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Mark Chapter Four


Mark 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 verse 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 verse 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 verse 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.

── John DarbySynopsis of Mark


Mark 4

Chapter Contents

The parable of the sower. (1-20) Other parables. (21-34) Christ stills the tempest. (35-41)

Commentary on Mark 4:1-20

(Read Mark 4:1-20)

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.

Commentary on Mark 4:21-34

(Read Mark 4:21-34)

These declarations were intended to call the attention of the disciples to the word of Christ. By his thus instructing them, they were made able to instruct others; as candles are lighted, not to be covered, but to be placed on a candlestick, that they may give light to a room. This parable of the good seed, shows the manner in which the kingdom of God makes progress in the world. Let but the word of Christ have the place it ought to have in a soul, and it will show itself in a good conversation. It grows gradually: first the blade; then the ear; after that the full corn in the ear. When it is sprung up, it will go forward. The work of grace in the soul is, at first, but the day of small things; yet it has mighty products even now, while it is in its growth; but what will there be when it is perfected in heaven!

Commentary on Mark 4:35-41

(Read Mark 4:35-41)

Christ was asleep in the storm, to try the faith of his disciples, and to stir them up to pray. Their faith appeared weak, and their prayers strong. When our wicked hearts are like the troubled sea which cannot rest, when our passions are unruly, let us think we hear the law of Christ, saying, Be silent, be dumb. When without are fightings, and within are fears, and the spirits are in a tumult, if he say, "Peace, be still," there is a great calm at once. Why are ye so fearful? Though there may be cause for some fear, yet not for such fear as this. Those may suspect their faith, who can have such a thought as that Jesus careth not though his people perish. How imperfect are the best of saints! Faith and fear take their turns while we are in this world; but ere long, fear will be overcome, and faith will be lost in sight.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Mark


Mark 4

Verse 2

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

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.

Verse 3

[3] Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

Hearken — This word he probably spoke with a loud voice, to stop the noise and hurry of the people.

Verse 10

[10] And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

When he was alone — That is, retired apart from the multitude.

Verse 11

[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:

To them that are without — So the Jews termed the heathens: so our Lord terms all obstinate unbelievers: for they shall not enter into his kingdom: they shall abide in outer darkness.

Verse 12

[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.

So that seeing they see and do not perceive — They would not see before now they could not, God having given them up to the blindness which they had chosen.

Verse 13

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

Know ye not this parable? — Which is as it were the foundation of all those that I shall speak hereafter; and is so easy to be understood?

Verse 19

[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.

The desire of other things choke the word — A deep and important truth! The desire of any thing, otherwise than as it leads to happiness in God, directly tends to barrenness of soul.

Entering in — Where they were not before. Let him therefore who has received and retained the word, see that no other desire then enter in, such as perhaps till then he never knew.

It becometh unfruitful — After the fruit had grown almost to perfection.

Verse 21

[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?

And he said, Is a candle — As if he had said, I explain these things to you, I give you this light, not to conceal, but to impart it to others. And if I conceal any thing from you now, it is only that it may be more effectually manifested hereafter. Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16; 11:33.

Verse 22

[22] For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

Matthew 10:26; Luke 8:17.

Verse 24

[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.

Take heed what ye hear — That is, attend to what you hear, that it may have its due influence upon you.

With what measure you mete — That is, according to the improvement you make of what you have heard, still farther assistance shall be given.

And to you that hear — That is, with improvement.

Verse 25

[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.

He that hath — That improves whatever he has received, to the good of others, as well as of his own soul. Matthew 13:12; Luke 8:18.

Verse 26

[26] And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

So is the kingdom of God — The inward kingdom is like seed which a man casts into the ground - This a preacher of the Gospel casts into the heart. And he sleeps and rises night and day - That is, he has it continually in his thoughts. Meantime it springs and grows up he knows not how - Even he that sowed it cannot explain how it grows. For as the earth by a curious kind of mechanism, which the greatest philosophers cannot comprehend, does as it were spontaneously bring forth first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear: so the soul, in an inexplicable manner, brings forth, first weak graces, then stronger, then full holiness: and all this of itself, as a machine, whose spring of motion is within itself. Yet observe the amazing exactness of the comparison. The earth brings forth no corn (as the soul no holiness) without both the care and toil of man, and the benign influence of heaven.

Verse 29

[29] But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

He putteth in the sickle — God cutteth down and gathereth the corn into his garner.

Verse 30

[30] And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

Matthew 13:31; Luke 13:18.

Verse 33

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

He spake the word as they were able to hear it — Adapting it to the capacity of his hearers; and speaking as plain as he could without offending them. A rule never to be forgotten by those who instruct others.

Verse 35

[35] And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

Matthew 8:23; Luke 8:22.

Verse 36

[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.

They take him as he was in the vessel — They carried him immediately in the same vessel from which he had been preaching to the people.

Verse 38

[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?

On the pillow — So we translate it, for want of a proper English expression, for that particular part of the vessel near the rudder, on which he lay.

Verse 39

[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.

Peace — Cease thy tossing: Be still - Cease thy roaring; literally, Be thou gagged.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Mark


Chapter 4. The Parable of the Sower

Listen by the Sea
Ask in the House

I. Four Different Grounds

  1. Fall by the Wayside
  2. Stony Ground and Thorns
  3. Good Ground Yields a Crop

II. The Other Three Parables

  1. Parable of a Lamp
  2. Parable of a Growing Seed
  3. Parable of a Mustard Seed

III. A Great Windstorm Arises

  1. Two Waves
  2. Two Kinds of Sleep
  3. Two Kinds of Fear
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
The Growing Seed (Mk 4:26-29)
1. Up to this point our study has focused on parables found in
   Matthew's gospel...
   a. Many were found only in Matthew, though some are also found in
      the other gospels
   b. We skipped a couple of parables found in Matthew that we will
      examine later in one of the other gospels
2. In this lesson, however, we shall examine a parable that is found
   only in the gospel of Mark
   a. It is called "The Growing Seed"
   b. And it is recorded in Mk 4:26-29 (Read)
3. The setting of this parable appears to be the same occasion in which
   Jesus told...
   a. The parable of "The Sower" - cf. Mk 4:1-20
   b. The parable of "The Mustard Seed" - cf. Mk 4:30-32
   ...therefore it was at the point in Jesus' ministry when He begin to
   teach publicly in parables
[Let's begin by taking a closer look the parable itself...]
      1. It describes how the Word of God produces fruit (i.e., how the
         kingdom grows)
         a. While the "seed" is not identified in this parable as the
            Word of God...
         b. ...it was defined as such in the parable of "The Sower" - 
            cf. Mk 4:14; Lk 8:11
      2. The growth produced by the Word...
         a. Is a mystery - Mk 4:26-28a
            1) The sower can sow the seed and see it sprout and grow
            2) But the growth is beyond his comprehension, and even
               grows by itself
         b. Is gradual - Mk 4:28b
            1) It doesn't all occur at once
            2) But step by step:  first the blade, then the head, then
               the full grain
      3. But through such growth the harvest eventually comes - Mk 4:29
      -- So the kingdom of God, growing by virtue of the Word of God
         being planted, is similar to the amazing growth observed in 
         the sowing of grain
      1. The parable of "The Sower" emphasizes human responsibility
         a. The seed did not produce the desired fruit unless it fell
            on good soil
         b. It takes "a good and noble heart" for the seed to produce
            fruit! - cf. Lk 8:15
      2. But the parable of "The Growing Seed" stresses the divine
         power within the Word
         a. A "good and noble heart" cannot bear fruit by itself!
         b. It takes a seed that has within itself the power to 
            germinate and grow in good soil
      3. And this parable emphasizes the need for those who sow to 
         trust and hope in the power of the seed, i.e., the Word of God
[Yes, the Word is the "seed" which contains the power for spiritual 
life and growth when planted in the soil of a good and noble heart!
We may not be able to understand the true working of that power, but 
this parable illustrates how we can still use it!
That we might utilize this powerful seed more often and more 
successfully, consider a few more thoughts as we talk about...]
      1. It can cause us to be "born again" - 1 Pe 1:22-25; Ja 1:18
      2. It can help us to "grow" - 1 Pe 2:1-2
      3. It can indeed "save your souls" - Ja 1:21
      -- All of this is possible because the Word of God is living and
         powerful, filled with Spirit-giving life - He 4:12; Jn 6:63
      1. By receiving it into our own hearts
         a. Here we are talking about the growth of the kingdom of God
            in our lives
         b. Of course, we must receive it properly
            1) With a good and noble heart - Lk 8:15; cf. Ac 17:11
            2) With meekness - Ja 1:21
            3) As babies longing for their mothers' milk - 1 Pe 2:2
            -- All the while "laying aside" those things that would 
               "choke" out the Word in our lives- cf. Ja 1:21; 1 Pe 2:1
         c. When so received, growth will occur
            1) But remember the parable, for the growth is gradual
            2) "first the blade, then the head, after that the full
               grain in the head..." - Mk 4:28
            -- Therefore the need to continue to feed upon the Word of
               God, "that you may grow thereby" - 1 Pe 2:2
      2. By sowing it as far and wide as we possibly can
         a. Here we are talking about the growth of the kingdom of God
            in the world
         b. Like the sower in the parable of "The Sower", we must sow
            the seed everywhere
         c. But like the sower in the parable of "The Growing Seed", we
            must remember...
            1) Growth comes only through the divine power of the seed
               a) It is God who gives the increase
               b) We are simply "seed-throwers" and "water-boys" - cf.
                  1 Co 3:5-7
            2) Growth comes in stages, not all at once
               a) There will be days when all we seem to be doing is
               b) There will be days when all we seem to be doing is
               -- Like the farmer, then, we must be patient - cf. Ja 
1. The general lesson in the parable of "The Growing Seed" is this:
   a. In the kingdom of God, as in the kingdom of nature, we are 
      laborers together with God
   b. The results of our work depend on Him, and for the perfection of
      these results He takes His own time
2. This being the case...
   a. It is our duty to sow the seed (the Word of God), it is up to God
      to give the increase - cf. 1 Co 3:6-9
   b. Having sown the seed, we must wait for time and God to perfect 
      the growth - cf. Ph 1:6
   c. The growth that comes will do so in gradual stages
   d. Not until there has been time for development are we to expect to
3. Therefore this parable teaches us to trust and hope in power of the
   Word of God
   a. Do we trust in its power to save the lost?
      1) Or do we look to gimmicks designed by men?
      2) The gospel is God's power to save! - cf. Ro 1:16-17
   b. Do we trust in its power to save your own soul?
      1) Or do we look to self-help methods that promise but really
         can't deliver?
      2) The Word of God is what is capable of saving our souls! - cf. 
         Ja 1:21
Are you sowing the seed of the kingdom, brother?  Both in the world, 
and in your own life as well...?


--《Executable Outlines