, secondly, that those particular results are not to be attributed to any special arrangement on the part of the sower. The sower went forth to sow the whole field, at the same time, with the same seed, and with the same purpose; with entire impartiality he moved along the courses of the field, and scattered the grain on the right hand and on the left. Looking at the case from his point of view, we might have expected that his labours would have been productive of the most satisfactory results. Sowers cannot control harvests. They may sow well, and be mocked by a lean and withered harvest. This marks not only a limitation of power on the part of Prayer of Manasseh, but on the part of God also in moral operations. No man can be compelled to bring forth fruit unto God. A man may receive the best seed and let it rot; he may live under the most fertilising influences, and yet be barren of all holy fruits. The startling practical reflection suggested by this circumstance Isaiah, that men are not saved by having opportunities, but by improving them. It is no light consideration that with God himself for a sower we may be disappointed in the fruitfulness and quality of the harvest. This refutes the sophism, that if the Gospel were properly proclaimed, men would yield to it. The fault is not in the instrumentality. The ministry of Jesus Christ was in certain aspects a failure; there were vast breadths of the field which he sowed with a liberal hand, which bore no trace of his service. The world is not perishing for lack of good preaching. Never was preaching so excellent and so abundant as it is to-day, yet hardly one token of harvest can be seen. We may learn—3. That hearers must themselves supply the conditions of spiritual success. Look at the particulars for illustration: The wayside hearer listens to the word, but understandeth (regardeth) it not, and from want of attention the enemy is suffered to "catch away that which was sown in heart." The condition which this hearer should have brought with him is meditation. The word touched him only by the outside; he gave it no lodgment in his heart, never watered the seed, never protected the fences, never opened his spirit to its power. The seed was good, the soil was bad; the sower was God, the enemy the devil. See how the case stands: the sower is God, the field is the heart, the destroyer is the devil; and in order to disappoint the enemy, the heart must co-operate with God. Take the stony-ground hearer. He listens to the word with gladness. He thinks it a pleasant sound, and while the music is in his ear, he resolves to profit by the Holy Word. What condition is wanting in his case? It is well named "root in himself"; no reality and depth of nature; empty, trifling, unreflecting; easily moved, self-indulgent, pliable; all right in sunshine, but cowardly in darkness; loving the Gospel sound, but lacking courage to endure anything for the Gospel"s sake. Such a hearer brings much disappointment to his minister. The starting tear, the responsive gleam, the ready assent, are mistaken by being over-valued by the zealous preacher. No man can live to much purpose who has "no root in himself," nothing upon which even God can work. Mark the possibility of exhausting one"s manhood; throwing away, or allowing to die out, the germ which was given to be cultured and expanded into fruitfulness towards God! Think of a man being dead at the roots! The thorny-ground hearer is represented in all congregations: the seed is good, the soil itself even may not be of the worst quality; the man is simply preoccupied; his idea is that life depends entirely upon his own exertions, and he consequently works as if he had no spiritual sources to draw upon. Give him a perpetual Sabbath, and he will be attentive, and perhaps partly religious; but as the working-week begins, the old tyrannous mammon-spirit masters him. There is an influence which seems to be born, or at least revived, every Monday morning, which overpowers the partial religiousness of the Sabbath. It is not to be understood that religious men are exempt from the cares of this world, or even the deceitfulness of riches; they have them all, but the spirit that is in them is greater than the spirit that is in the world, and they thereby overcome.

[The expression—"the deceitfulness of riches," is an excellent text for a sermon to the busy. It may also be the foundation of a discourse to young merchants. The deceitfulness is shown in several ways, such, for example, as—"I am laying up for a rainy day"; "I care nothing for wealth, except to do good with it"; when I have realised a sufficient sum, I shall spend the remainder in works of benevolence." All these are sophisms. The rainy day may never come; the rich man seldom does as much good as he did when he was not half so wealthy; money likes money, and the difficulty is to know when a man has "sufficient." The subject might then be viewed in a graver aspect, viz.:—the power of riches to choke the divine word in man Think of a man selling his aspirations, his faculties, his capacities, selling his soul for gold! This love of money does not come upon a man all at once, but "deceitfully," until a nature which might have been open and generous becomes shrivelled and impenetrable.] Each class of hearers may be specially treated—

Wayside: Opportunity given: Opportunity lost: A constantly watchful enemy.

Stony Ground: Impulsiveness: Shallowness: Want of conviction and fortitude.

Thorns: Mental pre-occupation: Thoughtlessness: Worldly-mindedness.

Good Ground: Moral preparation: Earnestness: Visible reward in fruitfulness, which reward is to constitute the most evident proof of the reality of the divine life in the soul.

The whole parable may be used as showing the operation of four powerful influences in human life. (1) The influence of the devil as seen in the wayside hearers. (2) The influence of frivolity as seen in the stony-ground hearers. (3) The influence of worldliness as seen in the thorny-ground hearers. (4) The influence of earnestness as seen in the good-ground hearers.

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 any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

23. If any man have ears, to hear, let him hear.

24. 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.

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.

The subject is: Christian life viewed as a Revelation, a responsibility, and a law.

I. As a revelation: (a) It is to be luminous; (b) it is to be properly placed in the midst of society. The gospel is a great revealing power. In all truth there is power of exposure and judgment; how, much more in the highest truth of all!

II. As a responsibility: (a) Stewardship in doctrine; (b) stewardship in action.

III. As a law: (a) Usefulness is productiveness; (b) indolence is ruin.

The kingdom of Christ is thus shown to be founded on law. Man never becomes more than a subject: Christ never less than a king.

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.

(1) Though the sower sleep after his labour, yet the process of germination goes on night and day. (2) Simple beginnings and practical results may be connected by mysterious processes: "he knoweth not how." There is a point in Christian work where knowledge must yield to mystery. (3) As the work of the sower is assisted by natural processes ("the earth bringeth forth of itself," etc.), so the seed of truth is aided by the natural conscience and aspiration which God has given to all men. (4) The mysteriousness of processes ought not to deter from reaping the harvest. The spiritual labourer may learn from the husbandman.

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 becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

(1) Small beginnings may have great endings. (a) This should encourage all holy labourers; (b) this should alarm all wicked men. (2) Vitality more important than magnitude. (a) This applies to creeds; (b) to church agencies and organisations; (c) to a public profession of faith. (3) The least thing in nature a better illustration of divine truth than the greatest object in art. The least of all seeds more fitly represents the kingdom of heaven than the most elaborate of all statuary. The natural flower is a revelation of God, the artificial flower is a proof of the skill of man. It should be noticed that human art is never referred to in the Scripture as illustrating the divine nature and purposes, but continual reference is made to all the works of creation. God illustrates himself by himself.

33. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

34. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

This text may be used as supplying three lessons as to the duties of the Christian teacher. (1) He must adapt himself to his hearers. Are they young? Are they educated? Are they courageous? Are they surrounded by any peculiar circumstances? (2) He must consider his hearers rather than himself. This was Jesus Christ"s method. The question should be not what pleases the preacher"s taste, but what is most required by the spiritual condition of the people. (3) He must increase his communication of truth and light according to the progress of his scholars. Reticence is power. In teaching children the teacher does not dazzle them by the splendour of his attainments, he adapts the light to the strength of their mental vision. The preacher should always know more of divine truth than the hearer. Christ"s method of imparting knowledge Isaiah, so far as we can infer, unchanged. He has yet more light to shed upon his word.

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?

(1) The organised Church in peril,—Christ and his disciples were all in this tempest. (2) Dangers beset the Church even whilst it is carrying out the express commands of Christ,—Jesus himself bade them pass over unto the other side. (3) The spirit of Christ, not the body of Christ, must save the Church in all peril. The sleeping body was in the vessel, but it exercised no influence upon the storm. It is possible to have an embalmed Christ, and yet to have no Christianity. It is also possible to have the letter of Christ"s word without the spirit and power of his truth. (4) Jesus Christ answering the personal appeal of the imperilled Church. The power of the servant is often exhausted,—exhausted power should betake itself to supplication. (5) All the perils of the Church may be successfully encountered by profound faith in God ( Mark 5:40).

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Mark 4:12. That seeing they may see, and not perceive. St. Luke gives the true sense of these words, which often occur. Acts 28:26-27. They mark, according to Dr. Lightfoot, the obduracy which fell on the jews, when they shut their eyes against the ministry and miracles of Jesus. On their wilfully doing this, God withdrew his grace. He quotes Procopius on Isaiah to the same effect. “The power of seeing was presented to them from the grace of him who was seen; hence, their not seeing, was the consequence of shutting their eyes. But how instructive is the thought, that the sin in which we most obstinately persist, should be turned to our punishment by a mysterious providence.”

Mark 4:21. Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel? These words are applied to the saints, who are the lights of the world. Here they are associated with the seed sown, or the word of the kingdom. It is a pity for a wise and able minister to be hid in a corner, while so much darkness is on the christian world.

Mark 4:34. Without a parable spake he not unto them; that is, when he spake of his kingdom, had he addressed those things to the multitude in plain discourse, it would have been to make a premature disclosure of his person, as “over all, God blessed for ever.” Romans 9:5. This was not to be done till after his resurrection. His parables were concise, and all the figures familiar and impressive. The people would well remember them, and enquire after divine illustrations.

Mark 4:35. When the even was come, he saith to them, let us pass over to the other side. Having preached twice, once in Peter’s house, and once on the sea-shore, he sailed at night. What a pattern of labour, and of love to souls. Think of this, oh pastor, who enjoyest leisure with preferment.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

Ver. 2. He taught them many things by parables] Ministers must likewise fetch comparisons from things most familiar and best known to their hearers, as the prophets from fishes when they have to deal with the Egyptians; from flocks and herds, when with the Arabians; from merchandise and navigation, when with the Tyrians and Sidonians, &c.; and as our Saviour from fishing, when he dealeth with fishers; from sowing, when with seedsmen, &c.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Parable of the Sower

This chapter shows again how the Lord continues His ordinary work of teaching. Many are attracted thereby. Because He is by the sea and there is a great danger that the crowd will drive Him into it, He takes His place in a ship. As He sits down there, He speaks to the crowd standing on the land. By sitting down in a ship, He separates Himself from the people who rejected Him and His religious leaders in the previous section, where they attribute His work to the devil (Mk 3:22).

He does start again with His ordinary work, teaching, but He gives this teaching in a different form. In connection with the development that has just taken place in His relationship with the Jews, He will make use of parables. He explains the reason for this in Mk 4:10-12.

With the call "listen!" (Mk 4:3) He urges the whole crowd to listen carefully to what He is going to say. Although He speaks to the crowd, it is the condition of each individual person that matters. Each individual person is a kind of ground into which the seed falls. He proposes to them a sower who goes out to sow. That sower is He Himself. He goes out, He has gone out from the Father (Jn 13:3). That He now presents Himself as the Sower means that it is no longer a matter of seeking fruit in His vineyard Israel - and He had come for that purpose - but that, by sowing that fruit, He is now going to produce it Himself.

The seed that is sown falls on different types of soil. The first kind is beside the road, the hardened road. The seed that ends up there becomes a prey of birds, because the soil is so hard that it cannot take root. The second kind where part of the seed ends up, is rocky soil. There is a little bit of earth there, which makes it look as if this seed does produce something. But because of the rocky soil, the seed hasn't been able to get deep roots. So when the sun rises, it scorches. Another part ends up between the thorns. There is soil and it can take root, but it can't grow because of the thorns that choke it, so there won't be any fruit from this seed either.

The fourth type of soil is the good soil. The seeds that fall in it grow, increase, and yield fruit. The fruit is represented in different measures. There is seed that bears thirtyfold fruit, there is seed that bears sixtyfold fruit, and there is seed that bears a hundredfold fruit.

In Matthew 13 (Mt 13:23) the order is the other way around. There it is about the history of the kingdom of heaven as it has been entrusted to the responsibility of man. Everything that is entrusted to man's responsibility begins well, but then decay makes its entrance and a process of weakening begins. Thus the church starts well on the day of Pentecost and the first days thereafter, but more and more worldly influences cause that first strength and freshness to gradually diminish.

Here in the Gospel according to Mark it is about the work of the perfect Servant. Then the result increases further and further to the perfect measure.

What the Lord says to the multitude at the beginning, "listens", or "hear", He says at the end of the parable to the few who are eager for Divine instruction. We must first listen, or hear, in order to bring forth fruit.

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 4:2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Teaching by Means of Parables.

v. 1. 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.

v. 2. And He taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in His doctrine.

Jesus had devoted some time to the private instruction of His disciples, in which He had been interrupted by the dispute with the Pharisees. He now resumed His ministry to the people of Galilee and the others that had come from other parts of Palestine. We have here one of the two chapters in Mark that present a connected discourse of the Lord, chapter 13 being the other. Christ's teaching was, for the most part, done in the open air, at various points along the shore of the sea. Greater crowds than ever assembled about Him, making it necessary for Him to enter into a boat and address the people while seated out there, at some distance from the land. The entire multitude, meanwhile, stood or sat along the shore, which arose from the sea in a gentle slope. Jesus thus had the advantage of having His entire audience before Him so that He could see practically every one of them, and it was much easier for Him to address them with uplifted head, since the voice carries better. And the people, in turn, were all able to see Him, a condition which is almost a prerequisite for close attention. Mark emphasizes the fact that the Lord's address was teaching, instructing. His purpose was not to keep the crowd amused, but to impart to them the knowledge pertaining to their salvation. This must be the aim of all true Gospel-preaching. The preacher that degrades His church into an amusement-hall and His sermon into a mountebank's foolishness, does not follow in the footsteps of the great teacher. The feature of Christ's teaching was his speaking in parables, in the simple telling of incidents taken from every-day life, but with profound application to spiritual matters. Note: There was never the least of the frivolous or profane in the stories as told by the Lord. His was not the cheap art of the professional exhorter; the matter with which He dealt was far too serious to permit of unseemly levity.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

             3. Our Lord’s Conflict with the carnal Unbelief of the People in the Delivery of His Parables, and His Triumph over Human Narrowness. ( Mark 4:1-34)

(Parallels: Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:31-35; Luke 8:4-18)

1And he began again to teach by the sea-side: and there was gathered[FN1] unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a [the] 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, 3and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken: behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way-side, and the fowls [birds] of 5 the air[FN2] came and devoured it up. And some[FN3] fell on stony ground, where it had not 6 much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, [FN4] 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 [apart], they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. [FN5] 11And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know[FN6] the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12That 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 14 them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word 15 And these are they by the way-side, where the word is sown; but [and] when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word 16 that was sown in their hearts. And these[FN7] are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17And have no [not] root in themselves, and so endure but for a time [but are transient]: 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, 19And the cares of this[FN8] world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other20[remaining] things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these[FN9] 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 21 And he said unto them, Is a candle [the lamp] brought to be put under a bushel [the measure], or under a [the] bed?,and not to be set on a candlestick [the lamp-stand]? 22For there is nothing hid, which shall not[FN10] 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[FN11] 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 26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast [the] seed into [upon] the ground; 27And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should 28 spring [sprout] and grow up [elongate], he knoweth not how. For[FN12] the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself [automatically]; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear 29 But when the fruit is brought forth [yields], immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is [has] come 30 And he said, “Whereunto shall we liken the 31 kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? [FN13] 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: 32But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out [makes] great branches; so that the fowls [birds] 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. 34But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples[FN14].


See on the parallels.—Matthew gives us a collection of seven parables; Mark, of three. Thus it is a round sacred number in both. Here also the individual parables are combined into one collective view of the kingdom of God. In Matthew, we see the chronological development of the kingdom of God in its historical periods; here, we have a picture of its development in space (statistically) according to its immanent principles of gradual expansion. The first parable depicts the kingdom of God in its universally difficult foundation; the second (a precious addition to the treasury of parables, in Mark alone), its certain and natural development; the third, its wonderful and glorious spread and consummation. It is probable that these three parables formed originally one single connected discourse; furnishing the basis of a later historical representation of the kingdom in the seven parables. The beginning of the parabolic discourses, however, had an earlier position than Mark indicates. His purpose is to connect them with the transference of Jesus’ teaching to the sea-side; but he has also a motive arising out of the nature of the events for placing these parables here. They form a crisis in the conflict of Christ with unbelief in Galilee, and mark His conflict with the specially sensuous unbelief of the people. Hence, in Mark 4:12, he has the well-known strong ἵνα (βλέποντες βλέπωσι καὶ μὴ ἵδωσι); while Matthew has the ὅτι. He also quotes in a very suggestive manner, Mark 4:21-23, the words of Christ which we find in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Mark 5:15, and in the instructions to the Apostles, Mark 10:26, and which in Luke, Mark 8:16, are connected with the parable of the sower. There is nothing improbable in the supposition that our Lord used these figures in various connections. Here the figure of the candle is designed to teach that the parables have it for their positive purpose to enlighten; that Isaiah, that the disciples should at the right season discover the spiritual meaning of the parables; and the figure of the measure, that the disciples were to measure out instruction liberally in hope.

Mark 4:1. And He began again to teach by the sea-side.—Another emphatic reference to the contrast of this with His customary course of teaching; and as an expression of His decided breach with the Pharisees.

Mark 4:2. In His doctrine.—In His doctrinal instructions. “Of the many things (πολλά), Mark makes some particular things prominent.” Meyer.

Mark 4:8. Fruit that sprang up and increased.—We understand the former, of strong and vigorous upward growth; but the latter, the αὐξανόμενον, of the seed-corn’s spreading out into a number of stalks, as is the case with prosperous increase. Meyer also understands the καρπός as meaning the stalks in contradistinction to the grains, these not being mentioned till later; “some,” etc. But the idea of the fruit is thus artificially weakened. The actual and excellent growth is described; but under the point of view of its fruit, this and the luxuriant stalk being embraced in one. It is better to understand the springing up and increasing of the fruit as meaning the springing up of the ears of grain with the stems.

Mark 4:10. They that were about Him, with the Twelve.—The specific company of Christ’s disciples, independent of and with the Twelve. Euthym. Zig.: The Seventy. But these were not distinguished from the rest until later.

Mark 4:11. Unto you is given to know the mystery.—Significant; and to be explained in accordance with Matthew and Luke. The mystery is given through the knowledge of it.—But unto them that are without, οἱ ἔξω: in later phraseology, all non-Christians ( 1 Corinthians 5:12); with the Talmudists, all who were not Jews; but also the uninstructed and uninitiated Jews. Here, however, it is doubtless a hint of the germ of the opposition between the old and the new community, which in the word ἐκκλησία Matthew 16:18) came somewhat later into full use.

Mark 4:12. They may see.—The ἵνα is not to be softened, as if ita ut, as Rosenmüller and others assert. We must maintain that this hard utterance was based upon Isaiah 6:9 seq, and therefore that it must be interpreted in the meaning of that passage: not as an absolute sentence, but as a deserved, economical, and pedagogical visitation. See on Matthew.

Mark 4:13. Know ye not this parable?—The first parable of the kingdom is the basis of all the rest. If they understood not this, they could not understand any that followed. If they had the explanation of this, they had the key for the understanding of all others. According to De Wette, these are rebuking words; according to Meyer, they are a mere recurrence to the question of Mark 4:10. But it is certainly, at the same time, an intimation of the connection of all the parables in the idea of the kingdom of heaven; so that with the explanation of this one, all were explained.

Mark 4:15. These are they by the way-side, where the word is sown.—Through the whole parable we must embrace in one view the field with the seed on it. In Luke, the idea of seed predominates; in Mark, the idea of ground sown over; in Matthew, there is an alternation. In the first instance, the view of the ground sown predominates; in the last, the view of the seed scattered.

Mark 4:16. Which are sown.—Mark the change of tense in Mark: σπειρόμενοι, Mark 4:16; Mark 4:18, and σπαρέντες in Mark 4:20.

Mark 4:18. Who have heard the word.—Hearers preëminently. Diligent hearers, but not doers; ἀκούσαντες instead of ἀκούοντες: B, C, D, L, ., Tischendorf. Mark gives the most vivid picture of them.

Mark 4:21. Is a candle brought to be put.—Not an exhortation to virtue, as Theophylact and others thought, but a statement of the end for which He confided to them the mystery of the kingdom in parables. According to Erasmus: “Do not suppose that what I now commit to you in secret, I would have concealed for ever; the light is kindled by Me in you, that by your ministry it may disperse the darkness of the whole world.”

Mark 4:22. For there is nothing hid.—The concealed is in its very nature destined to be revealed in its time. A thing absolutely and forever concealed would not be concealed; it would as such have no meaning. There is this design in all the concealments of the kingdom of God. Thus the clause forms the complement of the ἵνα above, Mark 4:12.

Mark 4:24. With what measure ye mete.—De Wette (after Euthym. Zig.): “According to the measure of your ability and diligence (as hearers, see the preceding verse), ye will receive instruction.” But it seems more obvious, in the process of the thought, to say, According to the measure of your diligence in teaching will your Master add to your knowledge (docendo discimus, especially in the kingdom of God). For the mere hearing and receiving cannot well be described as a measuring out.

Mark 4:25. For he that hath.—The proverb has, here, more reference to zeal in the teaching function. The living treasure of knowledge will always, by its own nature, go on increasing. We may compare the words concerning the spiritual life springing up within, John 4:14; John 7:38; for living knowledge is never separable from internal spiritual life.

Mark 4:26-29 are a continuation of the parabolic instruction addressed to the people. Meyer: Observe the Aorist βάλη, and then the following Presents: has cast, and then does sleep.

Mark 4:29. When the fruit is brought forth.—But the παραδῷ is not intransitive: When the fruit shall have yielded itself. This relative spontaneousness of the fruit is as if it did not suffer premature cutting before its full ripeness.

Mark 4:30. Or with what comparison.—Meyer: The hearers are now formally addressed in the discourse, as the omission of αὐτοῖς with ἔλεγεν shows.

Mark 4:33. And with many such parables.—Manifestly, Mark knew of other parables of our Lord, which he passes over. As they were able.—This does not refer to their worthiness (Grotius), but to their ability to apprehend (Theophylact, De Wette). It also includes, however, their being able to bear without being offended. Thus it is not a mere literal ἀκούειν in the sense of being able to receive, as Meyer thinks.


1. See on the parallels.—On the ἵνα, Mark 4:12, see the notes above.

2. The parable of Mark 4:26-29 teaches, in the figure of the relative independence of nature in the regular development of the seed through an internal energy of growth (αὐτομάτη), the higher relative independence and regular development of the growth of the kingdom of God, or the establishment of Christianity and the Church in the world down to its consummation for the final manifestation of the kingdom of God. (The reapers: the angels, Matthew 13:39) The proper point of comparison is the seed’s impulse of growth from within outwardly, as if by an internal energy of its own, whence follow the apparent spontaneousness, regularity, gradualness, progressiveness, security, and perfection of the development. Thus the naturalness of nature, so to speak, the “metamorphosis of plants,” becomes a symbol of the development of the divine life from the seed of the divine word or regeneration. The germinant energy of growth is here the actual freedom of the new divine-human (not abstractly human, but also not abstractly divine) energy of life in humanity; whether in the regeneration and sanctification of the believing community, or in that of the individual Christian. Here also the development proceeds from within, from the conscious internal being: independent or free (not from God, but in God), naturally and regularly legitimate, gradual, progressive, down to certain and decisive consummation. But it is assumed that human nature in its essence bears the same relation to the word of God, and has as much in common with it, as the earth to the seed-corn. And as the earth only by culture, and tillage, and sowing, overcomes its tendency to wildness, and the bringing forth of thorns and thistles, so also the human heart is set free from its wicked bias, and its thorns and thistles, only by the culture of grace and the seed of the word of God. Meyer: The spontaneousness here set forth does not negate the divine energies of grace; but the end of the parable is not to make the latter prominent, but the former. De Wette: The parable teaches patience, as that of the tares forbearance.—The period of the New Testament Church presents the natural development of the kingdom of God, yet not without the Lord’s overruling, and not without the constant energy of His Spirit. The miraculous seed has become a new nature, from which at the Lord’s appearance new fruits will grow.


See on the parallels.—Christ teaching in the ship a parable itself of the kingdom of heaven: 1. A figure of the form of that kingdom: a. of the evangelical ministry, b. of the church, c. of missions; 2. a figure of its condition: a. small beginnings, b. poverty, c. mobility, freedom.—Christ in conflict with the sensuous unbelief of the world.—Christ the deliverer of the people from the bonds of ignorance, of carnal notions, and sensuous narrowness.—The teaching wisdom of Christ, as it speaks in parables, a seal of His divine power (of His love as of His wisdom).—He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!—The parables of Jesus as signs of the divine judgments: 1. Figuring the judicial concealments and symbols of truth in the spiritual life of mankind, a. in the Gentile world, b. in the people of Israel, c. in the Christian, specially the medieval Church; 2. figuring their scope and purpose, a. to spare, b. to instruct, and c. to discipline and educate the soul.—The interpretation of the parable of the sower a key to the interpretation of all the rest.—The three parables of our chapter combined, present a figure of the unfolding of the kingdom of heaven, as to its foundation, progress, and completion.—The parable of Mark 4:26-29. Nature, in its normal development from within, a representation of human freedom, and its development in the kingdom of grace.—The word of life in the figure of a grain of wheat: 1. Its internal energy of life; 2. its growth according to laws; 3. its gradualness; 4. its progressive stages; 5. the certainty of its development.—The work of grace, its normal unfolding, in the Church and in individuals.—In the kingdom of grace we must learn not to misapprehend even the immature forms of development (not counting the green stalk as common grass, etc.).—The seed of divine grace requires patient waiting for its maturity.—The human heart may become one with the word of God (in consequence of its original relation to it) through faith; and then there is unfolded in it a divine energy of new life.—For him who rightly cares for the seed, the fruit gradually ripens, although he himself may not know it.—Even in unconscious life, the divine word goes on maturing. (Narratives of the feeble-minded, in whom it gradually was developed. The action of the mind in going to sleep continues in sleep.)—Influences upon the seed of the kingdom of nature analogous to those of the kingdom of grace: the mysterious operation and movement of the Holy Spirit are the sunshine and rain in the kingdom of grace.—The seed, with all its certainty of development, under the necessary condition of sunshine and rain. Application of this to the work of divine grace in the soul of the believer.

Starke:—Quesnel:—An imperfect church, an unworthy pulpit, and poor hearers, may nevertheless form a true, church, accepted of God.—Cramer:—Jesus makes the little ship His pulpit: if we do not diligently hear and obey, He removes Himself with His little ship and pulpit.—Canstein:—Tilling the land is the oldest work of men’s hands, and the most pleasing to God; therefore Christ took His parables so willingly from that occupation.—God’s word is a living seed, by which the spiritually dead hearts of men are made living and fruitful.—Hedinger:—Unchanging seed, variable hearts.—Osiander:—If men did not harden themselves, they would not fall into the danger of reprobation.—Hedinger:—We must not look at the mere shell, but at the kernel of Holy Scripture (on Mark 4:13).—Quesnel:—The knowl edge of divine mysteries is of God, and not of man.—The wisdom of God has not always remained secret, but at the right season has been made manifest to men, 1 Corinthians 2:7.—All things must come to light, whether after a longer or a shorter time.—Faithful pastors and diligent hearers obtain from day to day a larger measure of light and grace.—A faithful and diligent soul has a great treasure—its riches extend to eternity; but an idle soul becomes every day poorer, until at last it loses all.—Oh, how far should we have advanced in the way of salvation, if we had only always used aright the means of grace!—By the sleeping is signified an expectation of blessing, which leaves all care to God; as one may say, I sleep, but my heart wakes.—Majus:—God’s servants should not be impatient when they do not at once see the fruits of their labors.—We must do our work sincerely, and commit to God the result; He will make His true servants rejoice in the day of harvest.—God conceals from His ministers some of the fruits of their diligence, to keep them in humility.—Hope in God, who will not neglect his work in thee.—Christians must aim high, and strive after perfection.—Where God’s word is rightly sown and received, it is never long without fruits of salvation.—Osiander:—We must not expect at once perfect trees of righteousness in the paradise of the Christian Church; time is required for rooting, growing, and bringing forth fruit.

Gerlach:—The longer man retains and studies any one divine truth, the more manifest it becomes, and itself brings all others to light.—Braune:—The unostentatious development of the divine word and the kingdom of God in the heart of man.—As the husbandman hardly distinguishes seeds, so is it with the results of the seed of the word. Learn patience.—Schleiermacher:—(He observes that Christ was not misled by the flocking of multitudes around Himself, but perfectly penetrated His whole auditory—four kinds of soils; but that at the same time He was not angered by this character of His auditory.) If the divine word is received and retained, it is changed into the life of the man; and then in a natural manner his acts are like his words, and become more and more the expression of thy divine word.—The fruit is that which is to be detached again from the plant, itself to be again sown, and from which new life is to arise.—The Redeemer says truly, that there is no other power be which the kingdom of God prospers than this power of the seed, this power of the divine word; that Isaiah, in relation to the office and work of the human sower.—The preparatory work, the tilling of the land, must be distinguished from the sowing.—Gossner:—On Mark 4:23. Him who made the ear, man will not hear.—If we mete out with the measure of Christ, it shall be meted to us again with the same.


FN#1 - Mark 4:1.—Συνάγεται instead of συνήχθη: Lachmann, Tischendorf, after B, C, L.

FN#2 - Mark 4:4.—“Fowls of heaven.” Τοῦ οὐρανοῦ has only D. of the uncial MSS. in its favor. Probably added from Luke 8:5.

FN#3 - Mark 4:5.—Καὶ ἄλλο instead of ἄλλο δέ: Lachmann and Tischendorf, after the best MSS.

FN#4 - Mark 4:6.—Lachmann and Tischendorf, after B, C, D, L, Δ., Vulgate, read καὶ ὅτε ἀνέτειλεν ἥλιος, instead of ἡλίου δὲ ἀνατείλαντος.

FN#5 - Mark 4:10.—Τὰς παραβολάς instead of τὴν παραβολήν: Tischendorf, after B, C, L, Δ. The parable just delivered gave them occasion to ask about the design of parables generally.

FN#6 - Mark 4:11.—The γνῶναι is wanting in A, B, C.* So Lachmann, Tischendorf.

FN#7 - Mark 4:18.—Καὶ ἄλλοι εἰσί instead of καὶ οὖτοί εἰσιν: Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, after B, C.*, D, Vulgate, &c.

FN#8 - Mark 4:19.—Τούτου is wanting in the best MSS, and rejected by Griesbach, Fritzsche, Lachmann, and Tischendorf.

FN#9 - Mark 4:20.—’Εκεῖνοι instead of οὖτοι: Tischendorf, after B, C, L, Δ.

FN#10 - Mark 4:22.—’Εὰν μή, the most difficult and best authenticated reading (A, B, C, Tischendorf). [Meyer thinks that the is an addition, and would explain by comparison with Mark 10:30. He denies the assertion of Fritzsche and De Wette that ἐὰν μή is absurdly used here, and contends that it contains a logical analysis of the thought.—Ed.]

FN#11 - Mark 4:24.—Τοῖς ἀκούουσιν, omitted in Lachmann and Tischendorf, after B, C, D, G, L.

FN#12 - Mark 4:28.—The γὰρ must be given up. Πλήρης σῖτος instead of πλήρη σῖτον: B, Lachmann, Tischendorf.

FN#13 - Mark 4:30.—Πῶς instead of τίνι: Tischendorf, after B, C, L, Δ., Versions. ’Εν τίνι αὐτὴν παραβολῇ θῶμεν instead of ἐν ποίᾳ παραβολῇ παραβάλωμεν αὐτήν: Tischendorf, Lachmann, after B, C.*, L, Δ.

FN#14 - Mark 4:31.—Κόκκῳ: Elzevir, Fritzsche, Tischendorf, Meyer; κόκκον: Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

His teaching now at the seaside corresponds to Matthew 13:1-58, but only two of the seven parables in Matthew are mentioned here, for Matthew gives a full dispensational picture, while Mark dwells simply on public service and its results. The Lord speaks from the boat to the crowd on land. The sower is certainly Himself, God's true Servant, faithfully sowing the seed of the Word of God (v.14) broadcast in the field, which is the world (Matthew 13:38). This is not to be limited to the personal preaching of the Lord Jesus while He was on earth, but certainly extends into all of this dispensation of grace, in which He, by His servants, continues to sow the Word.

The seed falling on the hard, trodden ground of the wayside could not of course take root, and the birds devoured it. Verse 15 explains this as satanic activity in robbing away the seed intended for man's blessing. No impression whatever is made: the hearts and consciences of many are so hardened that the Word of God means nothing to them. How tragic a condition!

Some fell on rocky ground, having a thin covering of soil but rock beneath. Roots could not go down, therefore the plant sprang up quickly, but was as quickly withered by the sun. Verses 16 and 17 explain this as those who gladly receive the Word at first, but it is a mere surface work. One may be at first responsive and enthusiastic, and yet not have the root of the matter in him, being actually a stranger to the living work of the Spirit of God. When a little heat of opposition or persecution arises, he may be as willing to give up his profession as he was to assume it at first. If in the first case we see Satan's activity, in this case the flesh is prominent, first its energy, but followed by its weakness. How deeply important it is that the Word of God should sink well into a prepared heart, a heart tender and responsive instead of hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

The seed that fell among thorns may have begun to grow, but was choked by the preponderance of the thorns. Thorns are the result of an aborted attempt to bear fruit. Verse 19 shows them to symbolize the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things entering in. No room is left for the good seed of the Word. The enemy in this case is not Satan or the flesh, but the world with its many seductions. These things become an excuse for one's having no time to seriously take in the Word of God. But thorns can be piercing and wounding too, as 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us.

Only in the fourth case is fruit brought forth. The seed falls on good ground, no doubt ground that has first been prepared by the plowshare of the Holy Spirit in stirring up the soul in true repentance toward God, so that the Word produces a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the seed on good ground brings forth fruit, though the measure may be different in different cases, some 30 percent, some 60 and some 100, for it is perfectly true that some believers bring forth more fruit than others who are just as truly genuine believers.

In private the disciples inquired about the parable, to which the Lord answered that they were privileged to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but the crowd was addressed by parables so that they would not know. Though they might hear and see what was on the surface, yet they would not perceive the significance of these things, lest they would be converted and have their sins forgiven. This does not mean that these things were hidden from them because God desired them not to be converted. In fact, if men would only recognize their ignorance and seriously inquire, they too would be converted and find forgiveness of sins, while those who were willingly ignorant would remain that way.

Verse 13 however shows that this parable holds the key to understanding virtually all parables. It is fundamental to all the parables of the kingdom, as is clearly seen in Matthew 13:1-58. It shows the Word of God to be that which alone produces results of real value. It shows up Satan's activity in opposing the Word and the sad effects upon those who are deceived by him. It exposes the workings of the flesh, perhaps enthusiatic at first, then reverting to its dead state. Then the world's seductions in its cunning displacing of the Word of God are exposed; and finally the sovereign power of the Word in producing fruit is seen to triumph over all. How great is the wisdom of God, that one parable can embrace so comprehensive a view of spiritual truth!

Verses 21 and 22 then follow to emphasize the fact that the testimony of God exposes things precisely as they are. The candle of testimony is not to be put under a bushel, that is, obscured because of the necessities of' man's work, for we too easily make the excuse that we are too busy to bear the witness we should. On the other hand the candle was not be put under a bed, obscured by the laxity of self-indulgence. With the Lord Jesus there was nothing like this: His testimony manifested the truth plainly, however strongly men would have liked to keep it secret. If one had ears, let him hear this testimony.

To discern rightly what we should hear is of first importance. In the measure in which we hear the Word of God we shall receive blessing from it. We must receive first before we can give, yet in giving we shall receive more. For fruit comes from the Word of God: if I receive that Word in whatever small measure, I shall receive more: it will multiply. If I refuse it (as did the wayside, the rocky ground and the thorny ground hearers) I shall lose whatever I have seemed to receive, just as the birds robbed away the seed, etc.

Using the same parable, the Lord then emphasized the results of sowing on good ground. The seed is first sown, then patience must wait for its results, which are neither immediate or sudden. One day there may be the first slight sign, with earth's crust being almost imperceptibly pushed up a little. How the gradual growth takes-place is beyond our knowledge, but on the stock appears the blade, then soon the ear, and later the full grain in the ear. It is the work of an infinitely great and wise Creator.

Questioning as to what we might compare the kingdom of God, the Lord uses again a parable of nature. The grain of a mustard seed, so trifling in size, may grow into a large shrub that becomes virtually a tree. This does happen in the east, though it may be abnormal. Then the birds are found to lodge in it. Though growth may be slow, yet it may be great. This does not speak of the fruit of sowing in believers, however, but of the outward growth of the kingdom itself as such. Today it has become great. Christendom is now a widespread thing in the earth, but this does not mean the growth is good, for in this case it allows an influx of evil spirits (fowls of the air -- v.15) in the branches, just as Satan has taken advantage of the great growth of Christian profession to introduce his harmful doctrines.

Verse 33 mentions many other parables which the Lord spoke also. As we have seen, there are five more recorded in Matthew 13:1-58. But these two recorded in the Gospel of God's perfect Servant indicate to us, first, that no matter how faithful the sowing, the seed may sometimes not produce at all, or it may produce differently in different cases, depending on the soil; and secondly, the good work begun by the most faithful servant may be later taken advantage of by the wicked one and his evil spirits, to corrupt its condition.

Verse 34 lets us know that the Lord's teaching was always accompanied by parables, which He explained to the disciples in private. The explanation is for those who desire to take the truth to heart: others are left in their ignorance.

At His suggestion that they pass over to the other side of the sea of Galilee, the disciples take Him into their boat. In this case other little boats are mentioned as accompanying them. There is no indication that any of them sank in the storm, but the wind became so boisterous that the water beating into the boat was near to the point of swamping it. The Lord was evidently weary from His much preaching, and was asleep in the stern of the boat.

How weak was their faith in Him personally! With the Son of God in the boat it was not possible that they would perish, yet they blame Him for not caring whether they perish, But in tender compassion He did not rebuke them first for their lack of faith, but rose and rebuked the wind, saying to the sea, "Peace, be still." The immediate result in producing a great calm would of course be astonishing to anyone. Then He asked them why they were so fearful. How could It be possible that they had not learned from His many previous miracles that He was superior to all circumstances?

Then however they have fear of another kind, a subdued awe at the thought of what manner of man this was who had control over the wind and the sea. Though John the Baptist had before borne witness that He was the Son of God (John 1:34), and at least Nathanael had confessed Him as Son of God; and though they had heard even evil spirits declaring Him as such (Mark 3:11), yet the significance of this had little impressed their minds and hearts.As the Lord had said, they were to pass over to the other side. Nothing could hinder the fulfilment of His words. In the country of the Gadarenes a man met Him who, being possessed by evil spirits, chose to live in a graveyard, a picture of Israel's low spiritual state, choosing circumstances of the corruption of death because given up the callous deception of Satan. Attempts to restrain the man by chains and fetters had been hopeless because of his super-human strength. It was a case beyond the help of man. In this is a picture of the wild self-will of man's heart, while being in the mountains suggests the heights of man's self-exaltation; in the tombs, the depths of his corruption: crying, the complaining misery of his condition; and cutting himself with stones, the self-abuse to which sin always subjects a man.

He was drawn to run to the Lord Jesus in spite of the satanic power within him. It is a strange enigma that he worshiped Him. But it was the evil spirit that spoke within him, virtually disclaiming anything to do with the Lord Jesus, whom he calls, "Jesus, Son of the Most High God." But the evil spirit was tormented by the very presence of the Lord. The power of God in drawing the man was infinitely stronger than the power of Satan.

The demon-possessed man has been drawn by the sovereign power of God to face the Lord Jesus. The evil spirit within him is tormented by this very fact, and the Lord gives him the order to come out of the man. However, he first asks the name of the evil spirit. He answered, "My name is Legion, for we are many," but entreated the Lord not to send them out of the country, that is, that particular area. They asked permission to enter a large herd of swine feeding nearby. For some reason it seemed that they wanted a body in which to express their evil character. This did not last long, however, for their presence in the swine impelled them to rush together over a cliff into the sea, the evil spirits being unable to control this, for they would not have wanted the swine to drown. Though Satan deceives and torments men, he does not have absolute control over them, for they have minds of their own too, even though they often do not rise much above the level of the swine.

The swine-herders, left without employment, reported the matter in the city as well as in the countryside. This of course brought people to see the Lord and the man who had been possessed, finding him sitting clothed and in his right mind, a wonderful change from his former condition! Yet we are told they were afraid! Being informed of what had happened, the marvel of the man's deliverance from satanic power, but of the death of the large herd of swine because of the same demons, they urged the Lord to leave their area! The swine meant more to them than did a precious soul, though swine were unclean animals, which Israelites were forbidden to eat.

Though He is Lord of all, yet this blessed Servant of God acceded to their request and left their shores. How little they understood what they were refusing! The delivered man was wiser: he wanted to be with the Lord. However, the Lord at this time declined to have him with Him, but told him. to go home to his friends and tell them how great things the Lord had done for him. In some cases the Lord had forbidden those who were healed to tell it to others. Yet in this case there was no danger of His work being hindered by the reporting. More than this, the man's testimony of his previous condition and of his miraculous deliverance could hardly be exaggerated: the transformation would be clearly evident to his friends.

He was obedient to the Lord's words and began to publish in Decapolis (the ten cities of the area) the greatness of what the Lord Jesus had done for him. He did not go only to his close friends, but evidently considered virtually everyone he contacted as a friend, and this made a very real impression on all.

If, as we have seen, the power of Satan, the great enemy of God and of man, has been broken by this greater Servant of God, we find Him next challenged by another enemy, that of death. For as He returns to the west side of the sea of Galilee, with crowds again gathering around Him, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, fell at His feet, deeply broken up because his little daughter was at the point of death. He did not have the faith of the Gentile centurion of Matthew 8:8-10, but considered it necessary for the Lord to come to his home in order to heal the young girl. The Lord graciously accompanied him.

But another matter intervenes which is surely intended by God to illustrate the fact that the question of death cannot be met until the question of another enemy is settled. The woman with the issue of blood reminds us of how the most serious disease of sin is draining away our very life-blood. Her many visits to physicians had proven of no help, just as people try every expedient to improve their sinful condition and find no help. Every human effort seems only to aggravate the condition. When one's conscience becomes honestly concerned as to his state and tries to change it, he will always experience this alarming effect. What should be our first resource then becomes the last.

Finally she came to the Lord Jesus, yet timidly, for she came behind Him, only touching His garment, having confidence that this would accomplish her healing. The result was immediate, and she felt in her body that she was healed. In this case her feelings were accurate, yet the Lord would not leave her to depend on her feelings. He must do further important work with her, so that she would have His own personal words to her to encourage her faith.

When the Lord asked who touched His clothes the disciples were surprised, for it seemed the whole crowd was touching Him. But He knew of one touch in genuine faith, and the woman knew of whom He spoke. When He looked around to see her, her eyes no doubt perceived the tender goodness in His eyes which encouraged her to fall down before Him and to tell Him all the truth, before the crowd. This was surely a confession, not only of her need and her blessing, but of His abounding grace.

Then she was given far more than her feelings to depend upon, His Word of absolute truth and goodness. He told her that her faith had healed her, not her feelings nor her works. She had His own authority to depend on that she could go in peace with the assurance that she was healed. We may be sure also that she not only received physical healing but a far more important spiritual healing -- simply and only through faith, by His abounding grace.

While this was taking place, we can easily imagine the feelings of impatience rising in the bosom of Jairus at this delay in the Lord's coming to his dying daughter. But at the same time one came from his house with the message that his daughter had already died, and asking a painful question that intimated it was useless to expect any help from the Lord now. What would be the feelings of Jairus then?

Wonderful is the Lord's own word then immediately spoken, "Be not afraid, only believe." Thank God that the One whose grace has met the question of sin has just as effectively met the question of death by the sacrifice of Himself and His own resurrection from among the dead. Though that sacrifice had not yet taken place, the One was present who would soon that great work.

Then He took only three of His own witnesses with Him (those He took to the mount of transfiguration and the garden of Gethsemane -- ch.9:2; 14:33) to the house of Jairus. Already the house was surrounded by mourners who considered the loudest wailing the best proof of genuine mourning. The Lord Jesus reproved this useless noise, however, and told them the girl was not dead, but asleep. Foolishly then, the people scornfully laughed at Him, rather than recognizing that He had deeper reasons than they understood for so speaking. To Him death is no more a problem than is sleep.

For their unbelief they are all put out of the house. Only the father and mother and His three disciples are allowed inside to witness the miracle of His power over death. Taking the girl by the hand, He speaks simply, telling her to rise. The result was immediate: she rose and walked, not only restored to life, but in a condition of health and strength. In spite of the wonder of this miracle that so impressed them, however, He forbids them to advertise the matter, but is concerned for the girl's welfare, that she should be given food. When one is born anew from above, given divine life, it is vitally important also that he or she should be given spiritual food. Leaving the sea of Galilee the Lord returns to His own country, the area of Nazareth. No doubt it was in this city that He began to teach in the synagogues on the sabbath. Before the age of thirty He had never done this, and those who heard Him were astonished at the wisdom of what He had to say as well as by His mighty works. Yet, rather than paying close attention to His wisdom, they were offended by the fact that He had it. For that fact was plain, whatever may have been the means of His receiving it. They had known Him only as a carpenter, and knew His four brothers as well as His sisters, of which there were at least three (Matthew 13:56). Men will often refuse God His right to use whom He pleases as He pleases, and even the Son of God Himself was a prophet having no honor in His own country, among His own relatives or in His own house. How blinded are the natural hearts of men!

Because of their unbelief His works of power were greatly curtailed there: only a few sick folk received healing. The perfection of His Manhood is evident, however, in His marveling at men's unbelief, yet graciously giving opportunity to those in surrounding villages to hear the Word of God. Though despised and rejected, the grace of His heart continues to manifest itself.

This commission was confined to the land of Israel, therefore they were not to take provision for their journey, no scrip, that is, a leather bag to carry food, no bread, no money. Rather than shoes they were to wear sandals. For Israel, God's people, were responsible to care for the servants God sent to them. This commission was changed later (Luke 22:35) in view of Israel's rejection and crucifixion of Christ, and therefore the apostles sent to Gentiles also. Verse 11 has no application outside of Israel. For Israel was solemnly responsible to receive the message of their Messiah, and the refusal of any city was a gross insult to God, whom they professed to serve. For Sodom and Gomorrah the judgment would be more tolerable than for that city, for they had not been privileged with the same testimony from God. The burden of this preaching was the same as that of John the Baptist, that the Jews should repent. This was accompanied by the miracles of their casting out demons and their anointing with oil those who were sick, and healing them. This demonstrated the fact that their message was from Him whose power is greater than the sin that had occasioned demon possession and sickness.

News of the work of the Lord Jesus reaching King Herod causes alarm in the guilty man's conscience. He thought that John the Baptist, whom he had murdered, had been raised from the dead. Yet John had done no miracle (John 10:41). But the moral and spiritual Dower of John's testimony of Christ had left an indelible impression on Herod's mind that. he could not forget, though he ignored the theme of John's testimony, that of repentance toward God. Later, when he hoped to see some miracle performed by the Lord, with the Lord neither satisfying this curiosity nor even speaking to him, Herod then treated Him with contempt (Luke 23:8-11). The speculations of others were empty too, some saying He was Elijah, others simply "a prophet, or as one of the prophets." But Herod's thought was complete nonsense, for John and the Lord Jesus were contemporary, John having baptized Him. Herod could easily have gotten this information, but conscience was reminding him that he had not heard the last of his having murdered John.

The history of this is then told us. Influenced by his unlawful wife, he had imprisoned John for his testimony to him. Of course it was right that John should reprove Herod's adulterous marriage, for Herod was king of Israel, which claimed to be God's nation. The hatred of Herodias demanded John's death, but Herod feared John, whom he knew to be of a just and holy character. When John spoke to him, he did many things, no doubt trying to salve his conscience by acts of outward merit without his heart being reached, though he heard John gladly. It is one thing to recognize truth, another thing entirely to allow it to possess the heart.

He is put to the test when his birthday is celebrated with lavish pomp intended to impress the dignitaries of Galilee. Having the daughter of Herodias dance before them, he made the foolish vow that he would give her whatever she asked, to the half of his kingdom. First seeking the advice of her mother, the girl did not ask what he expected, but the head of John the Baptist. The King was exceedingly sorry, but not sorry enough to admit he had made a foolish oath and could not righteously keep it. His own pride and his fear of men decided him to have John murdered. If she had asked for Herod's head, would he have agreed? In fact, Herod did have a way out if he had had the least sense of responsibility to God. He might have told the girl that John's head was not his to give; but was proud enough to think that he had title over men's bodies

A guard of Herod's was sent as an executioner, who brought John's head in a dish, no doubt before the entire crowd of merry-makers, and gave it to the girl, who in turn carried it to her mother. Was there no-one there whose heart cried out against this horrible crime? Would the sight of that head not burn into Herod's conscience for the rest of his life? Could the girl or her mother ever banish from their minds the guilt of this enormous crime impressed on them by the sight of that head?

The burial of John the Baptist was no more ostentatious than was his short life: his disciples took his corpse and laid it in a grave. But he had been willing to decrease that his Lord might increase.

At this time we hear of the apostles gathering to the Lord Jesus, reporting to Him everything they had done and what they had taught. He does not then incite them to further afforts, but leads them apart into a deserted area in order to rest for a time. They (and we) need the quietness of the Lord's presence away from the crowd in order to have strength renewed for any further testimony for Him (cf.Isaiah 40:31). We may be too influenced by "many coming and going" to take time to eat our necessary spiritual food. Yet this private communion with the Lord Himself is indispensable: without it we shall collapse.

This rest was only short, however, for many people quickly followed, from surrounding cities, coming together to Him. Still, He Himself having been in the presence of God, He was moved with compassion toward the crowd, for their aimless confusion resembled the indecision of sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things: this was what they really needed, rather than bodily healing.

The day being near its end, His disciples were concerned that the people should be dismissed in order to go to the more populated areas to buy food for themselves. He answered, "Give ye them to eat." Is this not His word to believers today? No matter how small we feel our resources are, yet in having Christ Himself we have just what everyone is in need of. Let us not hold back, but give what we are able. Too frequently we look in the wrong direction, as they did, as though a lesser source than Christ Himself might offer some hope of supplying the need.

However, He asks them as to what they actually have, which was five loaves of broad and two fishes. Of course the bread is typical of Christ as the bread of life, the result of a grain of wheat dying, springing up, being cut down, threshed and ground into flour, mixed with other ingredients, kneaded and exposed to the heat of the fire. It is Christ passing through suffering and death in order to be our necessary spiritual food. The fishes also typify Christ as the one who has passed through the waters of judgment to accomplish our eternal blessing. To simply present Christ and Him crucified to the world will produce such results that may make us marvel. For it is God who gives the increase.

The crowd was told to sit down by companies on the green grass. 1 Peter 1:24 tells us that "all flesh is as grass." With the flesh therefore subdued under them, and all fleshly activity stopped, they were in a condition to receive freely what the Lord alone could freely give. The orderly way in which this was done (in ranks of hundreds and by fifties) is an appropriate comment on the wisdom of Him who is a God of order.

His looking up to heaven in blessing the food shows His interdependence with the Father in this miraculous display of grace to the multitude. He did nothing apart from communion with His Father. The disciples were given the privilege of distributing the loaves and fishes to the crowd, the amount apparently increasing as they did so, so that they needed no large container for distribution. As the need of one was met, there remained sufficient for others also. It may be that each disciple used a hand basket, for there were twelve of these full after all had eaten as much as they desired. Well might they be astounded at five thousand men (besides women and children -- Matthew 14:21) being fed from so small a supply. But such is the truth spiritually. What we present to others of Christ God will multiply beyond anything we could imagine.

Rather than receiving any plaudits from the crowd, however, the Lord Jesus sends the crowd away, while instructing his disciples to go by boat to the other side of the sea of Galilee. Then alone He seeks the solitude of a mountain to pray. All of this is a picture of His showing marvellous grace in this present dispensation and His present work of intercession in the presence of God above. He remained alone there until the fourth watch of the night, which is the break of day. This corresponds to the last of the tribulation period, after Israel's enduring the contrary winds of that dreadful time.

How little did the disciples realize the great value of the Lord's intercessory prayer for them when He was in the mountain alone and they themselves toiling in rowing on a turbulent sea! About the fourth watch of the night, as dawn was breaking, He walked toward them on the surface of the sea. They were making very slow progress, and in walking he caught up with them and would have passed them by. They could not imagine anyone doing a thing like this, and cried out for fear, thinking that He must be a spirit. No less will the afflicted remnant of Israel be astounded when "they look upon Him whom they have pierced" coming in great grace and power to deliver them from great tribulation. But He soon quieted their fears by His gentle word, "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid." Then He entered the boat, and the wind ceased, just as His own presence among His people in a coming day will silence all the storms of Gentile opposition. Also, just as Israel ignored the wonder of the grace of the Lord Jesus when He first came, so the disciples did not consider the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes. The miracle of power impresses them later, but was not the miracle of grace just as amazing? Their hearts were hardened, just as Israel's heart has been hardened at the present time.

Their coming into the land of Gennesaret (meaning "a harp") and the great blessing of His presence there in the healing of large numbers, is a picture of millennial blessing following the tribulation. This spreads to villages, cities and country, and every individual who only touched the border of His grament was healed of whatever disease he had.How cold and withering was the destructive criticism of Pharisees and scribes at a time when the Lord has shown such marvellous grace! They could not rise above the level of their ill-conceived legal thoughts. Because the disciples had not washed their hands before eating, the Pharisees considered this spiritually defiling. It is was not because their hands were soiled that they objected, but the Pharisees tradition called for a rigorous washing of their hands every time they ate, however clean they might have been, as well as for the washing of cups, pots, brazen utensils and couches. Of course if such things needed washing, it was sensible to wash them, but even if clean the Pharisees' tradition required that they be washed. It was evil to attach a spiritual significance to this, as though it was a part of God's law. But they challenged the Lord Himself because He did not require this of His disciples.

He did not take the defensive, however, but in turn challenged their hypochrisy, quoting the words of Isaiah as to their drawing near to God with their lips while their hearts were far distant from Him. This kind of worship was in vain, totally empty, their doctrines being the commandments of men, with God's rights ignored. Verse 8 shows that in insisting on their traditions they were setting aside God's commandments, and verse 9 emphasizes this as being the actual rejection of the commandment of God in order to enforce their own tradition

Then He refers to another example of this in the way in which they treated the plain commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother." Though the law also demanded the death of one who showed contempt for his father or mother, yet the Pharisees had invented a doctrine that could get around the law of God. In the case of a man who had the means by which he might relieve the need of his parents, yet tradition allowed him to say "It is Corban," meaning that his money was a gift devoted to spiritual uses, and therefore not to be given to his parents. This was simply a matter of the tradition sanctifying the cold-hearted selfishness of the son. This kind of pretense is contemptible, of course, but Pharisees encouraged it, thereby making the Word of God of no effect. It was not merely a tradition added to the Word (which is bad enough), but a tradition opposing God's Word. The Lord adds, "and many such like things ye do." This was only one example, for when once the Word of God is despised in the smallest matter, it is not long before men's cunning deceit undermines anything and everything it pleases, not realizing the horror of this wicked contempt for God Himself.

Not only the Pharisees are included in the Lord's ministry that begins in verse 14. He called all the people to Him, to press upon them a matter of deepest importance, urging them to listen and to understand. Nothing from outside, entering into a man, can defile him. Spiritual defilement is not contracted in this way. Of course a man may eat food that is physically harmful to him: he may even take poison, but this in itself is not spiritually defiling. But the things that come out of a man (not physically of course) are those that defile him. The Lord does not further explain this to the crowd, but seeks to stir them with the words, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."

In the house, however, the disciples expose their own ignorance of the truth the Lord sought to impress on them How little we too seem to be able to take in such things of the most serious consequence The Lord reproves their lack of understanding, for believers should certainly discern this. Whatever physical food one eats does not have any spiritual effect. It affects the stomach, and thereby the physical condition of the individual, but not the heart (that is, the heart seen as symbolizing the spiritual inner being of the person). God had made provision for physical purging (or cleansing) in the disposal of waste. But there was a far more serious issue involved in spiritual defilement.

From the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. Jermiah had told Israel long before, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). Man may blame every outward circumstance for his own sin, but it proceeds from within himself. How could this be cleansed? Let us learn to at least thoroughly judge ourselves rather than to blame our wrongs on others or on circumstances. Actual cleansing requires more than this, of course, the great sacrificial death of the Lord of glory; but they must learn the condition of their heart before they would be ready to receive the remedy.

For a time He goes to the coast of the Gentiles, though desirous not to advertise it. Yet He could not be hid. The very fact of His going there was an encouragement to the Syrophenician woman to come to Him. Her first words to Him are not mentioned here as they are in Matthew 15:22, but the fact that she fell at His feet as a dependent supplicant on behalf of her demon possessed daughter. His words to her, however, were intended to both put her in her true place and to encourage her faith. Gentiles must be made to realize that Israel did have a prime place in God's counsels, and they (the children) were not to be deprived of bread in order that dogs (Gentiles) might have it. Yet the Lord used a word referring to house-dogs, rather than dogs of the street. This was a clear encouragement to her to respond in the way she did.

She accepts the place of a dog, yet a dog desiring only the crumbs from the master's table. Taking this lowly place, she is immediately blessed, the Lord expressing His approval of her words and assuring her that her daughter was relieved of her demon possession. Returning home, she of course found His words to be true, her daughter laid on a bed, perhaps exhausted from her previous ordeal.

What else the Lord may have done in that area we are not told: it seems the importance of this one incident is intended to be emphasized. He takes the long journey back again to the sea of Galilee and into the region of Decapoils.

Here a man was brought to Him who was both deaf and suffering an impediment in his speech. Certainly if one cannot hear, neither will he be able to speak properly. This is as true spiritually as physically, for his ailment is typical of man's widespread inability to hear the Word of God because of unbelief. He is asked only to put His hand on the man, but the Lord does seven things for him. We may consider we know what souls need, and pray for them in this way, but the Lord knows better than we. Mark's Gospel emphasizes His service and we see therefore these seven steps as showing the patient persistence of His laboring for the blessing of an individual soul.

The Lord's seven-fold dealing with the deaf man who also had an impediment in his speech is spiritually instructive for us. First, He takes him aside from the crowd: he must be alone with the Lord, whose fingers in his ears then indicate divine work which alone can give the marvellous sense of hearing. Thirdly, spitting, an expression of contempt, is a reminder that sin has been the basic reason for this affliction, therefore that repentance is a requisite in salvation. Fourthly, the touching of his tongue implies that only the divine touch can heal one's speech. Fifthly, the Lord looks up to heaven, showing His dependence on the Father, and that all blessing must be from above. Sixth, He sighed, for He Himself felt the condition of the afflicted man as though it was His own trial. Finally, He speaks very simply, "Be opened," His own word consummating all that He had done. Certainly His word alone could have accomplished the result, but His labor with our souls is an important part of what He does.

Immediately the man's deafness was dispelled and his speech restored. Marvellous work indeed! Yet the Lord wanted no advertising: He charged them to tell no-one of this miracle, as we have seen He did on other occasions, though not in Chapter 5:18-19. But men were more impressed by what they saw than by the authority of the Lord's word. They appreciated Him and His power, but were not prepared to obey His Word. Today too this is a common illness. Four adulation of Him without obedience is an illness more serious than we imagine. This occasion of the feeding of the four thousand takes place evidently not long after the Lord's feeding of the five thousand (Ch.6:34-44). Again He speaks to His disciples of His compassion toward the crowd because of their having nothing to eat, and having been with Him for three days. This is certainly a proof of God's concern for the temporal welfare of His creatures. But the disciples had already forgotten the Lord's feeding of the five thousand, and question how the crowd can possibly be fed in the wilderness. Of course God had done this for Israel in the manna falling six days a week during their wilderness history. Is the Son of God more limited?

They had seven loaves, however, which was more than they had the previous time, though this of course made no difference one way or the other to the Lord. In this case the seven emphasizes the perfection of His care for the crowd, rather than administration being prominent as in the case of the five loaves and two fishes. A few fishes are added here, and again both types of food certainly speak of Christ and Him crucified, the only true spiritual food needed by man. Again all the crowd ate and were filled. The number seven is also seen in the number of baskets of food remaining, for grace is overabundant: they are sent away satisfied.

The Lord then returns by boat to the west side of the sea of Galilee, to Dalmanutha, which Matthew calls "the coast of Magdala" (Mark 15:36). Here the Pharisees come to Him with tempting questions, asking for a sign from heaven. But signs were not lacking: the Lord had shown them large numbers of miraculous signs. It was faith that was lacking. He did not even mention this, however, but sighed deeply in His spirit, profoundly feeling the sadness of their callous unbelief. His only answer is that no sign would be given to this generation. Matthew reports the exceptional sign of the prophet Jonah (Matthew 16:4). That was not a sign the Lord would show them on earth, however, but one that was typical of His death and resurrection. Of course they did not understand this and were not concerned enough to enquire. Mark does not even refer to it, but speaks of the Lord again leaving for the other side of Lake Galilee.

On the boat, since His spirit had been so affected by the hardness of the Pharisees, He warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. They sadly mistake His motives and feel that He is hinting as regards their forgetting to take bread with them. He was genuinely concerned about their spiritual welfare, and they mistook this for a concern for His own temporal need! Let us be careful about imputing wrong motives to one who ministers the Word of God to us.

The leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), a self-righteous formalism that was devoid of reality. The leaven of Herod was worldliness, as Matthew 14:3-10 indicates. These two things often go hand in hand (Mark 3:6). Matthew speaks on this occasion of the leaven of the Sadducees rather than of Herod. No doubt the Lord actually spoke of all three at this time, but each writer records only what God led him to.

The Lord Jesus firmly reproves the empty reasoning of His disciples. Did they have no perception or understanding? Was their heart hardened in unbelief? They certainly ought to have learned before that His words were never in any way vain or selfish Were their eyes so blinded to the wonder of all that they had seen Him do, and their ears so blocked as to not discern the purity of all His words? Where was their memory of His multiplying the loaves and fishes on two successive occasions, and of the fact of twelve baskets and seven baskets of food being left over? In fact they did remember these two cases, and answer Him as to the baskets. Well might He say, "How is it that ye do not understand?" Was He, the Son of God, dependent on them?

Their very attitude at this time exposed their need of His warning. They were not learning the vital truths He had sought to teach them, but treated them in a formal, academic way. This is the breeding ground of hypocrisy. More than that, their minds failed to discern His teaching because they were set on material things, thinking merely of bread. This is the attitude that leads to worldliness. How we all need the warnings of the Lord!

Now He comes to Bethsaida on the same western sea-coast. Its name has two meanings, either "the house of nets" or "the house of provision," being of course a fishing town. It pictures the world in its claim of providing for men's needs, but by this very means it snares men into its entangling nets. If we make an object of being rich in this world's goods, we shall soon find ourselves badly entangled.

When some bring a blind man to Him they ask only that He touch him. As in Chapter 7:32 they assume they know what he needs. Of course the Lord could have healed him without even touching him; but again He acts as the perfect Servant of God, showing the grace that labors with the man, again doing seven things before the man is perfectly restored. First, He takes him by the hand, and surely no-one was ever more gently led. There is always a preliminary work of the Lord Jesus In leading a precious soul in the direction in which he may find eventual blessing. We may not realize it at the time, but such is His sovereign wisdom. Secondly, He led him out of the town. Bethsaida was to have no part in the blessing of the man, for conversion is emphatically "out of this world," and it is good that we learn this deeply in our hearts. Next, He spit on the man's eyes. Only the Lord Jesus has a right to do such a thing. It is a reminder that our contemptible condition of spiritual blindness is a result of the disease of sin, and calls for our humbling ourselves in repentance before God, recognizing that we deserve to be spit on by the Son of God. Fourthly, He put His hands on him, which was positive contact that actually gave the man sight, for it is only direct contact with the Lord Jesus that will communicate any true blessing to us. Fifth, He asked him if he saw anything: He desires a response.

The man's answer was clear: he did see. Yet his sight was not clear: he saw men as trees walking. This is out of proportion, just as newly converted souls often see certain men as too tall, giving them an undue place of prominence. The Lord has to deal with us too about this question, as He further dealt with this dear man, putting His hands on him a second time. The seventh thing He did was to make him look up. As he did so, he saw every man clearly. All of these things illustrate the way the Lord labors with us to bring us to a clear vision spiritually, from a state of darkness.

As we have seen before, the Lord desires no advertising of what He has done: the man is told not to return to the town, and not to tell anyone in the town of the miracle. It is evident his home was not in the town, for he sent him to his house. His new-found sight he is to enjoy first in his own personal circumstances.

Going much further north now to the towns of Caesarea Philippi, in the area of Mount Hermon, the Lord on the way asks His disciples as to whom men said that He was. The answer indicates the vanity of men's speculations. Some said He was John the Baptist, though He and John had been seen together (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:29; John 1:35-36). Others said He was Elijah, others still, one of the prophets. Men were blinded and unable to see a distinct personal glory in this blessed Son of God. Though they witnessed unusual spiritual power in Him, yet they wanted to reduce Him to the level of mere men who had come before.

Then the Lord asks the pertinent question: "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter unhesitatingly replies, "Thou art the Christ." Yet true as this was, the Lord forbids them to tell men of Him. Why was this? Because as the Christ ("the Anointed One") He was entitled to take the throne of Israel, which in fact He will eventually do. But He then uses a different title, "the Son of Man," which involves His relationship with all mankind, not only Israel; and He speaks of what must take place before the time of reigning could be. He must suffer many things, be rejected by the rulers of Israel and be killed. However, He does not end the matter there: He adds, "and after three days rise again."

Peter evidently totally missed the last expression, but began to rebuke his Lord, a most unseemly blunder, which deserved a far more serious rebuke from the Lord's lips. Yet He looked on His disciples as He rebuked Peter, for they all no doubt had similar thoughts, though they were not so bold as Peter to express them. His solemn words, "Get thee behind me, Satan". would surely shock them all, but it was Satan's suggestion that the Lord could avoid the sufferings of the cross, and Peter had unwittingly allowed Satan to speak through him. The Lord had spoken the things that were of God. Peter, in indulging merely men's thoughts, had fallen into Satan's snare.

In verse 34 both His disciples and all the people need what He tells them. If one wants to come after Him, he is called upon to deny himself (not only to deny certain pleasures or advantages, but himself), take up his cross and follow Him. This involves wholehearted, willing self-denial for Christ's sake. There are those who consider this matter of taking up the cross as having to bear trials and afflictions that we cannot avoid. This is not the case. Rather it is a question of our voluntarily accepting the reproach of Christ by a clear confession of Him before a world that rejects Him. Let us do this gladly, cheerfully, out of honest affection for the Lord Jesus. He who would save his life is the one who wants to use it for his own personal advantage. After all, he will only lose it in the end, and what does he have? On the other hand, he who would lose his life is one who is willing to give up the present personal advantages of it for Christ's sake and for the sake of the gospel. In the end this would be actually saving his life, for it would produce lasting, profitable results. Selfishness always defeats its own ends, while unselfish devotion to Christ gains far more than we have any desire to gain.

Verses 36 and 37 of course refer to one who seeks to save his own life. Profit is his consuming objective. But supposing his profits in this world increase so tremendously as to give him control of the whole world, what real profit is this when he loses his own soul in pursuit of it! Could he then give his great wealth in exchange for his soul? No: death leaves him utterly destitute. He has foolishly set his sights on the brief span of his earthly life, and loses it.

The center of the whole matter is what one thinks of Christ. How many are ashamed of Him before an adulterous and sinful generation! They are more afraid of the sneers of ungodly sinners than they are of the judgment of God! They will not confess Jesus as Lord, though His truth, His faithfulness, His grace and mercy are plainly demonstrated for all the world to see. What folly to be ashamed of One who is the only real Friend and protector available to mankind What can they expect but that the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in the glory of His Father with His holy angels? For the Father will confess Him in such a way as all creation will recognize, and all unfallen angels.Verse 1 stands in contrast to Chapter 8:38. The coming of the Son of Man in glory, spoken of in that verse, would have some witnesses who stood there at the time, those who were not ashamed of Him and who would not die till they had seen the kingdom of God come with power The answer to this is seen immediately following. It was a pre-vision of the kingdom that Peter, James and John saw.

The central and vital feature of the kingdom is the King Himself. In the high mountain the Lord Jesus was transfigured. The lowly humility of His servant-character was exchanged for the brightness of majestic glory, His clothing shining with radiant whiteness. Matthew mentions His face shining as the sun, emphasizing His personal glory. Mark speaks only of His clothing, that with which He is invested, a contrast to His garments of low service on earth.

Miraculously also Elijah and Moses appear, speaking with the Lord. This presents a striking picture of true heavenly side of the kingdom; the Lord Himself the glorious Center, Elijah representing the saints who have been caught up to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:11), and Moses representing those who have died and been raised again, though Moses had not personally been raised. In what body he appeared we do not know, Peter, James and John illustrate the earthly side of the coming kingdom.

Peter, though fearful and not knowing what to say (v.8) apparently thought he should say something. How much better it would have been for him to be silent (Cf.Eccl.5:1-2). First he emphasizes "it is good for us to be here," rather than to focus on the greatness of his Lord. Secondly, he speaks of mere human work, "let us make three tabernacles." Thirdly, this would be merely building for earth. Fourthly, to build a tabernacle for the Lord Jesus would be virtually confining Him to human limits. Fifthly, his suggestion would give some glory to others, rather than rightly giving every honor to Him.

God answers this (v.7) by bringing a cloud over them, from which He speaks those memorable words, "This is my beloved Son: hear Him." God will allow no others to share the glory of His Son. Moses, Elijah, and all others must pale into utter insignificance in the light of His presence. Also, rather than men making suggestions to Him, men must be silent and hear what He says. Immediately the great vision passes. Moses and Elijah were no longer there and Jesus is seen no longer in the brightness of glory in which He had been transfigured. Clearly, the three disciples were not prepared for this glory: they must first see their Lord crucified: without this, neither they nor we can properly appreciate His glory. Later, after the Lord Jesus had risen arid was glorified, Peter writes of this great occasion in 2 Peter 1:17-18, at a time when he could far more deeply value what he had seen, since his Lord had been crucified and had risen again. We too may now look back upon this sight with thankful and adoring worship, for we have known the value of His sacrifice.

For this reason the Lord charged the three disciples that they should be silent about this vision until He should rise from among- the dead. They evidently obeyed His injunction, but were apparently bewildered as to what the rising from among the dead should mean. No doubt they thought this had some spiritual explanation, for they had no conception of its being. literally true. After His death they considered no possibility of His resurrection in three, days, though He had told them of it (Ch.8:31).

The three disciples (v.11) recognized however that His words had something to do with His reign as Messiah, and question Him as to the claim of the scribes that Elijah should first come. Of course this was stated in Malachi 4:5, and the Lord confirms it, to be fact, but adds that the Son of Man must suffer many and be treated with contempt. Yet He declares that Elijah had already come and men had done to him as they pleased, as Scripture had signified. Matthew 17:13 shows that He speaks of John the Baptist at, and Luke 1:17 explains this, not as John being the same person as Elijah, but as his having the same spirit and power, therefore being a prophet of the same type.

Returning to the other disciples (v.14), the Lord finds a large crowd, and scribes questioning with them. They were evidently waiting for some answer to a case that had awakened great concern. It may be that they were greatly amazed because He had come just at the time that this problem arose. In answer to His question to the scribes, one of the crowd responded that he had brought his son who was possessed by a dumb spirit. Evidently the boy was not normally dumb, but the evil spirit had inflicted him with dumbness as well as causing other painful symptoms through convulsions. His physical condition is a picture of the spiritual state of many today who are influenced by Satan's power. Foaming at the mouth reminds us of the shameful words that issue from mens mouths, as in Judges 1:13. Gnashing with his teeth speaks of the bitter rebellion seen in every level of mankind. His pining away indicates that such people are damaging themselves, yet have no power to stop it. How sad is the state of men who are deceived by Satan's influence

The disciples, though sent to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1), had failed to do so in this case. No doubt it was to these that the Lord spoke, just as much as to the father, "0 faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" Where was the faith that rightly give the Lord His place? He deeply felt the pain of enduring their faithlessness, as on another occasion we are told, "He marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:6). What a trial to Him were those years of His bearing with the unbelief both of the world and of His own disciples

As the boy was brought to Him, the evil spirit viciously convulsed him, causing him to fall and to wallow, foaming at the mouth. To the Lord's question the father answers that this affliction had been present since childhood, often driving his son into fire or into water. The spirit was evidently of a hateful, vindictive character, seeking to induce the boy to destroy himself. The father had come to the point of utter distraction, and appealed to the Lord, if he could do anything. to have compassion and help them. The Lord's answer is more rightly translated in J.N.D's version, "The if thou couldst's (if thou couldst) believe: all things are possible to him that believes" (v.23). There was no question of the Lord's ability, but of the man's faith.

How appropriate then was the response of the father, made with tears, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief," for it shows reality of faith, yet an acknowledgement of the weakness of his faith. The Lord, seeing the people running together, drawn by this pitiful case, then commanded the dumb and deaf spirit to come out of the boy and remain out. In doing so, the spirit made one last cruel thrust in convulsing him greatly, leaving him so exhausted that he appeared to be dead. Tenderly, however, the Lord took him by the hand and lifted him up. But the case does show the cruel tenacity of Satanic power, over which the blessed Lord of glory has supreme power.

The disciples in the house questioned the Lord as to why they were not able to cast out the demon, and were told, "This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting." There are therefore different kinds of spirits. However, the connection of this verse and verse 19 shows that we are faithless if we lack prayer and fasting. For prayer expresses dependence on God, while fasting emphasizes self-denial or no confidence in the flesh.

Passing through Galilee, He desires that no attention should be drawn to them, for He had serious instructions that surely required the fullest attention of His disciples. Though He had told them this before (Ch.8:31), He seeks to deeply impress upon them the fact that He would be delivered into the hands of men, be killed, and the third day rise again. Apart from the crowd they surely ought to have taken this to heart, but again they had no comprehension of what He was saying, no doubt because pre-occupied with contrary thoughts. Later these facts would give them the deepest joy and courage in bearing witness to Him (Acts 4:33), but meanwhile they could not believe that He was going to be cruelly killed, nor even when He was crucified could they believe He was going to rise again. However, though they did not understand His words, they were afraid to ask Him what they meant. Do we too fail to understand because we do not ask?

Verses 33 and 34 indicate painfully why the disciples did not understand His words. They had been disputing as they walked, apparently not thinking that He was aware that they were arguing over which of them should be the greatest. When He asked them of this they were ashamed to answer. He sat down therefore, taking time to impress on them that which needed their close attention. One who desired to be first should be content to be last and servant of all. How seriously we all need such a reminder today! -- for our natural fleshly pride wants a place of superiority and recognition.

He uses a child as an object lesson, setting him in the midst, then taking him in His arms. A child could not confer the dignity of greatness on a man, but one's genuine care for little ones indicates whether he is morally great. Receiving one of these was receiving the Lord Himself, whose heart is tender toward the weakest, and all who received Him received the Father who sent Him.

But if John had been discouraged from seeking to be greatest in his own company, he was still desirous of considering his company the only right one. He tells the Lord they had seen one casting out demons in Christs' name, and ordered him not to do so because he did not follow them. But they themselves had just before failed to cast out a demon! (v.18). We may be puzzled to know who this man was, and why the Lord gave him power to cast out demons. But we are not intended to know: it is for us to follow the Lord, and leave the Lord in control of His servants, rather than to dare to give them orders ourselves.

The Lord answers, "Forbid him not:" if the man had power to cast out demons in Christ's name, then he was not an enemy of Christ. He was not against them, therefore he was for them. Matthew 12:30 on the other hand tells us, "He that is not with me is against Me." For He speaks there of the determined opposition of Satan's power: there could be no compromise in this. If one did not stand with the Lord Jesus when He was accused of having a demon, then he was against Him. But one casting out demons in Christ's name was certainly not against Him or against His disciples.

Then He links the simplest kind act to this matter. A drink of water given them because they belonged to Christ would merit a reward from Him. He does not forget any such respect shown for His name. Compare Matthew 25:40.

Conversely, rather than one stumbling the weakest believer, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea weighted with a millstone. For our treatment of believers shows our attitude toward Christ. Self-judgment therefore is absolutely imperative. "If thy foot serve as a snare to thee, cut it off." One's own conscience can discern this. If the foot goes in the wrong direction, the sharp knife is to be used: I must ruthlessly judge it. If one never learns self-judgment he will be cast into hell, into unquenchable fire. The same is said concerning the hand, which speaks of actions. If the actions of the hand are never judged, the end is the awful fire of hell. The offending eye is to be plucked out. If the eye sees what is evil (and the world makes provision for this in its pictures, its television and often in public displays) our one resource is to judge it and turn from it. "Turn away thine eyes from beholding vanity" (Psalms 119:37). If one never judges his own evil propensities, he will never recognize his need of the salvation of God: the end of such a man is the torment of hell. The worm dying not speaks of the interminable writings of his accusing conscience, a significant factor in the torment that never ceases. The fire is the holiness of God, who because of His very nature must judge sin. The same fire that in some cases brings warmth and blessing will in this case bring heat and torment.

Salt is an antiseptic and preservative. So fire will counteract the foul disease of sin, preserving man too from indulging in the evil he desires, for though in hell his nature remains evil, he will not be allowed to express this as he wants. Miserable existence!

Salt illustrates the important principle of righteousness, which is indispensable in every aspect of the sacrifice of Christ. Only by that sacrifice can anyone escape the damnation of hell. Salt is good -- only when used in proper measure, of course. Like salt, righteousness must not lose its savor, or it would be useless.Leaving Capernaum in Galilee, the Lord Jesus comes into Judea near the Jordan river. Judea claimed to be strictly scriptural in contrast to the looseness of Samaria and Galilee; but it was here they needed the instruction concerning marriage, for in Judea there was corruption of fundamental relationships under a thin veneer of correctness. The subdivision from verse 1 to 45 embraces six sections, all dealing with God's creatorial rights, beginning with the first relationship He established among men.

The Pharisees raised the question as to the legality of one's divorcing his wife. Their motives were bad, for they wanted to catch Him in His words, a most foolish thing in dealing with the Son of God. Since it was the law they appealed to, then He asks them, "What did Moses command you?" They were aware of Deuteronomy 24:1-2, and answered that Moses had allowed it. They did not say Moses commanded it, for he had actually commanded that if one did put away his wife, he must give her a bill of divorcement.

The Lord answers that because of the hardness of their hearts Moses had written this. The second giving of the law (on Mt.Horeb -- Exodus 34:1-7) included such concessions, and was not therefore absolute law, but law tempered with mercy. It recognized the hardness in man that it had no power to correct. But He refers back to the original creation of man and his wife, reminding them of God's declaration, "for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife." Adam was absolutely confined to having one wife, and Eve to having one husband. They were God's gift to each other. He had joined them together: man has no right therefore to separate them. Governments may publicly do this as a concession to the hardness of men's hearts also, but they do not have God as their authority.

The Lord has spoken this to Pharisees, but inside the house His disciples questioned Him further, to whom He answers that a man putting away his wife and marrying another has committed adultery against his first wife. A wife doing the same would be guilty of adultery against her husband. The Lord does not here mention the exception noted in Matthew 19:9, "except for fornication," because it is, practically' speaking, not even an exception.

Fornication would virtually itself be a breaking of the marriage bond, which is only confirmed by a divorce in this case. The partner who was not guilty would not therefore be committing adultery in marrying another after divorce, though generally there may have been fault on both sides, and before another marriage, one should be broken before God, seeking only His will. 1 Corinthians 7:15 shows also that desertion is considered a breaking of the marriage bond, so that the one who was deserted would be left no longer under that bond.

Family relationships also are seen to be precious to the Lord Jesus in verses 13 to 16. Parents desired that He should touch their little ones, and the disciples, out of harmony with the Lord's thoughts, rebuked them for bringing them. Evidently they thought that children were of little consequence in comparison to men. But they are created by God, and given to parents as a heritage from the Lord (Psalms 127:3), to be cared for and trained as for the Lord Himself.

The Lord was much displeased with His disciples' attitude, and insisted that little children be permitted to come to Him, and not hindered in any way, "for of such is the kingdom of God." People may say that little children cannot know anything about the kingdom of God, but the Lord makes it clear that this kingdom is for them just as positively as for adults. The child may know almost nothing concerning his own family, but his place in the family is just as proper as that of the most intelligent in it. Of course the church, the assembly of God, includes only those who have been baptized by the Spirit into one body, a much different thing than the kingdom, which is not only for those born again, but for families of believers.

More than this, the Lord admonishes His disciples that everyone who receives the kingdom must do so as a little child. As a little one submits to the authority of its parents, so every entrant into the kingdom must submit to the authority of the King, the Lord Jesus. These submissive little ones He therefore takes into His arms, puts His hands on them and blesses them.

In verses 1-12 the thoughts of the Pharisees had to be corrected in regard to marriage, then in verses 13-16 it was disciples who needed correction in reference to their attitude toward little children. Now in verses 17-22 it is a man of comparatively good character, but unbelieving, who needs correction in reference to God's rights as to man's temporal possessions; while in verses 23-27 disciples must have their thoughts corrected as to the same matter.

There is no doubt of the earnestness of the man who came to the Lord, for his running and kneeling bear witness of this. He addressed the Lord as "Good Teacher," asking what he should do in order to inherit eternal life. He did not realize that the One he was addressing was infinitely more than a good teacher. For this reason the Lord asked him why he called Him good, for only God is good. If only he could have given the proper answer that Jesus is God, how much would have been solved for him! But he did not think of Jesus as One who could satisfy the depths of his soul's need, but only as a teacher who could give him good instruction as to what he should do.

God had long ago given Israel a standard as to what man should do; therefore the Lord Jesus refers the man back to the commandments given through Moses, telling him he already knew them. Observe however that He only mentions five commandments dealing with one's relationship to others, not those relating directly to God, or the last commandment as to covetousness. But He does not say that this would give the man eternal life: man's doings could not ever accomplish this. However, since the man wanted something to do, the Lord reminds him of God's standard of "doing."

Could this satisfy the man? Not at all: for he answered that he had observed these things from his youth, so that it was evident that these things did not provide the answer to what was really troubling him. There was evidently that in the man that drew out the Lord's particular love on this occasion. He told him he lacked one thing, and that he should sell what he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and come, take up the cross and follow Him. No doubt this was a matter of doing something. It was not the gospel, for the man felt no need of the gospel of grace, which asks us to do nothing, but to receive what God freely gives.

What did the man lack? He shows us this himself when he went away sad because of his great possessions. His lack was that of a genuine faith in the person of the Lord Jesus as Son of God. No doubt the Lord, rather than giving him the gospel, was seeking to awaken him to a realization of this serious lack, that he might give up his object of "doing" and acknowledge his need of the mercy of the Lord. We may well hope that the Lord's word would produce this eventual result in the man, but we do not know.

In verse 23 the Lord seeks to impress the same lesson upon disciples that the man had failed to learn, for we are often too insensible to the fact that riches tend to become an obstacle to one's receiving the blessings of the kingdom of God. Men place such value on their riches that often it becomes an issue as to which they will choose, their riches or the kingdom of God. The disciples were astonished when He told them how hard it was for rich men to enter the kingdom, for under law the possession of wealth was considered a mark of God's particular blessing (See Deuteronomy 28:1-8).

The heart of the matter is however seen in His next words, "how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God." The danger of having riches is that it becomes too easy for us to put our trust in them, while we should remember that God is Creator and His creatorial rights should be recognized in whatever possessions we may be entrusted with. Of course it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, and just as impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. But in answer to the incredulous question of His disciples, the Lord assures them that though this is impossible with men, it is not so with God, with whom all things are possible. Therefore, a totally divine work of grace is needed to bring a rich man into the kingdom of God. But poor men who have a will to be rich require the same sovereign work of God in their hearts (1 Timothy 6:9). Indeed, all require it, for it is a universal disease to prefer something else to a path of faith.

In verses 28 to 31 another matter arises in which again God's rights must be affirmed. For Peter reminds the Lord that they (the disciples) were a contrast to the rich man, and evidently felt some self-satisfaction in having left all to follow Him. Of course it had not been such riches that Peter had left, but whatever it was, it is wiser to take Paul's attitude, "forgetting those things which are behind" (Philippians 3:13).

The Lord's answer is not confined to the disciples, for many others have done similarly, but He answers them that the faith of any who have left anything for His sake and the gospels' will be more than fully rewarded. No-one will have to remind God of their self-sacrifice. He knows it well, and even on earth will reward it one hundredfold. Of all that they have left, everything is said to be replaced abundantly except fathers and wives. Of course the relationships of brethren, sisters, mothers and children speak of spiritual relationships, which are far more precious than those natural. Yet another blessing is added that may not be so attractive, "with persecutions." If we have spiritual appreciation of the Lord's thoughts, then in being persecuted we shall "rejoice and be exceeding glad" (Matthew 5:11-12). Therefore, in giving up anything for Christ's sake the results are all abundant gain.

The Lord adds a word of caution here, however. If one desired the recognition of being first, this might reduce him to the last place. We may hope that Peter did not have this in his thoughts when he spoke as he did, but one who willingly accepted the last place now would very likely eventually be given the first.

In verse 32 the time has come for His last journey to Jerusalem. They were "in the way," but He was before them. They did follow, but evidently not too willingly. It seems this was the same occasion when they objected to Him that the Jews had only recently sought to stone Him (John 10:8). For this reason they were amazed that He would return so soon. Though they followed, they were afraid. As to their fears of His being killed, He does not allay these, but tells them emphatically that this will indeed take place, but that He would rise again on the third day. In chapter 8:31, in chapter 9:9 and in chapter 9:31 He had sought to prepare them for this, but they could not take it in; and even in this case, though they feared for His life, they seemed unable to believe His plain words that He would be delivered to the Gentiles by the chief priests, mocked, scourged, spit upon and killed; and the third day rise again. When a teacher repeats a lesson four times over at varying intervals, students usually remember it, but pre-occupation with natural thoughts can too easily blind us to spiritual truth of far more importance.

Verses 35-37 show a painful contrast to the Lord's willingness to take the lowest place in suffering and death. James and John had entirely missed the spirit of the Lord's words, and ask rather that He will do for them whatever they desire. Instead of responding with a similar spirit of self-sacrifice, they want the Lord to indulge their selfish desires! He spoke of suffering and death: they speak of glory and honor in His kingdom, with they themselves in higher positions than others.

The Lord's reproof is not stern, but firm. First He tells them that such a request stemmed from ignorance. A more important matter at the time was whether they could drink of the cup of which He drank and be baptized with the baptism with which He was baptized. Little did they understand this either, for He referred to His taking the cup of suffering from His Father's hand and being baptized with the death of crucifixion. How great a contrast was this to their desire for glory and honor! Yet they confidently answer, "We can." Yet He did not explain to them what they did not understand: they would not learn this without the necessity of hard experience They would indeed drink of the same cup as He, and be baptized with the same baptism, which actually meant their being identified with Him in His suffering and death. This was not because they were able for it, but because His grace would sustain them in it. Later looking back, they would deeply realize this, and marvel that they had been so ignorant.

As to the desire of James and John to sit on the right hand and on the left of the Lord in His kingdom, He tells them that this was not His to give, but would be given to those for whom it was before prepared. As the lowly Servant of God He had not come to hand out honors to men. In fact, to desire honor is a sure way of not getting it (Cf.Mt.23:12).

However, verse 41 reveals the same desire for honor in the other disciples, for they were much displeased with James and John for requesting this Such a spirit of rivalry is not faith. It would no doubt be right to be genuinely sorry that any believer (including ourselves) should aspire to such recognition, but to be displeased shows that we need the same reproof.

The kindness with which the Lord speaks to them is precious, however. He first calls them to Him: He does not drive them away with censuring words, but wants them near Himself. Then He reminds them of what they knew concerning the world's principles of government. Though men are called "public servants," they are given places of dignity and authority above the common people. Of course they saw this in the rule of the Gentiles over Israel.

But this was not to be so among the followers of the Lord Jesus. If one would be great, he must take the lowly place of ministering, not of ruling. The one who would be first would be servant of all. They had seen this in the Lord Jesus Himself, though they had not really taken it to heart. He, the Son of Man (showing His relationship to all mankind) had come, not to receive service and honor from others, but to minister to them and to give His life a ransom for many. Marvellous service indeed What an example to subdue every believing heart in desire to follow Him in a path of self-sacrificing service to His glory and for the blessing of others

This service is beautifully seen now even at Jericho, the city of the curse, in the case of Bartimeaus, a blind beggar, who is a picture of the reduced condition of Israel at the very time, and a picture of us all while we were unsaved. How blind we were to the light of God's truth, not knowing where we were going, destitute of the spiritual wealth that belongs to those redeemed by the blood of Christ At least the man did not deceive himself into thinking there was nothing wrong with him. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth who passed by, he cried out for mercy.

However, he did not say, "Jesus of Nazareth," but "Jesus, Son of David." As "Jesus of Nazareth" He was the prophet who came from a place despised by the Jews (John 1:46), but Bartimaeus recognized Him as Israel's true King, "Son of David," and gave Him this rightful honor. His loud crying out irritated many who demanded that he be silent, but he was not to be turned away by people's opinions: he cried out the more for mercy from the son of David. Certainly the Lord Jesus had heard him at his first cry, yet waited to have him called until he had proven the persistence of his faith.

"Jesus stood still." Precious response of genuine care for one in confessed need! He commanded the man to be called. Bartimaeus threw away his garment, rose and came to Jesus. No doubt he felt it unfitting that he should present himself to the Lord in beggar's clothing, which reminds us that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). The Lord's question to him drew out the request concerning his most deeply felt need, that he might receive his sight. Who but the great Messiah of Israel, the Son of David, could be expected to answer such a prayer? The answer is however immediate, "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole." On the part of the man nothing but faith had resulted in the giving of his sight, which took place simultaneously with the Lord's words to him. Wonderful miracle of grace!

Certainly the giving of spiritual sight is no less a marvellous miracle accomplished in every soul who receives Christ as a personal Savior. There is no doubt that this man received both natural sight and spiritual sight on that memorable day. The way he chose then was to "follow Jesus in the way." We may be sure that the extremely steep climb from Jericho to Jerusalem (about 3600 feet in 13 miles) meant nothing to him in comparison to his joy in following the Lord Jesus.Bethphage and Bethany were near to Jerusalem. No mention is made by Mark of the supper made for the Lord Jesus at Bethany, which no doubt took place at this time, for it was more appropriate that John should speak of this (John 12:1-8). In this area He instructs two of His disciples to go to a village where on entering they would find an unbroken colt tied, and to bring it to Him. Only the Lord of glory could give such an order, for He is Creator, therefore Master of all creation. If any objection was made, they had only to say "The Lord hath need of him," and there would be no problem

They found the colt tied by a door in a place where two ways met. The colt of a donkey is no doubt typical of Israel in her unbroken state of rebellion, yet restrained by being tied (under bondage to law). The two ways meeting there indicate that Israel was now brought to the crossroads: which way would she take? She was outside the door, not having entered into the blessings that God has provided for that nation. They loose the colt (typically from legal bondage), so that the Lord Jesus might be given rightful control. The disciples' garments provide a saddle for Him, and the colt is uncharacteristically submissive. The Lord Jesus takes the reins, and the donkey becomes thoroughly docile. How precious is this picture of what His grace is able to accomplish in the heart of a stubborn person! Of course it is typical too of what Psalms 110:3 says concerning Israel in the future, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."

This is indicated also in verse 8, with many spreading their garments in the way He was riding, and others cutting down branches of trees to form an avenue of royal welcome for Him. The accolade given Him, though He was presented in lowly humility, is worthy of the King presented in majesty and glory. Of course a king presented in royal splendor was likely to be riding a magnificant war horse rather than a donkey. But Zechariah 9:9 had prophesied this unusually striking event, and God's hand in roving the scenes is unmistakable.

Entering into the temple, the Lord did nothing that day except to scrutinize everything that was to be observed there. Of course He saw the merchants trading there, and the money changers. He had driven these Out of the temple earlier in His ministry (John 2:13-17); and His steady, searching gaze now was surely a warning to these people which they evidently foolishly ignored; for if they had not come back the next day to ply their trade, they may have escaped the humiliation of being ejected again. That evening however the Lord returned to Bethany (about three miles) with the twelve. Luke 21:37 tells us that during this last six days of His life on earth He went every night to the mount of Olives (where Bethany was situated -- Mark 11:1).

Returning the next day to Jerusalem, on the way He saw a fig tree and came to it with the desire of eating some of its fruit. But though it had leaves, He found no fruit on it. There ought to have been fruit, "for the time of figs was not yet," that is, the time for harvesting them had not arrived. The fig tree is typical of the nation Israel: leaves speak of its fair outward profession. But in spite of Israel's show of godliness, when the Lord Jesus came the nation was producing no fruit for God. He pronounced such a curse on the tree as to preclude its bearing fruit forever.

Does this mean that Israel can never be restored? No, it does not. For though a tree may die, and therefore in its first state be reduced to never bearing fruit, yet "there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that the tender branch thereof will not cease; though the root thereof wax old in the earth and the stock thereof die in the ground" (Job 14:7-8). Israel will rise again in a different state than that which brought her to desolation: this will be truly "life from the dead" (Romans 11:15).

In Jerusalem He comes again to the temple, this time ejecting from the temple those who were selling and buying, overthrowing the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dove sellers; also stopping the carrying of vessels through the temple. He firmly reproves this greed for money by referring to Isaiah 56:7, "My house shall be called the house of prayer."

In expelling the merchants from the temple, the Lord did not act precipitately, but showed the calm deliberation of observing first; yet when He acts, He does so decidedly and firmly, telling them that though His house was the house of prayer, they had made it a den of thieves. The scribes and Pharisees had no answer to His sobering insistence in God's rights, but they are only more infuriated against Him, plotting as to how to get rid of Him. They were afraid of Him, not because of His being God's true witness, but because His teaching had evident influence on the people, of whose approval they were envious. How sad it is that God's approval meant nothing to them!

Again spending the night outside the city, they return in the morning to find the fig tree the Lord had cursed dried up from the roots. Peter drew the Lord's attention to this strikingly rapid result of His words. The Lord answers, "Have faith in God," and assures them absolutely that one could say to a specific mountain, "Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea," and if he had no doubts about the matter, if would definitely take place. Of course the Lord is not speaking of a literal mountain, but "this mountain" is clearly the obstacle of Israel's condition at the time, lust as the fig tree spoke of her condition. The obstacle was Israel's opposition to the Lord Jesus. Its being removed and cast into the sea actually took place not long after the death of Christ, when the nation was driven from her land and absorbed by the sea of the Gentile nations.

Verse 23 then insist that faith is a most vital matter if one expects answers to prayer. We must remember that it is impossible to have actual faith for what is not the will of God. Of course we find His will expressed in His Word. That Word had declared before that Israel would be scattered among the Gentiles (Deuteronomy 28:63-64). Let us know His Word well and believe it: this will be a precious help in rightly directing out prayers and receiving answers.

We are to be guarded, however, against any vindictive spirit in our prayers. Though Israel was to be scattered, we must not have hard thoughts against them, as Paul shows in Romans 10:1. Similarly, whoever it may be that we have anything against, we must have a thoroughly forgiving spirit toward them. This does not mean that God's assembly should restore them to fellowship while they maintain a state of sinful disobedience, but our personal attitude must be one of willingness to forgive. If it is not so, how can we expect God to forgive our own trespasses and answer our prayers favorably? Only in a state of humble submission to Him can we expect fruitful answers to prayer.

In Jerusalem again, in the temple, the chief priests, scribes and elders concertedly confront Him, demanding to know by what authority He was doing what He did, that is, His driving the merchants from the temple, teaching in the temple, etc. Of course, being blind as they were, they were thinking only of man's authority. The Lord therefore, with admirable wisdom, asks them a question in return, promising that, if they will answer, then He would answer their question. "The baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men?" Where did John get his authority? Since heaven's authority had not entered their earth-bound minds, they find themselves in a serious dilemma. If they admitted the truth, that John's authority came from heaven, they would condemn their own unbelief. On the other hand, if they lied, saying that it was from men, the common people, who knew better, would oppose them. Their disbelief of God and their fear of the people therefore moved them to answer, "We cannot tell."

How glaring an exposure of themselves they made by this answer They were actually confessing themselves incompetent to judge as to the question of authority. It was as clear as can be that no man gave John his authority: the Pharisees themselves could have suggested no-one who might have done so. The fact is of course that the Lord's authority came from the same source as did John's, from heaven. But since the Pharisees would not acknowledge heaven's authority in John's case, then of what use would it be for the Lord to tell them He had heaven's authority? He therefore tells them flatly that He will not tell them the source of His authority. But this did not stop His teaching and acting for God, though it left them frustrated and helpless to do anything about it.The Lord Jesus, the faithful servant of the living God, the only One who knew how to be perfectly subject to proper authority, now speaks a parable that shows up the awful fact that all through the history of Israel their leaders had despised the authority of God, and this in subjection was on the point of culminating in their rejection and murder of the Son of God.

The truth of the vineyard planted by a man is clearly explained in Isaiah 5:1-7 : "the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the whole house of Israel" (v.7). The hedge speaks of her separation from the nations; the place for the winefat telling of the provision God had made for Israel's rendering to Him some return for His great goodness; the tower indicating watchfulness against the intrusion of evil. The husbandmen are of course the elders of the people who were given responsibility to care for the nation on behalf of God, who left Israel without His direct intervention for centuries.

However, at the season when fruit should be rendered, the owner sent a servant to collect this. He was beaten and given nothing. Another servant was still more violently treated, another killed, then many others either beaten or killed. These are of course prophets whom God sent to the Jews over a period of many years, urging upon them at least some recognition of the rights of God. This was only consistent with the law which Israel had promised to keep; but rather than obey, they treated God's servants with shameful contempt.

In all of this the patience of God has been marvellous. Finally, He sends His well beloved only Son. Will they not at least give some real recognition and respect to Him? But the husbandmen, because they want authority exclusively for themselves, think that, if they kill the heir, they can usurp His inheritance. How vain is the pride of men in thinking they can actually get rid of the Son of God and take over the rights that God has decreed are His! So Israel has been guilty of tragic folly in crucifying the blessed Lord of glory, the Son of God.

Could the Jews think that the owner of the vineyard would do nothing about this enormous insult and violence against his son? Similarly, can they imagine God having no concern about their crucifying His own Son? Just as the owner of the vineyard would come and destroy those husbandmen and give the vineyard to others, so indeed would God act in solemn judgment against Israel's murderous leaders, and put others in their place. How different will things be when God restores Israel in a coming day, and reliable, born again men will be given the lead in caring for that revived, rejoicing nation!

The Lord asks them then if they had not read the scripture (Psalms 118:22-23): "The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." The stone was a well known figure for Israel's Messiah, the Son of God. Certainly the stone made the head of the corner could be only the Messiah. The prophecy then is plain, the Messiah would be rejected by the builders before eventually being given His place of rightful honor. Did they not stop to consider that they were the very "builders" of whom the prophecy spoke?

How unreasoning was the blindness of their hatred, however! Realizing He had spoken this parable against them, they desire to immediately fulfil His prophecy, without thinking they were only confirming what He had said! But for the moment they are restrained by their fear of the people. It was not His time, though that time was only a few days away.

Pharisees and Herodians (usually opposed to each other) now unite in an effort to trap the Lord into speaking words they might use to incriminate Him. Yet they bear witness to the fact that He is true, that He was not a respecter of men, and that He taught the way of God in truth. (Why did they not then submit to His teaching?) Of course their subtle wickedness only intended these words as flattery, hoping this would influence His answer to their question, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" They hoped that, since He had a genuine care for His own nation Israel, He would object to the domination of Caesar. If so, they could accuse Him of rebellion against Caesar, though they themselves greatly resented Caesar's authority.

When the Pharisees and Herodians ask their crafty question of the Lord as to whether or not to give tribute to Caesar, how well He knew their treacherous hypocrisy He asks why they tempt Him, then tells them to show Him the common currency. They can only answer that it bears Caesar's image and superscription. Here was plain evidence that Israel was under the bondage of the Roman Emperor, a humilating matter, but resulting from their own disobedience to God. What could Israel rightly do but bow to the shame of this? The answer of the Lord then shows His perfect wisdom and righteousness, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," but He adds what is of more vital importance still, "and to God the things that are God's." This was a matter which they gave little consideration, and no doubt His faithful words made them feel uncomfortable They could only marvel at Him.

The Sadducees then confront Him with the bold self-assurance of ignorance, thinking they have a question that will involve the Lord in confusion. They were determined to prove there is no resurrection, and had thought up a case that was very unlikely, to say the least. Deuteronomy 25:5 had made provision for a man (if his brother died) to marry his brother's wife in order for her to have children to take his brother's name. They assume a case of seven brothers dying after they had all in succession had the same wife. In the resurrection, they ask, which man would have her? Of course if only two had her they could have asked the same question, but they wanted to make the truth of resurrection appear as ludicrous as they possibly could.

Their earthbound minds were not prepared for the simplicity of the Lord's answer. He tells them their very question was in error because of their ignorance of scripture and of the power of God. Marriage was a provision of God only for earth. In resurrection there is no such thing, but people are as the angels. Scripture had told them that "men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, 0 God, beside thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him" (Isaiah 64:4). At least they should have given God credit for the ability to introduce greater things than were seen on earth.

The Lord then declares to them the positive proof of resurrection, reminding them that at the burning bush God told Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). Though these had died, God said, "I am their God, not "I was."

Then He settles the matter absolutely with the decisive statement, "He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living." Though the bodies of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have died, their spirits live; and this fact necessitates their being eventually raised, for man is not complete without his spirit and soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The Lord therefore emphasized a second time the greatness of the error of the Sadducees.

At least one of the scribes was more honorable than those who had sought to trap the Lord. He realizes the wisdom of the Lord's answers, and comes with a question that was manifestly honest. When asking which is the first commandment, he evidently has in mind that which is first in importance. The Lord's answer is from Deuteronomy 6:5. Notice, however, how vital to the whole matter are the first words here, "Hear, 0 Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord." This is basic to all obedience on man's part. If the unity of the Godhead is not confessed, the very spirit of obedience is lacking. This is consistent with the words of the Lord Jesus, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). This involves therefore the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one indivisible God.

In verse 30 the first four of the ten commandments are embraced, for these speak of responsibility toward God, loving Him with all the heart, soul, mind and strength. Is this not a tremendous thing to be demanded of men? It is a standard of obedience of absolute perfection. Who can dare to assume that he does it? But the Lord goes on to insist that the second is like the first, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Who does this? Today's "permissive society" is flatly contradictory of this, for it says "live for yourself: forget your neighbor." Certainly only the Lord Jesus has ever obeyed this law.

It is good to see the scribe's response to the Lord's declaration as to the law. He honestly recognizes the truth of the Lord's words, first, in regard to the unity of God, then as to genuine love for God and men. He adds that this is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices, that is, that the formal observances were not as vital as the inward malty of the heart. The Lord answered him that he was not far from the kingdom of God. In fact, all that he needed was to realize that the One who stood before him was the true God. He had an honest respect for the Lord Jesus, which was not far from a true submission of heart to Him.

The Lord's answers to men's questions having left men silent, He now takes the initiative in asking a most vital question. He reminds the people that the scribes taught that Christ is the son of David. But he quotes David writing in Psalms 110:1, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool." Therefore, He asks, if David called Christ Lord, how is He David's son? There was no-one to give an answer to this. Certainly, the Lord did not imply that Christ was not David's son, but He asks how this can be when He is David's Lord. Faith can answer without hesitation that both are perfectly true, but the scribes had no discernment of this. According to flesh Christ came from David's line, therefore a true Man. But He is David's Lord because He is "the root of David," that is, He is God, the Source of all (Cf.Revelation 22:16). The Old Testament teaches, just as distinctly as the New, that Christ is both God and Man. Scribes, because of their ignorance, did not teach it, but the common people heard the Lord Jesus gladly. One wonders if the scribe of verses 28-34 took to heart this vital question of the Lord.

Now He warns the people to beware of the scribes. Their doctrinal unsoundness was accompanied by a love for display and recognition by the people. The scribe of verse 26 then should beware of his own company and of his own heart! The common people were not able to read and write, and scribes took advantage of their own ability to do so, by a childish show in wearing long clothing and of desiring the admiration of the people in the market places, in the synagogues and at feasts. Yet they devoured widow's houses. Using their spiritual prestige, as many do today, they knew how to extort money from the public, even including widows, who suffered from such oppression. Together with this they made a vain show with long, empty prayers. Such men would receive greater judgment than those who did not accompany their sin with pretensions of spirituality.

A beautiful contrast to these is seen in verses 41 to 44. The Lord Jesus watched as the people were throwing their money into the temple treasury. Many rich were donating large amounts in contrast to a poor widow who threw in two mites, the value of a few cents today. The Lord then told His disciples (not the crowd) that the poor widow's donation was more than those of others; for her gift was a very real sacrifice: theirs were only a relatively small amount compared to the abundance of their resources. Let every believer take to heart the fact that the Lord observes everything about our giving; not only the amount given, but what we withhold, and what our motives are.With the sorrows of the cross looming solemnly before the eyes of the Lord Jesus, it is fitting that this chapter should affirm His own eventual triumph in glory over the evil that was accompanied by the pride of Jewish confidence in their own institutions. His disciples drew His attention to the manner of stones and buildings connected with the temple. Their words were a reflection of the pride of the Jewish nation, which must be brought low before ever the nation would find blessing from God.

The Lord solemnly declares to them that not one stone would be left upon another, but all thrown down. Certainly at that time there was no apparent likelihood of this happening. This was no mere observing of evident trends, but a clear prophecy independently of any circumstances, for the Lord Jesus speaks as the Servant of God, declaring the truth God has given Him to reveal.

The Lord's prophecy in verse 2 was partially fulfilled in A.D.70 when Jerusalem was sacked by the Roman general Titus, the temple being burnt and badly damaged, but with many stones remaining. It has been reported that the emperor Julian, who had first embraced then rejected Christianity (therefore called "Julian the Apostate"), in order to prove Christ's prophecy false, commissioned many Jews to return and rebuild the temple. When they found the it so greatly damaged, they decided to completely demolish and build it anew. They therefore literally fulfilled Christ's prophecy by taking every stone away. Then an unexpected occasion arose that prohibited their building. Julian's enmity only fulfilled the Lord's prophecy that he sought to overthrow!

Sitting on the mount of, Olives, the Lord Jesus is asked privately by Peter, James, John and Andrew when all these things should take place, and what sign they should look for. Just as in Matthew 24:3, the Lord's outline of prophetic events is intended, not for the crowd, but for disciples, and here in Mark for disciples who are particularly concerned; for prophecy is never rightly perceived apart from serious spiritual exercise.

His first words are striking, "Take heed lest any man deceive you." History has proven the great necessity of such a warning, for there are virtually countless prophetic deceptions today, having particularly multiplied since the 1800's. Many have already come claiming to be Christ, some of them not using this specific title, yet exalting themselves to the position of taking the place that is only rightly that of the Lord Jesus. Many have been deceived by them. These first words of the Lord's prophecy have already been abundantly fulfilled.

Wars and rumors of wars have troubled the world continually since then, but this itself is not a sign of the end, though their increase is ominous as "the beginning of sorrows." Earthquakes are mentioned, and the great increase of these in recent years has been a matter of common observation. Famines have also affected great areas of the world, so that a tremendous percentage of the world's population is suffering from malnutrition.

These prophecies however merge into the 3 1/2 years just preceding the great tribulation. Verse 9 was true of the disciples in the book of Acts, and the same will be evidently the case with the godly remnant of Israel who bear a testimony for God after the Church is raptured to heaven. Councils of the Jews will be then just as bitterly opposed to them as to the early apostles. Though we know that almost 2000 years has intervened in which God is gathering out the Church, this parenthetical period is not considered in this prophecy, except in the mention of general troubles such as wars, earthquakes and famines. Certainly they would not have expected so many centuries to pass before the fulfilment of the Lord's words; but the dispensation of the grace of God has been lengthened far beyond what would naturally be expected. How great is His patience and grace!

As to verse 10, during this dispensation the gospel has been published among all nations; and also, following the rapture of the Church the gospel of the kingdom (not the gospel of the grace of God) will be preached in all the world for a witness just before the end (Matthew 24:14). Mark's gospel seems to speak in a more general way, and Matthew more specifically. But whether before or after the rapture of the Church, the instruction of the Lord remains effective, that His servants should not premeditate what to answer when brought before rulers and kings, but should depend simply upon the power of the Spirit of God, who would supply the words suitable for the occasion. Because of the hostility of governments toward the name of Jesus, one would betray his own brother to be killed, a father betray his son, and children their parents.

The increase of the hatred of all men generally will be more marked after the Church is gone, and the remnant of Israel will suffer severely. It is in this connection that we are told, "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." One bearing the suffering of the tribulation and enduring this to the end would be saved for earthly blessing in the millennium.

Verse 14 goes back to the middle of the seven year period of Daniel's seventieth week of years, when the Anti Christ will set up an image to the Beast in the temple area of Jerusalem, called "the abomination of desolation," that is, an idol that brings desolation (See Revelation 13:11-18). Interestingly, one "who reads" (not "hears") is urged to understand. The Lord therefore intended this to be written for others than the apostles. Those in Judea are warned to flee to the mountains, and one on his housetop told not to even delay to save anything from his house, not even a garment to be claimed if one were in the field. For this image will be a brazen challenge against the living God, and He will immediately send the king of the north like a whirlwind against Israel (Daniel 11:40). When they say "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction comes (1 Thessalonians 5:3). The desolation will be awesome.

Mothers with unborn children or with little ones will experience greatest distress, and if in winter, this would add to the ordeal. This is the time of "the great tribulation," with its greater affliction than has ever been or ever will be, a time so awesome that no flesh should be saved unless the days were shortened. For the sake of the elect (those elect for blessing in the millennial earth) the days will be shortened, however. This is in contrast to the great lengthening of "the dispensation of the grace of God" far beyond what anyone would have imagined in reading the Old Testament prophecies.

Just as during the present dispensation (v.6) false christs and false prophets will arise, even showing signs and wonders so convincing as to deceive (if it were possible) even the elect. The qualifying clause "if it were possible" evidently infers that they would be deceived if it were not for the protection of the grace and power of God. For God has decreed that the elect will not be carried away in spite of their being so close to it. At this time the chief of all false christs, the Anti Christ, will entice great numbers "with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Believers however have no excuse for accepting such deception, for the Lord has forewarned them of its subtle character, and their protection is in His Word.

Verse 24 shows that there will be conditions at the end of that great tribulation period that will be similar to those under the Sixth seal of Revelation 6:12-17, which will take place before the great tribulation begins. The sun, the supreme source of light, is darkened, indicating that the light of God will be darkened by the atheistic folly of men's minds. The moon giving no light is typical of Israel's being reduced to a state of such darkness as to bear no testimony whatever to the light of God. The moon's light is of course the reflection of the light of the sun, as Israel ought to reflect God's glory in some measure. The stars of heaven falling implies the apostasy of those who once claimed to recognize the authority of heaven, but gave that up in favor of earthly-mindedness. The powers of heaven being shaken reminds us of Daniel's words, "the heavens do rule" (Daniel 4:26). This may involve some striking physical portents, but does it not suggest the deeper spiritual lesson that man's rebellion has reached such determined proportions that heaven's authority is shaken? It is not removed, and only in men's eyes is it shaken; for the Lord Himself will be very soon revealed from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on the ungodly (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

At least, conditions will have so developed and culminated in wickedness that this will all cry out for the direct intervention of God in sending the Son of Man in clouds with great power and glory. When this happens, men will see Him: it will be no "secret coming," as some false teachers like to imagine, but the Lord Jesus personally being manifested to judge the living nations in righteousness. This judgment is not at all described in this chapter, as it is in Revelation 19:11-21, but the fact of His being manifested in power and glory. Certainly this will mean judgment, for the events leading up to this have exposed the wicked, determined rebellion of man, and when once things have been fully exposed as they are, then judgment must be swift and decisive. However, just the sight of the once meek and lowly Son of Man being manifested in great glory will strike terror into the hearts of His enemies.

The coming of the Son of Man in His great power will have wonderful effects in blessing for His people Israel, as verse 27 indicates. For the "elect" who are gathered together by His angels are gathered for earthly blessing. Particularly among the ten "lost tribes" of Israel there will be a great awakening in their being brought out from their places of dispersion, coming from every direction and from greatest distances back to the land of promise. This will be a miraculous work of divine power. Verse 20 has already spoken of the elect who suffer during the tribulation: this evidently refers to Judah and Benjamin.

In verse 28 we are urged to learn a parable from the fig tree. The fig tree is the returned remnant of Israel planted in the vineyard (Luke 13:6). The vineyard speaks of Israel's estate as planted by God originally (Isaiah 5:1-7). It may be that Judah and Benjamin are specially represented in the fig tree. When these begin to put forth leaves of the profession of the knowledge of God, then the summer of God's millennial blessing is near. Even now we see the clear signs of this in Israel having so revived from her dormant state of centuries that she finds a prominent place in world politics.

Verse 30 presses the nearness of all these things finding their accomplishment. It seems to infer that the generation that sees the beginning of this revival will also see its culmination. On the other hand, it is possible that the Lord is speaking of a generation from a moral standpoint, that is, that an "adulterous and sinful generation" (Mark 8:38) would continue Until His coming in power and glory. Yet who can doubt that this is near, "even at the doors?" Though heaven and earth pass away, the words of the Lord Jesus must be absolutely fulfilled.

But lest anyone should dare to suggest a date for His coming (as many have foolishly attempted), He emphatically insists that no-one knows the day nor the hour, not the angels, nor even the Son, but the Father. The Son was here in the place of Servant, as Mark has presented Him. In this place He knew only those things that the Father had given Him as a matter of revelation, therefore the knowledge of the time of His coming could not be available from Him. We see this same devoted servant-character in Paul, who told the Corinthians, "I determined not to Know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). "Though in Deity the Lord Jesus is omniscient (all knowing), yet in Manhood He has willingly accepted the limitations of a Servant. In serving the Corinthians Paul also accepted a servant's limitations.

We too are to have a servant's attitude, paying close attention, watching, praying, for we do not know the time of His coming. It is good for us not to know, for this tests and encourages our servant character of devoted subjection to Him while He is absent (v.34). The Lord is a man having left His house under the authority of His servants, while taking a long journey. Each has been given his work, and the porter commanded to watch. All should therefore have their work always in such order as if they expected Him immediately.

The Lord suggests His coming in one of the four night watches, when men are most likely to be sleeping. The time of His absence is looked at as "night" in the world (Romans 13:12). The evening would be the earlier days of the church's history, and midnight the more advanced time of darkness. Matthew 25:6 tells us that at midnight the cry went forth, "Behold the Bridegroom." The great awakening to the truth of the Lord's coming in the 19th century evidently answers to this midnight watch. Therefore it seems clear that today we are in the third watch, the cock crowing. In Luke 12:38 the Lord suggests His coming for His saints in the second or third watch -- not as early as impatience might desire, nor as late as laxity might think. It seems then that He will come for us in the third watch, therefore at any time now. This is reinforced by Matthew's mention of the Lord's going forth in the fourth watch of the night, just as morning is about to break (Matthew 14:25), walking on the sea to meet the disciples. This is a picture of His coming to Israel when they have been tossed by the waves of the great tribulation. If therefore He will come in the fourth watch to deliver Israel, it must be in the third watch that the rapture will take place. "I say unto all, Watch."The prophecies of Chapter 13 have been spoken only two days before the Passover, which indicates the serious importance of them. We are told again of the plotting of the chief priests and scribes to underhandedly arrest the Lord Jesus and kill Him. Only their fear of the people had restrained them before this, and the same fear moves them to want to avoid arresting Him on the Passover day. But God had decreed that He must be sacrificed on that day, and nothing could change this.

Verse 3 tells us of the same occasion as is recorded in John 12:1-8 in more precious detail. John says, "six days before the Passover," so that Mark evidently does not follow a chronological order in this case. It could be however that John speaks of the Lord's first coming to Bethany, to which He returned at nights during those six days, so that the supper might have been made for Him just two days before the Passover.

This supper took place in the house of Simon the leper (who had likely been healed by the Lord Jesus), though we know Lazarus and Martha were there as well as Mary, who brought the expensive box of ointment, breaking the box and pouring the ointment on His head. John speaks of her anointing His feet with it. No doubt she did both, but Mark writes of what is becoming to His servant character, and John shows the side of her worshipping at the feet of the Son of God. There too we read of her wiping His feet with her hair. This was not giving to the Lord's work, but to the Lord Himself.

Some were indignant at what they called "waste." How sad that even disciples would deny the Lord the honor that is rightly His. Evidently Judas was foremost in this (John 12:4-5), but others were willing to follow his materialistic reasoning. Its value was evidently equivalent to a man's wages for about one year, and it sounds plausible that this might have been given to the poor. But man's wisdom is ignorance compared to God's thoughts.

Mary does not have to defend herself: the Lord did that. "Let her alone," He says; "she hath wrought a good work on me." Did any of the disciples have the affection for the Lord that she had shown? Well might they be ashamed when He speaks to them as He does. They had the poor always with them: they had opportunity at any time to give to the poor. (Of course they were not suggesting that they should give to the poor, but that Mary should!)

But the Lord would not always be with them: in fact He was to be very soon put to death. Mary had done what she could, coming even before His death to anoint His body for burial. One wonders if she understood better than the disciples that He was going to die, as He told them; and if the death and resurrection of her brother Lazarus had perhaps spoken deeply to her heart in this regard.

Nor did the Lord consider this sufficient commendation of her act, but added with an emphatic, "Verily" that wherever the gospel was preached throughout the whole world, this lowly, affectionate action would be spoken of for a memorial of her. How beautifully true this has been! Indeed, this is enshrined in the Word of God for eternity, and countless thousands have delighted in this simple, loving sacrifice of her faith toward the person of the Lord Jesus Himself. What a contrast to the somber end of the history of Judas!

This unhappy man is seen now as acting in contrasting greed and avarice. He had been stealing from the common fund of the disciples (John 12:6), and now sees three hundred denanii slip through his fingers. His intuition is keen enough also to discern that popular opinion, influenced by chief priests and scribes) is turning against the Lord: the cause appears to be lost In callous unbelief he decides to sell out cheap. Little does he consider that in selling the Lord for money he is selling his own soul to Satan. Chief priests, who ought to have had honest concern for the spiritual help of souls, were instead glad to welcome a man who would betray his friend for money, and they strike this unholy bargain with him. How cold and hard have become the consciences of spiritual leaders in Israel! Blinded willingly by Satanic power, their hatred toward the blessed Lord of glory impels them on toward the pit of their own destruction. Judas watches for a time that he might betray his Master, but it is God who has set the time. How good that He is above all circumstances!

The most solemn, awesome day of history arrives. To prepare for the evening (when the day actually began) the Lord sends two of His disciples, in answer to their desire to know His will as to making these preparations How well it is for us also to depend on His guidance as regards any gathering of His people together; for we surely ought to realize our incompetence to decide this.

His instructions are strangely unusual, for it was customary for women, not men, to carry water. But God designed this for a spiritual reason, we may be sure. Vessels of water are often spoken of in the Old Testament, and they symbolize a small measure of the ministry of the Word of God, while in the New Testament "a well of water" and "rivers of living water" indicate the unlimited flowing forth of the ministry of God's Word by the power of the Spirit of God (John 4:14; John 7:38-39). However, the man bearing the pitcher of water indicates that the limited ministry of the Old Testament leads somewhere, that is, to the "large upper room furnished and prepared," a type of the heavenly character of the church in contrast to Israel's earthly inheritance and blessings. One who rightly read the Old Testament would certainly discern that it was leading to something better and higher than it could possibly then reveal.

As they were eating the Passover the Lord Jesus told them .solemnly that one them would betray Him. No doubt Mark writes in order that these things transpired. Luke writes of the Lord's saying this after he gives the account of the Lord's introducing His supper (Luke 22:21); but Luke's order is always moral, not chronological, as Mark's usually is. The response of the disciples ("Is it I?") is interesting, and seems to indicate some proper distrust of their own hearts, except for Judas, who would only speak because the others did. The Lord tells them that the betrayer is one of the twelve who dipped with Him in the dish. Sad is this vain show of fellowship with the Lord on the part of Judas, when he was at the time contemplating His betrayal! While the Son of Man would certainly go to the cross as scripture had sovereignly declared, yet He pronounces a dreadfully solemn woe upon the betrayer, saying it would have been good for that man never to have been born. After hearing this from the Lord's lips, what must have been the cold stubbornness of the heart of Judas that he would go on with his dastardly plan? Scripture holds no slightest ray of hope for that man's soul. He is a most solemn warning to those who would dare to take a place outwardly near to the Lord while having no heart for Him personally.

It would appear that at this point Judas went out, if we compare John 13:27-30. Then the Lord Jesus introduces a new observance for His disciples, altogether distinct from the Passover feast. Mark records the facts of His giving them the loaf and the cup and that these symbolize His body and His blood, but does not mention their doing this for a remembrance of Himself, as Luke does. None of the Gospels actually insist on this being a continual observance but God's direct revelation to Paul clearly does so (1 Corinthians 11:26), and 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 shows that this is an observance for the assembly, "the communion of the body of Christ. For we being many are one bread, one body." It is the central expression of the fellowship of the body of Christ, the assembly.

Verse 25 is no doubt specially to be looked at from a spiritual viewpoint. The Lord's drinking of the fruit of the vine speaks of His finding spiritual joy and refreshment. From that time until the kingdom of God should come in power and glory, He meanwhile finds no joy in the nation Israel, for whom the Passover had been instituted. The Passover is therefore set aside while the Lord's supper is given to the church during all this dispensation of grace. The Lord had prayed, He had spoken to them the Word of God, and they sang a hymn together. At the time of the breaking of bread,. these three activities are therefore becoming. Nothing is given us as to the order of this observance, no distinctive pattern such as has been sometimes urged. This must be left for the leading of the Spirit of God in each gathering, worship being real, not formal.

As the Lord goes out with His disciples, He solemnly warns them that on that very night they would all be offended, that is, that every one would fail him in the hour of greatest trial. He quotes Zechariah 13:7, the Word of God that would certainly be fulfilled, "I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Little did they realize the awful seriousness of that hour and the power of the enemy against them. The only One who could stand in that hour would be left utterly alone. But He does not leave it there: He tells them, as He had done before, that He will rise again; and also that He would go before them into Galilee. He would meet them in the place that reminds us that Judea had rejected Him: though He is King, He is yet the King rejected by the nation Israel: He would not take His throne even though raised from the dead.

Peter however strongly objects to the Lord's words, even daring to favorably contrast himself to all others who might deny the Lord. How little he knew of his own heart! It was because of this suggesting that he would be more faithful than others that the Lord later asked him, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" (John 21:15). But at this time the Lord solemnly affirmed to Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crew. Yet Peter brashly at the very time denied what the Lord said Had he not before declared Him to be the Son of the living God? Now he virtually says that the Son of God is not telling the truth! Thus self-confidence always accompanies lack of confidence in God. the Lord has spoken calmly, but decisively: Peter speaks vehemently. Yet we must not forget that the others spoke similarly, though Peter was the most outspoken, no doubt.

This loud talk however is silenced when they come to Gethsemane. Leaving the other disciples to wait, He lakes with Him Peter, James and John. They who had witnessed the glory of His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) must also witness the contrasting agony of His soul in view of the greater agony of the cross. For He tells them His soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death, and asks that they watch. Why did His unusual words not have more serious effect upon them? Did they not realize this was no ordinary occasion?

He expected some exercise on their part, though He went further than they. They could certainly not enter into His agonies on the cross, nor can we. Nor could they even go so far as He in regard to the sorrow of anticipating the cross; but He did expect some measure of sympathetic fellowship in this time of grief.

Mark consistently with his presenting the Lord Jesus in servant character, is simply straightforward in stating the facts, rather than mentioning the agony of the Lord as Luke does, nor of an angel strengthening Him. Prostrate on the ground, however, He prays in confiding faith to His Father, with whom all things are possible, yet adding that the Father's will should be done rather than His own. What was possible therefore did not decide the matter; for of course it was possible that He could have avoided the cross, but it was not possible that if He did so the solemn question of sin could ever be settled or sinful creatures ever be saved.

Returning to the disciples He found them sleeping, and singled out Peter to speak directly to him, for he had been the most forward in affirming his devotion to the Lord. Could he not watch one hour? The Lord was preparing for an ordeal of the greatest magnitude: Peter was insensible to the need of preparation. Was this real devotion? Without watching and prayer they would enter into temptation, as their experience proved. In spirit they were ready, and considered themselves so, but they did not realize the weakness of their sinful flesh.

The second time He finds them asleep again, and the third time, when He says, "Sleep on now, and take your rest." Thank God the victory over sin and Satan does not depend on them! They may sleep on now, resting on the perfect sufficiency of their Lord's triumph over every enemy. In spirit He had gone through the conflict: there remained no doubt of His perfectly finishing the matter of redemption on the cross. Now He announces to them that the hour has come: He will face that hour with no hesitation.

In calm firmness of faith the Lord Jesus says, "Rise, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand." As the true Servant of God He will face the enemy. Immediately Judas comes with a great crowd of armed men sent by the chief priests, scribes and elders. Yet it seems that Judas was still acting in foolish deceitfulness, wanting to give the impression that he was not actually connected with these temple soldiers, so he goes in advance with the pre-arranged signal of his kissing the Lord. How could he think that such miserable treachery could remained concealed? However, though the Lord knew his every motive, when he used the fawning words, "Teacher, Teacher" and kissed Him, the Lord did not respond angrily: in fact Mark makes no mention of any response, as do Matthew (ch.26:50) and Luke (ch.2:48)

Mark does not tell us of the Lord's word that laid these men flat on the ground (John 18:5-6) before He allowed them to take Him captive, for it is John who emphasizes His divine power. Neither does Mark tell who it was who cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, as John does (John 18:10), nor of the Lord's healing of his ear, as is told by Luke (ch.23:51). But the Lord's words in verses 48 and 49 could hardly be dismissed by anyone whose conscience was not seared. Not only was the way they took Him unjust, but the fact of arresting Him was as unrighteous. Of course connected with this was their fear of the righteous anger of the people. All of this, however, as the Lord says, was to fulfil scripture, which cannot be broken. When the Lord only speaks with calm simplicity rather than fighting, the disciples give way to such fear as to forsake Him and flee. Mere human strength could not stand in such an hour. In the Lord Jesus is seen the pure reality of dependence upon the living God: He does not waver. Now Mark alone records the strange case of a young man following Him, who had only a linen cloth to cover him. When the soldiers try to arrest him, they are left only with the linen cloth, while he escapes from them naked. It has been suggested that this is a picture of the fact that though Israel condemned and crucified the Lord of glory, He would in resurrection escape from their hands, leaving only the reminder of His holy, spotless life, which the linen symbolizes, - just as only the linen grave clothes were left when the Lord rose from among the dead.

The Jewish soldiers led Him to the high priest, and though the hour was late, yet the chief priests, elders and scribes were gathered together, for their hatred toward the Son of God could not wait to have Him condemned. He had not been arrested because of any accusation of wrong doing, but after arresting Him His enemies try to find some evidence against Him, ready to welcome any false witness. However, though many false witnesses accused Him, their falsehood was evident because of disagreement among themselves.

The high priest tried to put Him on the defensive, as though He needed to defend Himself against such manifestly empty charges; but He wisely answered nothing. However, the high priest then goes further to question Him, not concerning any charges of wrongdoing (to which a judge should confine his investigations), but concerning who He actually was: was He the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? He does answer this question with absolute, positive finality, "I am." He bore clear witness to the truth. More than this, He adds the positive, clear declaration that His accusers would yet see, not only the Son of God, but the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. Though being the Son of God, He had come in lowly humility as the Son of Man. But as Son of Man He would come again, no longer in lowliness, but as the Man of God's right hand in power and majesty.

Such words from such lips ought to have subdued the high priest in broken contrition, but instead he put on a despicable, unlawful show of being scandalized by rending his clothes and charging the Lord of glory with blasphemy. He had no interest in honestly inquiring if it was true that Jesus was the Son of God. As to rending his clothes, the law forbid him to do this (Leviticus 10:6). In flagrant disregard for the law, the council agreed together in their condemnation of the Son of God.

Having grossly violated their own law by condemning the Lord Jesus, some of the council, though members of the highest court in Israel, lower their dignity further in resorting to physical abuse, spitting and mockery, venting their hateful spite against this gentle, faithful, unoffending Man of sorrows. This is the resource of moral weakness, but on the part of those who took the place of religious prominence in the land.

In verse 66 our thoughts are for the moment directed to Peter. His natural boldness proves totally inadequate at an hour when he finds his Lord rejected by the religious authorities. When a girl speaks positively to the effect that he also had been with Jesus of Nazareth, he just as positively denies it. The courage of this bold, strong fisherman is defeated by the words of a girl. Then another girl told those who stood nearby that Peter was one of them. They evidently took this up and spoke directly to Peter about his being a disciple of Jesus (John 18:25). Having once succumbed to his fear, what could he do now but deny it a second time?

However, he still did not take the serious warning to heart by going out and pouring out his heart in confession to God. He remained long enough to be accused the third time, with evidence added that he could not refute. Instead of attempting to refute it, he resorted to the folly of strong language, cursing and swearing in denying any knowledge of the Lord Jesus. His first falsehood had trapped him and there can be no escape apart from honest confession to God. For the second time the cock crew. Of course the words of the Lord came back strongly to his mind. How could he not weep? Luke tells us he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62).The Lord Jesus goes through this terrible ordeal in calm unshaken confidence in the living God. The chief priests consulted together to have Him arraigned before the Roman governor. They could have legally imprisoned Him, but were determined to have Him put to death, and could not legally do this under Roman law. Sentence for this would have to be passed by the Roman governor.

To Pilate's question as to who He is, He does not hesitate to answer, yes, He is King of the Jews. But this had nothing to do with any accusation of guilt against Him. Then the chief priests bring their many accusations, all of them being so trivial to Pilate that he would not take even one of them seriously. To all of these the Lord answers nothing. Why should He answer? If Pilate were so unjust as to condemn Him on the basis of such things, this would be only Pilate's folly. Yet Pilate had never before faced a prisoner who would not be anxious to defend himself. He marveled at this, but failed to take to heart its significance.

At the Passover feast it was the custom of the Roman government (as a flattering concession to the people) to release any prisoner whom the people chose. Therefore at this same time they began to clamor for the release of a prisoner. Pilate saw in this an opportunity to get out of a difficult situation, and proposed his releasing the Lord Jesus. Actually, this was thoroughly dishonorable: he ought to have released Him independently of this, for there was no reason that He should be a prisoner.

However, the crowd, influenced by the unprincipled chief priests, demand instead the release of Barabbas, a notorious traitor and murderer. How clearly this history of the Lord Jesus reveals the depths of evil to which religious prejudice will descend in hatred toward God. The Lord's words are proven true, "They have both seen and hated both Me and my Father" (John 15:24).

If the traitorous murderer is allowed to go free, then Pilate asks, what about the King of the Jews? The vindictive cry comes without hesitation, "Crucify Him." Pilate, attempting to reason with the unreasoning crowd, puts the pertinent question, "What evil hath He done?" They override the question as of no importance, and more vehemently cry out for His crucifixion. Where was the sober decorum befitting a hall of justice? Where was the control of the judge over his own court? Ought he not to have silenced the crowd and told them that the claims of honest justice must be observed?

Pilate, having already weakened himself by his indecisive wavering, found himself powerless to resist the vicious determination of the unruly crowd: his desire for their approval moved him to release Barabbas and to both scourge the Lord Jesus and give Him up to be crucified. Thus this man who represented the Roman government which strongly prided itself on its justice, was guilty of the most wicked abuse of justice the world has ever seen

However, before His crucifixion the Roman soldiers add their malicious abuse. This was not done to criminals, but again this exposes the cruel hatred of man toward his Creator. His own perfect truth and goodness seems to be the very reason for their harsh violence, contempt and mockery. They find some purple garment with which to clothe Him in mockery of the fact that He is King of Israel, and with this a crown of piercing thorns pressed on His head. All of this brings forth no sign of His being intimidated with fear, as they no doubt hoped, and they add to it the striking of His head with a reed, evidently intended to further press the thorns into His flesh; spitting upon Him and in mockery worshipping Him. The believing heart can picture without difficulty the calm dignity with which the blessed Lord of glory bore all this. In reality, His was a precious moral triumph, while His enemies little realized how great a defeat they were suffering when their wickedness rose to such a height. They know this well now

Again putting His own clothes on Him, they lead Him outside the city to carry out the sentence of crucifixion. Of course the Jews were guilty of this murder of the Son of God, but Gentiles as willingly joined in His condemnation. The whole world is represented in this solemn, hateful rejection of God as revealed in matchless grace.

John 19:17 tells us that "He bearing His cross went forth." Some have supposed that the reason that Simon the Cyrenian was comandeered to bear His cross was that the strength of the Lord Jesus gave way under it. This is only men's imagination: no such thing is indicated in the record. But Simon's bearing His cross does illustrate the fact that there is a certain sense in which believers are privileged to bear the cross of the Lord Jesus. Certainly this does not involve His atoning sufferings, but a path of rejection by the world for His sake. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14). The believer is also told to take up his own cross daily and follow the Lord. This is his personal response to the truth concerning the cross of Christ, for which he bears willing reproach in order to follow the Lord Jesus.

The place of a skull is reached, where they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh, but He refused it, evidently because of its stupifying character. Crucifying Him, they cast lots for His clothing, as prophecy had before declared (Psalms 22:18). All night long He had been subjected to the cruel treatment of chief priests, Jews and Roman soldiers, the trial being pushed through peremptorily, so that by 9.00 a.m. He was put on the cross. The striking superscription "THE KING OF THE JEWS" was also placed where all could read it. We know from John 19:19 that it was Pilate who wrote this, evidently not in mockery, but to aggravate the Jews, for Philate was fearful of the fact that it was true that Christ was indeed the King of Israel. See John 19:7-8; John 12:1-50; John 13:1-38; John 14:1-31; John 15:1-27; John 20:1-31.

With a view to humiliating the Lord Jesus, they crucified Him between two robbers, in this way numbering Him with the transgressors. Mark mentions nothing more of this, but Luke 23:39-43 shows us that God's sovereign power and grace was over this in using it to bring one of these men to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus; and in illustrating the solemn fact that Christ crucified is the great Divider between the lost and the saved.

Here is the most marvellous willing sacrifice the universe will ever be privileged to witness, yet who was present to give Him the honor of which such a sacrifice is worthy? There was nothing for Him but the cold contempt and mockery of the people generally and of the chief priests and scribes in particular, who were foremost in heaping abuse on One sacrificing Himself for their sake

As the holy Lord of glory hung there on Calvary's cross, the people passing by continued to abuse Him with their contemptuous words, making a mockery of what He had said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Actually, at the very time, they were engaged in destroying that temple, which was His body, and He would indeed raise it up, as He did in three days. He would wait for the three days: He would not save Himself and come down from the cross, as they suggested. He would willingly bear its agony for the sake of the sinful souls of men! They fully admit, "He saved others," yet dare to mock Him because, as they say, "Himself He cannot save." How sadly ignorant they were that, though He had power to save Himself from their hands, yet because of His love for them He could not save Himself! Marvellous, voluntary sacrifice of infinite wisdom and infinite love! But the robbers also reviled Him. Whether the elite religious class or the lowest of despised criminals, all are on one level in their united opposition to the One whose truth and grace should awaken the deepest respect.

For three hours, as He hung on the cross, this contemptuous mockery of men continued. But at the sixth hour (noon) God imposed a complete black-out, and darkness covered the land until 3.00 p.m. Who could fail to take to heart the awesomeness of this? But no eye could see, and no heart understand the depth of agony and suffering through which the Lord Jesus passed in those hours. For this was not merely suffering from the hands of men, but suffering from God the unmitigated judgment that God must pour out against sin, the judgment also against our many sins. Absolutely alone He bore this anguish, and at the ninth hour cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

This cry is surely intended to awaken every human heart to question what is the reason that not only did men abandon Him, but that God did so. The answer is clear for us today. This was the only way by which God could totally judge sin and at the same time save sinners from the awful consequences of their sins. The contemplation of His suffering may well bow our hearts in adoring wonder

Hearing His cry, some thought he was calling for Elias (Elijah). This must have been Romans who did not understand Hebrew, for Jews would know full well that He was crying to God. In His thirst they gave Him vinegar to drink, evidently in response to His words, "I thirst" (John 19:28-29).

Aloud cry of a contrasting kind then comes from the same lips. John tell us this cry was "It is finished" (John 19:30), a cry of exultant victory. Luke then adds to this that He said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). His great work of redeeming grace was completed on that cross. Nothing could be added to it. Then, as Mark says, He "expired" (J.N.D.trans.). John says, "He delivered up His spirit" (John 19:30 --J.N.D.). He had authority to lay down His life: by His own act He gave up His spirit. His death was therefore a miracle. He was not subject to death, for He was without sin, but by grace He became subject to death for our sakes. Another miracle takes place at the same time. The veil of the temple was torn in the middle from top to bottom, not from bottom to top, for it was God's hand that did this. This signifies that the way into God's presence has been opened by the death of Christ.

How many others were greatly affected by that sight only eternity will reveal, but a great upheaval took place in the heart of the centurion who was in charge of the execution. No doubt he had seen others die by crucifixion, but never one like this. For crucifixion is known to be extremely exhausting, yet the Lord cried out in apparent vigor of strength. More than this, only when reduced to complete exhaustion would one normally die, but He dismissed His spirit when manifestly not in a greatly weakened condition. The man declares, "Truly this Man was the Son of God." If this confession came from his heart, then the centurion. had been born of God (1 John 4:15). Wonderful grace!

Women are mentioned as watching from a distance, three of them by name. It is recorded that they had followed Him and ministered to Him in Galilee; but no more is said. We are left to imagine what thoughts of unutterable sorrow pierced their hearts.

At evening, because the day of the Lord's crucifixion was "the preparation," and the sabbath would begin at 6.00 p.m., God had His servant prepared for the great honor of taking the body of the Lord Jesus to its burial. Joseph of Arimathaea was an honorable counsellor, a rich man (Matthew 27:57), a member of Israel's Sanhedrin, but one who had not consented to their condemnation of Christ (Luke 23:51). Now he takes the place of positively identifying himself with Christ rejected and crucified! Precious energy of faith! This was clearly God's work in his soul. Though men had appointed Christ's grave with the wicked, this was not to be so: He was with the rich in his death (Isaiah 53:9).

Joseph pled with Pilate that he might be given the body of Jesus. Pilate, being surprised that He had died so soon, called the executioner to be sure of the certainty of His death. It was God who moved Pilate then to give Joseph permission to take the body; for the Romans had appointed His grave to be with the wicked. Precious it is that God allowed no unholy hands to touch Him after He had died. They had done their worst: only after that did God intervene. With what reverent affection we may be sure Joseph handled that body. From John's gospel we know too that Nicodemus came with him, another Pharisee who now took his place in open confession of the rejected Messiah of Israel (John 19:39). Joseph had bought fine linen in which to wrap the body, which he laid in a new sepulchre hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a large stone slab over the entrance. It was this that Matthew tells us was sealed by the chief priests and Pharisees, who also left a four man watch to guard against His disciples stealing the body (Matthew 27:66).

At least two women were deeply concerned to witness where His body was laid, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus. We may wonder why there were not many more than this.Only the sabbath intervened after His death and before the women came early on the first day of the week to the grave. Mary Magdalene is first mentioned in every account of the resurrection. Mary the mother of James is evidently the mother of Joses also (Ch.15:40,47). Salome is also mentioned in Ch.15:40. They had bought sweet spices with the object of anointing His body, but they would never use them. Mary of Bethany had anointed Him before, and He credited her with doing this in view of His burial (Ch.14:8). Perhaps they had no knowledge that the stone had been sealed and a watch set. But they knew the great difficulty of rolling the stone away, and question as to who is to do this. Yet their love for Him brought them there.

By this time the watch had left, for the great stone had been rolled away by an angel, to reveal an empty tomb (Matthew 28:2). They had nothing left to guard! The women entered the grave, to see there a young man sitting, clothed in a long white garment. Of course this was an angel, manifested in human form, and they were frightened. His words were intended to calm and reassure them, with the message not to fear, for Jesus of Nazareth whom they sought was risen from the dead. They were to observe the place where He had been laid, for the evidence of this was still there in the burial garments, then to go and give the information of His resurrection to His disciples "and Peter," with the reminder that He would go before them into Galilee; for the Lord had told them this before His death (Matthew 26:32). The words "and Peter" are precious, for Peter would no doubt be feeling at this time that he was no longer entitled to be a disciple, and he is specially included.

However, the women were no more calm in leaving the grave than they had been in coming. They trembled and were amazed, too afraid even to speak to others of it at the moment. Eventually they did bring the message to the disciples (Luke 24:1-10). There is difficulty in understanding clearly the order of events that day, for John 20:2 tells us that when Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled away from the grave, she ran to tell Peter and John. Other details too we may find difficult to fit into their place; but each account is given from a different viewpoint, but each is truth, inspired by God. Verse 9 connects with John 20:14-19, and is deeply precious for its declaration of the Lord's appearance first to a woman, in resurrection. She is the striking illustration of a heart utterly broken, yet of sorrow turned to unutterable joy. It is mentioned here also that the Lord had cast seven demons out of her. She had reason to love much. She became His messenger with a message that ought to have deeply impressed the disciples (John 20:17); but their mourning and weeping were not allayed by this: they did not believe. Peter and John ought to have been the exceptions since they had before seen the empty grave (John 20:3-9).

After this, on the same afternoon, He appeared to two disciples as they were walking into the country. This was evidently the two spoken of in Luke 24:13-33, Cleopas and his companion. It is said that He appeared in another form. Neither Mary nor they knew Him when they first saw Him. Also, we are told in Luke 24:16 : "their eyes were holden that they should not know Him." But what is the reason for "another form" I do not know. When these disciples told the others of their seeing Him, the disciples still did not believe. There were evidently some exceptions to this, however, for Luke 24:33-34 indicates that some told them the Lord was risen and had appeared to Simon. At least some had believed Simon when he told his experience. But Mark does not mention this.

Verse 14 refers to the same evening: Luke and John also speak of this event of the Lord's appearing to the gathered disciples, which He did miraculously, the doors being closed. Mark does not speak of His reassuring them, but rather of His upbraiding them for their unbelief and hardness of heart in not receiving the testimony of other disciples concerning His resurrection. There was no excuse for this, for the Lord had told them often before that He would rise again. The comfort of disciples was not Mark's theme, but service, in which they had been badly lacking because of not taking to hear! His Word. They needed the stirring that we need also.

The Lord's commission beginning in verse 15 is not the same as in Matthew or in Luke. Matthew gives us the kingdom aspect of that commission, Luke more specially its moral aspect, while Mark emphasizes their service. He tells them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to the entire creation. He that believed and was baptized should be saved. Notice He does not say that he who believed and was saved should be baptized. Rather, there is an aspect of salvation that is found in being baptized. Compare 1 Peter 3:21 and Acts 2:40. In this latter verse the Jews were urged to save themselves from "this untoward generation." In being baptized they were saving themselves (not saving their souls) from a generation that had rejected the Lord Jesus. The Lord's words in Mark 16:16 include this outward aspect of salvation. Added here is the solemn declaration that one who believed not would be judged. Nothing is said of baptism in this case, for one might be baptized and yet be judged; or one might not be baptized, and not be judged.

Certain signs also would follow those who believed. In Christ's name they would cast out demons (power over Satanic influence). They should speak with new tongues (power over separative influences among men, for such speaking would bring about an understanding between those who normally did not understand one another). They should take up serpents, and would not be hurt by drinking deadly poison (power over lower creation, animate and inanimate). They should recover the sick by laying on of their hands (power over the consequences of sin in men).

Verse 19 records the Lord's ascension, but with no mention of the 40 days intervening before this took place. Luke has more to say about this (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11).

The last verse speaks of the following work of God in disciples as seen in the book of Acts, but does not mention the coming of the Spirit of God. The preaching of Christ is seen to be accompanied by His own working with the disciples and confirming His Word with signs following. This fulfils what the Lord said in verses 17 and 18, and is declared also in Hebrews 2:4. This being fulfilled, there is no reason for us to expect such miracles today. The service of the Lord Jesus continues, but that service is seen in His own servants.

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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Parable of the Sower.

1 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. 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 a 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 lusts 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 a hundred.

The foregoing chapter began with Christ's entering into the synagogue (Mark 4:1) this chapter begins with Christ's teaching again by the sea side. Thus he changed his method, that if possible all might be reached and wrought upon. To gratify the nice and more genteel sort of people that had seats, chief seats, in the synagogue, and did not care for hearing a sermon any where else, he did not preach always by the sea side, but, having liberty, went often into the synagogue, and taught there yet, to gratify the poor, the mob, that could not get room in the synagogue, he did not always preach there, but began again to teach by the sea side, where they could come within hearing. Thus are we debtors both to the wise and to the unwise, Romans 1:14.

Here seems to be a new convenience found out, which had not been used before, though he had before preached by the sea side (Mark 2:13), and that was--his standing in a ship, while his hearers stood upon the land and that inland sea of Tiberias having no tide, there was no ebbing and flowing of the waters to disturb them. Methinks Christ's carrying his doctrine into a ship, and preaching it thence, was a presage of his sending the gospel to the isles of the Gentiles, and the shipping off of the kingdom of God (that rich cargo) from the Jewish nation, to be sent to a people that would bring forth more of the fruits of it. Now observe here,

I. The way of teaching that Christ used with the multitude (Mark 4:2) He taught them many things, but it was by parables or similitudes, which would tempt them to hear for people love to be spoken to in their own language, and careless hearers will catch at a plain comparison borrowed from common things, and will retain and repeat that, when they have lost, or perhaps never took, the truth which it was designed to explain and illustrate: but unless they would take pains to search into it, it would but amuse them seeing they would see, and not perceive (Mark 4:12) and so, while it gratified their curiosity, it was the punishment of their stupidity they wilfully shut their eyes against the light, and therefore justly did Christ put it into the dark lantern of a parable, which had a bright side toward those who applied it to themselves, and were willing to be guided by it but to those who were only willing for a season to play with it, it only gave a flash of light now and then, but sent them away in the dark. It is just with God to say of those that will not see, that they shall not see, and to hide from their eyes, who only look about them with a great deal of carelessness, and never look before them with any concern upon the things that belong to their peace.

II. The way of expounding that he used with his disciples When he was alone by himself, not only the twelve, but others that were about him with the twelve, took the opportunity to ask him the meaning of the parables, Mark 4:10. They found it good to be about Christ the nearer him the better good to be with the twelve, to be conversant with those that are intimate with him. And he told them what a distinguishing favour it was to them, that they were made acquainted with the mystery of the kingdom of God, Mark 4:11. The secret of the Lord was with them. That instructed them, which others were only amused with, and they were made to increase in knowledge by every parable, and understood more of the way and method in which Christ designed to set up his kingdom in the world, while others were dismissed, never the wiser. Note, Those who know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, must acknowledge that it is given to them they receive both the light and the sight from Jesus Christ, who, after his resurrection, both opened the scriptures, and opened the understanding, Luke 24:27,45.

In particular, we have here,

1. The parable of the sower, as we had it, Matthew 13:3, &c. He begins (Mark 4:3), with, Hearken, and concludes (Mark 4:9) with, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Note, The words of Christ demand attention, and those who speak from him, may command it, and should stir it up even that which as yet we do not thoroughly understand, or not rightly, we must carefully attend to, believing it to be both intelligible and weighty, that at length we may understand it we shall find more in Christ's sayings than at first there seemed to be.

2. The exposition of it to the disciples. Here is a question Christ put to them before he expounded it, which we had not in Matthew (Mark 4:13) "Know ye not this parable? Know ye not the meaning of it? How then will ye know all parables?" (1.) "If ye know not this, which is so plain, how will ye understand other parables, which will be more dark and obscure? If ye are gravelled and run aground with this, which bespeaks so plainly the different success of the word preached upon those that hear it, which ye yourselves may see easily, how will ye understand the parables which hereafter will speak of the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, which is a thing ye have no idea of?" Note, This should quicken us both to prayer and pains that we may get knowledge, that there are a great many things which we are concerned to know and if we understand not the plain truths of the gospel, how shall we master those that are more difficult? Vita brevis, ars longa--Life is short, art is long. If we have run with the footmen, and they have wearied us, and run us down, then how shall we contend with horses? Jeremiah 12:5. (2.) "If ye know not this, which is intended for your direction in hearing the word, that ye may profit by it how shall ye profit by what ye are further to hear? This parable is to teach you to be attentive to the word, and affected with it, that you may understand it. If ye receive not this, ye will not know how to use the key by which ye must be let into all the rest." If we understand not the rules we are to observe in order to our profiting by the word, how shall we profit by any other rule? Observe, Before Christ expounds the parable, [1.] He shows them how sad their case was, who were not let into the meaning of the doctrine of Christ To you it is given, but not to them. Note, It will help us to put a value upon the privileges we enjoy as disciples of Christ, to consider the deplorable state of those who want such privileges, especially that they are out of the ordinary way of conversion lest they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. Mark 4:12. Those only who are converted, have their sins forgiven them: and it is the misery of unconverted souls, that they lie under unpardoned guilt. [2.] He shows them what a shame it was, that they needed such particular explanations of the word they heard, and did not apprehend it at first. Those that would improve in knowledge, must be made sensible of their ignorance.

Having thus prepared them for it, he gives them the interpretation of the parable of the sower, as we had it before in Matthew. Let us only observe here,

First, That in the great field of the church, the word of God is dispensed to all promiscuously The sower soweth the word (Mark 4:14), sows it at a venture, beside all waters, upon all sorts of ground (Isaiah 32:20), not knowing where it will light, or what fruit it will bring forth. He scatters it, in order to the increase of it. Christ was awhile sowing himself, when he went about teaching and preaching now he sends his ministers, and sows by their hand. Ministers are sowers they have need of the skill and discretion of the husbandman (Isaiah 28:24-26) they must not observe winds and clouds (Ecclesiastes 11:4,6), and must look up to God, who gives seed to the sower, 2 Corinthians 9:10.

Secondly, That of the many that hear the word of the gospel, and read it, and are conversant with it, there are, comparatively, but few that receive it, so as to bring forth the fruits of it here is but one in four, that comes to good. It is sad to think, how much of the precious seed of the word of God is lost, and sown in vain but there is a day coming when lost sermons must be accounted for. Many that have heard Christ himself preach in their streets, will hereafter be bidden to depart from him those therefore who place all their religion in hearing, as if that alone would save them, do but deceive themselves, and build their hope upon the sand, James 1:22.

Thirdly, Many are much affected with the word for the present, who yet receive no abiding benefit by it. The motions of soul they have, answerable to what they hear, are but a mere flash, like the crackling of thorns under a pot. We read of hypocrites, that they delight to know God's ways (Isaiah 58:2) of Herod, that he heard John gladly (Mark 6:20) of others, that they rejoiced in his light (John 5:35) of those to whom Ezekiel was a lovely song (Ezekiel 33:32) and those represented here by the stony ground, received the word with gladness, and yet came to nothing.

Fourthly, The reason why the word doth not leave commanding, abiding, impressions upon the minds of the people, is, because their hearts are not duly disposed and prepared to receive it the fault is in themselves, not in the word some are careless forgetful hearers, and these get no good at all by the word it comes in at one ear, and goes out at the other others have their convictions overpowered by their corruptions, and they lose the good impressions the word has made upon them, so that they get no abiding good by it.

Fifthly, The devil is very busy about loose, careless hearers, as the fowls of the air go about the seed that lies above ground when the heart, like the highway, is unploughed, unhumbled, when it lies common, to be trodden on by every passenger, as theirs that are great company-keepers, then the devil is like the fowls he comes swiftly, and carries away the word ere we are aware. When therefore these fowls come down upon the sacrifices, we should take care, as Abram did, to drive them away (Genesis 15:11) that, though we cannot keep them from hovering over our heads, we may not let them nestle in our hearts.

Sixthly, Many that are not openly scandalized, so as to throw off their profession, as they on the stony ground did, yet have the efficacy of it secretly choked and stifled, so that it comes to nothing they continue in a barren, hypocritical profession, which brings nothing to pass, and so go down as certainly, though more plausibly, to hell.

Seventhly, Impressions that are not keep, will not be durable, but will wear off in suffering, trying times like footsteps on the sand of the sea, which are gone the next high tide of persecution when that iniquity doth abound, the love of many to the ways of God waxeth cold many that keep their profession in fair days, lose it in a storm and do as those that go to sea only for pleasure, come back again when the wind arises. It is the ruin of hypocrites, that they have no root they do not act from a living fixed principle they do not mind heart-work, and without that religion is nothing for he is the Christian, that is one inwardly.

Eighthly, Many are hindered from profiting by the word of God, by their abundance of the world. Many a good lesson of humility, charity, self-denial, and heavenly-mindedness, is choked and lost by that prevailing complacency in the world, which they are apt to have, on whom it smiles. Thus many professors, that otherwise might have come to something, prove like Pharaoh's lean kine and thin ears.

Ninthly, Those that are not encumbered with the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, may yet lose the benefit of their profession by the lusts of other things this is added here in Mark by the desires which are about other things (so Dr. Hammond), an inordinate appetite toward those things that are pleasing to sense or to the fancy. Those that have but little of the world, may yet be ruined by an indulgence of the body.

Tenthly, Fruit is the thing that God expects and requires from those that enjoy the gospel: fruit according to the seed a temper of mind, and a course of life, agreeable to the gospel Christian graces daily exercised, Christian duties duly performed. This is fruit, and it will abound to our account.

Lastly, No good fruit is to be expected but from good seed. If the seed be sown on good ground, if the heart be humble, and holy, and heavenly, there will be good fruit, and it will abound sometimes even to a hundred fold, such a crop as Isaac reaped, Genesis 26:12.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

This parable contained instruction so important, that all capable of hearing were bound to attend to it. There are many things we are concerned to know; and if we understand not the plain truths of the gospel, how shall we learn those more difficult! It will help us to value the privileges we enjoy as disciples of Christ, if we seriously consider the deplorable state of all who have not such privileges. In the great field of the church, the word of God is dispensed to all. Of the many that hear the word of the gospel, but few receive it, so as to bring forth fruit. Many are much affected with the word for the present, who yet receive no abiding benefit. The word does not leave abiding impressions upon the minds of men, because their hearts are not duly disposed to receive it. The devil is very busy about careless hearers, as the fowls of the air go about the seed that lies above ground. Many continue in a barren, false profession, and go down to hell. Impressions that are not deep, will not last. Many do not mind heart-work, without which religion is nothing. Others are hindered from profiting by the word of God, by abundance of the world. And those who have but little of the world, may yet be ruined by indulging the body. God expects and requires fruit from those who enjoy the gospel, a temper of mind and Christian graces daily exercised, Christian duties duly performed. Let us look to the Lord, that by his new-creating grace our hearts may become good ground, and that the good seed of the word may produce in our lives those good words and works which are through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God the Father.

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.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

See Poole on "Mark 4:1"

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And again he began to teach by the seaside. And there is gathered to him a huge crowd so that he boarded a boat and sat in the sea. And all the crowd were by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things in parables, and said to them in his teaching.’

‘And again he began to teach by the seaside.’ The ‘again’ refers back to Mark 3:7. The seaside was a favourite venue of Jesus and the use of a boat for this purpose seems to have been a regular feature of His ministry at this time. It acted as both a speaking platform, and as a means of avoiding being hemmed in by the crowds. This was very necessary as clearly the large open space meant that larger crowds could gather.

‘Parables.’ ‘Parable’ has a wide meaning based on the meaning of Hebrew ‘mashal’ (which it translates in LXX) meaning a saying, a word picture, a proverb, a riddle, an ethical maxim, a comparison, and so on. Here it refers to the use of stories and mysterious sayings to make the people think. We are told that He used many such (Mark 4:33).

‘All the crowd were by the sea.’ Note the emphasis on the fact that Jesus is again surrounded by crowds, but this time they are by the seashore. This is mainly a crowd of interested hearers similar to that in Mark 3:7 although no doubt including many of those in Mark 3:32.

‘And said to them in His teaching.’ Note the inference here that He taught much more than we have a record of. These are to be seen as but examples.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

The Message of the Kingly Rule of God Will Now Be Spread Widely and Will Produce Abundant Fruit (4:1-34).

As we have already seen the Gospel began with Jesus Christ as God’s beloved Son and has gradually built up to the idea of the new community of believers who hear His words and do the will of His Father who are His brothers and sisters (Mark 3:34-35). These are the first proclaimed members of the newly established Kingly Rule of God. Now that is to be expanded on. That is why Jesus will now be revealed as proclaiming that Kingly Rule of God in parables. His words are an indication of what has already been happening to bring things to this stage, and will go on happening throughout the Gospel. They are an elucidation of what Jesus is proclaiming.

In the chiastic structure of the Gospel this passage parallels Mark 13 as being a discourse passage of Jesus (see introduction). Initially here we will see the Kingly Rule of God advancing because the King has come, and it is seen as growing through the spreading of God’s word,resulting in the gathering in of the final harvest. In Mark 13 we will be reminded further of its advance as it advances in the face of every difficulty, with the good news being proclaimed among all nations, and resulting in His coming again in glory in order to finally bring the Kingly Rule of God to its triumphant consummation by the gathering in of His elect. There is therefore a clear parallel picture. But here it is presented in terms of the promising and glowing prospects that lie before His disciples. In Matthew 13 it is clear that those prospects still continue, but they are then set in the context of suffering, persecution and tribulation, as well as of judgement on Jerusalm. The advance will still continue, but the way will not be easy.

Here, however, having established that Jesus’ kingship is not of Satan but of God through the Holy Spirit, and that a new ‘family’ has been established under the Kingly Rule of God and the ministry of Jesus, we are now introduced to Jesus’ use of ‘parables’, that is of metaphors, pictures and riddles, which are presented in order to explain how the Kingly Rule of God will be further established. We need not necessarily assume that all these parables were related at the same time. They were rather examples of His ministry, brought together to give an overall impression of the forward movement of God’s Kingly Rule. But the impression is certainly given of a continuing process in His preaching in parables (Mark 4:33-34). The message was now being constantly proclaimed and spread by this means, and a careful differentiation is made between those who hear and understand and those who fail to hear.

The passage begins with Jesus, ‘as His custom was’ (compare Mark 3:9), preaching to the crowds from a boat. It was to the crowds that He preached in parables. And many of them would not ‘hear’. But to His true followers He explained the parables, for they sought an explanation for them and their hearts were open to the truth. They had already partly ‘seen’ the Kingly Rule of God (John 3:3). They were willing to ‘hear’.

His method is interesting. He tells folksy stories which have a deeper meaning, so that some will simply enjoy the story and carry on as usual because they are spiritually ‘blind’ and there is no response from their hearts, others will respond more generally and be stirred within, but will eventually let what they have learned slip away, or gain some part truth from it to help them in their daily lives, while still others will ponder it more deeply and respond fully. They will seek further clarification and the whole truth will dawn in their hearts. They will come under the Kingly Rule of God. These last are how Jesus wanted all to be.

It is possible that we may see in this parabolic approach Jesus’ reaction to His past experience. He had been preaching the Kingly Rule of God openly, but all the crowds had been interested in were miracles. His words had passed over their heads, and possibly He had begun to realise how easily they could thus be hardened against His message. So we may see Him as determined that from now on He will deliberately veil His message in order to stir them into thought, while not making the truths He is proclaiming become stale in their minds. That is one view of the matter. It is, however, equally possible that He had been preaching in this way right from the beginning. (Note how even in the Sermon on the Mount which was for the inner group of disciples much of His teaching is parabolic, although not in quite the distinctive way found here. This may suggest that He preached on two levels right from the commencement of His ministry).

The major parable in this chapter is the parable of the sower, with its emphasis on different responses people make to the word, having in view the final harvest. The parables that follow that of the sower, quite possibly preached at different times, are then added to illustrate further this message. It is probable that it was Peter who vividly remembered the connection of the parable of the sower with the gathering by the seashore.

The suggestion that such parables had only one main point and did not have secondary points cannot be sustained. The parable of the sower positively demands to be seen as an ‘allegory’ (meaning by this an illustration with more than one point) in that it clearly contains a number of ideas based on Scriptural truth which the hearers could be expected to recognise. There is no good reason why Jesus should not have used allegories, and besides they were a favourite method of Rabbinical teaching, so that we should not be at all surprised at Jesus using them. And this is so even though the final main point of the allegory was indeed of the harvest that would result.

But before looking at the parable of the sower in more depth we will first consider an analysis of the whole passage which is carefully built up in chiastic form.

Analysis of 4:1-34.

a Jesus teaches in parables (Mark 4:1-2).

b The parable of the sower and the growing seeds (Mark 4:3-9).

c He who has ears to hear let him hear (Mark 4:9).

d Parables divide those who see and hear from those who do not see and hear (Mark 4:10-12).

e Explanation of the parable of the sower (Mark 4:13-20).

d The parable of the lamp illustrates those who see and who do not see (Mark 4:21-22).

c He who has ears to hear let him hear for men will receive accordingly (Mark 4:23-25).

b The twin parables of the growing grain and the growing mustard seed (Mark 4:26-32).

a Jesus teaches in parables (Mark 4:33-34).

Note that in ‘a’ Jesus teaches in parables, and in the parallel the similar fact is emphasised. In ‘b’ we have the parable of the growing seeds, and in the parallel the parables of the growing grain and the growing mustard seed. In ‘c’ those who have ears to hear, are to hear, and the same applies in the parallel. In ‘d’ we learn that the parables separate between those who hear and those who fail to hear, and in the parallel the parable of the lamp illustrates those who see and those who do not see. Centrally in ‘e’ we have the explanation of the parable of the sower.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. Teaching by Parables.—This section illustrates the method of teaching which the evangelist regards as characteristic of this period of the ministry. In it he combines some general observations about the use of parables, with what was originally a brief account of teaching delivered on one day. A comparison of Mark 4:1 and Mark 4:35 represents Jesus as entering a boat in which He stays all day and in which He crosses at night to the other side. Yet in Mark 4:10 He is supposed to effect an escape from the people, whom He is again addressing in Mark 4:26, as if no interruption had occurred. The original narrative must then have consisted of a group of parables. Into this have been inserted some general comments and an interpretation of the parable of the Sower. Mk. regards the parables as obscure enigmas designed to hide the truth from the common people (see especially Mark 4:10-12, Mark 4:34). But the original purpose can only have been to make the message of Jesus clearer. Each parable illustrates some aspect of the kingdom. Though doubtless Wellhausen is right in warning us against excluding allegory too rigidly, and against supposing that parables must all be interpreted in the same way, yet as a rule the point of comparison is to be sought in the whole situation or action described in the parable. The story of the Sower may have been originally intended to illustrate the differing receptions given to the appeal of Jesus, and its main purpose was probably to impress a sense of responsibility on His hearers (Mark 4:9). The general discussion of parabolic teaching (Mark 4:10-12) forme an awkward interruption of the address to the crowd, and is also difficult in itself. Can Jesus have made use of parables in order that men might not be converted and forgiven? Such a view conflicts with the nature of the parables themselves and with express statements in Mark 4:21 f. and Mark 4:33. Consequently it is suggested, e.g. by Loisy, that this is later reflection due to the fact that apostolic Christians no longer understood the parables, and concluded from this that they must have been still more obscure to the Jews, whose unbelief must be attributed to the counsel of God (see Romans 9 f. and especially Mark 11:8-10). But though the saying attributed to Jesus in Mark 4:11 f. cannot give the explanation of His use of parables, it may stiff rest on a genuine utterance misapplied by the evangelist, e.g. "I speak to them in parables because their heart is fat" (so Merx). In view of Matthew 11:20-27; Matthew 12:38 ff. we know that Jesus reflected on His failure to convert His people, and He may have felt that His mission to Israel was strangely similar to that of Isaiah (see Isaiah 6:9 ff.)

. The interpretation of the Sower is introduced by a question which implies the astonishment of Jesus at the disciples' failure to understand the parable. Mk. records a number of rebukes to the disciples for want of faith or of understanding, e.g. Mark 4:40, Mark 7:18, Mark 8:17. The gospel dwells on the obtuseness of the Twelve. Is this an attempt to give effect to a dogmatic assumption that Jesus called exceptionally wicked and foolish men to follow Him? (so Wrede), or is it partisanship anxious to depreciate the Twelve in order to elevate Paul? (so Loisy, p. 133). That some of the contexts of these passages are of doubtful historicity favours some such hypothesis; but the earliest tradition, if genuinely apostolic, would dwell on the failings of the first disciples. These passages are best understood as reflecting and sometimes extending what must have been a prominent feature of the apostles' account of their fellowship with their Lord. He constantly surprised them. The interpretation that follows has been attributed to the later apostolic Church rather than to the Master, on the grounds that it allegorises and so misses the main point of the parable, and further that some phrases refer not to the historical circumstances of the work of Jesus but to general features of the later Christian mission. The first argument is inconclusive, and while the influence of later conditions may be traced in the vague and general character of the interpretation, it may still rest on genuine reflections of Jesus as to the causes which led men to reject His message. We know that fear of persecution and love of wealth were among the chief obstacles to discipleship which He recognised on other occasions.

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Mar . For a description of the surrounding scenery, which doubtless furnished many of the illustrations used in the following parables, see Stanley's Sinai and Palestine, pp. 425-427; Thomson's Land and the Book, p. 402; Tristram's Land of Israel, p. 431.

Mar . Unto you, who possess the hearing ear and inquiring heart, is given the mystery or inner secret of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, who listen only from curiosity or some even less worthy motive, all the things concerning that kingdom are done in (i.e. take the form of) parables.

Mar . This veiling of spiritual truth is in mercy to those at present unable to receive it. The time may come when, with softened hearts, they will recall the teaching unheeded now; and then by the help of the parables embedded in their memory, they may rise to an appreciation of the things of the kingdom.


Popular teaching of Jesus Christ.—Good teaching is always seasonable. It is the first step to the attainment of larger blessing. Real knowledge enlarges the soul's capacity, and awakens new desire.

I. The particular occasion.—The multitude was great: universal eagerness was aroused to hear the wisdom of this strange Teacher. No private dwelling sufficed to accommodate the crowd. By common instinct they withdrew to the shore of the lake.

1. Outward circumstances are made tributary to the wise designs of Jesus. If the artificial temples reared by men are too narrow for the Divine purpose, material nature will provide a temple of the sublimest kind. Nor is this all. There is no reason why we should not conclude that, at the creation of Gennesaret's blue lake, this event was foreseen. That shelving, sandy beach had been, for long ages, intended as an auditorium for that human assemblage; and never had its capacity been put to its noblest use till then. Still, human art is not flung away in contempt. The Gracious King deigns to employ human helpers, and to work through human agencies, so far as He Song of Solomon 2. Initial stages of Divine illumination. "He began to teach." As a human parent, dealing with children, begins with pictures and object-lessons, so deals Jesus Christ with men. He began with parables. To speak of things in the heavenly world as they really are would be to speak a language unintelligible to human auditors. In nature God's thoughts are projected before human eyes in material objects, and these the Son of God makes His starting-point.

3. A renewed endeavour to do men good. "Again He began." Full well He knew the dulness of men to apprehend spiritual truth. If He had depended upon immediate and visible results for inspiration of energy to continue His undertaking, hope would soon have expired. But His Divine patience is inexhaustible. "Line upon line, precept upon precept," is His sketch-plan. No apparent miscarriage daunts Him.

II. The form of the Saviour's teaching.—"In parables."

1. This form of teaching readily impresses the imagination. Interest is awakened. Attention is excited. It becomes evident that spiritual truth has vital connexion with visible things. This life is seen to be the groundwork of a nobler.

2. This form of teaching serves as a test of men's honesty. Some men will yield to the momentary gratification of hearing the parable, but will take no pains to solve its meaning. Or, as soon as they get a glimpse that it implies an unpleasant duty, they dismiss the matter unceremoniously. Herein is a test of their honesty and earnestness. If they will not take the pains to thrash the straw, grind the grain, they must starve. The sweet kernel of truth lies within, but the hard shell must first be broken.

3. Infinite issues hang on receiving aright parabolical teaching. Light comes to men in this form—a from the most suitable: if they reject the light, their darkness becomes their chosen doom. The Emancipator comes in a shape and dress they do not recognise: refusing his offices, their bondage becomes confirmed. A moment of heavenly opportunity occurs, which, if improved, leads on to spiritual fortune; unimproved, ends in curse.

III. The revelation provided for the many: exoteric doctrine.—The destiny of the seed was various.

1. One portion fell on the beaten track, and was at once doomed to fruitlessness. In Palestine pasture and corn-lands are unenclosed. Camels and pedestrians soon make a beaten path from village to village. The greatest expert could not prevent some seeds from falling on this camel track, which lay right across his field. Wild birds soon learnt from experience where to find unburied seed, and were always on the alert to find a meal. In prospect of a harvest such seeds were lost.

2. A second portion fell on stony ground, i.e. on shallow soil. Only the thinnest crust of earth covered the rock. In the first stage of growth all seed finds its nutriment within itself; therefore the first aspect of the young crop is quite as promising in a poor soil as in fattest loam. But the test of a scorching sun soon brings to light good rootage, or slender. The moisture exuding through the pores of the leaf found no continuous supply from the root-source. Hence the green blades soon became languid, faint, shrivelled, sere.

3. A third portion fell among the old roots of former wild growths. As soon as spring, with its revivifying influence, appeared, the old stumps of thorns broke forth into new life. Vigorous shoots and branches from these old roots monopolised space and air and light,—the young blades of corn were attenuated and sickly. The power to appropriate the nutritious elements of the soil was lacking; the young corn could not even stand erect. The processes of life were checked. The force needed for kernelling was spent. The hostility was too severe; life could not survive.

4. The fortunes of the fourth portion of the seed were prosperous. The seed fell into good ground. Nursed in the warm bosom of mother earth, it soon gave signs of life. The hidden germ swelled, burst the swathing bands of hard membrane, and sent its living rootlets in search of proper food. Day by day it obtained a larger hold on life. Duly the green stalks pierced the surface, and found nutrition from dew and air and sunlight. They grew, acquired strength, flowered, kernelled into grain, and when the stalks at length fell before the sickle, they yielded large increase. Yet the fruitfulness was not uniform. In part, proportionate to the fatness of the soil; in part, proportionate to the skill of the sower: thirty grains were found where one had been sown—a hundred for one in some instances were gained.

IV. The higher revelation for the few: esoteric doctrine.—Comparatively few in every age care for spiritual enlightenment. The many are absorbed in the care for bread, or in the care for riches. To them the visible is everything; the invisible, nothing. Yet a few everywhere—the true elect—examine, ponder, and reverently ask. To such the deeper meanings of the parable appear.

1. There is failure in a man's life through an unprepared condition of the soil. Secular traffic hardens all the better feelings of the heart. A man's soul, which should be penetrable, plastic, accessible to the light and love from heaven, becomes callous, repellent, indurated—until it has reached the final stage—"past feeling." In the proper condition of the mind, it is exquisitely suited to the reception of living seed; it is the seed's home and rest. Inquiry after truth is natural. But if the emotional nature become hardened by worldly pursuits, the seed is lost; it remains on the surface, and our sleepless foe removes it at once from the memory. The man wantonly allows himself to be despoiled of his choicest treasure. In harvest time he reaps confusion and shame.

2. There is failure also in man's best life through shallow feeling. To have sin pardoned is a joyous sensation—to be received as an adopted child is a rich privilege—to be assured of heaven is rapture. But presently the sun's face suffers eclipse—clouds gather. Friends scowl and load us with opprobrium. The cold sleet of the world's hatred is showered upon us. Snares are laid for our feet. Our occupation is gone. Poverty and shame have to be faced. We cannot tread this rugged path. What? give up comfort, and riches, and prospects, and friends, and health for the sake of a slender hope of future joy? It is too much to ask. Men stumble at the terms; they go back to animal enjoyments. Alas! the seed is unfruitful.

3. Failure, too, may come about through attempted compromise of the earthly and the heavenly. The convictions of truth have taken a deeper hold than in the foregoing case. The man cannot afford to forego religion—that would be ruinous! But he will relegate it to a corner. His feverish pursuit of riches need not destroy his faith. He will, he must, be rich. But his riches shall not extinguish his piety. So he reasons; and all the while the green withes of evil habit are becoming tough as steel. Still dreaming of freedom, he is suddenly cast out of the kingdom as the veriest slave of mammon. Again the seed is fruitless.

4. Success comes only through acting in concert with God. The honest mind says, "Let the truth come in! Welcome light, come from what quarter it may!" He can afford to wait for blessed fruit till harvest time. Truth cannot injure a man: error or indolence must. "He receives the Word." He reflects on what he hears, until it has an abiding-place in the understanding. From the understanding it passes into the conscience, and becomes conviction of duty. Thence it goes down into the affections—roots itself there—and becomes new and holy experience.—J. D. Davies.

The parable of the sower.—Unlike all other teachers, this Divine Teacher, in this His first parable, displays the same perfection of method, the same mastery of this life in its highest relations to spiritual truth, as in His latest utterances. Very notable, also, is the framework of this parable, in its adaptation to the Master's mission and that of all His followers. Seed-sowing was His work—first for its own immediate usefulness, then for our imitation.

I. The spiritual husbandman's chief work is to sow the Word.—He is to multiply what God hath revealed, not human speculations, not current news, not scientific discoveries, however true or helpful in their sphere, not ingenious theories about the Word. That Word finds illustration in every phase of the universe; but fatal the error that abandons the spirit and work of reverent interpretation for that of substitution.

II. He who sows the true seed may count upon a sure and large harvest—A single sentence, often only a word, implanted within the soul, reconstructs the whole life, and builds the world anew and for all the future.

III. Every one, of moderate intelligence even, is a sower of seed in the world's broad field of spiritual harvests.—Every life, however circumstanced, repeats itself, or in some way enters into other lives, with a multiplying power for good or evil, of which the world's grain-harvests are a fit and vivid, though inadequate, illustration.

IV. The emphasis of our Lord's teaching refers to the seed's fruitfulness according to the condition of the hearts receiving it.—Unlike the ground, hearts are under self-control. Not passively inert, they can take condition favourable to the Word, and become fruitful beyond any chance or doubt.

1. It is safe to say that our care in hearing the Word is not proportioned to its importance. All religious life is antagonised by the adversary, but his best energies are centred upon keeping the truth from finding lodgment. It easily sets its roots if it have opportunity, but no seed will fruit if at once caught away. Wayside hearers leave the Word, however faithfully presented, to such speedy destruction. Jesus describes such as those who hearing the Word understand it not. In epitome this includes every condition of mind and heart barred against the truth. The vital truth is the helplessness of seed in hearts so preoccupied as to be steeled against its lodgment. This truth is reinforced by the revealed agency of Satan. He catches away the Word by coinciding with the heart's pre-existing hostility. To the sensualist he heightens the promise of forbidden pleasures, lest a better life may get his attention and choice. The worldling he points to heights of power or gain or fame not yet reached, and with which nothing must be permitted to interfere. To the scoffing sceptic he paints the conquests of controversy, the sweets of destructive onslaught upon received and time-honoured doctrines.

2. The next part of the figure refers to an underlying rock formation covered with a light layer of soil. This is a fitting type of natures quick to respond in feelings warm and sympathetic, but lacking in the underlying virtues of reason, will, and conscience. With these a man has "root in himself"; without them he is carried about by the enthusiasm of the hour or moment. The quick sensibilities have their uses. Any soul devoid of them is seriously lacking in equipment for life's best enjoyment and work. But with them there should be fixed convictions of one's own, the combined product of clear reason, a sensitive conscience, and persistent will. This is the sub-soil into which the roots of principles thrust themselves, as do those of the wind-beaten oak, under all the blasts of tribulation or persecution.

3. Here we are to think not so much of a visible growth of thorns as of a root-infested soil, the roots long and deeply planted and holding their places with stubborn thoroughness. The soil is deep enough and of ample strength; but its resources are absorbed by these preoccupying thorns, whose roots hold the field and promptly spring up, starving the good seed. Worldly anxieties, the deceitful promises of wealth, mere self-indulgence, called pleasure, have a firm anchorage in the natural heart. The renewed heart must enthrone service of the Lord Jesus in the building of His universal kingdom. This may be only in germ, but if genuine it will have a growing mastery and final supremacy, the thorn-roots all eradicated. The best eradication, because easiest and quickest, is a transformation of "cares, riches, and pleasures" into reinforcements of the Lord's work. These pre-existing roots become fertilisers and feeders of good soil. The Queen's broad arrow marks and secures England's possessions. The soul converted to Christ may put the Cross upon all riches or proper pursuits and pleasures, the Master's kingdom supreme in its rounded life.

4. Two points of profitable inquiry concerning the good-ground hearers: How can any unrenewed heart be called "good ground," and what determines the differing degrees of fruitage? While no natural heart is holy, it may have moral qualities favourable to receiving good seed and for an easy incorporation of its life. A heart tender and true, a knowledge of truth broad and deep, a conscience sensitive and controlling, pursuits honourable and useful—these furnish conditions of ready and vigorous growth when the seed finds lodgment. Great the encouragement to persistent effort in the moral training of children and youth! When conversion occurs a rich fruitage follows, because of the good ground thus carefully and continuously prepared. The fruitage is measured by such antecedent preparation. Towering corn and wheat cover the prairie once burdened with flowers and waving grass. We must not omit, in closing, some thought of the momentous responsibility of hearing the Word. How vital its relation to present life and future destiny! And yet what is done with less deliberation or thoroughness?—S. L. B. Speare.

The Sower and the seed.—This parable may be regarded as introductory to all the rest, and preparatory to that method of teaching which Christ in His Divine wisdom saw fit to adopt. Unless the drift of this, the first and plainest of the parables, be understood, it is useless to proceed to more difficult ones, which presuppose an acquaintance with the ordinary rules of parabolic instruction. In the parables afterwards delivered that was actually done which is here only described: the Sower sowed the Word, with the different results that He Himself foretells in this parable. Or we may say that this very parable is a portion of that Divine seed which then began to be sown. This doctrine of the preparation of the heart to receive the gospel may itself be as variously received as any other portion of evangelical truth.

I. The free grace of God, which is the corner-stone of the whole fabric of revealed truth, is the foundation on which this parable is constructed.—

1. Moved by His own infinite goodness—the same goodness which originally prompted Him to call man into existence—God "went forth," as it were, came out of His place, to sow the seed of Divine truth in the hearts of His creatures. Whatever revelations of Himself He has been pleased to make, from the time when He talked with our first parents until the present day, the Sower has never ceased to scatter over the wide field of the human family the seeds of that knowledge which "maketh wise unto salvation."

2. This grand operation of sowing the Word, as it proceeded from unbounded goodness, so has it always been conducted with unerring wisdom—with that wisdom which looks to the end, which contemplates great results, comprehensive benefits (Luk ).

3. As we survey the world's history, we see the Great Sower marking out, and as it were enclosing, certain portions of the common field to be cultivated with particular care, while the rest was to all appearance left in a state of nature. So it was, avowedly, under the Jewish dispensation; so it is now, actually at least, under the Christian. Actually, but not designedly. The design of the dispensation of grace is, to make known the glad tidings of salvation to all nations for the obedience of faith (Mat ; Mar 16:15; Luk 24:47).

4. The Sower still goes forth, by His agents and ministers, to sow the Word of Life (Eph ). The commission is unlimited, the supply of grace and strength unbounded; the deficiency is in the human instruments alone.

II. The various receptions which are accorded by men to the free grace of God.—

1. Here are three descriptions of persons whom "the Word preached does not profit," etc. (Heb ). Their characters are exactly discriminated in Mar 4:15-19. Any hearer who desires to know the cause of his own unprofitableness may sit down before this faithful mirror, and in one or other of the three reflexions presented by it he will be sure to find his own.

2. Note the points of agreement between the three classes of unprofitable hearers.

(1) They all hear the Word. This is partly the gracious provision of the Sower, who sows plentifully (Jas ). But, besides, there is a natural disposition in men to "hear the Word," independent of the reception they may eventually give it.

(2) They all, in a certain sense, receive the Word. So it is with hearers in general. They "receive the Word with joy." They like to hear. They go away with the intention of coming again. They do come again. They become regular hearers. Hearing the Word becomes a habit with them. They feel a certain gratification in the mere act of hearing, and so they fancy they have derived benefit from it. Vain delusion!

(3) They all "bring no fruit to perfection." The first sort never believe the Word at all; the second have faith, but such faith as will not abide the test of tribulation or persecution because of the Word; the third might endure afflictions, but yield to temptations of a different kind (Mar ). Thus the end of all is the same. Some may advance further towards maturity than others; some may exhibit the blade, others the ear, but none "the full corn in the ear." At the best they are "double-minded men," "halting between two opinions," "unstable in all their ways."

3. There is yet another class of hearers, standing entirely by itself. It consists of those who "hear the Word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit." The seed that is sown here, finding a soil congenial to it—"an honest and good heart"—and watered by the dews of heaven, "takes root downward, and bears fruit upward." Such an one, "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine," "grows in grace," etc. (2Pe ). The "fruit of the Spirit" manifests itself in his words and deeds. By the grace of God, he "keepeth himself; and that wicked one," who is always at hand to catch away the Word sown in the heart, "toucheth him not." Afflictions and temptations however they may unsettle him for a time, "nevertheless afterward yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness." Even "the cares of this world, and the lusts of other things," from which no one is altogether exempt, although they may check the growth of the good seed in the heart, do not choke it; they may make it less fruitful, but not "barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ."


Mar . Christ teaching in the ship a parable itself of the kingdom of heaven.

1. A figure of its form.

(1) The evangelical ministry.

(2) The Church.

(3) Missions.

2. A figure of its condition.

(1) Small beginnings.

(2) Poverty.

(3) Mobility.

(4) Freedom.—J. P. Lange, D.D.

An imperfect Church, an unworthy pulpit, and poor hearers may nevertheless form a true Church, accepted of God.—P. Quesnel.

Mar . Why Christ spoke in parables.—

1. That the Scripture might be fulfilled (Psa ).

2. That we might know that Christ spake with the same spirit with which all God's prophets in the old time spake, whose writings are full of parables.

3. That He might descend to the capacity of the most simple, who best understand and remember homely illustrations.

4. That His auditors might take occasion to ask questions (Mar ).

5. That the mysteries of God's heavenly kingdom might be hidden from the scornful (Mar ).

6. That every man, in his occupation and ordinary vocation, might be taught those things which concern his soul's health: as this parable may be termed the ploughman's gospel; he that meditates on it, when he ploughs his ground, may have a sermon always before him, every furrow being a line, every grain of corn a lesson bringing forth some fruit.

Rules for the interpretation of parables.—

1. Careful attention to the occasion of them.

2. Close adherence to the one truth or duty meant to be enforced. It is much the same here as in considering a fine painting; a comprehensive view of the whole will have a happy and striking effect, but that effect will not be felt if the eye is held to detached parts of the picture without regarding the relation they bear to the rest.

3. Great care in reasoning from the parables to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.

(1) An intemperate use of figures tends to sensualise the mind and deprave the taste.

(2) By the misapplication of figures false ideas are given to the hearer of the things they stand for.

(3) The reasoning injudiciously from types and figures begets a kind of faith that is precarious and ineffectual. An enthusiast, struck with appearances, hastily yields his assent to a proposition, without considering the evidence carefully. But as soon as his passions cool, and the false glare upon his imagination subsides, his faith dies away, and the fruit expected from it proves utterly abortive. "Parables are more ancient than arguments," says Lord Bacon: and it is not difficult to see why. A parable is winning and attractive, because it is a narrative or story: it is easy to be understood, since it deals with familiar events and actions, with sayings and doings of common life, which are well known to all its hearers: lastly, it is acceptable and effective, because it does not arouse antagonism and opposition in the mind of the hearer, as argument frequently does.

Christ's thought for the multitude.—It is easy to have tender regard and helpful disposition towards the few kindred spirits, but Jesus thought of the needs of any and all of His fellow-men to which He could minister. But this spirit of beneficence was always guided by unerring wisdom as to methods. We may blindly yield to benevolent impulses in ways self-defeating and often harmful. He thoroughly measured the situation of His opening ministry, and taught by parable which should both reveal and conceal. Idle curiosity, much less personal prejudice or selfish scheming, is never the condition of helpful hearing. Concealment by parable was a favour to all who would have wrested the truth to their own hurt.—S. L. B. Speare.

Mar . The sower is now any and every one who rehearses and enforces the same doctrines as our Lord. It matters little who or what he is, so long as he has full store of the good seed and is faithful in scattering it. The harvest tells nothing as to the husbandman—whether a master or slave—save his wise and trustful labour. Results are the same in either case, and these are the objects in all sowing.


1. Between the sowing of seed and the teaching of truth.

2. Between the earth's reception of the seed and man's reception of the truth.

3. Between the earth's response to the seed sown and man's response to the truth taught. So too it is the same God—

1. Who gives man seed to sow and truth to learn.

2. Who prepares the earth for the reception of the seed and the heart of man for the reception of the truth.

3. Who causes the seed to grow and bring forth fruit, and who guides and helps man to carry into practice the truth which he learns.

Mar . No depth of earth.—At first, when the wheat sprouts, the blade which it sends up to the surface is green and beautiful. But after a while the field of emerald loveliness looks suddenly sere and yellow; the blades seem to droop and languish as if a worm were at the root. This remarkable change is caused by what the farmers call the "spearin' brash" (Scotch for "weaning brash"). The corn is weaned from its mother's milk, as it were; for the supply of food which was stored up for it in the seed is now exhausted, and it has to seek food for itself in the soil and air. It has not yet strength to do so, and therefore fades and becomes sickly. It falls off, just as a human child falls off when weaned. If, in such circumstances, there is soil enough, it soon recovers; if, however, there is no room beneath and fierce sun above, then because it has no root it withers.—H. Macmillan, D.D.

Mar . Eloquent hearing is indispensable to effective preaching: it is as necessary that listeners should be taught how to hear, as it is that preachers should be taught what or how to speak.—W. M. Taylor, D.D.

Qualities to be cultivated by gospel hearers.—

1. Attention. The good hearer stirs himself up to listen. He trains himself to follow the speaker. His hearing is an opportunity, and he takes care to make the most of it.

2. Meditation. What he "hears" he "keeps" by reflecting upon it, and assimilating it for his own edification and growth in grace. Says Willmott: "Proportion an hour's reflexion to an hour's reading, and so dispirit the book into the student." So I would say: Let every time of hearing be followed by a time of meditation, that the seed which has fallen on the soil may, as it were, be "harrowed" into it by the process.

3. Obedience. To hear without obeying is to harden the heart; for, as Bishop Butler says, "passive impressions grow weaker by being repeated." But the acting on what we hear prepares us for being better hearers next time, and quickens the receptivity of the soul. Even among good hearers, however, there will be differences; some will make more of their opportunities than others.—Ibid.

Divine truth needs attention.—Perhaps our Saviour used so frequently to conclude His Divine discourses with, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," to teach us that there is no employment of our faculties, that more deserves their utmost attention, than the scrutiny of Divine truths (Isa ; Rom 10:17).—R. Boyle.

Mar . Parables necessary for outsiders.—Parables are, so to speak, forced upon the Lord. They are His only method of dealing with this loose mob that is following Him. He cannot venture to confide to them His full mind, for it would but confuse and repel them. So long as it was His disciples He could address them openly, as in the Sermon on the Mount, with plain, strong directions. So it had been, apparently, at the first; but now that His fame had spread—now that a mixed multitude is swarming around Him—He is driven to protect His doctrine from degradation, misunderstanding, confusion. It is not enough that He has in His hands pearls to give; He must see to it, also, that He distributes them aright to those that will profit by them. So the parables express the guarded caution with which the great revelation of the Father must be made. It is not enough that God should reveal His love for fallen man; but more than that, He must do it in a way of condescension to all the gradations of darkness into which men have fallen. Here is the irony of the terrible passage quoted by our Lord from Isaiah in answer to the wondering question of the disciples why He should speak in parables. Why in parables? Because so many, though they willingly listen, are in such a state that, hearing they hear not, and seeing they see not; it is because "this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes are closed, lest at any time, seeing with their eyes, and hearing with their ears, they should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them." "Lest they should be converted, and I should heal them." That is the dreadful thing that would happen; that is the dreadful thing that they are bent on postponing. That is the irony of love picturing the postponement of the good it brings; and since the facts are so, since men have determined that the process of their salvation shall be slow, and difficult and gradual, therefore Christ has conformed to their ways; He has qualified the blinding light, He has shadowed it down to the dusk in which men abide, He has divided His teaching into stages, so as to protect these obstinate hearts against their own prejudices, He has fallen back on these parables. Even those who most vehemently repudiate the more emphatic message, even those who might in indignation take up stones to kill Him if they heard the full claim, will stand and listen to these parables; and if they listen and are pleased to walk away without further question no irremediable harm will be done, only they will be much as they were before, only they will postpone the day of possibility, they will not have been brought up near enough to the fire to be scorched by it, they will have been saved the uppermost disaster. But, on the other hand, if there are any there who have ears to hear and eyes to see, then the parable will work its perfect work upon them, they will never be satisfied by its mere beauty, they will feel the prickings of a Diviner secret, the parables will quicken and animate them into more eager expectation; something in them will provoke them, they will be restless until they have gone further, they will press in with the other disciples into the house with the Master, they will insist on being told what it all means. And it is these persistent, clamouring questioners to whom it is given to know the mysteries of heaven. These will ask and knock, and asking will receive, and knocking it will be opened unto them.—Canon Scott Holland.

Double aspect of parables.—Inasmuch as a parable is the presentation of some spiritual truth under the guise of an incident belonging to the material sphere, it follows, from its very nature, that it may either reveal or hide the truth, and that it will do the former to susceptible and the latter to unsusceptible souls. The eye may either dwell upon the coloured glass or on the light that streams through it; and, as is the case with all revelations of spiritual realities through sensuous mediums, gross and earthly hearts will not rise above the medium, which to them, by their own fault, becomes a medium of obscuration, not of revelation. This double aspect belongs to all revelation, which is both a savour of life unto life and of death unto death.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

The veil of allegory.—The ideas of the Christ of God are thinly veiled in parables, so as to conceal them from idle and corrupt minds, who hate the Cross, and do not think truth worth their steady attention. But this slight veil of allegory enhances their beauty for those who are worthy of initiation into the "mysteries of the kingdom," just as the sun and moon appear more beautiful for the thin luminous mists through which they rise above the horizon, as they turn the vapours into gold.—E. White.

Mar . Explanation of difficulties to be sought.—As in the schools of human knowledge, so soon as the lecture is read, it is the scholars' duty to question among themselves how to parse and construe it, and when they doubt to have recourse to their grammar rules, by which all construction is examined; and when they do not understand a hard rule to come for a resolution unto their master, who is as it were a living grammar and a walking book,—so likewise in God's academy, in the divinity school, when either the lecture of the law is read, or sermon on the gospel ended, it is your part to reason among yourselves, as you walk abroad in the fields or talk at home in your house, how this and that may be construed; and when you cannot resolve one another, with the men of Berea, to search the Scripture daily, whether those things are so, to try the spirits of men by the Spirit of God, for the Bible is our divinity grammar, according to which all our lessons ought to be parsed and construed. And if ye meet with a difficult place, repair to God's usher, the priest, whose lips should preserve knowledge; demand of your pastor, as the disciples of Christ here.—Dean Boys.

Mar . "The mystery of the kingdom of God."—Religious knowledge, and especially that Christian and saving knowledge which the gospel brought to light, is what our Lord means by "the mystery of the kingdom of God." A "mystery" is something dark and incomprehensible; which may happen in two ways—either through the want of a clear revelation, or through the natural and incurable imperfection of our faculties. "The kingdom" contains mysteries of both kinds: some sublime secrets which are altogether too high for us, which no revelation could impart to us, and which are therefore properly said to "belong unto the Lord our God"; others, again, which in former ages were not made known unto the sons of men, as they are now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets, and through them to mankind in general, by the Spirit. In the latter there is no mystery as soon as the revelation is made, no difficulty which may not be removed by the instructions and explanations of a discreet, patient, and condescending teacher. Such a teacher was our Blessed Lord. He had to teach things, not unintelligible in their nature, but yet strange and hard sayings to His poor, ignorant, carnal-minded hearers; such as required to be helped out by comparisons and illustrations from things which they did understand. He did not attempt to show to such persons what the kingdom of God was, but only what it was like; that by the help of these patterns and representations of things in the heavens He might at last lead up their minds to the heavenly things themselves.

Mar . The emblem of seed for God's Word needs no explanation. The tiny, living nucleus of force, which is thrown broadcast, and must sink underground in order to grow, which does grow, and comes to light again in a form which fills the whole field where it is sown, and nourishes life as well as supplies material for another sowing, is the truest symbol of the truth in its working on the spirit.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Sowing broadcast is the only right husbandry in Christ's field with Christ's seed. "Thou canst not tell which shall prosper, whether this or that." The character of the soil is not irrevocably fixed; but the trodden path may be broken up to softness, and the stony heart changed, and the soul filled with cares and lusts be cleared, and any soil may become good ground.—Ibid.

The seed must be genuine: wheat, not bastard wheat; the wheat that makes bread and sustains life—the seed of the Word of God. Not all seed sown in Sunday schools, just as not all seed scattered from Christian pulpits, is unadulterated truth of God. While there must always be the human element in the teaching of the inspired Word, it must not be all the human element, which it is too often found to be, whereby much of the teaching given is, for all higher and Divine purposes, not bread, but sawdust.—Bishop Thorold.

Twofold sowing.—According to Jewish authorities there was twofold sowing, as the seed was either cast by the hand or by means of cattle. In the latter case a sack with holes was filled with corn, and laid on the back of the animal, so that, as it moved, onwards the seed was thickly scattered. Thus it might well be that it would fall indiscriminately on beaten roadway, or on stony places but thinly covered with soil, or where the thorns had not been cleared away, or undergrowth from this thorn hedge crept into the field, as well as on good ground.—A. Edersheim, D.D.

The sowing of the seed of goodness, even among the rank growths of evil, will do in the spiritual world what the growth of the wild flowers of England is doing at this moment among the rank vegetation of New Zealand, and what the fire and hoe of the settler have failed to do. We are told that the common clover of our fields, tender as it looks, is actually rooting out the formidable New Zealand flax, with its fibrous leaves and strong woody roots. By the law of natural selection, as it were, in the spiritual world, the stronger growth of heaven will extirpate the feebler growth of earth.—H. Macmillan, D.D.

Mar . By the wayside.—These are they who, when the Baptist came with austere severity, said he was mad; and when Christ conversed and taught with mild condescension, said He was a drunkard, a glutton, and a keeper of bad company. They hated the doctrines, and so found fault with the teachers. Such are those who have entered betimes, and continued long, in the service of the devil; who are slaves to vices and bad habits; who have extinguished all reason, reflexion, and natural conscience, and whom no ordinary methods can reclaim. The Word is preached to them, and they trample it underfoot, and ridicule those who offer them good advice. They lie out of the reach of persuasion and instruction, and nothing short of some grievous calamity can rouse them. But from their deplorable condition others may take due warning, lest, by departing from their duty and neglecting a timely reformation, they should, through the deceitfulness of sin, arrive at such a hardened state. And this seems to be the only use these incorrigible offenders serve in this world: they stand forth, not as marks and friendly lights to guide and direct the passenger, but as signals of danger and death to be avoided.—J. Jortin, D.D.

The devil's activity.—"Wherever there is a preacher in the pulpit, there is a devil in the pew," to carry off the good seed if it be neglected.

Satan hinders men in sundry ways from profiting by the Word.

1. By keeping them from hearing it, stirring up occasions of worldly business or some other impediments on the Lord's Day to keep them away from church. 2. By keeping them from attending to it when they do hear it.

3. By blinding their minds, that they may not understand it.

4. By labouring to hold them in infidelity, that they may not believe and apply the Word to themselves.

5. By using means to thrust the Word heard out of their minds, that they may not remember it.

6. By keeping them from yielding obedience to the Word.—G. Petter.

Mar . No root.—These are persons who have conscience, reason, and reflexion; who can discern the amiable and profitable nature of religion, and the folly and danger of vice; who can sometimes give attention to the Word of God, approve it as right and fit, speak and think honourably of it, and of those who practise it, and even entertain purposes of acting suitably to it: but they have no steadiness, resolution, and perseverance; and so are not proof against trials and temptations. They are such as are described in Eze 33:31-32. Moral precepts and religious arguments appear fair and lovely in idea, but are found grievous in practice and execution; and the paths of righteousness, which make a fine landscape in description, are rough, steep, and tedious to ascend. Such is the effect of religion upon those who have some taste and natural discernment, but no steady love of goodness.—J. Jortin, D.D.

Many mistake feeling for faith, admiration of Christ for attachment to Him, the appreciation of the beauty of holiness for the use and practice of it, the power of emotion for depth of piety. Such are as quickly offended as they are impressed.

Quick maturity means brief life and speedy decay. "Gladness," although certainly a result of true conversion, is not the immediate result, but sorrow for sin and repentance in dust and ashes.

A forgotten truth.—Much more of true religion consists in deep humility, brokenness of heart, and an abasing sense of barrenness, and want of grace, and holiness, than most who are called Christians imagine; especially those who have been esteemed the converts of the late day, many of whom seem to know of no other religion but elevated joys and affections, arising only from some flights of imagination, or some suggestion made to their mind of Christ's being theirs, God's loving them, and the like (Joh ; Mar 6:20; Luk 4:23; Luk 4:29).—D. Brainerd.

Revival converts.—The short and pathetic history of some who are called revival converts. They are charmed, but not changed; much excited, but not truly converted. Their root is in the crowd, the fine music, the lively stir, the hearty companionships of the gospel meeting. The Moravians every Sabbath offer up this prayer: "From light-minded swarming deliver us, good God."

Mar, The Word choked.—To this class of people religion is presented and propounded; and they assent to it and receive it, and call themselves Christians; but many things arise between them and their duty, many avocations and impediments which prevent the Word from having a due effect upon their hearts.

1. "The cares of this world," when admitted and nourished and encouraged, seize upon the whole man, and so fill the head and occupy the hours that the attention is entirely fixed on worldly affairs, and no leisure is allowed for spiritual concerns. And as no person can bear the toil and fatigue of being always contriving, projecting, labouring, plodding, and some amusement must intervene, the times for recreation are, for such persons, the times when other Christians are attending the public worship of God, or meditating on things sacred and serious at home. Thus religious considerations are totally banished; and the man may be said to be dead to God and Christ, and alive only to the world.

2. "The deceitfulness of riches" has the same bad effect. When the love of wealth is predominant and engrosses the affections, it produces an eagerness to acquire it; a proud trust and confidence in it; a settled resolution to preserve and increase it by any methods, and in defiance of honesty and humanity; and an esteem or contempt of other persons, according as they are rich or poor: and then mammon alone is worshipped, and the love of God is expelled from the heart.

3. "The lusts of other things"—viz. desires of magnificence and splendour, of flattery and popular applause, of power and pre-eminence, and, in a word, immoderate affections for anything that is temporal and transitory.—J. Jortin, D.D.

Disheartening influences.—The ridicule of companions, the polite surprise or cold sneer of former friends at their earnestness, the tyranny of fashion, the seductions of pleasure, the force of habit and inclination, unexpected sorrows and difficulties, which would drive an earnest spirit nearer to God, dishearten those whose religion is founded on emotion rather than on principle.

Mar . Ground which disappointeth not the sower, and bringeth forth fruit in its season, is naturally good, and is improved by culture. The heart of every well-disposed person is such. God has given to all of us abilities, and power to exert them; He has also given to us Christians superadded His revealed will in the gospel; and what aid is necessary He is ever ready to bestow: but a man must put forth his own strength, and seek out and work out his own salvation. The persons, therefore, here described act like rational creatures; they have a love of knowledge and goodness, and a desire to make improvements in both. Thence they are disposed to inquire into themselves and their duty; and opportunities for this are never wanting: morality and revealed religion lie within their reach, and they may read or hear what God requires from them. "They hear the Word, and receive it"; they lay it to heart, and call it to mind; they meditate upon the benefits arising from it, the danger of neglecting it, the reasonable and lovable nature of it, the dangers, inconveniences, and temptations which may arise and assault them, the proper methods of shunning or resisting them, and the wisdom of preferring eternal life to all other considerations.—J. Jortin, D.D.

Varying yields.—Every one has observed the difference between those who may be called good Christians, in the matter of their good works—how some seem to produce twice or thrice the fruit that others do. Some are, compared with others, three times more careful in all the trifling matters which make up so much of life; three times more self-denying, three times more liberal, three times more humble, subdued, and thankful. Does not the Lord recognise this difference in the parable of the pounds, when the nobleman, in leaving, gives a pound to each of his servants; and one servant makes it ten pounds, and another five; and he commends both, but gives to the more industrious worker twice the reward?—M. F. Sadler.


Mar . Christ's parables differ from all others in this, that in their application they seem inexhaustible. Just as one may, from Geneva, watch the sun setting on Mont Blanc, and while the sunny peak in its gigantic outlines remains ever the same, yet the rays of the sun, as they fall upon it at different angles, so change its marvellous tints that at one moment it sparkles like burnished gold, at another it is bathed in roseate hues, and then again, as the sun sinks beneath the western hills, it stands out in cold, grey tones, in grand relief against the glories of the azure sky,—so with our Lord's parables, while the outline of the familiar story remains always the same, yet every time we come to its contemplation in the light of the Holy Spirit, not only do we see new beauties, but new lessons, I had almost said new truths!—A. G. Mortimer, D.D.

The parables of Jesus are simple in structure and for the most part easily understood. And yet they are deep as His Divine Spirit. Their inimitable perfections appear as often as any one tries to parallel them. Meeting with Dr. Robert Breckinridge, "Tom" Marshall, the Kentucky orator, asked, "Why do you not imitate your Model, and preach in parables?" "Because I cannot make them." "Why," said the politician, "they are perfectly simple; I could write parables." "Then," answered Dr. Breckinridge, "bring one of your own at our next meeting." When next they met, and Mr. Marshall was reminded of the parable, he said, "I am beaten. No man can make a parable any more than he can make a speech like Jesus."

The spirit in which to study nature.—By studying nature in the spirit of meek devotion and solemn love, a good man may indeed "walk up and down the world as in a garden of spices, and draw a Divine sweetness out of every flower."—J. Keble.

What we can see in nature.—There is in nature just as much, or as little, as the soul of each beholder can see in her.—J. G. Shairp, LL. D.

Nature leads to God.—Nature represents the Soul from which all souls come, and by its beautifulness helps us to delight ourselves in God. He leads us to no dead museum or stony cathedral, but under the dome of the sky. He says, "The whole is alive, full of God's life."—John Pulsford.

Nature a mirror.—To a man under the influence of emotion, nature is ever a great mirror full of emotions. To the satiated and quiescent alone, she is a cold, dead window for the outward world.—J. P. Richter.

Nature a print of God.—The heavens are a print from the pen of God's perfection; the world is a bud from the flower of His beauty; the sun is a spark from the light of His wisdom, and the ocean is a bubble on the sea of His power.—From the Persian.

A story helps the truth.—"The story," as Dr. Guthrie says, "like a float, keeps the truth from sinking; like a nail, fastens it in the mind; like the feathers of an arrow, makes it strike; and, like the barb, makes it stick."

Parable a mode of conveying truth.—A parable is Christ's mode of conveying His mind into ours—the waggon in which He puts deep thoughts, not apparent or necessary at the time, but useful for the Christian Church when out of its infancy.

Mar . Ears to hear.—All men for the most part have both their ears, but not to hear. The man sick of the gout hath both his feet, but not to walk. He that is purblind hath both his eyes, but not to see clearly. He that is manacled by the magistrate for some fault hath both his hands; but so long as they are bound they cannot do their office. So most men have ears; but few men have ears to hear—namely, to hear that which is good, and to hear that which is good well.—Dean Boys.

Best to have no left ear.—In listening to God it is as well that we have no left ear. True, we are commanded to use both ears—"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear"; but this takes it for granted that both ears are right ones. Now, morally speaking, there is a right ear and there is a left ear; and he has both who, in listening to the gospel, takes it in by the one ear and lets it out again by the other. It is right to admit the sound, but it is left, or wrong, to allow it to escape so soon. In this sense it is best to have no left ear. The most profitable way is to put the right ear to the gospel trumpet, and, as the joyful sound enters, to let it drop at once down into the heart, from whence it will not arise to depart. This right ear is just faith in the Word; and he who believes what God says, not only hears rightly, but never loses what is heard. In such an one the Word of the Lord abideth for ever.

The gospel to be heard.—In the reign of James II. that king commanded an Act of Parliament, called the "Liberty of Conscience Act," to be read in all the churches. The clergy were very unwilling to read it, and some of their congregations did not wish to hear it. One Sunday a clergyman, when the time came for reading the document, said to his congregation: "Though I am compelled to read this, you are not compelled to hear it," upon which the people rose up and left the church, and the clergyman read the Act of Parliament to the pews, hassocks, and walls. But we may not thus treat the gospel. This is God's message to our souls; and while true ministers are indeed compelled by the Spirit of God to speak the Word to us, we too should feel that we are compelled to listen to it with reverence and attention because it is a message from God.

Worthless hearing.—One day a very clever countryman, named Jedediah Buxton, who could multiply nine figures by nine figures without a slate or paper, went to see Garrick, a famous actor, perform upon the stage of a theatre. When he went home from London to his native village, and was asked what he thought of the acting of Garrick, he replied, "Oh, I don't know; I only saw a little man strut about the stage and repeat seven thousand nine hundred and fifty-six words." Instead of listening to what was said, he had been counting the speaker's words. More foolish is it for us to come to hear the Word of God and then amuse ourselves by noticing something that is beside the mark.

Hearing.—Give but interest in the theme, and the listener's ear fulfils its natural function, that of hearing. "Mine ears hast Thou opened." Intensify the interest, and the listener is all ears, all ear. Webster's ill-starred Duchess of Malfi assures her brother, "I will plant my soul in my ears to hear you." "Alarmed nature starts up in my heart, and opens a thousand ears to listen," cries Colonel Talbot in an old play. Perplexed in the extreme, and cut to the heart, by a revelation of household treachery and wrong, an incredulous husband is described in a modern romance, with his hands clasped together, and with his head bent to catch every syllable of the harrowing news—listening "as if his whole being were resolved into that one sense of hearing." It is with hearing as with seeing. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Mendelssohn, in one of his letters from abroad, rapturous with gazing on his favourite Titian, declares that "one might well wish for a dozen more eyes to look one's fill at such a picture." "Had I three ears I'd hear thee," exclaims Macbeth, when summoned to attend by the apparition of an Armed Head, in the witches' cave. D'Artagnan, in the ante-chamber of M. de Treville, is described as looking with all his eyes and listening with all his ears, stretching his five senses so as to lose nothing. The same author tells how Mazarin listened, dying as he was, to Anne of Austria, as ten living men could not have listened. "Will you listen?" asks a prince in the same story; and is answered, "Can you ask me? You speak of a matter of life or death to me, and then ask if I will listen!"

Mar . The door kept open.—In Mrs. Whitney's story Odd or Even? she gives the following ingenious interpretation of a declaration which has puzzled many people (Mat 13:13-16). It is given in a conversation between Mr. Kingsworth, her ideal minister, and Philip Merriweather, a young man of sceptical tendencies. "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.… Lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them," quoted Mr. Kingsworth again. "That is the heart of the Healer, waiting for them that shall fall down from their mountain." But Flip was still only climbing his mountain. He was pleased at every clutch and foothold he got, that seemed to lift him higher. "And yet the fog is put there on purpose! it says so." The boy did not dare to say "He,"—"‘lest' they should see, and understand—and the rest of it! That's just the way. Why couldn't it be plain, if it meant to be?" "Suppose you fasten the door, at night, ‘lest' any unauthorised person should come in?" "Well, I do exactly that," said Flip, wondering what it justified in respect of a door that he was contending should be freely open. "And suppose you leave it unlocked, ‘lest' your brother should come home at midnight?" Whether he was puzzled, or whether he began to see, Flip made no answer. "Don't you see there are two ‘lests'—a providing against, and a providing for?" asked the minister. "Take those words with the second ‘lest.' ‘I speak these things to them in parables; I put them away, in their memory, as in My creation; so that they may see, even without perceiving, and hear, even if they cannot understand: in case that at any time they should see with their spiritual eyes, and hear with their spiritual ears, and understand with the very heart of them, and be converted, and I should heal them.' Isn't the waiting there, in those words?" "You have altered a good many of them." "I have chosen between those two ‘lests,'" said Mr. Kingsworth. "That interpreted all the sentence, which I tried to translate, not change. Because, otherwise, how do they agree with those different words: ‘I am come unto you, that you might have life'; and, ‘I came to call the sinners'?"

No spiritual impression.—In a room glazed with yellow glass the photographer would get heat and light from the sunshine, but he could not produce a photograph, because yellow glass, while it lets in the light and heat of the sun, keeps out the chemical or actinic ray necessary to produce a portrait. And so it is true of many that, while they live in the free light and warmth of the gospel day, while the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world shines upon and all around them, they are not savingly changed, they are not transformed by the light into the image of God. And the reason of this is that they have a yellow spot in their spiritual eye, and live, as it were, in a house of yellow glass. They get the light and the heat of the gospel, but not its renewing power. Their eye is not single, and therefore their whole body is not full of light. The medium in which they live and move and have their being is unfavourable to spiritual impressions, and therefore they are not spiritually impressed.

Mar . Does God harden hearts?—Suppose two merchant vessels out on the same sea, sailing before the same wind, which comes prosperously on their quarter. Suddenly upon one of them a mutiny is organised; the captain is murdered, and the crew put in irons; then the captors turn on their course exactly, face in the opposite direction, and start for some desolate pirates' isle, where they may beach their stolen cargo in safety. The same wind which drives the honest ship along now drives the wicked one too, and so it helps in the crime. But all it really does to help it is—to keep blowing on. God never does anything to harden a heart which would not soften it if properly received.

Mar . Sowing the Word.—Doubt not, but earnestly believe, that if "long sleeps the summer in the seed," the summer is in the seed, if the seed sown by you is indeed the Word of God; and even now it may be shining and ripening in many a changed heart passed far out of your reach and ken. The sailor keeping watch on the midnight sea, praying as he watches; the miner toiling for gold in some Queensland gully, and thinking of the better treasure in the heavenly country towards which, by words of yours, his feet are moving; the shepherd among the wooded valleys of New Zealand, saying over to himself the Shepherd's Psalm taught him by you; the settler's wife in some rude cabin on the Pacific slope, training her children as you trained her, may, without your knowing it, have found the Pearl of great price, which, but for you, they would never have found; through you, also, may be helping others to find it.—Bishop Thorold.

Vitality of the Word.—The Word has all the hidden vitality of a seed. Take up a grain of wheat and examine it; ask yourself where its life lies. Certainly not on the surface; nor yet in its inner compartments, so far as our senses can detect. Chemistry will inform you as to every material element it contains, and leave you as far as ever from knowing or seeing the very thing that makes it a seed—that mysterious something we call its life. Within that little mass of matter there lies a force which sun, rain, and soil shall call forth with voices it will hear and obey. God hath given it a body, and to every seed a body of its own. The hidden life and unwearied force of the wheat-grain furnish analogies to the Word of God. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. It is an eternal seed, to which God has given eternal form; but its vitality is not lodged where we can see and analyse it.

Mar . Three kinds of unprofitable hearers.—There are three different kinds of hearers of the Word,—those like a sponge, that suck up good and bad together, and let both run out immediately; those like a sandglass, that let what enters in at one ear pass out at the other, hearing without thinking; those like a strainer, letting go the good and retaining the bad.

Thought dissipated.—Have you ever seen grain scattered on the road? The sparrow from the housetop and the chickens from the barn rush in, and within a minute after it has been scattered not the shadow of a grain is left. This is the picture, not of thought crushed by degrees, but of thought dissipated, and no man can tell how or when it went. Swiftly do these winged thoughts come when we pray, or read, or listen; in our inattentive, sauntering, wayside hours; and, before we can be upon guard, the very trace of holier purposes has disappeared. In our purest moods, when we kneel to pray, or gather round the altar, down into the very Holy of Holies sweep these foul birds of the air, villain fancies, demon thoughts. The germ of life, the small seed of impression, is gone—where, you know not. But it is gone. Inattentiveness of spirit, produced by want of spiritual interest, is the first cause of disappointment.—F. W. Robertson.

The trodden heart.—There was an old legend of a goblin horseman that galloped over men's fields at night; and wherever his foot struck, the soil was so blasted that nothing would ever grow on it again. So is it with the heart over which the beastly feet of lust, sensuality, greed, selfishness, passion, are allowed to tread. The heart is never the same again.

Hardened by evangelical teaching.—Speaking of a certain place in which he conducted a mission, the Rev. W. Haslam says: "It was certainly a very difficult place, for the congregation had been hardened with overmuch evangelical teaching of a general kind. Seed had been abundantly sown without any due preparation of the ground. It was amazing to witness the hardness of the people, and their unwillingness to yield."

No refuge from the storm.—Some years ago two undergraduates went up one of the highest mountains in Switzerland. They would not have a guide. They said they had been there before, and they feared nothing. Their friends watched them with their telescopes, and saw them reach the top, and then came a storm of snow which lasted a week. Nobody could reach them, and they never came down alive. When found, they were close to a track by which, if they had had a guide, they could have come down in safety when the snow first fell. So it is that many a proud philosopher of our time, resting on reason and his own conceit, climbs the highest steeps of learning; then comes the storm, the icy hand of Death is on his shoulder, and he knows not where to turn, because he has forsaken the Guide of his youth, the Light and Life of men!

Unpromising, but not hopeless.—Many years ago my friend Colonel Boyd, of Wytheville, Virginia, gave to a Frenchman, by the name of Hartmann, a rocky hillside. Everywhere the hard, blue limestone protruded. A more unpromising garden could not be imagined. In the spring the warmth and moisture made the hillside green for a little while, but the first drought scorched it dry and brown. But Hartmann worked away, patiently, perseveringly, systematically. He dug out the rocks, he deepened the soil, he irrigated from the neighbouring brook. Years passed, and the "Frenchman's Garden," as everybody called it, was the most beautiful, the most picturesque, the most fruitful, the most profitable garden in all that part of Virginia. So, after all, that peculiar kind of human hearts which the Lord described as "stony places" are not absolutely hopeless. These shallow hearts may be deepened. This sentimental religion may be enriched. The Word of God may be cultivated until it grows to be a fruitful plant in even these unpromising lives. From being a mere enthusiasm, or a dead orthodoxy, religion may become a life, a deep-rooted life, a life hid with Christ in God.—R. S. Barrett.

Fugitive impressions.—When Daguerre was working at his sun-pictures his great difficulty was to fix them. The light came and imprinted the image; but when the tablet was drawn from the camera, the image had vanished. Our lamentation is like this; our want the same—a fixing solution which shall arrest and detain the fugitive impressions. He discovered the chemical power which turned the evanescent into the durable. There is a Divine agency at hand that can fix the truth upon the heart of man—God's Holy Spirit.

Mar . Want of root.—Men have no root in themselves. That is the best account that I can give of the vast failure of our systems of general education. I am not thinking of elementary schools merely, but of all schools. They are able to produce a certain measure of success. In the fairly good schools boys and girls learn something, and sometimes a good deal. Eighty, ninety, and ninety-five per cent, of the scholars in our common schools, under energetic and able teachers, read fairly, write fairly, become fairly successful in arithmetic. In schools of a higher class they will learn something of Greek and Latin grammar, and they can make a fair show in arithmetic. But though the teaching may not be mechanical, there is something mechanical in the result, and in a few years after they have left school it is quite clear that the mind of an immense proportion of those who have been taught is dead; it does not grow. We discover that large numbers of those who have passed through the schools have never grasped for themselves, as the roots of a tree grasp the soil, any subject that sustains intellectual activity. The mischief is not merely that they have forgotten much that they learned; that cannot be helped. I am not sure that we ought to cherish any wish that it should be helped. I remember meeting an eminent man not long ago who was a high Wrangler at Cambridge, and he said he was thankful that he had forgotten most of the mathematics he knew when he took his degree. I do not complain that what was learned has been forgotten, but that there is nothing, no science, no history, no province of speculation or of art in which large numbers of those who have received an early education have a real, personal, enduring interest. One of the first objects of every wise teacher should be to get the mind of his pupils to strike root into something, it does not much matter what, but something that will stimulate and maintain intellectual activity. When once that miracle is wrought, and the mind has a root of its own, the great work of the educationist is done. Take another illustration. How many men succeed in maintaining a fairly excellent character, because they are sheltered from moral peril by the circumstances that environ them, and supported in well-doing by the general opinion of those with whom they are most intimately associated! Let the circumstances change, place them among men with a lower sense of honour, with less ideas of honesty and of truthfulness, place them in circumstances in which it will look safe to violate some of the laws which they now honour, and what will become of them then? If the moral opinion of society is to be sound, there must be men who give an ethical law to others, and do not merely receive it from others—men with an ethical idea of their own, to which they are loyal at all costs, men who have discovered eternal laws which they must obey whatever comes of their obedience. Such men have a root in themselves; they are not to be bribed into wrong-doing by the promise of wealth or of honour; they are not to be terrified into virtue by the penalties of law or by the fear of loss of property or of social position. They are faithful because the law that has been revealed to them is too august to be broken.—R. W. Dale, D. D.

Mar . The Word choked.—What an illustration of this the speech which a dying, despairing man addressed to one under whose ministry he had sat for twenty years! "I have never," he cried, "heard a single sermon!" The minister, to whom his face was quite familiar, who had known him for years as a regular attendant at church, looked astonished, fancied he was raving under the delirium of his approaching end. No, not at all! The man was in his sad and sober senses. "I attended church," he exclaimed, "but my habit was, so soon as you began the sermon, to begin a review of last week's trade, and to anticipate and arrange the business of the next." Now, in like manner, to a greater or less extent, Satan deals with thousands who occupy pews in the church.

Good impressions destroyed.—Robert Burns—who had times of serious reflexion, in one of which, as recorded by his own pen, he beautifully compares himself, in the review of his past life, to a lonely man walking amid the ruins of a noble temple, where pillars stand dismantled of their capitals, and elaborate works of purest marble lie on the ground, overgrown by tall, foul, rank weeds—was once brought, as I have heard, under deep convictions. He was in great alarm. The seed of the Word had begun to grow. He sought counsel from one called a minister of the gospel. Alas that in that crisis of his history he should have trusted the helm to the hands of such a pilot! This so-called minister laughed at the poet's fears—bade him dance them away at balls, drown them in bowls of wine, fly from these phantoms to the arms of pleasure. Fatal, too pleasant advice! He followed it: and "the lusts of other things" entering in, choked the Word.

Strangled.—In the gardens of Hampton Court you will see many trees entirely vanquished and well-nigh strangled by huge coils of ivy, which are wound about them like the snakes around the unhappy Laocoon; there is no untwisting the folds, they are too giant-like, and fast fixed, and every hour the rootlets of the climber are sucking the life out of the unhappy tree. Yet there was a day when the ivy was a tiny aspirant, only asking a little aid in climbing; had it been denied then the tree had never become its victim; but by degrees the humble weakling grew in strength and arrogance, and at last it assumed the mastery, and the tall tree became the prey of the creeping, insinuating destroyer. The moral is too obvious. Sorrowfully do we remember many noble characters which have been ruined little by little by insinuating habits. Covetousness, drink, the love of pleasure, and pride, have often been the ivy that has wrought the ruin.

Blinded by self-interest.—Many a man of influence and position is blinded by the interests that absorb his thought. From the summit of East Rock in New Haven there is a magnificent view. The city has wisely taken the place as a public park, and now its paths are daily thronged with pilgrims to that shrine of beauty. But on that rock has been found a counterfeiter's cave. The time was when those were on the hill who cared nothing for the wondrous view, but whose only desire was to hide themselves in the cave to pursue a nefarious business. So long as they were there the glories of the out-stretching valley and the distant sea were unseen by them. It is just such a difficulty that hinders men from seeing the loveliness of Christ. They are busy in caves of worldliness. They see nothing because they keep themselves where they cannot see.

Mar . Receptiveness.—"Receive" is the one word that describes the healthful conduct of human life. We receive being at birth; we do nothing but receive for the months that follow—receive mother-milk, clothing, warmth, care. The lad receives protection, advice, and wisdom, if indeed he does receive; for, rejecting these, he rejects his destiny, to find out his own way, which is death. We receive pickaxe and pen, and our place in the world. Old men smile, as they hear proud youth talk of "hewing a way" or "winning a way" through life to fortune, as if there could be any path discovered or cut out that was not hard-beaten like a Broadway by the thousands who have trodden it before us. In all honourable vocations the road is Patience, Industry, Frugality, Knowledge. And, if one go higher, Repentance, the New Heart through Christ, and the common gate to heaven. The youth makes his experiment. At times he seems to be hewing, winning, and inventing; but afterwards reviewing, he perceives he was but lifting up a hewing hand to cut away the obstacles to his receiving. As when one bursts a prison wall, or emerges toilfully from a wood, he has but to receive the down-pouring sun. Old age testifies, "All my battles have in fact been against Self, that I might not reject, against Others that I might not be defrauded of, the good which God meant me to receive."—E. J. Haynes.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


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.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

He taught them (εδιδασκεν αυτουςedidasken autous). Imperfect tense describing it as going on.

In parables (εν παραβολαιςen parabolais). As in Mark 3:23, only here more extended parables. See notes in Matthew 13 for discussion concerning Christ‘s use of parables. Eight are given there, one (the Lamp both in Mark 4:21 and Luke 8:16 (both Sower and the Lamp in Luke), one alone in Mark 4:26-29 (seed growing of itself) not in Matthew or Luke, ten on this occasion. Only four are mentioned in Mark 4:1-34 (The Sower, the Lamp, the Seed Growing of Itself, the Mustard Seed). But Mark adds (Mark 4:34) “without a parable spake he not unto them,” clearly meaning that Jesus spoke many others on this occasion and Matt. after mentioning eight (Matthew 13:34) makes the same statement. Manifestly, therefore, Jesus spoke many parables on this day and all theories of exegesis or dispensations on the basis of the number of these kingdom parables are quite beside the mark.

In beginning Jesus said:Hearken (ΑκουετεAkouete). It is significant that even Jesus had to ask people to listen when he spoke. See also Mark 4:9.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels

These verses contain the parable of the sower. Of all the parables spoken by our Lord, none is probably so well-known as this. There is none which is so easily understood by all, from the gracious familiarity of the figures which it contains. There is none which is of such universal and perpetual application. So long as there is a Church of Christ and a congregation of Christians, so long there will be employment for this parable.

The language of the parable requires no explanation. To use the words of an ancient writer, "it needs application, not exposition." Let us now see what it teaches.

We are taught, in the first place, that there are some hearers of the Gospel, whose hearts are like the wayside in a field .

These are they who hear sermons, but pay no attention to them. They go to a place of worship, for form or fashion, or to appear respectable before men. But they take no interest whatever in the preaching. It seems to them a mere matter of words and names, and unintelligible talk. It is neither money, nor food, nor drink, nor clothes, nor company; and as they sit under the sound of it, they are taken up with thinking of other things. It matters nothing whether it is Law or Gospel. It produces no more effect on them than water on a stone. And at the end they go away, knowing no more than when they came in.

There are myriads of professing Christians in this state of soul. There is hardly a church or chapel, where scores of them are not to be found. Sunday after Sunday they allow the devil to catch away the good seed that is sown on the surface of their hearts. Week after week they live on, without faith, or fear, or knowledge, or grace--feeling nothing, caring nothing, taking no more interest in religion, than if Christ had never died on the cross at all. And in this state they often die and are buried, and are lost forever in hell. This is a mournful picture, but only too true.

We are taught, in the second place, that there are some hearers of the Gospel whose hearts are like the stony ground in a field .

These are they on whom preaching produces temporary impressions, but no deep, lasting, and abiding effect. They take pleasure in hearing sermons in which the truth is faithfully set forth. They can speak with apparent joy and enthusiasm about the sweetness of the Gospel, and the happiness which they experience in listening to it. They can be moved to tears by the appeals of preachers, and talk with apparent earnestness of their own inward conflicts, hopes, struggles, desires, and fears. But unhappily there is no stability about their religion. "They have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time." There is no real work of the Holy Spirit within their hearts. Their impressions are like Jonah's gourd, which came up in a night and perished in a night. They fade as rapidly as they grow. No sooner does "affliction and persecution arise for the word's sake," than they fall away. Their goodness proves as "the morning cloud, and the early dew." (Hosea 6:4.) Their religion has no more life in it than the cut flower. It has no root, and soon withers away.

There are many in every congregation which hears the Gospel, who are just in this state of soul. They are not careless and inattentive hearers, like many around them, and are therefore tempted to think well of their own condition. They feel a pleasure in the preaching to which they listen, and therefore flatter themselves they must have grace in their hearts. And yet they are thoroughly deceived. Old things have not yet passed away. There is no real work of conversion in their inward man. With all their feelings, affections, joys, hopes, and desires, they are actually on the high road to destruction.

We are taught, in the third place, that there are some hearers of the Gospel, whose hearts are like the thorny ground in a field .

These are they who attend to the preaching of Christ's truth, and to a certain extent obey it. Their understanding assents to it. Their judgment approves of it. Their conscience is affected by it. Their affections are in favor of it. They acknowledge that it is all right, and good, and worthy of all reception. They even abstain from many things which the Gospel condemns, and adopt many habits which the Gospel requires. But here unhappily they stop short. Something appears to chain them fast, and they never get beyond a certain point in their religion. And the grand secret of their condition is the WORLD. "The cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things," prevent the word having its full effect on their souls. With everything apparently that is promising and favorable in their spiritual state, they stand still. They never come up to the full standard of New Testament Christianity. They bring no fruit to perfection.

There are few faithful ministers of Christ who could not point to cases like these. Of all cases they are the most melancholy. To go so far and yet go no further--to see so much and yet not see all--to approve so much and yet not give Christ the heart, this is indeed most deplorable! And there is but one verdict that can be given about such people. Without a decided change they will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Christ will have all our hearts. "If any man will be a friend of the world, he is the enemy of God." (James 4:4.)

We are taught, in the last place, that there are some hearers of the Gospel, whose hearts are like the good ground in a field .

These are they who really receive Christ's truth into the bottom of their hearts, believe it implicitly, and obey it thoroughly. In these the fruits of that truth will be seen--uniform, plain, and unmistakable results in heart and life. SIN will be truly hated, mourned over, resisted, and renounced. CHRIST will be truly loved, trusted in, followed, loved, and obeyed. HOLINESS will show itself in all their life, in humility, spiritual-mindedness, patience, meekness, and charity. There will be something that can be seen. The true work of the Holy Spirit cannot be hidden.

There will always be some people in this state of soul, where the Gospel is faithfully preached. Their numbers may very likely be few, compared to the worldly around them. Their experience and degree of spiritual attainment may differ widely, some bringing forth thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred-fold. But the fruit of the seed falling into good ground will always be of the same kind. There will always be visible repentance, visible faith in Christ, and visible holiness of life. Without these things, there is no saving religion.

And now let us ask ourselves, What are we? Under which class of hearers ought we to be ranked? With what kind of hearts do we hear the word? Never, never may we forget, that there are three ways of hearing without profit, and only one way of hearing aright! Never, never may we forget that there is only one infallible mark of being a right-hearted hearer! That mark is to bear fruit. To be without fruit, is to be in the way to hell.

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Ryle, J. C. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels".

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

ON PARABLES, see the note on Matthew 13:1-52. In his report of the discourse in parables, Mark gives but three, one of them not mentioned elsewhere. Each independently chose these out of the many uttered. In Matthew we find the chronological development of the kingdom of heaven brought out; here, all three parables are drawn from familiar agricultural pursuits, presenting the one idea of the growth or development of the kingdom of God: the first, as respects the soil, or the difficulty of its beginnings; the second, illustrating the relative independence of this development; the last, its wonderful extension. Mark here introduces (Mark 4:21-25) what Matthew records as uttered on other occasions. Our Lord was in the habit of repeating striking figures, proverbs, and aphorisms. This discourse took place the ‘same day’ (Matthew 13:1) with the occurrences just mentioned (chap. Mark 3:20-35). The hostility of the Pharisees called for the teaching by parables in its purpose of concealing the truth, which is most strongly expressed by Mark (Mark 4:12), while the choice of the Twelve (chap. Mark 3:14) formed the nucleus of a band of followers (comp. Mark 4:10) in whom the other purpose of revealing the truth could be fulfilled.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 4:2. And he taught them. The reference is to His habit of teaching.

Many things. Out of these Mark selects what follows.

In his teaching, perhaps, with a reference to this particular kind of teaching. Christ’s teaching was authoritative, and in this as in most cases, doctrinal. He presents new truth here, not mere exhortation (see Mark 4:11).

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books


Mark 4:1 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. 2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

I truly enjoy this first verse and the images that well up in my mind. Many years ago we attended a small Bible church that had no baptistery. Some wanted to follow the Lord in Baptism so the pastor planned a picnic/evening Bible study/baptism for Sloan"s lake in Denver, CO. Picnic finished, we all settled along the shore and the pastor brought a short Bible study while standing at the lake"s edge.

Christ, the pastor was not, but the situation is so similar that it always comes to mind when I think of the Lord teaching by the shore. The peacefulness, the openness to the message, the calm of the entire situation touches my very hurried soul.

Some suggest that the multitude could easily be translated "immense multitude" indicating a very large group of folks pressing to hear the message of the Lord.

"Parable" is often defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It is just an illustration of the point one is attempting to make. Christ wants to make a point with the multitude, so uses a story to assist their understanding. We find later that Christ also used parables so that His detractors would not understand His teaching. Webster in one of his older dictionaries defined parable as "A fable or allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature from which a moral is drawn for instruction;" Webster"s 1828 Dictionary. Life Application Bible New Testament Commentary tells us "These stories used familiar scenes to explain spiritual truths. A parable compares something familiar to something unfamiliar. It compels listeners to discover truth, while at the same time conceals the truth from those too lazy or too stubborn to see it."

"Doctrine" just means teaching or more to the point probably the content of what He was teaching. When I open my mouth many would say I am boring, but I am still putting out content or doctrine no matter the effect upon the listener.

We might take a look at how we should deal with parables before we attempt to dig into the first one that Mark gives to us.

a. They are stories, not factual events, though they might have some natural event as their basis. In the following parable there is a sower sowing seed. This is the factual basis, though the sower"s name was not Stanley Derickson, nor do we know what his name was because he is the fictional character of the parable or story.

b. As Webster indicates in his definition, there is normally just one moral or point to the story. Do not get tied up in knots about the details that might be given to make the story understandableand appealing to the listener.

An example of a parable might be the farmer, I have mentioned many times, that went to his neighbor to borrow a rope. The neighbor asked the farmer what he wanted to use the rope for. The farmer replied "I want to tie up my milk." The neighbor questioned the farmer because you cannot tie up milk. The farmer replied "I know, but one excuse is as good as another."

Now there is a lot of detail in the story, but one truth - an excuse is an excuse. There may be little truth or value in the excuse. Now, we don"t know if this milk was pasteurized homogenized or organic, and we do not know what type of rope the farmer wanted to borrow whether it was hemp, nylon, or cotton and we do not know how long the rope was nor its diameter. Now if the rope was twenty feet long it might indicate that the milk to be tied up was about 400 gallons, but if only ten feet long it would be about 200 gallons of milk. The type of rope is important in that the hemp rope would probably soak up too much milk so we can assume the farmer wanted the nylon type of rope ..... well I think you get the idea. Don"t get stuck on the detail of the parable or you will totally miss the point of it.

Scroggie observes "Care should be taken in studying the parables to distinguish between interpretation and application. All of the Bible is for us, but it is not all about us. Interpretation is limited by the original intent of the parable, and this intent is determined by occasion and circumstance; but application is not limited, for the way in which it can help us is its meaning for us. Interpretation is dispensational and prophetic. Application is moral and practical" A GUIDE TO THE GOSPELS W. Graham Scroggie, D.D.; Fleming H. Revell Co.; Old Tappen, NJ.

He goes on to observe that when there is more than one parable to be sure to compare the parables and see how the Lord used them together, not as separate entities. He also notes that the miracles were instructive as well as the parables. The miracles are instructive in the context of how and when they were done and who the main audience was.

The usual methods of interpretation must also apply such as the context, the culture, and the meaning of the speaker.

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books


1. The Lord taught with parables so that the lost might not understand, but so that the apostles and other followers WOULD understand. Preaching is something that is to be understood by the believers present. Christ was not out to make converts of the Jewish leaders and those that had rejected Him, but was there to educate and train His followers to do His work.

How many churches across the nation have pastors that preach salvation messages in the morning service in case some lost folks wondered in off the street? Many I fear and these men are wasting the saint"s time. The saints are to be edified in the services, not bored to counting ceiling tiles or wondering about why the person in front of them is loosing his/her hair. The lost are not to be in the worship services committed to God. If there are lost there, then they will be edified by the Spirit who must draw them, not the preacher.

We had been trying a new church years ago and only attending on Sunday mornings to see if we were interested in trying it further. The last Sunday we were there the pastor followed us to the car in the parking lot trying to explain why we needed to come to the evening services to be taught. He explained that the morning services were for the lost to be saved. I am not sure just why he assumed that we were believers and not lost but he made it clear that he preached to two peoples rather than to his sheep all the time.

2. Anderson says of verse 25, "Verse 25 gives a real warning to the Christians that are not sharing the Word of God that they have received with others. When we learn the Word of God and then teach what we have learned to others, then God gives us a greater understanding of the Word. However, if we fail to teach others, then we lose the understanding that we once had of the Word of God."

The verse mentions, "For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." I trust that you will consider seriously the validity of the man"s statement.

The Net Bible states, "The measure you use will be the measure you receive," indicating that as we give forth what we know so we will receive more.

Some suggest that if you do not give out with what you know, that what you know will be taken from you. I believe that this can be seen in some of our church people these days. Some are able to only take milk from the preacher because they give forth with so little to those around them on a daily basis.

3. When interpreting parables it has been observed that only one principle is involved, but do not be mistaken there are many parallels to life contained therein. The description of the growth of the seed in the parable is much like the growth of the spiritual seed of the gospel and how the new believer matures over time. (Verse 28 "For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.")

Do not miss either, the parallel between man not knowing just how the seed produces its fruit. No matter how well studied we cannot know just how the gospel message is transformed intonewness of life in the lost perverted sinner.

There is much sermon making material within the parables but just be sure that the people know that the parable is not teaching all your application, but that the application is coming from observation and hopefully other texts from the Word. I suspect much sermonizing without this clarity of thought has brought about the confusion that has been observed about the teaching of the parables.

I recall one Bible study that we were in years ago where a parable was read and the discussion began. There were multitudes of possible interpretations presented, but none considered the context of the parable. All possibilities were based on just the parable alone.

As the study came to a close the "leader" of the study observed, "Well, there are a lot of possible meanings that have been presented and I am sure one of them is the correct one but I am not sure which." Now was not that a profitable Bible study for all concerned? NOT!

His observation was correct in that one of the interpretations set forth was correct, because it was based on the context of the passage and what Christ was teaching at the time.

Appalled was the word that came to mind when I left that study where such confusion was passed off as a Bible study. I trust that all will struggle with the text heartily before attempting to interpret each individual parable so that a proper interpretation can be made rather than a consensus of opinions based on little more than the parable itself.

4. Barnes comments on a common teaching that is really in the area of suspect. Some teach that when a person is of full maturity as a believer they are automatically taken home. They further teach that this life is just preparation for eternal life.

Barnes states "Immediately he putteth in the sickle. This is the way with the husbandman. As soon as the grain is ripe, it is cut down. So it is often with the Christian. As soon as he is prepared for heaven, he is taken there. But we are not to press this part of the parable, as if it meant that all are removed as soon as they are fit for heaven." He correctly observes that to apply this interpretation is not proper.

If the teaching be true, then any believer that has spent many years on earth must be considered to be unspiritual and not growing to maturity which is blatantly a false assumption. Further consider the idea that we can become fit for heaven. Can fallen man, even one that has been redeemed, by his own learning gain the "right" to enter into heaven? Oh how evil some of our teachings are if we only take them to their logical end. It is only the work of the Lord on the cross that fits us for heaven, nothing we do can ever assist in that final trip.

5. Constable quotes Wiersbe about parables. "A parable begins innocently as a picture that arrests our attention and arouses our interest. But as we study the picture, it becomes a mirror in which we suddenly see ourselves. If we continue to look by faith, the mirror becomes a window through which we see God and His truth. How we respond to that truth will determine whatfurther truth God will teach us."

Now that sounds quite spiritual in nature, but "Is it true?" might be the readers question to ponder. In these parables relating to the kingdom it is not a proper view. The parables are quite clear and to the point that the parable is speaking to what the Word can do for man in the realm of entering the kingdom and they relate directly to the kingdom purpose. Do they twist deeply into the soul to change spiritual life? Not hardly unless one is lost and they bring about change but Christ used them to keep the lost from understanding so that is not going to happen either.

Consider your words before you set them to paper or tongue lest you mislead others that read or hear. I charge not Wiersbe for I have no idea of the context in which this paragraph resides and that may color what he had to say completely.

Again, in the same vain Constable states "Probably Jesus taught this parable many times during His ministry as an itinerant preacher, and the disciples were familiar with it." There is no explanation as to what he based this statement on. There is no indication that jumps out at the reader of the Gospels that says or even indicates that Christ repeated any of his teaching. He may have, but we have no real reason to believe that He did. Since He is the creator of man and there is no end of variation of face and personality in His creatures, one is hard pressed to believe that He could not develop new and different teachings for each new and different teaching situation.

He further submits "4:10 Mark alone noted that those who asked Jesus to explain the parables included the Twelve plus other disciples (v. 10). Evidently their question concerned why Jesus was using parables to teach as well as what they meant. He could have been clearer."

Hummmmmmm it is the Holy Spirit that is guiding the inspired word of God as it is set down by Mark, yet the Spirit is unable to be clear enough for the man? Not sure I would want to make such a statement. Oft times the Word is spoken of as if the Spirit had nothing to do with its existence.

6. I will commend Constable on the way he explains how the parables effect the different type of listeners as he discusses revelation. "God uses it to enlighten the receptive, but He also uses it to befuddle the unreceptive."

This is great information to know for those that witness to others of the saving work of Christ. Some will just accept it as what it is - truth, while others will reject it out of hand as foolishness and argue to the death the lack of truth that revelation contains.

I recall when a pastor shared the simple gospel with me, it just fit, it filled in the holes in my mind about spiritual things. I thought to myself, this is the information I have been waiting for. This is just what I need to do to be right with God. Before that I understood little of what I had been taught for so many years. It was just so much information that made little sense. God chooses the time of our conversion and until then we are no different than the Jewish leadership in relation to revelation - we are "befuddled." 7. Another quote to ponder: Constable quotes Plummer "The judgment is a merciful one. The parable which the cold-hearted multitudes hear without understanding they remember, because of its penetrating and impressive form; and when their hearts become able to receive its meaning the meaning will become clear to them. Meanwhile they are saved from the guilt of rejecting plain truth." Alfred Plummer, "The Gospel According to St. Mark," in The Cambridge Greek Testament, p. 124.

First of all the Lord said that the parables were so they would hear and not understand, thus his premise seems incorrect. As to whether it is a merciful one, again the premise is that they will one day understand, but this is not correct. Thus we have one that is lost hearing but not understanding but feeling good about his ignorance. How is that merciful? To go to the grave feeling good about rejecting Christ cannot be good. Yes, they do not live a life of guilt over rejecting, but that is usually called hardening of their heart not mercy and is not presented in Scripture as a plus in this life.

8. Constable quotes Cranfield "The blindness of men is so universal that even the disciples are not exempt from it." in the context of the disciples not understanding the parable. The lost went away blinded to the truth of the parable, but the disciples just did not understand. They stayed to ask of the Lord and His teaching while the others left not wanting to know what the Lord had taught. That is quite a large and distinct difference in my mind.

9. Constable understands the parable to mean that the hearer controls what type of soil the seed lands on. He is open to the word or he is partly closed to the word or he is completely closed to the word. I am not sure that the text indicates this in any way.

He quotes Moule to support his thought. "Words may be sound and lively enough, but it is up to each hearer to let them sink in and become fruitful. If he only hears without responding-without doing something about it and committing himself to their meaning-then the words are in danger of being lost, or of never coming to anything. The whole story thus becomes a parable about the learner"s responsibility, and about the importance of learning with one"s whole will and obedience, and not merely with one"s head."

This seems to be some of that over interpretation that has been warned of in the preceding thoughts. The ground is inanimate while a person is alive and thinking. That is quite a difference. Do not take your interpretation too far.

10. There are several groups of people illustrated by the different types of ground. There is some discussion as to which are saved and which are lost. This seems to be the best deduction to me.



The Parable: 4 "...some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up."The Explanation: 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.

This group would seem obviously to be lost in that they never made any attempt to respond to nature"s laws. The seed was taken away immediately so there was no opportunity to be anything but bird feed.


The Parable: 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."

The Explanation: 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."

The seed that seems to germinate and grow but have no root to feed and water, thus they are short-lived. Some may feel these folks are saved, but it seems to me that they are lost and only professors. They have accepted the message on the surface, but deep down have no real understanding or footing. When problems arise there is no reason to stand against them and they are turned away.

We should probably realize that the parable speaks of the seed as being the Word, not people. The Word when sown gives forth with a number of results. In the first the Word is not even heard, the second the Word is heard but probably without understanding. Thus we are not really talking about people, but of the seed and its result.


The Parable: 7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit."

The Explanation: 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 lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Again, the Word seems to sprout but is soon choked out or made to be so puny that there is no fruit. Again, the result would be in no person being saved. Though the person is involved the results are to be seen as the seed rather than the seeds fruit. The person hears but does not respond to the Word because their interest is in the world and its riches.

d. GOOD GROUNDThe Parable: 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."

The Explanation: 20 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.

Now we see the result of saved people, but again the emphasis is on the seed and its fruit not the people"s fruit. Some seed yields large and other yields less, but all yields fruit. By application we can relate this to the people.

11. It may occur to some after much study that Christ"s use of the different types of ground was probably a parable that was conceived on the fly so to speak. It most likely was not brought to His mind because he saw a sower out sowing seed in different types of soil. It would be hard to imagine a poor farmer out sowing and being so careless as to sow seed among rocks and thistles when he was standing near good ground. You don"t see farmers in the mid-west running their tractors/seeders out through the weeds between the prepared field and the highway, then running up on the highway to seed it then back through the weeds and into the fertile field. No, they keep their precious and expensive seed for the fertile ground.

It is rather to be expected that the Lord looked out upon His audience and knew their attitudes and positions in life and made the comparison. So the teacher and pastor of our day should know their congregation and know how the Word will apply to each one. It is also incumbent on the congregant to be in attendance so that they can receive the message that was prepared for them.

It is such a frustration to prepare a message or lesson to meet the known needs of the group and when you rise to present what the Lord has put on your heart half the people are missing.

Christ met the people on their level and met their needs. Pastors today often are meeting needs of what they feel their people need when they do not know their people. Often the morning message is geared for the lost instead of the church, the evening message is meant for the believer but many of them are not there.

Others know their people and minister to them on a level that is not appropriate because they are limited in their own depth or are not interested in digging deep enough to feed everyone under their charge.

We attended a church where there were three retired pastors and their wives, and a widowed pastor"s wife yet the messages were so basic that most new believers would have been bored to sleep or counting tiles on the ceiling. The pastor either had no idea where his people were or did not care. The messages were rather like reading a passage and commenting off the top of the head about what was just read.

12. Maclaren observes that there is a definite article in front of lamp, bushel, bed and lampstand indicating that these were the only objects of their kind in the home. A very humble home might be the idea. More to the spiritual point might be that this is the ONLY light that is available. However there does not seem to be that emphasis. Christ is speaking generally, not specifically of a house He is familiar with. I found no indication that this should be a point of emphasis.

To apply the point of not hiding our light to our own day, there is only one light and it certainly must shine forth to the lost or they will not have opportunity. Oh yes, I can hear the clicking of the logical minds of all Calvinists as they chew up and spit out what has been said as Armenian bunk. However it is the Lord"s illustration not mine. Even if Maclaren is incorrect the truth is still there - one light of our God and it must shine forth or the lost will not hear.

As I sit at coffee in the fast food joints of our city I see so many trekking their way to where ever they go and so many look so sad - sad enough to have just lost their best friend. Our society is crammed with people who have no purpose, that have no reason to live, and that have no real desire to continue, yet they muddle along - why? Maybe it is their desire to know their creator, to know their potential as spiritual beings, and maybe to know the reality of what they see revealed in creation.

13. We usually dwell on the not hiding of the light or the diminishing of the light but we ought also dwell on the clarity of the light in a darkroom, the brightness of the light in a darkroom and the revealing nature of that light in a darkroom. This is the light that shines as a spotlight into the darkest recesses of a lost person. It is that which reveals just what that person really is - lost and without hope. Hide the light and that person will not know the darkness within. Hide the light and that person will not know what could be.

This light is the one pure and perfect light that God has revealed to us in our own lives, and has given us to share with others in their lives. There is another danger. Do not concentrate on the beauty of the light in your own life, and forget to allow others to see the light. Someone suggested that we often get caught up in the stained glass and its beauty but forget to enjoy the light that it allows to shine upon us. In other words do not get stuck in testimony mode - telling others of what the light did for you, but to tell them how it can do something for them.

While on the subject of light we might point out that the Word is not only a light unto the world but it is a light unto ourselves. It sheds forth into the dark corners of our own lives to reveal the sin and problems that reside there. If we are hiding the light under the bed it will give forth no light into our own lives and thus we will become as the lost as to this life.

It is within this context that MacLaren delcares in a better color than I "So, then, that being so He being our light, just because He fits our needs, answers our desires, satisfies our cravings, fills the clefts of our hearts, and brings the response to all the questions of our understandings - that being the case, if the lamp is lit and blazing on the lampstand, and you and I have eyes to behold it, let us take heed that we cultivate the single eye which apprehends Christ. Concentration of purpose simplicity and sincerity of aim, a heart centered upon Him, a mind drawn to contemplate unfalteringly and without distraction of crosslights His beauty, His supremacy, His completeness and a soul utterly devoted to Him - these are the conditions to which that light will ever manifest itself, and illumine the whole man."He continues his discussion with the other side of this idea. "But if we come with divided hearts with distracted aims, giving Him fragments of ourselves, and seeking Him by spasms and at intervals, and having a dozen other deities in our Pantheon, beside the calm form of the Christ of Nazareth, what wonder is there that we see in Him "no beauty that we should desire Him"? "Unite my heart to fear Thy name." Oh! if that were our prayer, and if the effort to secure its answer were honestly the effort of our lives, all His loveliness, His sweetness, His adaptation to our whole being, would manifest themselves to us. The eye must be "single," directed to Him, if the heart is to rejoice in His light."

Indeed is not the light of the world dependent on the light that is within us. If we aren"t brilliant ourselves, we cannot shine forth to enlighten others.

14. "And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:" I won"t make comment on the varied ideas of what "pillow" might mean. One suggests it was the seat in the back of the boat one said that it was padded and covered in leather, one suggested that He was laying in the bottom of the boat with his head on this seat. The point to me might run along the lines of the extreme exhaustion of the Lord as He took this brief break from ministry.

A couple of points come to the surface. One that the Lord was tired, that He slept and that He slept soundly. He indeed was truly human and indeed He truly faced the things that we face in our daily lives. He could overextend his physical being as we often do.

Second, I hear constantly of how overworked some pastors are. Recently I heard the wife of a pastor complaining of her husband"s schedule and fatigue. I was tempted to tell her to tell him to stop taking on things that did not concern him, but I refrained for the polite.

It is not wrong to get tired in the ministry, indeed it might be that we ought to be getting more tired in ministry for our people"s sake. Fatigue is not sin, it is the natural way of things when you are busy about the Lord"s work. It makes sleep so much sweeter so why do we avoid it as if it were a plague?

When you are weary of a heavy schedule remember the Lord catching a few winks in the bottom of a boat and remember how nice that soft bed of yours is going to be. He had little of the comfort that we have yet we complain so easily.

MacClaren calls noticed to the weary Lord finding what comfort he could in the situation. Years ago when in the Navy there was a time when I was the only experienced technician on the ship. We had 15 other techs, but they were all just out of school and could not accomplish anything on their own. They needed constant oversight that took me from what work I could accomplish.

The ship was in terrible shape electronically and I determined to correct the situation. I started working on equipment and did not stop until the entire ship was in top shape electronically. It took me a couple of days of around the clockwork but it was finally done. I sat down in a chair leaned it back against the bulkhead and slipped into lala land immediately. I didn"t look for a soft mattress, I didn"t look for a recliner, I just closed my weary eyes and was immediately where Ineeded to be.

Pastor, if you are tired, be thankful for that little respite that comes along now and then and do not concentrate on what you have not. Even the Lord found Himself fatigued from well doing can we do less?

We might also take note that Christ was so fatigued that the storm did not awaken Him. It was the apostles speaking and possibly shaking him physically that finally aroused Him to a conscious state. That would indicate the depth of the Lord"s fatigue. In recalling the ship incident we had an officer coming on board to inspect the ships electronics the morning that I collapsed into the chair. About fifteen minutes into my respite the man showed up and it took the fellows several minutes to bring me back to a conscious state. I could hear them calling and could feel the shaking, but I just could not crawl out of that deep hole of collapse. Finally it felt like my brain cells finally started coming to attention slowly and in a bit of a wave as reality started to overtake the fog.

This passage presents Christ as a servant of God toiling in the field. This is part of the reason most scholars view Mark"s purpose in writing to be to present Christ as the servant of God. MacLaren comments on this emphasis of Mark when he says "For instance, did you ever observe the peculiar beginning of this Gospel? There are here none of the references to the prophecies of the King, no tracing of His birth through the royal stock to the great progenitor of the nation, no adoration by the Eastern sages, which we find in Matthew, no miraculous birth nor growing childhood as in Luke, no profound unveiling of the union of the Word with God before the world was, as in John; but the narrative begins with His baptism, and passes at once to the story of His work. The same ruling idea accounts for the uniform omission of the title "Lord," which in Mark"s Gospel is never applied to Christ until after the resurrection. There is only one apparent exception, and there good authorities pronounce the word to be spurious Even in reports of conversations which are also given in the ether Gospels, and where "Lord" occurs, Mark, of set purpose, omits it, as if its presence would disturb the unity of the impression which he desires to leave. You will find the investigation of the omissions in this Gospel full of interest, and remarkably tending to confirm the accuracy of the view which regards it as the Gospel of the Servant."

Maclaren continues to lay out the physical strain that the Lord was under from Mark"s viewpoint. He was constantly on the move and there is the air of stress and hurry throughout the first three chapters.

For those that do not teach or preach I would explain that there is a heavy toll for the activity. Most when finished with such activity feel drained physically as well as mentally. I have taught two hours in some of my computer classes, and when finished feel as if I have put in a day of hard labor. If your pastor/teacher is not as responsive to you as you think they ought please cut them some slack and realize that they may be tired.

For those that do preach/teach please take solace in the matter that Christ Himself also felt your pain, indeed, maybe much more powerfully than you yet have.More importantly than "us" and fatigue, we probably ought to dwell on the reason that Christ submitted to the stresses that He went through. US. He did it all for us. He did nothing for glory, nothing for fame, and nothing for Himself, all for us. Too often we dwell on the cross for His suffering, and rightly so for His work in salvation, but there was much suffering long before the pain of the cross. We might do well to consider His lifestyle before we go into our usual pity parties about not being able to afford that big screen or SUV.

15. Now to the fear of these men. Some of them had been fishermen and had weathered such storms often in their lives, but this one must have been extremely severe for they feared for their lives. Their calling for the Lord may have related a little to the difference in their backgrounds. The fisherman apostles probably knew of their peril and they were doing all that they could to save themselves and then they see this dumb carpenter laying sound asleep. How dumb it that?" they might have wondered. Let"s get this guy up and get Him into this worry mode so that we can get out of our situation quicker.

You know the more you worry the better off you are - NOT. It has often been said that worry just must work because all those things we used to worry about didn"t come to pass - worry must work.

The key probably is not that worry helps, but that we always have God close by waiting for our call for assistance. Often we tend to just keep rowing our boat into the waves when we could call upon the one that can control the waves of life to give us an assist.

16. Mark alone tells us the words spoken by the Lord. "and said unto the sea, Peace, be still." Rather like a loving mother calming her baby that is crying as if the whole world were crashing down around her. Peace, be still. Almost as if the calming words of the creator were truly calming the created - indeed is this not exactly what it was?

Mark alone suggests that the Lord did not care of the impending dome. "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" Maybe we just have the more honest showing of feelings in young Mark as opposed to the more mature gospel writers, but at the minimum we have to see it as honest reporting of the facts as he saw them.

In my mind these two items indicate that Mark was reporting his gospel as something other than under the guiding hand of Peter as many suggest. Matthew was present for the event and he does not record these two items nor does John. If Peter were guiding the writing of Mark, I would think that the two comments would not have appeared.

17. We see the apostles fearing for their lives, and then they witness the calming of the sea. They are met with rebuke from the Lord "how is it that ye have no faith?" However I think this is a gentle prodding of the Lord for the men to consider just who they were the apostles of. Their reaction is "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

It is evident that they have no idea whose cloak they have tied their hopes to. They had followed Christ, maybe even thinking that He was their Messiah, but they had not caught the concept thatHe was also God.

Imagine the roller coaster that they were on. From elation of the crowds, to the relaxation of getting away from the crowds for a break, to fear of death, to excitement of their lives being spared to wondering about whom this man was that they had decided to follow.

So, many that are seeking eternal peace in our own day go through many emotions and mind games trying to figure out what the truth might be, the truth that will give them peace with God. At times God will put a person through trials and hard times to bring them to a realization that they are not capable of the eternal things on their own.

And the great thing about God"s work with mankind is that He has opted to include the likes of us to assist these lost folks through their quest for peace - if we will only take the time to do so.

Do not miss the clear contrast here. The apostles were going through hard times, but the Lord had also been through a rigorous time and was fatigued, even exhausted yet when He was awakened He did not rebuke them for their need, nor did He neglect their need. He ministered to them in the clear and concise way that was needed.

Pastors and teachers, when you feel you have been through the mill, when you feel you are about to collapse, when you cannot go further and the phone rings -Christ is our example. Did I have to say that? No, but it is quite really the truth and we ought to be willing to minister at any time there is a need.

When teaching I was up by 4:30 or so and in the office shortly after and seldom left the office before midnight and oft times 1 or 2. When the phone would ring and a pastor on the other end asked if I would fill the pulpit for him Sunday - you get the picture. Be ready to minister at any time for your Lord.

18. If this topic has arisen prior to this please overlook the second raising of the subject. The Jewish leaders were those that were to point man to God. Their responsibility was to teach about God, to assist the lay person to finding a relationship with Him. They were as stated, leaders, yet they threw their responsibilities out the window when the Lord started to point out their fallacies in thought and action.

So, today when someone dare question a pastor or teacher the leader is not open to consider the question, they are immediately on the defensive to protect their turf and buck. Heaven forbid they realize that someone else in this world with billions of people walking the surface of the earth might have a single thought that might be superior to theirs!

The Jewish leaders lost all concept of reality when they went off to plot the murder of Christ to protect their little power scheme of life. I have seen pastors/church leaders tear churches apart because "they know best" and the lay people "know little."I do not mean to say every pastor is power hungry, but there are many today that are swinging their power as if it were a club. I personally believe that much of the disenfranchisement that has gone on among Christians is from power hungry leaders that are going to have their way no matter who it hurts nor how divisive their wants might be.

There are so many that have left the church over the music that is being forced upon the church by many "hip" pastors that need it to fit their casual, laid back type of ministry. It just does not fit to have a man standing on the platform that looks as if he just stepped out of the garden to be leading songs about the majesty of God. Gotta have some singy songy stuff to make him fit into the church he is supposed to be leading.

Others have given up on church because of the heavy handedness of pastors in running their church under the assumed guise of being "God"s appointed." Even more crowds have left over the King James only furore that has become normal in many churches.

I have written to a person for a couple of years now and one day out of the clear blue he was totally, unequivocally and rabidly King James only. He had read a book that set his mind into a shoe box and set it on the shelf. He went from a totally logical, well thought out person to a radically non-thinking quoter of others. He made the comment that his was the only stand any "true believer" would take. I encouraged him to consider whether he really thought I was a lost person :-)

I do not believe that pastors today are as the Jewish leaders, plotting to kill the Lord, but it seems they have plotted the demise of many spiritual lives and churches. Yes, those believers walking away from the church are responsible as well, but just where do they find the fellowship and encouragement that the church is to give its members if they cannot find it in the body of believers that was once home to them?

19. The Life Application Bible observes that Christ was surrounded by all sorts of people. There were power hungry men plotting to kill Him, there were true believers, there were people following for the political Messiah they thought He was, and there were those just wanting healing or some other benefit. All sorts of needy people wanting a piece of Him for their own polluted reason - pastor, are you feeling a little of his pain today :-) Sounds like many of the churches of our day. People who come for every sort of reason, yet the pastor must lead each and every one to Christ for their particular answer.

Pastoring is not an easy life even though it is much easier for many than in years past. Pastoring is about leading and shepherding people. I once saw an interview of a modern day shepherd. The man was asked of his life among the sheep and he described his solitude and loneliness. Even as tears filled his eyes telling of the long lonely days and nights he was asked why he decided to take on such a life. His reply was simple, "Because the sheep needed a shepherd."

Pastor, consider well the Timothy passage when it says if a man DESIRES the office. If you are a pastor for any reason other than that you desire to be a shepherd you are probably in the wrong business. The sheep need a shepherd, not a power grubber, or an egomaniac.A fine line there is between the Jewish leader and the true leader of God"s children but it must be found and adhered to even in our modern age.

Recently a survey was released in America and there was a very close similarity to the groups of people just mentioned. There were the actively churched, the churched, the professors and the personal Christians. The later group being the believers that have been disgusted with the church its sin/compromise and have left it to find some semblance of their Christianity in their personal lives aside from the organized church.

Pastor - you have a big job ministering to such people with such a wide gap of stance. Just remember you are in good company, for He was faced with it long before you.

20. It might cross one"s mind after seeing these different accounts of Christ"s activities and teachings that the passage that mentions there are many other items of Christ"s teaching that are not recorded, just what was contained in some of that teaching. One must not speculate too far into this thought due to the fact that the Spirit of God inspired that which He intended for us to have. (John 21-25 "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." John 20:30-31 records "These stories used familiar scenes to explain spiritual truths. A parable compares something familiar to something unfamiliar. It compels listeners to discover truth, while at the same time conceals the truth from those too lazy or too stubborn to see it.")

One might just think and ponder what else might Christ have taught to the apostles that we do not have recorded. It could be surmised that most anything "good" would be something that Jesus would have taught, though if it were important it would have been included in the written record one should assume.

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Bibliographical Information
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Mark 4:1. 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.

You can easily picture that scene, — the Master sitting down in the vessel, with a little breathing space of water between himself and the crowd, and then the multitude on the rising bank, standing one above another, and all gazing upon the Teacher who sat down and taught them. It ought to reconcile any of you who have to stand in the crowd here when you remember that the hearers all stood in those days, and only the preacher sat down.

Mark 4:2-3. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

He did not go out to show himself, to let people see how dexterous he was at the art of sowing seed; but he “went out to sow.” And every true preacher should go out with this one design, — to scatter broadcast the good seed of the kingdom, and to try to obtain for it an entrance into the hearts of their hearers.

Mark 4:4. 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.

He could not help that; it was not his fault, but the fault of the way side and of the fowls. So, when the Word of God is denied entrance into men’s hearts, if it be faithfully preached, the preacher shall not be blamed by his Master; the fault shall lie between the hard heart that will not let the seed enter in and the devil who came and took it away.

Mark 4:5. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

Persons with shallow characters are often very quick in receiving religious impressions, but they also lose them just as quickly. Those who are hasty and impulsive are as easily turned the wrong way as the right way.

Mark 4:6-8. But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root,. it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 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.

Thank God for that! There were three failures, but there was one success; or, perhaps we might more correctly say, three successes. There were three sorts of ground that yielded nothing, but at last the sower came to a piece of soil that had been well prepared, and therefore was good ground, which yielded fruit, though the quantity varied even there: “some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.”

Mark 4:9. Had he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Some people have ears, but they have not “ears to hear.” They have ears, but they close them to that which they ought to hear. When a man is really willing to listen to the truth, then may God help him to listen with all his heart, and spiritually!

Mark 4:10-12. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 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: 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.

This judicial blindness had happened to the Jews; they had so long closed their eyes to the light that, at last, God closed them, and they were blinded. They had refused to heed so many messages sent to them from the great God that, at last, this sentence was pronounced as the punishment of their sin, — that they should die in their sins, and that even the preaching of the Word by the mouth of the Lord Jesus himself, should be of no use to them. That is one of the most awful judgments that can ever happen to anyone, when God puts a curse even on a man’s blessings; and when the gospel, which should be a savor of life unto life, becomes a savor of death unto death.

Mark 4:13. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

“For this is one of the simplest of them all; if you do not understand this parable, what will you understand?”

Mark 4:14-15. The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts,

There is always a bird where there is a seed lying on the road, and there is always a devil where there is a sermon heard, but not received into the heart. “Satan cometh immediately.” He is very prompt; we may delay, but the devil never does: “When they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.”

Mark 4:16-17. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it 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.

These are the people that trouble and grieve the hearts of earnest ministers; and there are some revivalists who never go to a place without getting quite a lot of persons to come forward and say that they are converted. Why, I know a town where, according to the accounts that were put forth by certain preachers, there were so many professed converts every night that all the people in the town must have been converted, and a good many more from the surrounding villages; but nobody can find them now. Were they converted, then? I trow not; but that is the style in which much has been done by some whom I might name. Yet there is some good even in their work. The sower in the parable is not blamed because his work was so evanescent; how could he prevent it? As the soil was so shallow, the apparent result was very quick, and the disappointment was equally quick. I do trust, dear friends, that you will never be satisfied with temporary godliness, with slight impressions, soon received and soon lost. Beware of that is not the work of the Holy Ghost. There must be a breaking up of the iron pan of the heart, there must be a tearing out of the rocks that underlie the soil; or else there will be no harvest unto God.

Mark 4:18-19. And these are they which are sown 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.

The seed cannot grow in such soil as that. The man is too busy, or he is wholly taken up with pleasure; the women are too proud of themselves, or even of the clothes that cover them. How can there be room for Christ in the inn when it is crowded with other guests?

Mark 4:20. 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.

All converts are not equally good. I am afraid that, in our churches, there is a large number of the thirty-fold people. We are glad to have them, but they are not very brilliant Christians. Oh, for some sixty-fold converts, —some who are fit to be very leaders in the Church of God! And when we get up to a hundred-fold, — when it is not merely one hundred percent, but one hundred gathered for every one sown, — then are we indeed rejoiced. When everything that is good is multiplied over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, a hundred for one, and when each one of that hundred bears another hundred, that is the blessing we long to see. This hundred-fold seed has in it the capacity for almost boundless multiplication; at the first sowing, we get a hundred-fold return; but what comes of the next sowing, and the next, and the next? God send us this style of wheat. May we have a great quantity of it!

Mark 4:21. 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?

So this wheat, then, is meant to be sown; the Word of God is intended to be spread. “Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed?” If it were put under a bed, it would set the bed on fire; and so, if you have true grace in your heart, there is nothing that can smother its light; the fire and the light together will force their way out.

Mark 4:22-23, For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Tell out, then, what God has told to you; and let everybody hear from you the truth as you yourself have heard it. See the compound interest that there is to be in this blessed trading for Christ.

Mark 4:24-25. 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. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

When the gospel is not received, when a man refuses it, it becomes a positive loss to him. There is a way by which it so works that, what a man thought he had, disappears. Some have been made worse by the preaching of that Word which ought to have made them better. May it not be so with any one of us!

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

The Biblical Illustrator

Mark 4:1-2

And He began again to teach by the seaside.

Christ teaching

I. The place where Christ taught.

1. By the seaside. Opposed to a prevailing notion. This example at present imitated.

2. In a ship. The spread of the gospel prefigured.

II. Those who formed His audience.

1. The general crowd.

2. The apostles and disciples.

III. The manner in which Christ taught.

1. He taught the multitudes in parables. Remarkable for simplicity when understood. Very apt and likely to be misunderstood.

2. He explained His parables to His disciples, but this was accompanied by reproof.

IV. The reason He taught the multitude in parables.

1. As a fulfilment of prophecy (Psalms 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35).

2. In consequence of the moral state of the Jewish nation (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15, and elsewhere).

3. Originally, and as quoted, describes a particular moral state, in which-The Word is not understood, not felt, does not convert, is not heard. This state is ascribed to themselves, to the prophet, to God (Matthew 13:14-15; Isaiah 6:9-10; John 12:40). Learn: That the ungodly see and hear without understanding; that in order that a people be left in darkness, it is not necessary that the gospel be removed; that when a faithful ministry is sent to a people, it is not always for their conversion; that the means of converting are also the means of hardening.

V. The reason Christ taught His disciples more directly.

1. A knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom was a gift to them.

2. Instruction was the mode of conveying it. (Expository Discourses.)

By parables.

The use and abuse of allegorical instruction

Lay down some rules to assist in the interpretation of parables.

1. The first and principal one I shall mention is, the carefully attending to the occasion of them. No one, for instance, can be at a loss to explain the parable of the prodigal son, who considers that our Lord had been discoursing with publicans and sinners, and that the proud and self-righteous Pharisees had taken offence at His conduct. With this key we are let into the true secret of this beautiful parable, and cannot mistake in our comment upon it. Understanding thus from the occasion of the parable what is the grand truth or duty meant to be inculcated.

2. Our attention should be steadily fixed to that object. If we suffer ourselves to be diverted from it by dwelling too minutely upon the circumstances of the parable, the end proposed by Him who spake it will be defeated, and the whole involved in obscurity. For it is much the same here as in considering a fine painting; a comprehensive view of the whole will have a happy and striking effect, but that effect will not be felt if the eye is held to detached parts of the picture without regarding the relation they bear to the rest. Were a man to spend a whole hour on the circumstances of the ring and the robe in the parable just referred to, or on the two mites in that of the good Samaritan, it is highly probable both he and his hearers by the time they got to the close of the discourse, would lose all idea of our Saviour’s more immediate intent in both those instructive parables.

3. That great caution should be observed in our reasoning from the parables to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 4:2". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Mark 4:1-2

And He began again to teach by the seaside.

Christ teaching

I. The place where Christ taught.

1. By the seaside. Opposed to a prevailing notion. This example at present imitated.

2. In a ship. The spread of the gospel prefigured.

II. Those who formed His audience.

1. The general crowd.

2. The apostles and disciples.

III. The manner in which Christ taught.

1. He taught the multitudes in parables. Remarkable for simplicity when understood. Very apt and likely to be misunderstood.

2. He explained His parables to His disciples, but this was accompanied by reproof.

IV. The reason He taught the multitude in parables.

1. As a fulfilment of prophecy (Psalms 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35).

2. In consequence of the moral state of the Jewish nation (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15, and elsewhere).

3. Originally, and as quoted, describes a particular moral state, in which-The Word is not understood, not felt, does not convert, is not heard. This state is ascribed to themselves, to the prophet, to God (Matthew 13:14-15; Isaiah 6:9-10; John 12:40). Learn: That the ungodly see and hear without understanding; that in order that a people be left in darkness, it is not necessary that the gospel be removed; that when a faithful ministry is sent to a people, it is not always for their conversion; that the means of converting are also the means of hardening.

V. The reason Christ taught His disciples more directly.

1. A knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom was a gift to them.

2. Instruction was the mode of conveying it. (Expository Discourses.)

By parables.

The use and abuse of allegorical instruction

Lay down some rules to assist in the interpretation of parables.

1. The first and principal one I shall mention is, the carefully attending to the occasion of them. No one, for instance, can be at a loss to explain the parable of the prodigal son, who considers that our Lord had been discoursing with publicans and sinners, and that the proud and self-righteous Pharisees had taken offence at His conduct. With this key we are let into the true secret of this beautiful parable, and cannot mistake in our comment upon it. Understanding thus from the occasion of the parable what is the grand truth or duty meant to be inculcated.

2. Our attention should be steadily fixed to that object. If we suffer ourselves to be diverted from it by dwelling too minutely upon the circumstances of the parable, the end proposed by Him who spake it will be defeated, and the whole involved in obscurity. For it is much the same here as in considering a fine painting; a comprehensive view of the whole will have a happy and striking effect, but that effect will not be felt if the eye is held to detached parts of the picture without regarding the relation they bear to the rest. Were a man to spend a whole hour on the circumstances of the ring and the robe in the parable just referred to, or on the two mites in that of the good Samaritan, it is highly probable both he and his hearers by the time they got to the close of the discourse, would lose all idea of our Saviour’s more immediate intent in both those instructive parables.

3. That great caution should be observed in our reasoning from the parables to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 4:2". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Chapter 4

CHAPTER 4:1-2, 10-13 (Mark 4:1-2; Mark 4:10-13)


"And again He began to teach by the sea side. And there is gathered unto Him a very great multitude, so that He entered into a boat, and sat in the sea; and all the multitude were by the sea on the land. And He taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in His teaching. . . .

"And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parables. And He said unto them, Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them. And He saith unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables?" Mark 4:1-2; Mark 4:10-13 (R.V.)

AS opposition deepened, and to a vulgar ambition, the temptation to retain disciples by all means would have become greater, Jesus began to teach in parables. We know that He had not hitherto done so, both by the surprise of the Twelve, and by the necessity which He found, of giving them a clue to the meaning of such teachings, and so to "all the parables." His own ought to have understood. But He was merciful to the weakness which confessed its failure and asked for instruction.

And yet He foresaw that they which were without would discern no spiritual meaning in such discourse. It was to have, at the same time, a revealing and a baffling effect, and therefore it was peculiarly suitable for the purposes of a Teacher watched by vindictive foes. Thus, when cross-examined about His authority by men who themselves professed to know not whence John's baptism was, He could refuse to be entrapped, and yet tell of One Who sent His own Son, His Beloved, to receive the fruit of the vineyard.

This diverse effect is derived from the very nature of the parables of Jesus. They are not, like some in the Old Testament, mere fables, in which things occur that never happen in real life. Jotham's trees seeking a king, are as incredible as Aesop's fox leaping for grapes. But Jesus never uttered a parable which was not true to nature, the kind of thing which one expects to happen. We cannot say that a rich man in hell actually spoke to Abraham in heaven. But if he could do so, of which we are not competent to judge, we can well believe that he would have spoken just what we read, and that his pathetic cry, "Father Abraham," would have been as gently answered, "Son, remember." There is no ferocity in the skies; neither has the lost soul become a fiend. Everything commends itself to our judgment. And therefore the story not only illustrates, but appeals, enforces, almost proves.

God in nature does not arrange that all seeds should grow: men have patience while the germ slowly fructifies, they know not how; in all things but religion such sacrifices are made, that the merchant sells all to buy one goodly pearl; an earthly father kisses his repentant prodigal; and even a Samaritan can be neighbor to a Jew in his extremity. So the world is constructed: such is even the fallen human heart. Is it not reasonable to believe that the same principles will extend farther; that as God governs the world of matter so He may govern the world of spirits, and that human helpfulness and clemency will not outrun the graces of the Giver of all good?

This is the famous argument from analogy, applied long before the time of Butler, to purposes farther-reaching than his. But there is this remarkable difference, that the analogy is never pressed, men are left to discover it for themselves, or at least, to ask for an explanation, because they are conscious of something beyond the tale, something spiritual, something which they fain would understand.

Now this difference is not a mannerism; it is intended. Butler pressed home his analogies because he was striving to silence gainsayers. His Lord and ours left men to discern or to be blind, because they had already opportunity to become His disciples if they would. The faithful among them ought to be conscious, or at least they should now become conscious, of the God of grace in the God of nature. To them the world should be eloquent of the Father's mind. They should indeed find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones. He spoke to the sensitive mind, which would understand Him, as a wife reads her husband's secret joys and sorrows by signs no stranger can understand. Even if she fails to comprehend, she knows there is something to ask about. And thus, when they were alone, the Twelve asked Him of the parables. When they were instructed, they gained not only the moral lesson, and the sweet pastoral narrative, the idyllic picture which conveyed it, but also the assurance imparted by recognizing the same mind of God which is revealed in His world, or justified by the best impulses of humanity. Therefore, no parable is sensational. It cannot root itself in the exceptional, the abnormal events on which men do not reckon, which come upon us with a shock. For we do not argue from these to daily life.

But while this mode of teaching was profitable to His disciples, and protected Him against His foes, it had formidable consequences for the frivolous empty followers after a sign. Because they were such they could only find frivolity and lightness in these stories; the deeper meaning lay farther below the surface than such eyes could pierce. Thus the light they had abused was taken from them. And Jesus explained to His disciples that, in acting thus, He pursued the fixed rule of God. The worst penalty of vice is that it loses the knowledge of virtue, and of levity that it cannot appreciate seriousness. He taught in parables, as Isaiah prophesied, "that seeing they may see, and not perceive, and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest haply they should turn again and it should be forgiven them." These last words prove how completely penal, how free from all caprice, was this terrible decision of our gentle Lord, that precautions must be taken against evasion of the consequences of crime. But it is a warning by no means unique. He said, "The things which make for thy peace . . . are hid from thine eyes" (Luke 19:42). And St. Paul said, "If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are perishing"; and still more to the point, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (2 Corinthians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 2:14). To this law Christ, in speaking by parables, was conscious that He conformed.

But now let it be observed how completely this mode of teaching suited our Lord's habit of mind. If men could finally rid themselves of His Divine claim, they would at once recognize the greatest of the sages; and they would also find in Him the sunniest, sweetest and most accurate discernment of nature, and its more quiet beauties, that ever became a vehicle for moral teaching. The sun and rain bestowed on the evil and the good, the fountain and the trees which regulate the waters and the fruit, the death of the seed by which it buys its increase, the provision for bird and blossom without anxiety of theirs, the preference for a lily over Solomon's gorgeous robes, the meaning of a red sky at sunrise and sunset, the hen gathering her chickens under her wing, the vine and its branches, the sheep and their shepherd, the lightning seen over all the sky, every one of these needed only to be re-set and it would have become a parable.

All the Gospels, including the fourth, are full of proofs of this rich and attractive endowment, this warm sympathy with nature; and this fact is among the evidences that they all drew the same character, and drew it faithfully.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Mark 4:2". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Fourfold Gospel

And he taught them many things in parables1, and said unto them in his teaching,

  1. And he taught them many things in parables. While Jesus had used parables before, this appears to be first occasion when he strung them together in 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.

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 4:2". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

The Gospels Compared

1God creates heaven and earth;
3the light;
6the firmament;
9separates the dry land;
14forms the sun, moon, and stars;
20fishes and fowls;
24cattle, wild beasts, and creeping things;
26creates man in his own image, blesses him;
29grants the fruits of the earth for food.
Copyright Statement
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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Mark 4:2". "The Gospels Compared". 2014.

The Pulpit Commentaries


Mark 4:1

And again he began to teach by the seaside. This return to the seaside is mentioned by St. Mark only. From this time our Lord's teaching began to be more public. The room and the little courtyard no longer sufficed for the multitudes that came to him. The Authorized Version says that "a great multitude was gathered unto him." The Greek adjective, according to the most approved reading, is πλεῖστος the superlative of πολὺς, and should be rendered "a very great" multitude. They bad probably been waiting for him in the neighborhood of Capernaum. He entered into a boat—probably the boat mentioned at Mark 3:9and sat in the sea, i.e. in the boat afloat on the water, so as to be relieved of the pressure of the vast multitude ( πλεῖστος ὄχλος) gathered on the shore.

Mark 4:2

He taught them many things in parables. This was a new system of teaching. For some months he had taught directly. But as he found that this direct teaching was met in some quarters with unbelief and scorn, he abandoned it for the less direct method of the parable. The parable ( παραβολή) is etymologically the setting forth of one thing by the side of another, so that the one may be compared with the other. The parable is the truth presented by a similitude. It differs from the proverb inasmuch as it is necessarily figurative. The proverb may be figurative, but it need not of necessity be figurative. The parable is often an expanded proverb, and the proverb a condensed parable. There is but one Hebrew word for the two English words "parable" and "proverb," which may account for their being frequently interchanged. The proverb (Latin) is a common sentiment generally accepted. The parable (Greek) is something put by the side of something else. Theologically, it is something in the world of nature which finds its counterpart in the world of spirit. The parable attracts attention, and so becomes valuable as a test of character. It reveals the seekers after truth, those who love the light. It withdraws the light from those who love darkness. And said unto them in his doctrine ( ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ); literally, in his teaching, namely, that particular mode of teaching which he bad just introduced; "he taught them" ( ἐδίδασκεν). He said, "in his teaching" ( ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ).

Mark 4:3-8

Hearken ( ακούετε). This word is introduced in St. Mark's narrative only; and it is very suitable to the warning at verse 9, "he hath ears to hear, let him hear. The sower went forth to sow. The scope of this beautiful parable is this: Christ teaches us that he is the Sower, that is, the great Preacher of the gospel among men.

1. But not all who hear the gospel believe it and receive it; just as some of the seed sown fell by the wayside, on the hard footpath, where it could not penetrate the ground, but lay upon the surface, and so was picked up by the birds.

2. Again, not all who hear and believe persevere in the faith; some fall away; like the seed sown on rocky ground, which springs up indeed, but for want of depth of soil puts forth no root, and is soon scorched by the rising sun, and, being without root, withers away.

3. But further, not all who show faith bring forth the fruit of good works; like the seed sown among the thorns, which, growing up together with it, choked it ( συνέπνιξαν αὐτὸ); such is the meaning. St. Luke has the words ( συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν), "the thorns grew up with it and choked it."

4. But, lastly, there are those who receive the gospel in the love of it, and bring forth fruit, not, however, in equal measures, but some thirtyfold, some sixty, some a hundred; and this on account of the greater influences of grace, or on account of the more ready co-operation of the free-will of man with the sovereign grace of God. The whole parable marks a gradation. In the first case the seed produces nothing; in the second it produces only the blade; in the third it is near the point of producing fruit, but fails to bring forth to perfection; in the fourth it yields fruit, but in different measures.

Mark 4:9

And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. St. Luke (Luke 8:8) bus a stronger word than ( ἔλεγεν) "he said." He (Luke 8:8) has ( ἐφώνει) "he cried." Our Lord uses this expression, "he that hath ears to hear," etc, when the subject-matter is figurative or obscure, as though to rouse the attention of his hearers. He has "ears to hear" who diligently attends to the words of Christ, that he may ponder and obey them. Many heard him out of curiosity, that they might bear something new, or learned, or brilliant; not that they might lay to heart the things which they heard, and endeavor to practice them in their lives. And so it is with those who go to hear sermons on account of the fame of the preacher, and not that they may learn to amend their lives; and thus the words of Jehovah to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:32) are fulfilled, "And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not."

Mark 4:10

When he was alone. These words do not appear in St. Matthew's account. He simply says that " the disciples came and said unto him." This must have been upon some other occasion. It could not have been when be was preaching from the boat; for St. Mark says, they that were about him with the twelve. He is the only evangelist who notices this. We must not forget that, besides the twelve, there were seventy other disciples. They asked of him the parables ( τὰς παραβολάς), according to the best reading. The inquiry was a general one, although St. Mark here gives the explanation of one only.

Mark 4:11, Mark 4:12

To know the mystery. The Greek verb γνῶναι, to know, is not found in the best manuscripts, in which the words are ( ὑμῖν τὸ μυστὴριον δέδοται), unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God. Our Lord here explains why he spake to the mixed multitude in parables; namely, because most of them were as yet incapable of receiving the gospel: some would not believe it, others reviled it. Therefore our Lord here encourages his own disciples to search out his words spoken in parables, and humbly to inquire into their full meaning, that so they might become able ministers and efficient preachers of the gospel. Moreover, by this he shows that this efficiency cannot be obtained by our own strength, but must be humbly sought for from God. For it is his own gift which he bestows on the disciples of Christ, and denies to others, whom he leaves to the blindness of their own hearts. It is as though he said, "To you, my disciples, my apostles, it is given, since you believe in me as the Messiah, to have continually more clear revelations from me of the mysteries of God and of heaven, by which you shall day by day increase in the knowledge and love of him. But from the scribes and others, because they will not believe in me as their own Messiah, God will take away even that small knowledge which they have of him and of his kingdom. Yea, he will deprive them of all the special privileges which they have hitherto possessed." But the words are not limited in their application to those who were living on the earth when Christ sojourned here. He says to all in every age who come within the reach of his gospel, "Those who come to me with a sincere heart and a simple desire to know the truth, as you, my apostles, are doing, to them I will reveal the mysteries of my kingdom, and I will help them onwards in the path of holiness, by which they may at length attain to the heavenly kingdom. But they who have not this pure desire of truth, but indulge their own lusts and errors, from them that little knowledge of God and of Divine things will by degrees be taken away, and they will become altogether blind." Observe the expression ( ἐκείνοις δὲ τοῖς ἔξω), but unto them that are without. There were then, just as there are now, those who were outside the realm of spiritual things; not caring for, not understanding, not desirous of spiritual truth. Lest at any time they should be converted ( μήποτε ἐπιστρέψωσι)—lest haply they should turn again (the verb is active) and their sins should be forgiven them. According to the best reading, τὰ ἁμαρτήματα is omitted; so it runs, and it should be forgiven them. The use of the active verb brings out the sinner's responsibility with respect to his own conversion.

Mark 4:13

Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables? that is, "How, then, can you expect to understand all parables, as they ought to do who are instructed unto the kingdom of heaven?" It is St. Mark alone who recalls and records these words. They are striking and vivid, as illustrating the condition of mind of the disciples at this time—slow of apprehension, and yet desirous to learn.

Mark 4:14

The sower soweth the word. St. Matthew (Matthew 13:19) calls it "the word of the kingdom"—an expression equivalent to "the gospel of the kingdom," not merely moral truth, but spiritual and eternal.

Mark 4:15

Straightway cometh Satan. St. Matthew (Matthew 13:19) says, "then cometh ( ὁ πονηρὸς) the evil one;" the same expression which our Lord uses in the Lord's Prayer, and which helps to justify the English rendering in the Revised Version there. As the seed failing by the wayside is refused by the hard and well-trodden ground, and so is readily picked up by the birds; in like manner, the seed of God's Word, falling upon a heart rendered callous by the custom of sinning, is straightway snatched away by "the evil one," urging the heart again to its accustomed sins. Well may we pray to be delivered from this "evil one."

Mark 4:16, Mark 4:17

And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground. This sentence would be better rendered, And these in like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky places, where the words "likewise," or "in like manner," mean "by a similar mode of interpretation." This is the second condition of soil on which the seed is sown—a better condition than the former; for the former plainly refused the seed, but this, having some soil layout. able to the germination of the seed, receives it, and the seed springs up, though but for a little while. So the rocky ground is like the heart of that hearer who hears the Word of God, and receives it with joy. He is delighted with its beauty, its justice, its purity; and he breaks forth with holy affections. But alas he has more of the rock than of the good soil in his heart. Hence the Word of God cannot strike a deep root into his soul. He is not constant in the faith. He endures but for a time, and in the hour of temptation he falls away.

Mark 4:18

And these are they which are sown among thorns. According to the best authorities, the words are ( καὶ ἄλλοι εἰσιν), and others are they, etc. This marks a considerable difference between the two classes. This is the third condition of soft; and it is so much better than the former, inasmuch as the thorns present less obstacles to the growth of the seed than the rocky ground does. This similitude indicates the heart of that hearer who is beset with the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things.

Mark 4:19

The cares of the world ( τοῦ αἰῶνος); literally, of the age; that is, temporal and secular cares, incident to the age in which our lot is cast, and which are common to all. These, like thorns, distress and trouble, and often wound the soul; while, on the other hand, the care of the soul and the thought of heavenly things compose and establish the mind. The deceitfulness of riches. Riches are aptly compared to thorns, because, like thorns, they pierce the soul. St. Paul (1 Timothy 6:10) speaks of some who, through the love of riches, "have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Riches are deceitful, because they often seduce the soul from God and from salvation, and are the cause of many sins. "How hardly," says our Lord, "shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of God I" They have a tendency to choke the Word of God, and to weaken the power of religion. "Those are the only true riches," says St. Gregory, "which make us rich in virtue."

Mark 4:20

Those are they that were sown upon the good ground. The good ground represents the heart which receives the Word of God with joy and desire, and true devotion of spirit, and which steadfastly retains it, whether in prosperity or in adversity; and so yields fruit, "sows thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold." St. Jerome remarks that, as of the bad ground there were three different kinds—the way, side, the rocky, and the thorny ground; so of the good ground there is a threefold gradation indicated in the amount of its productiveness. There are differences of conditions in the hearts both of those who believe and of these who do not believe.

Mark 4:21

Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, etc.? The Greek is ὁ λύχνος, and is better rendered the lamp. The figure is recorded by St. Matthew (Matthew 5:15) as used by our Lord in his sermon on the mount. It is evident that he repeated his sayings, and used them sometimes in a different connection. The lamp is here the light of Divine truth, shining in the person of Christ. Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel? It comes to us. The light in our souls is not of our own kindling; it comes to us from God, that we may manifest it for his glory. "The bushel" ( μόδιος), from the Latin medias, a measure containing flour, was the flour-bin, a part of the furniture of every house, as was the tall lampstand with its single light. St, Luke (Luke 8:16) calls it "a vessel" ( καλύπτει αὐτὸν σκεύει). The light is to be set on "a lamp-stand," and in like manner the light which we have received is to shine before men. As Christians, we are Christ's light-bearers. By this illustration our Lord teaches that he was unwilling that the mysteries of this great parable of the sower and of other parables should be concealed, but that his disciples should unfold these things to others as he had to them, although at present they might not be able to receive them.

Mark 4:22

For there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested. The Greek of the latter part of this sentence, according to the best authorities, runs thus: ἐὰν μὴ ἵνα φανερωθῇ; so the true rendering of the words is, there is nothing hid save that it should be manifested; that is, there is nothing now hid, but in order that it may be made known. There is a great principle of the Divine operations here announced by our Lord. Much, very much, is now hidden from us, in nature, in providence, and in grace. But it will not always be hidden. In natural things more and more is revealed as science advances, and in providence and in grace the mysteries of the kingdom will one day, and at the fitting time, be laid open to all. "What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light" (Matthew 10:27).

Mark 4:24

Take heed what ye hear. Attend, that is, to these words which ye hear from me, that ye may understand them, and commit them to memory, and so be able to communicate them effectually to others. Let none of my words escape you. Our Lord bids us to pay the greatest attention to his words, and so to digest them that we may be able to teach them to others. With what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you: and more shall be given unto you. Our Lord's meaning is clearly this: If you freely and plentifully communicate and preach my doctrine to others, you shall receive a corresponding reward. Nay, you shall have a return in far more abundant measure. For thus the fountains, the more water they pour out below, so much the more do they receive from above. Here, then, is great encouragement to all faithful teachers of the Word, of whatever kind; that by how much they give to others in teaching them, by so much the more shall they receive of wisdom and grace from Christ; according to those words of the apostle, "He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Mark 4:25

For he that hath, to him shall be given. He that uses his gifts, whether of intellect or of goodness, bestowed upon him by God, to him shall be granted an increase of those gifts. But from him who uses them not, God will gradually take them away. Christ here encourages his apostles and disciples to diligent and earnest preaching of his gospel, by promising them in return yet greater influxes of his wisdom and grace.

Mark 4:26-28

This parable is recorded by St. Mark alone. It differs greatly from the parable of the sower, although both of them are founded upon the imagery of the seed cast into the ground. In both cases the seed represents the doctrine of the gospel; the field represents the hearers; the harvest the end of the world, or perhaps the death of each individual hearer. So is the kingdom of God, in its progress from its establishment to its completion. The sower casts seed upon the earth, not without careful preparation of the soil, but without further sowing. And then he pursues his ordinary business. He sleeps by night; he rises by day; he has leisure for other employment; his work as a sower is finished. Meanwhile the seed germinates and grows by its own hidden virtues, assisted by the earth, the sun, and the air, the sower knowing nothing of the mysterious process. First comes the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Such is the preaching of the gospel. Here, therefore, the sower represents human responsibility in the work. The vitality of the seed is independent of his labour. The earth develops the plant from the seed by those natural but mysterious processes through which the Creator is ever working. So in spiritual things, the sower commences the work, and the grace of God perfects it in the heart which receives these influences. The earth beareth fruit of herself. In like manner, by degrees, the faith of Christ increases through the preaching of the gospel; and the Church grows and expands. And what is true of the Church collectively is true also of each individual member of the Church. For the heart of each faithful Christian produces first the blade, when it conceives good desires and begins to put them into action; then the ear, when it brings them to good effect; and lastly the full corn in the ear, when it brings them to their full maturity and perfection. Hence our Lord in this parable intimates that they who labour for the conversion of souls ought, with much patience, to wait for the fruit of 'their labour, as the husbandman waits with much patience for the precious fruits of the earth.

Mark 4:29

But when the fruit is ripe ( ὅταν δὲ παραδῷ ὁ καρπὸς). The verb here is active; it might be rendered delivereth up, or alloweth. It is a peculiar expression, though evidently meaning "when the fruit is ready." He putteth forth the sickle, because the harvest is come. As soon as Christ's work is completed, whether in the Church or in the individual, "immediately" the sickle is sent forth. As soon as a Christian is ready for heaven, God calls him away; and therefore we may infer that it is unwise, if not sinful, for a Christian, pressed it may be with sickness or trouble, to be eager in wishing to leave this world. "It is one thing to be willing to go when God pleases; it is another thing to speak as though we wished to hasten our departure." "When the fruit is ripe, immediately he putteth forth the sickle." If therefore, the sickle is not yet sent forth, it is because the fruit is not yet fully ripe. The afflictions of the faithful are God's means to ripen them for heaven. They are the dressing which the Lord of the vineyard employs to make the tree more fruitful, to make the Christian more fruitful in grace, and more ripe for glory.

Mark 4:30-32

Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it! In the first clause of this verse the best authorities give πῶς for τίνι, How shall we liken the kingdom of God? and in the second clause, instead of the Greek of which the Authorized Version is the rendering, the best-approved reading is ( τίνι αὐτὴν παραβολῇ θῶμεν), in what parable shall we set it forth? Our Lord thus stimulates the intellect of his hearers, by making them his associates, as it were, in the search for appropriate similitudes (see Dr. Morison, in loc.). The kingdom of God, that is, his Church on earth, is like a grain of mustard seed. By this image our Lord shows the great power, fertility, and extension of the Church; inasmuch as it started from a very small and apparently insignificant beginning, and spread itself over the whole world. It is not literally and absolutely true that the grain of mustard seed is less than all seeds. There are other seeds which are less than it. But the expression may readily be allowed when we compare the smallness of the seed with the greatness of the results produced by it. It is one of the least of all seeds. And so the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of the Church was one of the smallest of beginnings. Perhaps the well-known pungency of the seed of the mustard plant may suggest the quickening, stimulating power of the Gospel when it takes root in the heart. The mustard plant shoots out large branches, which are used as fuel in some countries, quite large enough for shadow for the birds. A traveler in South America says that it grows to so large a tree upon the slopes of the mountains of Chili that he could ride under its branches.

Mark 4:33, Mark 4:34

With many such parables; such, that is, as he had just been delivering—plain and simple illustrations which all might understand; not abstruse and difficult similitudes, but sufficiently plain for them to perceive that there was heavenly and Divine truth lying hidden beneath them, so that they might be drawn onwards through that which they did understand, to search into something hidden beneath it, which at present they did not know. But privately to his own disciples he expounded ( ἐπέλυε) all things. This word ( ἐπιλύω) occurs nowhere else in the Gospels. But it does occur in St. Peter's second Epistle (2 Peter 1:20), "No Scripture is of any private ( ἐπιλύσεως) exposition, or interpretation." This suggests a connection between St. Mark's Gospel and that Epistle, and may be accepted as an auxiliary evidence, however small, as to the genuineness of the Epistle.

Mark 4:35, Mark 4:36

And on that day,—the day, that is, on which the parables were delivered, at least those recorded by St. Mark—when even was come, he saith unto them, Let us go over unto the other side. And leaving the multitude, they take him with them, even as he was, in the boat. It was the boat from which he had been preaching. They made no special preparation. They did not land first to obtain provisions. It would have been inconvenient to go ashore in the midst of the crowd. They made at once, as he told them to do, for the other side. And other boats were with him. This is another interesting circumstance. Probably those who were in these boats had availed themselves of them to get nearer to the great Prophet, the boatmen themselves having seen the vast crowd that was gathered on the shore, and so having been attracted thither. Thus he had a large audience on the sea as well as on the land. And not it was so ordered that he was surrounded by a fleet and by a multitude of witnesses when he stilled the tempest.

Mark 4:37

And there arose a great storm of wind; literally, there ariseth ( γίνεται λαίλαψ). St. Mark often uses the historical present, which gives vigor and point to his narrative. And the waves beat into the boat, insomuch that the boat was now filling ( ἤδη γεμίζεσθαι). St. Matthew says (Matthew 8:24), "the boat was covered with the waves." St. Luke (Luke 8:23), "they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy." Bede and ethers have thought that the boat in which Christ was the only boat that was tossed by this storm; in order that Christ might show his power in limiting the area of the tempest. But it is far more probable that the ether boats were subject to it; for they were very near to the boat in which Christ was. There must have been some reason for the allusion to these boats; and the wider the reach of the tempest, the greater would appear the Divine power of Christ in stilling it, and the greater the amount of testimony to the reality of the miracle. The miracle was wrought to show his power over all creation, the sea as well as the dry land; and that they, his disciples, and all who were with him might believe in him as the Omnipotent God. But further, this tempest on the sea of Galilee was a type and symbol of the trials and temptations which should come on the Church. For the Church of God is as a ship in a storm, ever tossed upon "the waves of this troublesome world." And then, moreover, as the rude storm urges the ship onwards, so that it more quickly reaches the desired haven, so afflictions and temptations quicken Christ's disciples to the greater desire of holiness, by which they are borne onwards more speedily to "the haven where they would be."

Mark 4:38

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow; more literally, he himself was in the stern ( ἦν αὐτὸς ἐπὶ τῇ πρύμνῃ) asleep on the cushion ( ἐπὶ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον καθεύδων). He had changed his posture. He was weary with the labour of addressing the great multitude. He had sought the momentary rest which the crossing of the lake offered to him. He was resting his head upon the low bench which served both for a seat and for a pillow. But while he slept as man, he was watchful as God. "Behold, he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." Master, carest thou not that we perish? This question savours of impatience, if not of irreverence. Who so likely to have put it as St. Peter? Nor would he be likely afterwards to forget that he had put it. Hence, probably, its appearance in St. Mark's Gospel.

Mark 4:39

And he arose—literally, he awoke ( διεγερθεὶς)—and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still ( σιώπα πεφίμωσο); literally, Be silent! be muzzled! The Greek perfect implies that before the word was uttered, the thing was done by the simple fiat of his will preceding the word. The combined descriptions of the synoptists show that the storm was very violent, such as no human power could have composed or stilled. So that these words indicate the supreme authority of Christ as God, ruling the sea with his mighty power. Thus Christ shows himself to be God. In like manner, Christ is able to overrule and control the persecutions of the Church and the temptations of the soul. St. Augustine says that "when we allow temptations to overcome us, Christ sleeps in us. We forget Christ at such times. Let us, then, remember him. Let us awake him. He will speak. He will rebuke the tempest in the soul, and there will be a great calm." There was a great calm. For all creation perceives its Creator. He never speaks in vain. It is observable that, as in his miracles of healing, the subjects of them usually passed at once to perfect soundness, so here, there was no gradual subsiding of the storm, as in the ordinary operations of nature, but almost before the word had escaped his lips there was a perfect calm.

Mark 4:40

And he said unto them, Why are ye fearful! have ye not yet faith? Not πῶς οὐκ ἔχετε, but οὔπω ἔχετε. If they had faith, they would have known that, though asleep, he could preserve them.

Mark 4:41

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? This would seem to have been said by the sailors, though it was doubtless assented to by all.


Mark 4:1-20

Spiritual sowing.

It is a picturesque and memorable sight. Multitudes of people, of all classes and from every part of the land, have assembled on the western shore of the Galilean lake, where Jesus is daily occupied in teaching and in healing. To protect himself from the pressure of the crowd, and the better to command his audience, Jesus steps into a boat, and pushes off a few yards from the beach. There, with the fair landscape before him, corn-fields covering the slopes, the birds of the air above, winging their flight over the still waters,—the great Teacher addresses the people. His language is figurative, drawn from the processes of nature and the employments of husbandry, probably at the very moment apparent to his eye. How natural that, at this moment and in this scene, our Lord should introduce a new style of teaching, should enter upon a new phase of ministry! The parable, as a vehicle for spiritual truth, had indeed been employed by Jewish teachers and prophets; but it was our Lord himself who carried this style of spiritual instruction to perfection.

I. THE sower. Every man, and especially every teacher, is a sower—intellectual, moral, or both. Christ is emphatically the Sower. He was such in his ministry on earth; in his death, when the corn of wheat fell into the ground and died, he was both the Sower and the Seed; in the gospel dispensation he continues to be the Divine Sower. His apostles and all his ministers have been sowing through the long centuries, or rather he has been sowing by their hands. How wise, liberal, diligent, unwearied, is Christ in this beneficent work!

II. THE SEED. This is the Word of God. All truth is spiritual seed; the truth relating to God—his will and grace—is "the seed of the kingdom." Like the seed, the gospel is comparatively small and insignificant; it has within it inherent vitality, a living germ; it is seemingly thrown away and hidden; its nature is to grow and to increase and multiply; it is tender and depends upon the treatment it meets with whether it lives or dies.

III. THE sore. The human heart is adapted to receive and to cherish the spiritual seed. But as on the surface of the earth some ground is fertile and some is barren, some ground is adapted to one crop and other ground to a crop of different kind, so it is in the spiritual husbandry. Whilst all hearts are created to receive the heavenly seed, and only fulfill their end when they bear spiritual fruit, we cannot but recognize the marvellous diversity of soil into which the gospel is deposited. Yet we must not so interpret the parable as to countenance the doctrine of fatalism.

IV. THE sowing. Was the sower in the parable guided, in the manner and measure of his sowing, by the likelihood or otherwise that the land would prove fruitful? No; neither should the gospel sower reckon probabilities: his Master did not. The sower should be liberal and indiscriminate, should "sow beside all waters," should remember that he "knows not which shall prosper, this or that." It is for him to do his work diligently and faithfully, and leave results to God; e.g. the mother and the child, the teacher and the class, the master and the pupil or apprentice, the preacher and the congregation, the author and the reader.

V. THE GROWTH. This is not universal; for, as the parable reminds us, it comes to pass, both in the natural and the spiritual sowing, that in some cases the seed disappears and comes to nought. Yet the redemption of Christ proclaimed, and the grace of the Holy Spirit vouchsafed, co-operate oftentimes to most blessed results, even as in nature seed and soil, showers and sunshine, produce a vigorous growth.

VI. THE HARVEST. What is the end of sowing and tilling, of culture and toil? It is fruit. And, in the spiritual kingdom, what is the aim and recompense of the Divine and of all human sowers? It is fruit—of holiness, obedience, love, joy, peace, eternal life. It shall not be wanting. "My word shall not return unto me void;" "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy;" "They shall bring their sheaves with them;" it may be "after many days." There is a harvest in time, and a richer, riper harvest in eternity.


1. One of encouragement for all gospel sowers; they are doing the Master's work, they are following the Master's example, they are assured of the Master's support.

2. One of admonition to all to whom the Word is preached. Take heed what and how you hear. The seed is heavenly; is the soil kindly, prepared, grateful, fruitful?

Mark 4:4, Mark 4:15

The Word stolen from the heart.

Young preachers, in the strength of their convictions and the ardor of their benevolence, are often inspired with enthusiastic expectations concerning the results of the preaching of the gospel. It seems to them that the Word has only to be addressed to men's minds in order to meet with an eager, grateful, and immediate acceptance. As their experience enlarges, and as they learn in how many cases reason and conscience are silenced by the clamor of passion and interest, or disregarded through the power of sinful habit or the influence of sinful society, they turn to this parable, and learn how just was the view and how tempered the expectations of the Divine Teacher and Saviour, as to the acceptance with which his gospel should meet.


1. Wordly thoughts and cares preoccupy the mind, so that there is no response to the appeals of the gospel. When the attention is absorbed by things seen and temporal, spiritual realities appear imaginary and uninteresting. As there was no room for the babe Jesus at the inn, so the nature which welcomes every passing guest finds no place for the King and for his Word.

2. Sin shuts out the truth. There is no fellowship between light and darkness. The sinner's heart is closed against the heavenly rays. What preacher could not, from his own observation, offer many a living illustration of the saying, "Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil" ? To revert to the figure of the text, sin loved and unrepented of treads down the heart into a hard, impenetrable pathway, where no glebe breaks up, in frost, in shower, or in sunshine, to give a welcome, a home, a cradle, to the germ of spiritual life.

3. Familiarity with truth unheeded hardens any nature against the gospel. Who are the least hopeful in our congregations? Surely they are those who have, from habit or through influence, been attending the "means of grace" for many years, to whom every statement, every appeal, every remonstrance, every warning, is an old familiar sound, "a twice-told tale." The nature becomes not only indifferent, but callous; there is no real heed, no living susceptibility, no response of faith and joy.

II. THE ENEMY OF SOULS SNATCHES THE WORD FROM THE HARDENED HEART. The condition of the sinner's soul is such as offers to Satan an occasion for frustrating the benevolent designs of the Divine Sower. Had the seed fallen into good ground and been covered over, there would have been no invitation or opportunity for the birds to snatch it away. So it is only the worldly, sensual, or unbelieving nature that, so to speak, tempts the tempter himself. By the birds it is usually understood that the great Teacher intends to represent evil thoughts and imaginations and desires, such as possess the unspiritual and unthinking. How true to the life is this account! How many careless and unbelieving hearers of the gospel no sooner leave the church in which they have listened to the Word, than common, foolish, selfish, sinful thoughts take possession of their mind, and the Word is snatched away—is as though it had not been! The necessary result is that there is no fruit. How can there be fruit when the Word has not been mixed with faith in the heater's heart? "Do you take care that it falls not on, but in, your souls." "Break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord."

Mark 4:5, Mark 4:6, Mark 4:16, Mark 4:17

The Word starved in the heart.

The Christian preacher sometimes reason to exclaim, "Who hath believed our report?" But sometimes he has occasion to lament over those who apparently have believed but whose goodness proves, as time passes, "as the morning cloud and as the early dew, which goeth away." Our Lord warns us that we shall meet with such cases, which first excite hope and expectation, and then cloud the soul of the Christian labourer with disappointment and sorrow. Such are compared to the rocky soil, with just a scattering of earth upon the surface, where the seed may grow, but where it will never live to produce a crop.

I. GROWTH EXCITES HOPE. In the cases symbolized by this part of the parable there is much to please and encourage the inexperienced sower of the Divine Word. We observe:

1. Sensibility and susceptibility. How different from the wayside hearer is this! Here we behold the truth obtaining at once a lodgment and welcome in the heart. An impressible nature is affected by the glad tidings which Christ brings from heaven. The conscience is aroused, the judgment is convinced, the heart is captivated. The first contact of the truth with the soul is of the most hopeful character.

2. Gladness follows the reception of the Word; for this is an emotional nature, responsive to the joyful tidings. This is indeed what ought to be expected; yet its occurrence is so rare as to occasion surprise and enkindle the most glowing expectations. It is especially in times of "revival" that such instances abound. A general excitement heightens the emotion of joy which springs up in the heart of the impressible hearer; it is joy as of one who finds a great treasure.

3. Precocity of growth is the natural consequence. The soil is of a "forcing" character, and yields speedy and surprising, if temporary, results. Very different from the slow, steady, gradual growth, which is most, on the whole, to be desired, is the rapid development of the religious life in the superficial convert of the apparent "revival." Extreme views, extravagant expectations, thoughtless but ardent resolves,—all testify to the quick, unhealthy growth.


1. After a while a season of trial comes. Time tries all, and affliction and persecution arise. This is the providential appointment; it is discipline which Divine wisdom deems necessary. In the early days of Christianity this was a common test, and in some form and in some measure it continues and will long continue to be so.

2. Before the scorching sun the feeble growth is withered and destroyed. The furnace which refines the gold consumes the straw. The effect at first produced was owing to novelty, excitement, company, enthusiasm. Only the surface was reached, below was nothing. The transitory joy is followed by depression, carelessness, stolidity, obduracy. Perhaps there is a hope of the renewal of excitement, which never comes. It is seen that belief is not faith, feeling is not principle, joy is not life. To endure that test there is needed an inward, hidden life, hidden with Christ in God. There is needed a soil watered continually by heavenly dews and showers. "Blessed is he that endureth!"


1. Let sanguine preachers and teachers take a sober and scriptural view of their work, and guard against being misled by enthusiasm and extravagant expectations.

2. Let hearers of the gospel seek grace that the truth may not only touch but may penetrate their heart; let them seek the Holy Spirit's aid that they may hear the Word of God, and keep it!

Mark 4:7, Mark 4:18, Mark 4:19

The Word choked in the heart.

Thorns make a good hedge but a bad crop. The soil here described was in itself rich, good soil. But it could not grow both thorns and wheat, and, when occupied by the one, failed to yield the other.

I. WHAT ARE THE THORNS THAT OVERGROW THE SOIL? Thorns, thistles, brambles, briers, are signs of neglect. They are the emblems of the primeval curse, for the garden was by our first parents exchanged for the thorny wilderness. In our parable the thorns are explained to represent:

1. "The cares of this world." Cares, whether of State or business, of letters or science, of family or calling, may occupy the mind which has received the truth of God, to such an extent as to hinder that truth from growing up.

"Care, when it once hath entered in the breast,

Will have the whole possession ere it rest."

Cares are distractions, and, even when concerning lawful things, if unchecked, are detrimental and disastrous. This is the special temptation of the poor and hardworking. Well are we directed to be "careful for nothing," etc., and "to take no thought for the morrow," etc.

2. "The deceitfulness of riches" is depicted under the figure of the thorns. The possession of wealth may be a curse to the rich, and the search—the race—after riches may be a curse to the avaricious and worldly. The unwary are deceived; for riches promise what they cannot give, and they sometimes draw away the heart from the treasure in heaven, which alone can truly enrich and satisfy for ever. How many, trusting in riches, have failed of the kingdom!

3. "The lusts of other things" have much of mischief laid to their charge. Pleasure is a fair and fragrant flower, but it may hide a thorn. It may be manifestly sinful, it may be doubtful, it may be innocent but unduly absorbing,—and in any such case it may choke the Word. How many are the things which men put in the place of religion ! They are left unnamed, that we may supply them from our own knowledge of our own hearts and their manifold and varied snares. To desire aught earthly overmuch is to desire things heavenly too little.


1. By taking up the room which the Word requires. They occupy the short and fleeting period of time allotted for our probation. The leisure for pondering and practically obeying the truth never comes. Time flies: the soul dies. They absorb attention and engage the heart. The words of the world must be listened to, and Christ must wait until "a more convenient season"—which never comes. But if the world must have our ears, must claim our hands, Christ should have our heart. Alas! men plan and toil, prosper and grow rich, respected, powerful, famous; and in doing so neglect the Word. Little know they of the mind of Paul, "To me to live is Christ."

2. By counteracting the influence of the truth. In the former case (the rocky ground) it was persecution; in this case it is the allurements of the world which prove injurious to the soul. Cares and lusts are thorns which must be choked or they choke. So thorn and corn grow side by side with a fair show. But gradually the evil gains the victory, and goodness perishes. What experienced sower has not seen and mourned over the process? Warnings are in vain. The thorns grow apace; the soul becomes insensible to all the claims of Christ, to all the appeals of the gospel. So the Word is unfruitful as before.

"Stones mar the root;

Thorns spoil the fruit."

What poor produce there is comes to no maturity, no perfection. Labour is wasted, promise is blasted, hope is clouded, all is lost!

APPLICATION. None who receive the Word of life are free from the danger here described. Search and find out the hindrances to vigor and fruitfulness in the spiritual life. Root them all up, that the Word may live and grow and yield abundance. Look for fruit; God looks for it as the only proof of life. Else, when the Lord comes and finds no fruit, the thorns will indeed be burned, but the ground will be exposed as fruitless and worthless, and "nigh unto cursing."

Mark 4:8, Mark 4:20

The Word fruitful in the heart.

Most varied results attend the preaching of the gospel. Look at our Lord's own ministry. On the one hand, we are told, "He did there no mighty works because of their unbelief;" "yet they believed not upon him; 'and we find him exclaiming, "Woe unto you, cities!" etc. On the other hand, "the multitude heard him gladly;" of the Samaritans, "many more believed because of his word," and sometimes, in their eagerness, "they pressed upon him to hear," etc. Nor was this fact peculiar to Christ's ministry; the apostles confessed that they were to some a savor of life, to others of death; and the historian records, as a matter of fact, that "some believed, and some believed not." So is it with Christian preachers in every age; there are instances which rejoice and recompense them, and others which disappoint and depress them. The great Teacher foretells in this part of the parable that there shall ever be cases in which the Lord's Word "shall not return unto him void."

I. THE PREPARED SOIL. The good ground was in contrast with the several varieties of poor and bad soil. It was soft and yielding, as distinguished from the trodden earth of the wayside. It was deep, as distinguished from the shallow sprinkling of earth upon the rock beneath. It was clean as distinguished from the foul, weedy, thorny land. So with the honest and good heart, prepared by Divine influences and responsive to Divine culture and care. There is in this figurative language no countenance given to fatalism. We meet with good ground sometimes amongst those brought up in the Christian family and Church, as in Timothy; sometimes amongst those not specially privileged, but candid and guileless, as in Nathanael; sometimes even among the outwardly wicked, who yet may not be hardened, but may be ready to welcome deliverance from their evil ways, as in some of the publicans and sinners. Similar instances are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

II. THE VITAL PROCESS. In the other cases, the seed sooner or later perishes; in this case it lives. It is neither stolen, nor starved, nor choked. The reason is that the soil accepts and retains the seed. So with the heart that not only receives but holds fast the Word of life, that cherishes and matures it, that gives it a resting-place, and welcomes all heavenly influences which can quicken and strengthen and prosper it. That nature will develop into Divine life and immortal fruitfulness which ponders the truth of God, assimilates it, keeps for it the place of honor, pre-eminence, and power, gives it room and scope and play, watches over it and prays for its vitality, energy, and increase. In such a nature the seed germinates and lives and grows, for it finds there congenial soil and cordial welcome and sustenance. The power of this life is that of the Holy Spirit: "God giveth the increase."

III. THE FRUITFUL HARVEST. What is meant by "fruit" ? Spiritual result for spiritual toil and agency and culture. In the case of the sinner, the first and most welcome fruit is that of conversion unto God. But the rich fruits expected are these: obedience, righteousness, holiness, Christlikeness, consecration, self-denial, usefulness. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace," etc. Such fruit is the only proof of life and growth. "By their fruits ye shall know them;" i.e. by the quality, the flavour, and fragrance of the moral produce. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;" i.e. by abundance alone can the husbandman be satisfied and recompensed. The multiplication of the seed is one of the many points of resemblance between the physical and the spiritual life. Who has not seen a heart changed by one sermon, a life made anew by one utterance or by one lesson of Divine providence? Seemingly an insignificant seed, yet a crop of glorious ripeness and luxuriance. And as for variety, every congregation of Christians is a living witness to this. Either because the same opportunities have been, in some eases, more diligently used, or because different advantages have been employed with equal assiduity; it results that some yield fruit thirty, some sixty, and others a hundredfold.


1. The responsibility of hearing the Word. God provides the seed; but the preparation of the soil is largely in our hands.

2. The expectation of the Sower is great in proportion to the greatness of our advantages. Nothing less than much fruit can satisfy him from you.

Mark 4:10-13, Mark 4:21-25

The lamp of parabolic teaching.

Probably the opposition, malignity, and misrepresentation of the scribes and Pharisees were the occasion of the commencement by our Lord of a new style of public teaching. He did not wish at present to excite so much turmoil and violence as should lead to the interruption of his ministry. His design was to introduce into men's minds new ideas of the spiritual reign of God—ideas altogether in contradiction to their own carnal notions and hopes. He knew, however, the importance of considering the character and the mental position of the learner, in order that the mature might be thoroughly enlightened and instructed, in order that the immature might be encouraged to inquiry and to thought, in order that, for a season, the doctrine might remain concealed from the unspiritual and the unsympathetic.

I. THE LAMP OF DIVINE TEACHING IS INTENDED TO GIVE LIGHT. The Galilean cottage had its lampstand, its bed, its corn-measure; and every peasant could see the absurdity of first kindling the lamp and then hiding it under the meal-box or the couch. Let it be put upon the lofty stand, and it will give light to all. So when Christ came, the great Teacher, the great Saviour, he came a light into the world, to be the light, of men. His words, his character, his deeds, his whole life, were an illumination from heaven. When he taught he taught for all humanity and for all time.

II. THE PARABOLIC FORM OF TEACHING WAS NO EXCEPTION. The parable hid the truth, made a secret of it, enclosed it like a jewel in a casket. But it was never intended that the truth should remain concealed; the intention was that it should be manifested, that it should come to light (Mark 4:22). And, as a matter of fact, the figurative and pictorial form has served to display and illumine rather than to hide the great truths of Christianity. To how many simple, childlike minds have the parables of our Lord Jesus brought home lessons of wisdom, grace, hope, and consolation! And what materials for reflection, what profound spiritual help and illumination, have they afforded to the thoughtful student of the Word! And what themes for the teacher, the preacher, the expositor, have these parables ever been found! They are "a mystery;" but a mystery is a truth once hidden but now made clear and published abroad.

III. IN FACT, PARABOLIC TEACHING IS DARKNESS TO THE UNSPIRITUAL AND LIGHT TO THE SPIRITUAL. Like all good things, it may be used and it may be abused. When Christ speaks, there are those who do not perceive, who do not understand. Is this the fault of the Word? No, it is the fault of their own inattentive, unreceptive, unsympathizing nature. It is they, the hearers, who are to blame; not the truth which they will not appreciate (Mark 4:12). Yet are there those "who have ears to hear;" and these hear. To them the Word is as music, satisfying their souls, bringing to them the thoughts of the Divine mind, the love of the Divine heart, the secret of the Divine purposes. To them it is said, "Happy are your ears, for they hear!"

IV. CHRISTIANS LEARN THE MYSTERY THAT THEY MAY PUBLISH IT. Speaking especially to his apostles, but through them to all who receive the gospel, our Lord bids those who welcome and value the truth to proclaim it far and wide. It is light intended for the world's illumination; let it be set up on high, that all in this great dark house of humanity may see their way to God. It is meal for the hungering multitude; let it be dealt forth to every applicant with no sparing hand, no grudging heart. There is light enough for all who are in darkness; bread enough for all who are in danger of starving. It is the office of the members of Christ's Church to hold forth the light of life, to take of the food and, as it multiplies in their hands, to give to the vast multitude in the barren wilderness.


1. "Take heed what and how ye hear." It is unprofitable and wrong to offer a willing ear to every teacher, to all tidings. On the other hand, it is folly and sin to turn away from him who speaketh from heaven, or to listen to him with inattention, with unconcern, with unsympathizing, unbelieving hearts.

2. "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you." Be faithful, be diligent, fulfill your trust with zeal and wisdom, display benevolence towards the untaught and the unblessed, and you shall receive more—more of truth and more of spiritual enrichment and joy. On the other hand, the selfish, the unpitying, the unfaithful, shall gain nothing by spiritual niggardliness; from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

Mark 4:26-29

Spiritual growth.

There are common truths and a common interpretation underlying this and several other parables. In all this group the seed is the Word of God, the soil is the heart of man, the life is the spiritual history and development, the fruit is Christian character, and the harvest is eternal result and retribution. But the peculiar lesson of this parable is the nature of spiritual growth. It this case it is presumed that the seed is sown in good soil.

I. IT IS HIDDEN, AND CANNOT BE TRACED AND WATCHED. Until it is deposited in the ground, seed may be beheld and examined by the eye. But then it is covered up and concealed, and germinates and begins to grow beneath the surface. In like manner you may see the truth as written, you may hear it as spoken; but when once it gets into the heart, germinates, and goes to its work, the preacher and teacher fail to follow it, and altogether lose sight of it. In the silent soul the Divine seed works in secret, lives, strives, moves, grows. Probably those reared in Christian homes cannot recollect when the truth, quickened by the Spirit, first began to live in them. Certainly you can only very dimly follow the process of growth in others. Years pass; the youth grows into the man, goes about daily duty, takes nightly rest, and all the while the hidden seed is living and developing slowly or swiftly, but unperceived even by those who planted it. How little, in some instances, preachers and teachers and parents can follow the Word, as it does its work within the hearts of those for whom they care! Yet "the kingdom of God comes without observation." Convictions of their own spiritual nature and immortal destiny, of the character and government of God, of the love and reign of Christ, are all forming within, becoming part of the spiritual being. And the vital growth, though unperceived, is giving signs of its reality.

II. IT IS MYSTERIOUS AND NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD. The husbandman, the gardener, "knoweth not how." Even the scientific observer cannot explain the mystery of life and growth. There is no caprice; all is reason and law, yet the process baffles our understanding. So in the working of God's kingdom within, there is much that is mysterious. How can Divine truth, naturally so unpalatable, gain a hold upon the heart? How can it overmaster other principles so that it shall flourish as they fade? And, looking to the external, how can we account for it, that the kingdom of God, so unworldly, can advance to universal victory? The power of life must be that of the holy Spirit, acting like the sunlight and the genial warmth, the frequent showers and the morning dew. It is the Lord's doing, invisible, incomprehensible, admirable, adorable, Divine!

III. IT IS ACCORDING TO ITS OWN LAWS, NOT OURS. In dealing with vegetation, there is much which we can do if we work with nature. We can till the soil, expose the seed to moisture and warmth, protect it from unfavourable conditions. But we cannot work against laws of nature; we cannot make pebbles grow, acorns produce elm trees, or barley yield a crop of wheat; we cannot grow the produce of the tropics at the poles. Providence has imposed laws upon nature, and with regard to life some things are possible, and others impossible. So spiritual life follows laws which we cannot change, and much of our interference has no influence or but little. The seed grows "of itself," i.e. as God appoints for it. The truth of God is not trammelled by our notions or fancies; the Spirit of God is not hampered by our rules. Men prove their own pettiness when they attempt to prescribe how the Divine seed shall grow. The Giver of the seed and Lord of the harvest does his work in his own way and time. He carries on a heavenly process in the conscience and the heart, in the bosom of human society. Vain is our fancy that we can rule the life. "Paul plants, Apollos waters, and God gives the increase."

IV. THE PROCESS IS USUALLY GRADUAL AND PROGRESSIVE. There is a regular law of development, "first the blade," etc. We never get the fruit first, the blade last. Everything in its season. So in the spiritual kingdom of God. In the child or the young convert, we look first for signs of life—the blade which proves that the seed has germinated. By Christian nurture, scriptural instruction, and Divine discipline, gradual and sure progress is made. The promise is partly realized when the ear is formed; it is the time of vigor and manifest growth. Then with the long and profitable years comes the full corn—the ripeness of Christian knowledge, experience, and service. A few favorable years bring the seedling to the sapling, and the sapling to the stalwart tree; a few months cover the broad brown tilth with the golden shocks. So in the Church of Christ we see the gradual unfolding of character, the gentle ripening of experience, one stage of growth left behind in making way for that which succeeds.

V. THE HARVEST IS THE END AND THE RECOMPENSE OF ALL. If the growth is unobtrusive, the harvest is conspicuous. The secret working has prepared for the open result. Life ends in fruit. It is so in the spiritual field. When there is ripeness, then the time has come for the sickle to be put in. The harvest is gathered, and the garner of God is filled with golden grain. Fruit is yielded upon earth; and the richest crop is reaped hereafter.


1. The Christian sower and labourer may learn to think humbly of himself, highly of his work.

2. There is encouragement for the "babes in Christ;" their stage of experience is the necessary preparation for the more complete fulfillment of the high purposes of God.

3. The glory must be given to God when life is vigorous and when fruit is ripe.

Mark 4:30-32

The mustard seed.

The kingdom of God has its intension and its extension, its rule over the individual soul, and its sway over human society, its invisible work within and its manifest and mighty achievement without; it transforms character and it renews the world. Perhaps it is fair to regard the preceding parable of "the seed growing secretly" as a parable of the history of the Word in the heart; and this of the mustard seed as a parable of the fortunes and destiny of the Word in the world. Our attention is here directed to—

I. THE SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT BEGINNINGS OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM, The suggestions of nature here are many and striking. Not only does the tree begin with a seed, the eagle comes from an egg, the river is first a little rill, the fire is ignited by a spark, and every day, however gorgeous, begins with a faint and glimmering dawn.

1. The Lord Jesus himself, in his simplicity and humiliation, seemed most unlikely to be the Founder of the greatest of all kingdoms. "Despised and rejected of men," cast out, calumniated, and crucified, Jesus was as the grain of mustard seed.

2. The apostles of the Saviour were termed "ignorant and unlearned men," and were apparently little adapted to revolutionize the world. But in them God chose "the weak things of the world to confound the mighty."

3. The early Church may well have seemed to an observer to have had a poor prospect of growing into a world-embracing community. In many a thoughtful mind, only doubt and perplexity could arise as to "whereunto this thing should grow." Few, feeble, contemned, these little societies were, however, the earnest of a universal Church. It was then "the day of small things."

4. The very characteristics of Christianity gave little promise of the diffusion of this religion throughout the world. Its defiance of worldly principles and powers, its spirituality, its dependence upon unseen might, its warfare with prevailing error and sin,—all seemed prejudicial to its prospects of progress and victory.

II. THE SECRET OF THE PROGRESS OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. The figurative language of the parable suggests what this is. It is the supernatural life which inspires it. Life comes from life; and the Divine vitality and growth of the Christian Church is owing to the indwelling of a heavenly principle and force. A Divine Saviour, a Divine Spirit, a Divine Word,—these account for the fact that Christianity lives and grows, expands and conquers, day by day and year by year. These alone explain its resistance alike of force and of corruption, its endurance amidst all changes of civilization, its permanence when all things else fleet, vanish, disappear.

III. THE DESTINED MAJESTIC GROWTH OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. The Oriental mustard tree, with its large, strong branches, where the birds settle and eat the pungent seeds, beneath the shadow of which men rest, serves as an emblem of the vastness and capacious hospitality and ample provision of Christianity in its ultimate perfection. The records of our religion tell of noble character, of sublime heroism, of saintly devotion, of marvellous patience, of mature wisdom, of boundless benevolence. And all have sprung from that seed which fell into the ground and died eighteen centuries ago in Judaea. The progress of Christianity during the first centuries of persecution, its conquest of the barbarian conquerors, its purification under the Reformers, its modern missions to the East and to the South,—all prove its inherent vitality, and predict its ultimate universality of dominion. The predictions alike of the Old and New Testaments are glowing and inspiriting, yet, in our own days, even calm calculation will not deem their fulfillment improbable, whilst faith beholds them already realized. The "kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ."


1. The discouraged may learn here a lesson of patience. The growth of knowledge, virtue, and piety, may be slow, but it is sure. "The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit."

2. All labourers in Christ's cause may be of good cheer; for what has been beheld of progress is enough to inspire with confidence and animate to toil: "Your labour will not be in vain in the Lord."

Mark 4:35-41

The storm: the two questions.

The scene here depicted by the evangelist is an emblem of the condition, of the needs, of the fears, of the Church of Christ; and of the perpetual presence, the brotherly care, the Divine dignity, of the Lord. The disciples were on the Sea of Gennesaret; and we are upon the sea of life—of this uncertain world. They took Christ with them in the boat; and we have him with us alway. A storm arose and threatened their safety; and we, as long as we are here, are exposed to the tempests of trial, doubt, and danger. Jesus slept; and to us it sometimes seems as though he had forgotten and abandoned us. At the disciples' cry, Jesus arose and stilled the storm; and never can we call upon him without experiencing his friendly and effectual interposition. He reproached the faithless; and for us too he has often a word of expostulation. His authority impressed the disciples' minds with reverence; and never can we contemplate his character and his saving might without renewing our faith and adoration. There are two questions in the record which represent the two movements of the narrative.

I. THE QUESTION OF THE DISCIPLES, "HAST THOU NO CARE?" It was the cry of impulse, and a cry which has often sprung from the heart of the Lord's people in their griefs and dangers.

1. A cry of fear. Christians have the same natural passions as other men. In times of bodily danger, in scenes of public commotion and disaster, in circumstances of threatening and suffering to the Church, the fears of Christ's people have often been awakened. "We perish!" "Carest thou not? "Save us!" Such are the exclamations uttered by imperilled, anxious, and terrified souls.

2. A cry, evincing seine faith. If the disciples had been altogether without faith, they would not have appealed to Jesus, they would not have called him "Master!" they would not have entreated him to save them. So, when in our distress we call upon the Lord that he will deliver us, we prove that we have some faith in him whose help we seek.

3. A cry, however, evincing defect of faith. If the disciples' faith in their Master had been perfect, they would not have given way to panic, and they would not have been rebuked. Our attitude of spirit often proves the deficiency and imperfection of our confidence in our Lord. There was want of faith in his knowledge. Did he not, though sleeping, understand their danger and their need? A want of faith in his interest and care. He did care; and they ought, even in such circumstances, to have felt assured of this. A want of faith in his habitual rule. Though slumbering, he was nature's Lord. And how often are we, Christ's people, guilty of overlooking, in our distresses, the acquaintance of Jesus with our case, the power of Jesus over our foes, the love of Jesus for our souls!

II. THE QUESTION OF THE CHRIST, "HAVE YE NO FAITH?" Well might Jesus appeal thus to his disciples. Often had they experienced his power. Always had he justified their confidence. Never had he forgotten or forsaken them. How justly may our Lord address a similar expostulation to us when we are ready to abandon ourselves to sorrow and to despair!

1. No faith, when there is such an Object of faith? Christ has shown himself by his character and his work, to be deserving of all faith; and when we have least confidence in ourselves or our fellow-men we may well have all confidence in him.

2. No faith when in human life there is so much need of faith? From danger, temptation, sorrow, sin, there is no exemption. If we throw up faith in Christ, we throw up all.

3. No faith, when we have so many examples and instances to justify faith? Refer to Old Testament history in the light of Hebrews 11:1-40; refer to the Gospel narratives of the centurion, of the Canaanite woman, etc.; refer to the instances of our Lord's gracious reply to the appeal and prayer of faith;—and ask if there is any excuse for withholding faith.

4. No faith, when absence of faith must leave the heart desolate and helpless? What do you lose and forfeit if you are without confidence in Christ? Peace of mind, strength for life's conflicts, hope in suffering and in age and in death. Can we forego all these?

5. No faith, when there is such express encouragement to trust in Christ? He himself invites our confidence: "Believe in me;" "Be not faithless, but believing;" "Have ye not yet faith?"


1. Let the unbelieving repent of their unbelief, and look unto and call upon Jesus; that henceforth, knowing his grace, they may surely trust in him.

2. Let the doubting Christian be encouraged to put away his fears, and to pray, "Lord, increase our faith!"

3. Let the believing Christian remember that Christ's people can never perish.

"With Christ in the vessel,

I smile at the storm."

4. Let all who experience the Saviour's delivering power and grace unite in adoring him and witnessing to him: "What manner of man is this?"


Mark 4:1, Mark 4:2

The nature-preaching of Christ.

I. CIRCUMSTANCES OCCASIONING IT. The order of Matthew and Mark preferable and explanatory. Various considerations led him to adopt this method of teaching.

1. A reasonable prudence. His enemies were busy, and scarcely suffered a single opportunity to pass without spying or planning means by which to destroy him. Out of doors he would be able to keep the crowd at a greater remove, and so hostile listeners would be under better observation.

2. Sympathy for those who were "without." In the small country cottages, where for the most part he resided, there was no accommodation for the numbers that thronged to his ministry. Stifling heat and inconvenient jostling would ill accord with the dignity of his message. Multitudes were unable to hear or see him, and he had compassion on their souls. A different class of people, too, might be reached by this new method.

3. The charm of nature. There are abundant evidences of Christ's poetic and artistic sense of nature. He would be drawn forth from the heat and squalor of the small cottage to the spaciousness, grandeur, and ever-varying phenomena of the outside world. It was his own world. He was present when "the morning stars sang together" at its birth, "and without him was not anything made that was made."


1. It linked the ideas of the spiritual world with the real world of every-day experience.

2. By its associating the common life of men with the Divine and eternal, the former was refined and elevated. The many were thus addressed, and a certain general benefit received by them.

3. The inner meaning of such teaching could only be discerned by the spiritual and devout, and thus his safety was secured. His enemies were baffled and kept in ignorance.

4. This teaching was attractive to all.


1. That it was coextensive with the universe.

2. That the heavenly element is to penetrate and include the earthly element in God's world.

3. That the senses, if rightly used, are aids to the spirit.—M.

Mark 4:3-9; 18-23

The parable of the sower.

The kingdom of God as—

I. A PRINCIPLE OF LIFE. Outwardly insignificant; exposed to the uncertainties of human agency and the vicissitudes of circumstance; yet embodying vital force, and capable under suitable conditions of producing its kind. Ever commencing anew, in germ and vital unit. A result as well as a cause, even as the seed is a fruit in the first instance. Requiring everything external of itself that is necessary to its being deposited in the minds of men to be done for it; yet containing an independent, original power of its own, viz. reproduction.

II. A PROCESS OF GROWTH. Dependent upon:

1. Manner of its reception;

2. Character of the hearer, i.e. whether deep or shallow, thorough or otherwise, like the soil;

3. Place which it holds in human regard—whether considered as the chief or only as a subordinate interest in life;

4. Time,—this in all cases.

III. A CONDITION OF FRUITFULNESS. The soul, just like the ground, if left alone, will be barren or overgrown with weeds. It must be tilled, sown, and tended. Sometimes these duties are divided, sometimes combined, but all are necessary.

1. All true believers are not alike fruitful. This is analogous to material and mental culture.

2. It is enough if each brings forth according to capacity and ability.

3. all cases there is compensating power of increase in the Word, beyond the natural qualities and powers of the believer, although a certain relation is always observed to the proportion of faith and diligence. The blessing of God is especially manifest in the fruits of the Word.—M.

Mark 4:3-9; 18-23

The parable of the sower.

As illustrating the purpose of God in his Word.





Mark 4:3-9; 18-23

The parable of the sower.

As exhibiting the kingdom of God—




Mark 4:3, Mark 4:9

Christ's claim upon the attention of men.

"Hearken!" "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear!" A frequent peculiarity in Christ's speech. It is well to note when he uses it. It is the whisper of Christ. John seems to have caught and represented this manner of the Master most closely.


1. Affecting the personal interest of every one. Happiness or misery, life or death.

2. Determining the character of every one.

3. The condescension and compassion of infinite love.


1. They appeal to the least-developed side of human nature.

2. They have little or no immediate earthly interest to commend them.

3. They have commoner and more latent meanings, and the latter may not be apprehended.

4. They have many counterfeits. "Lo here! Lo there!"

5. The earthly life of men is full of distractions.

III. THE RESPONSIBILITY ATTACHING TO THEM. This remains with the hearer, and he cannot free himself. The language of Scripture and the deepest experiences of human nature alike assure us of this.

1. God has given all men power to understand and receive his gospel. That is, of course, provided they have not lost their reason.

2. Personal moral effort is required with respect to them.

Mark 4:11

The reward of discipleship.

The sense of the word "mystery." Eleusinian and other heathen mysteries. Something previously hidden, but revealed in the gospel; or rather, something hidden from certain conditions of the moral nature of man, but revealed to other conditions.

I. IT AGREES WITH THE MANIFEST END OF DISCIPLESHIP. The learner seeks for knowledge. The disciple of any master desires to receive his special doctrine or discovery. It is the highest, the esoteric, teaching that is here promised. There are to be no secrets or reserves between the Master and his disciples. Revelation not the mere anticipation of experience, but its determining influence and its consummation.

II. IT IS BEYOND THE COMPASS OF UNAIDED HUMAN FACULTY. Christ said," To you it is given." They were not to discover it of themselves.

1. The noblest saints who had preceded them were not able to understand (1 Peter 1:10-12).

2. The wisdom of man could not discover them. "Eye hath not seen," etc. (1 Corinthians 2:8-10; cf. Ephesians 1:15-23; Colossians 1:9, seq.).

III. IT IS A DIVINE GRACE FOR MORAL PURPOSES. This appears from the negatives of Verse 12. To produce:

1. Repentance and faith.

2. Sympathy with Christ in his aims, works, and sufferings.

3. Triumphant superiority to the evil circumstance of the world.—M.

Mark 4:13

From one learn all.


1. Limitation of human powers.

2. Obscurity, complexity, and occasional discontinuity and non-uniformity of nature and human life.


1. Not because the forms and successive stooges of the truth are mere repetitions of one another.

2. But they are all centred and interpreted in one Person.

3. They all require the exercise of the same spiritual faculty.—M.

Mark 4:21, Mark 4:22

Revelation and not concealment the final purpose of the truth.


1. Its very nature. That which reveals (e.g. light) is not to be itself hidden. Its whole tendency is and has been towards greater manifestation. Each revelation of God has been grandee than that which preceded.

2. Its central significance in the Divine economy. It has evidently a practical relation to the whole, just as "the lamp" had to the peasant's room, as the general means of illumination. Everything in the world, in human lives, and in the constitution of the human soul answers to its interpreting light, which is the only true light by which they can be understood.

3. The existence in man of a faculty for its discernment. This may have been overlaid or perverted; but it really exists, and will answer to the believing effort to exercise it. It is Satan, not God, who has blinded the minds of those who are lost.


1. The fearful wickedness of the contemporaries of Jesus. A last time with reference to many preceding stages of darkening spiritual consciousness.

2. The revelation of that wickedness in convicting it of ignorance of Divine things.

3. The preservation of the Personal Truth in human/Grin until his manifestation should be complete.—M.

Mark 4:24, Mark 4:25

"Measure for measure;" or, the law of equity in its relation to Divine knowledge.

A wider law (Matthew 7:2) with special application to spiritual learning. One of the phases of the exactitude of relation between God and man, which yet admits of grace and blessing.

I. THE WORD OF GOD MUST BE RIGHTLY ATTENDED TO IN ORDER TO ITS BEING UNDERSTOOD. There is no process of mere mechanical transfer of truth into the nature of man. Experience and progress in truth are subject to the conditions of all intellectual inquiry, and also to special moral ones.


1. It is to the use of faculties, and not to their mere possession, the reward attaches.

2. The communication of truth is therefore a spiritual discipline. "Quicquid recipitur, recipitur ad modum recipientis." Obedience is the gateway of knowledge. "Holding the truth in unrighteousness," we shall sooner or later lose it; holding it "in a pure conscience" and a willing spirit, we shall advance to the fullness of truth.—M.

Mark 4:26-29

The seed cast upon the earth; or, the self-development of truth in the heart of man.

I. THERE IS A PRE-ESTABLISHED HARMONY BETWEEN THE TRUTH AND HUMAN NATURE. The seed left in the soil germinates because of the mutual adaptation; so the Word of God.

II. THE WORD OF THE KINGDOM HAS AN INNATE POWER OF DEVELOPMENT. Under the appointed conditions it is bound to grow.


1. It is left to the law of gradualness. First "the blade," etc.

2. It is taken account of and judged in its final result.—M.

Mark 4:26-29

Man used and then dispensed with.

I. WHAT GOD DOES BY AND THROUGH HIS SERVANTS. The mere sowing of the seed.

1. Receiving the seed for one's self.

2. Imparting it vitally to other minds.

II. WHAT GOD DOES WITHOUT HIS SERVANTS. The pre-existence and independent growth of the seed a great mystery. Its hidden processes provocative of spiritual discipline to the sower. In God's hand and the womb of time (Psalms 65:1-13.). Committing it thereto, and leaving it there, a proof and exercise of faith.


1. The harvest a living growth, not a dead, mechanical effect; manifold in its producing, modifying, and enriching causes, one in result.

2. Judgment on sower and sown alike. It is in the final product that the evidence as to faithfulness, obedience, and diligence is found.—M.

Mark 4:30, Mark 4:31

"Whereunto shall we liken it?"

An invitation to mutual effort of spiritual thought and imagination. An instance of sympathetic condescension.


II. SOME ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS. Either absolutely or relatively to present circumstances.



Mark 4:34

"Without a parable spake he not unto them."

To be understood of Christ's general habit or manner of teaching. It was specially characteristic of him after it became evident that the Pharisees were seeking an occasion for his destruction. This practice proved—


1. When prevented from using direct statements, he adopted an indirect mode of expression. The truth was not stifled, it only assumed another form. There was not the least sign of labour or effort in making this transition. He played upon the varying moods and appearances of nature as a skilled musician upon his instrument, so as not only to discourse sweet sounds, but to suggest Divine ideas and principles. His supplies of spiritual truth must have been as inexhaustible as nature itself. He must have had many modes and degrees of expression in which to clothe the same truth. Restriction of speech in one direction only developed a larger liberty in another.

2. In order to this his perception of truth must have been of a very deep and vital nature. His parables were not only facile, they were felicitous. In them truth lived and breathed. It is not as more or less distant analogies one reads them, but as one might look at the naked truth itself. How instinctively must he have discerned the Divine side of things! And there is in his figurative teaching an unassuming originality, a vigor and vividness that could spring from nothing less than inward understanding of spiritual principles—a practical, sympathetic familiarity with them in their root and essence. The author of such similitudes cannot be conceived of as standing apart from Divine truth, but as one with it; therefore the conclusion, "I am the Truth," is inevitable.

II. HIS DIDACTIC SKILL. The parables are beautiful, but it is not as creations of artistic genius that they chiefly impress us. Jesus was not the slave of his imagination. A careful adaptation of means to ends is perceptible in all his utterances. You feel he did not want to paint a beautiful picture, but simply to tell the truth. The latter was thus rendered:

III. HIS PRACTICAL MORAL PURPOSE. By his parables our Lord:

1. Demonstrated the unity of creation. The words and works of God were one in their meaning and message. A multitude of phenomena so varied and different, yet so mutually suggestive and harmoniously concurrent in testimony, could not be a soulless medley or a resultant of blind forces; it must be a system throughout, informed and controlled by one governing mind, and moving onward to a worthy if at present inadequately apprehended end.

2. Redeemed nature and human life from base associations. "In everything there was discernible the idea;" the humblest thing was suggestive, if rightly interrogated, of the Divine. Henceforth nothing was to be considered "common or unclean."

3. Rendered human experience a Divine discipline. Every-day events and circumstances were charged with spiritual lessons, and revealed as "working together for good to them that love God."—M.

Mark 4:30-32

The grain of mustard seed; or, the growth of the kingdom of God relatively to its beginnings.

I. THE BEGINNINGS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AS COMPARED WITH THOSE OF OTHER INFLUENCES AFFECTING THE WORLD'S LIFE, ARE VERY SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT. A parable and a prophecy. Two plants, either of which might have been referred to by Christ—Sinapis Orientalis, a garden herb, bushy in habit, with black or white seeds, from four to six in a pod; or the Salvadora Persica, commonly known as the tree mustard; the latter the most likely. The comparison expressed in the phrase, "the least of all seeds," is a free one, and not to be understood absolutely. How minute and obscure have been the first origins of Christianity! The Incarnation; the upper room at Jerusalem. The first throb of repentance; the dawning power to resist temptation; the first acts of faith and charity; the first words of invitation and appeal. As a seed, it has been for the most part hidden; as a plant, it has seemed in its first upspringing like the herbs. This is true of

(1) the understanding of the kingdom of God;

1. It contrasts in this respect with powers founded on force, material advantages, prestige, or accidental circumstances. Political empire; military aggrandizement; advance of mechanical arts and material improvements.

2. In this respect it resembles but far exceeds the mortal and intellectual movements that have marked the progress of the world: philosophies, civilization, the sentiment of humanity, growth of science, etc.


1. It grows according to its own law, yet imperceptibly. As the bud into the rose, the village into the city.

2. It becomes comprehensive. Other forces and vital principles are revealed as in relation to it and ultimately included.

3. Its increase is in the direction of beneficence and universal blessing. The truth of the epithet, "Mother Church." All the best interests of humanity are included and protected. It saves and ennobles whatever it affiliates.

4. This is due to its own inherent genius; not an accident. Circumstances have not favored Christianity, but it has grown in spite of opposition, and converted obstacles into auxiliaries, enemies into friends. It is an absolutely central, and therefore the only truly universal, principle.—M.

Mark 4:33, Mark 4:34

The parable an instrument of mercy and judgment.


1. As concealing more than it revealed to the popular mind.

2. As convicting men of sinful ignorance and spiritual incapacity.


1. The Word of God was not wholly withdrawn.

2. This, the only practicable form of teaching that remained to Christ, was used with constant regard to the benefit of the hearers.

3. The desire for Divine knowledge was thereby stimulated.

4. Further instruction was ever attainable by sincere inquirers.—M.

Mark 4:35-41

Christ and his disciples in the storm.

The service of Christ—



1. Left to the realization of imminent destruction.

2. Discovering the weakness of the carnal nature.

3. Affording opportunity for the moral teaching of the Master.

IV. A REVELATION OF THE DIGNITY AND POWER OF CHRIST. "This is the first of a second group of miracles. Those before mentioned are cures of bodily disease. These are deliverances from other adverse influences—the elements of nature, evil spirits, End the sins of men. Christ has authority also over these" (Godwin, on Matthew 8:23). "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" The great inference: Although indefinite, yet practically a complete demonstration of Christ's Godhood.—M.

Mark 4:35-41

The Church in the world.

Communion with Christ in—





Mark 4:37-39

The Christian's extremity Christ's opportunity.


1. Outward losses troubles Persecution in its various phases and degrees. The major calamities of life. Everything seems against him, and he is continually disappointed; yet the objects sought are reasonable and proper.

2. Inward griefs and fears. Self-questionings as to being in a state of grace; as to whether or not God's favor has been turned away doubts; prevailing sins.

II. IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES ORDINARY MEANS OF DELIVERANCE ARE OF SO AVAIL. The ordinances of the Church fail to comfort or strengthen. Work for Christ becomes distasteful and mechanical. Prayer itself appears to be unanswered, etc.


1. To correct and strengthen character. Besetting weakness is discovered; defective principles of belief are exposed; the backward graces of the Spirit are stimulated; the whole nature is roused to keener sensitiveness, and awakened to the solemn responsibility and greatness of the Divine life.

2. A more signal and immediate manifestation of God is vouchsafed.

Mark 4:38, Mark 4:40

Human and Divine remonstrances.

Christ and his disciples chide one another, yet gently and affectionately. Representative positions—




Mark 4:1

Divine teaching from the fisherman's boat.

Matthew gives us, in the thirteenth chapter of his Gospel, a series of seven parables, which correspond with the three which Mark records here. They all illustrate the nature and the progress of the kingdom of God which Christ sought to establish. The parable of the sower describes the founding of the kingdom, and the various difficulties with which it would meet; the parable of the seed growing secretly teaches us that its progress would be natural, unostentatious, and certain; while the parable of the mustard seed declares that in its final consummation it would have wide-reaching influence. The second of these is peculiar to Mark. We propose to consider, not the parables themselves, but the circumstances under which they were uttered, which also suggest and illustrate truths concerning the kingdom. Our Lord's teaching from the fisherman's boat suggests the following thoughts:—

I. THAT HOSTILITY MAY CHANGE OUR METHOD, BUT MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO PREVENT OUR WORK. The Pharisees had become openly antagonistic to our Lord. Their spies followed him everywhere. Their controversial champions argued with him and misrepresented him in the synagogues. This hostility drove the Lord from the sanctuaries of his people. He would not suffer his Father's house to be desecrated by such tactics. Accordingly, he no longer, as a rule, was found in the synagogues, but in the fields and streets, in the homes of the people, or in the fishing-boats that rocked on the Sea of Galilee. He thus acted on the principle he laid down for his disciples when he said to them, "If they persecute you in one city, flee to another." And that principle still holds good, and may have the widest application. St. Paul acted on it when he adapted himself, under varying circumstances, to the conditions of his hearers. If he addressed the people of Lystra, he did not argue from the Old Testament, of which they knew nothing, but pointed to the mountains and fields, and spoke of the God who gave them "fruitful seasons." If he was surrounded by Athenians in their beautiful city, he referred to the temples which crowned the Acropolis, and to the statues which adorned the Agora. If he was in the synagogue at Antioch, in Pisidia, he argued from the sacred Scriptures, the authority of which his hearers acknowledged. He became "all things to all men, if by any means he might win some;" and in this he followed in the footsteps of the great Teacher, who, when refused a fair hearing in the synagogue, preached beside the open sea. Thus, with the utmost flexibility and freedom, Christian workers should alter their methods to meet the changing circumstances in which they find themselves; never for a moment losing sight of the object they have set before themselves, but seeking to attain that by the most suitable means. This may be applied to those who preach or teach, whether amongst the sceptical or the indifferent, among the children or the cultured.

II. THAT THERE IS NO PLACE WHERE GOD'S WORK MAY NOT BE DONE. The change in method, indicated by the text, did not trouble our Lord as it would have troubled any one to whom place and mode seem everything in worship. All the earth was holy in his eyes. The heavenly Father was near him everywhere. The rippling of the sea or the rustling of the corn would be more grateful to him than the murmured repetitions of formal prayers by the mechanical and unspiritual worshippers in the synagogue. Apart from persecution, he would often have chosen, from preference, such a sphere of work as this, as indeed he did when he preached the sermon on the mount. Read his teaching to the woman of Samaria (John 4:20, John 4:21), and see how acceptable to God is spiritual worship wherever it may be offered. Study the parable that immediately follows our text, and you will notice that the sower threw out his seed broadcast upon all kinds of soil. Our Lord would preach in a Pharisee's house, or on a mountain, or from a boat, as readily as in a synagogue or in the temple; for "Holiness to the Lord" (Zechariah 14:20) was written everywhere, and he accounted "nothing common or unclean" (Acts 10:15). Too often Christian workers select their little sphere for service, and strictly confine themselves to it, contented that multitudes should be left untouched who might easily be brought under their influence. The true sower is willing to scatter his seed broadcast.

III. THAT THE MODE OF OUR LORD'S TEACHING MADE HIS UTTERANCES MORE WIDELY ACCEPTABLE. This was not only true of his own day, but of ours. Publicans, lepers, and outcasts, excluded from the synagogue, could hear him on the beach; and all "the common people heard him gladly," for he spake "as one having authority, and not as the scribes." It is well for us also that it was so. There is wonderfully little local colouring about his words; a marvellous freedom from such theological technicalities as the rabbis were wont to use; and his teaching, therefore, comes home to us as it never would have done if couched in the phraseology currently used for the interpretation of the Law. His utterances are fragrant with the fresh air, and they ring with a pleasant freedom, for which we cannot be too thankful; for what might have been Jewish is human, and the words of him who called himself, not "the Son of David," but the "Son of man," are so simple and natural, that there is not a fisherman on our coasts, not a merchant in our streets, not a housewife in our homes, not a sower in our fields, who may not know something of the meaning and beauty of the doctrine of the great Teacher who has come from God.

IV. THAT OUR LORD'S POSITION IN THE FISHING-BOAT IS A SIGN OF THE TRANSIENT NATURE OF ABUSED PRIVILEGES. Christ in the boat has often been regarded as an emblem of Christ in his Church. From both he preaches to the world. The Church, in comparison with the world it seeks to influence, is small, as the boat with the few in it was small compared with the crowds listening upon the beach; and her comparative poverty may be represented by that fisherman's barque, which had about it, we may be sure, no costly adornment. But small and poor as the Church may seem, and the Christ who is in it, she is free as the Master was, who could in a moment leave those who were hostile or unreceptive, and pass over to the other side (Luke 8:37). There are yet to be found amongst us the impenitent and foolhardy, to whom he will have to say, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.'—A.R.

Mark 4:4-8

Human hearts tested by truth.

"The seed is the Word." Such is the interpretation given by the Lord himself, in his exposition of the parable of the sower. In other words, the seed represents the truth uttered by Christ and embodied in Christ, who is himself declared to be the everlasting Word (John 1:1). This heavenly seed is the gift of God. It has life in itself (John 5:26); it is the germ of life to the world; and, when it is received, it brings forth those "fruits of the Spirit" of which St. Paul speaks. The mode in which that seed is received is a test of character, and this is illustrated in the words before us. The four kinds of soil upon which the sower cast his seed represent four conditions of heart, which we propose to consider.

I. THE HARDENED HEART. Our Lord speaks of some seed falling by the wayside; that is, on the trodden pathway running through the field, which is impervious to anything which falls gently, as seed falls. Finding a lodgment there, either the birds carry it away or else it is crushed by the foot of the wayfarer. Just as the once soft soil becomes hard, so do our moral sensibilities become blunted by the frequent passing over them of ordinary duties, and stilt more of evil words and deeds. We often read in Scripture of the hardening of the heart. Pharaoh is said to have " hardened his heart" because, after being stirred to some thought by the earlier plagues in Egypt, he conquered feeling until he became past feeling. Hence, after the most terrible of the plagues, he pursued God's chosen people to his own destruction. The Israelites, too, hardened their hearts in the wilderness. All the issues of this sin recorded in sacred history give a significant answer to the question of Job, "Who hath hardened himself against God, and prospered?" This process still goes on, not least amongst regular attendants on the means of grace. Address a gathering of outcasts, and though you may hear a mocking laugh, you will more probably see the penitential tear as you speak of the Saviour's death and of the Father's love; but speak of this to those who have often heard the truth, and their calm impassivity will drive you to despair, if it does not drive you to God. He who knows all but feels nothing is represented by the wayside; for the truth preached to him is gone as swiftly from his thoughts as though evil birds had carried it away.

II. THE SUPERFICIAL HEART is also graphically portrayed. The stony ground is not ground besprinkled with stones, but rocky soil covered with a thin layer of earth, such as might often be seen in the rocky abutments which ended the terraces of cultivated soil on a hillside in Palestine. Seed falling there would take root and grow, but would soon strike rock, and then withering would begin. This represents those who "receive the Word with gladness." They are interested, instructed, impressed; but they have no understanding of its spiritual meaning or of Christ's requirements. They have no sense of sin, and no conflict with it. Their knowledge and experience alike are shallow, and they have "no root," because they have no depth of nature. Very significant is the phrase, "They have no root in themselves;" for there is a want of individuality about them. Their faith depends upon surrounding excitement and enthusiasm, and they are wanting in the perseverance which can only arise from personal conviction. Let temptation come to them, and they give up at once their poor shreds of faith; let them go among sceptics, and soon their mockery will be the loudest; let persecution arise, and straightway they stumble to their fall.

III. THE CROWDED HEART. "Some fell among thorns;" that is, in soil in which thorns were springing up. The soil possibly was good, and therefore unlike the last, but it was already full. Soon the thorns springing up choke the seed, crowding it down, and so depriving it of air and sunshine that the withering stalk can produce no fruit. Every one knows the meaning of this who has pondered the words," Ye cannot serve God and mammon," or who understands the warning against "the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches," and inordinate desires after other earthly things. Here is such a one. He was once earnest in work for God; he made time for the study of his Word; he was eager for the quiet hour when he could speak to his Father in secret. But this is only a memory to him now. And how came the woeful change? There has been no hour when he has deliberately cut himself adrift from holy influence, nor can he recall any special crisis in his history. But the cares of life, the plans he felt called upon to make, thoughts concerning money and the best way to make it or to keep it, obtruded themselves more and more, even on sacred times, till holy thoughts were fairly crowded out. Thorns have sprung up, and they have choked the seed, so that it has become unfruitful.

IV. THE HONEST HEART. The seed which fell into "good ground" not only sprang up into strong stalk, but brought forth fruit in the golden harvest-time, and over it the sower rejoiced. Our Lord often spoke of the conditions which are essential to the fulfillment of this in the spiritual realm. For example, he said, "He that is of the truth heareth my voice;" and he bade his disciples become as little children, that they might rejoice in him. Nathanael was a beautiful example of what Jesus meant. When the truth is thus received, in the love of it, it guides the thoughts, rules the affections, checks and controls the plans, and sanctifies the whole being of the man. "Christ is formed" in his heart "the hope of glory." Abiding in prayer, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he experiences a quickening and a refreshment like that which the growing corn has when enriched and blessed by showers and sunshine, and "the fruits of the Spirit" appear in him, to the glory of God the Father. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."—A.R.

Mark 4:15-20

The perils and the prospects of the good seed of the kingdom.

The importance of the parable of the sower is shown by the prominence given to it by the evangelists, and by the question of our Lord in the thirteenth verse, "Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?" In some respects it was the basis of similar teaching, while the key to its interpretation, given by the Lord himself, opens the door of other mysteries. The illustration is an analogy, going deeper than many suppose. Husbandry was the appointment of God when man dwelt in the bliss of paradise, before the Divine order had been interfered with by human sin and self-will. Even in man's unfallen state, seed had to be sown and cared for, while the blessing of heaven was always essential to its productiveness. He who made the first Adam a sower in things natural, made the second Adam a Sower in what was spiritual. Our Lord referred to himself and to all who follow him in his work when he said, "Behold, the sower went forth to sow." Now, soil and seed are essential to each other. Many a man has the "honest and good heart;" but he must not be content with that, for, as the richest soil will remain empty unless seed be in it, so even such a heart will be unproductive of spiritual results without Christ, the true and living Word. While the soil is thus useless without the seed, the seed is unproductive without the soil. Hence Christ urged men to receive him, and hence he said of his teaching, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Christian truth may be intellectually known and propagated, but the world is only the richer for it as it becomes the inspiration of human hearts. Christ's words must be translated into men's lives, that they may be read as "living epistles." In a sense, the Lord himself must become incarnate in each of his followers (Colossians 1:27). For the world's sake, as well as our own, may we receive the seed of the kingdom! This parable speaks of—

I. THE PERILS WHICH THREATEN THE GOOD SEED. Let us seek to recognize them in the various thoughts which contend for the mastery with Christ's truth.

1. Evil thoughts. They come through companions, from books, etc., but find their source in Satan (Mark 4:15). Often we find that they are most intrusive just after or during our holiest hours. They are like the birds of prey which swooped down on Abraham's sacrifice when he was making his covenant with God (Genesis 15:1-21.). Like him, we must seek by constant watching and effort to drive them away.

2. Vacant thoughts. The foolish habit of letting thoughts wander as they list, settling nowhere on what is definite or dignified, is a characteristic of the shallow characters represented by the rocky soil. Earnest conviction and the abiding stability which follows it cannot belong to these. Well is it when each can say, "I hate vain thoughts, but thy Law do I love."

3. Anxious thoughts. "The cares of this world" (Mark 4:19) are destructive of the serenity and rest which Christ's true disciples should always rejoice in. Therefore our Lord so urgently warns us against them (Matthew 6:25-34). St. Paul says, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God," and then "the peace of God... shall keep your hearts."

4. Adverse thoughts. "The lusts of other things "so absorb some that their minds are like a soil full of growing thorns. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Judas Iscariot was a terrible example of this. It would be useless to point out such perils as these if it were not that our hearts are not like the soil, which is destitute of will, of effort, and of a voice to cry to Heaven. Our condition largely depends upon our choice, or rather on the prayer which is the outcome of it; so that it is not in vain that we have guarded ourselves against the perils which beset the seed. From them let us turn to consider—


1. Swiftly gone, devoured by the birds, i.e. dissipated or destroyed by other thoughts. Warn against the flippancy and worldliness of much conversation in Christian homes on the Lord's day, and point out the injury which young people may thus receive.

2. Springing soon, withering soon. This is specially seen in sentimental natures. There is a shallowness in thought and experience from which we should earnestly pray for deliverance. It is well when such underlying rock is broken up by the plough of affliction.

3. Growing, not fruit-bearing. This is the condition of many professed Ch