Mark 4

The Parable of the Sower

1 And again he began to teach beside the sea, and a very large crowd was gathered to him, so that he got into a boat [and] sat on the sea, and the whole crowd was at the sea on the land.
2 And he began to teach them many [things] in parables, and was saying to them in his teaching,
3 "Listen! Behold, the sower went out to sow.
4 And it happened that while [he] was sowing, {some seed} fell on the side of the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
5 And other [seed] fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up at once, because it did not have [any] depth of soil.
6 And when the sun rose it was scorched, and because it did not have [enough] root, it withered.
7 And other [seed] fell among the thorn plants, and the thorn plants came up and choked it, and it did not produce grain.
8 And other [seed] fell on the good soil, and produced grain, coming up and increasing, and it bore [a crop]--one thirty and one sixty and one a hundred [times as much].
9 And he said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!"

The Reason for the Parables

10 And when he was alone, those around him together with the twelve began asking him about the parables.
11 And he said to them, "To you has been granted the secret of the kingdom of God, but to those who are outside everything is in parables,
12 so that '{they may look closely} and not perceive, and {they may listen carefully} and not understand, lest they turn and it be forgiven them.'"

The Parable of the Sower Interpreted

13 And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?
14 The sower sows the word.
15 And these are the ones beside the path where the word is sown, and whenever they hear [it], immediately Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
16 And these are like the ones sown on the rocky ground, who whenever they hear the word immediately receive it with joy.
17 And they have no root in themselves, but are temporary. Then [when] affliction or persecution comes because of the word, immediately they fall away.
18 And others are the ones sown among the thorn plants--these are the ones who hear the word,
19 and the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other [things] come in [and] choke the word and it becomes unproductive.
20 And those are the ones sown on the good soil, who hear the word and receive [it] and bear fruit--one thirty and one sixty and one a hundred [times as much]."

The Parable of the Lamp

21 And he said to them, "Surely a lamp is not brought so that it may be put under a bushel basket or under a bed, [is it]? [Is it] not so that it may be put on a lampstand?
22 For nothing is secret except so that it may be revealed, nor has become hidden except so that it will come to light.
23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"
24 And he said to them, "Take care what you hear! With the measure by which you measure out, it will be measured out to you, and will be added to you.
25 For whoever has, [more] will be given to him, and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him."

The Parable of the Seed that Grows by Itself

26 And he said, "The kingdom of God is like this: like a man scatters seed on the ground.
27 And he sleeps and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows--{he does not know how}.
28 By itself the soil produces a crop: first the grass, then the head of grain, then the full grain in the head.
29 But when the crop permits, he sends [in] the sickle right away, because the harvest has come."

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or by what parable can we present it?
31 [It is] like a mustard seed that when sown on the ground, [although it] is the smallest of all the seeds that [are] on the ground,
32 but when it is sown it grows up and becomes the largest of all the garden herbs, and sends out large branches so that the birds of the sky are able to nest in its shade."
33 And with many parables such as these he was speaking the word to them, as they were able to hear [it].
34 And he did not speak to them without a parable, but in private he explained everything to his own disciples.

Calming of a Storm

35 And on that day, [when it] was evening, he said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side."
36 And leaving the crowd, they took him along, as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him.
37 And a great storm of wind developed, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already being filled [with water].
38 And he was in the stern sleeping on the cushion, and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, is it not a concern to you that we are perishing?"
39 And he woke up [and] rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Be quiet! Be silent!" And the wind abated and there was a great calm.
40 And he said to them, "Why are you fearful? Do you not yet have faith?"
41 And {they were terribly frightened} and began to say to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Mark 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

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

Verses 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.

Verses 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!

Verses 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.

Footnotes 25

  • [a]. That is, the Sea of Galilee
  • [b]. *Here "and" is supplied because the previous participle ("got") has been translated as a finite verb
  • [c]. The imperfect tense has been translated as ingressive here ("began to teach")
  • [d]. Literally "[some of] which"
  • [e]. Literally "fruit," describing here the grain harvested from the healthy plants; in contemporary English this would more naturally be expressed by terms like "grain" or "crop"
  • [f]. Literally "fruit," describing here the grain harvested from the healthy plants; in contemporary English this would more naturally be expressed by terms like "grain" or "crop"
  • [g]. *Here the direct object is supplied from context in the English translation
  • [h]. The phrase "[times as much]" is not in the Greek text but is implied
  • [i]. The imperfect tense has been translated as ingressive here ("began asking")
  • [j]. *Here the direct object is supplied from context in the English translation
  • [k]. Some manuscripts omit "like"
  • [l]. *Here "[when]" is supplied as a component of the temporal genitive absolute participle ("comes")
  • [m]. *Here "[and]" is supplied because the previous participle ("come in") has been translated as a finite verb
  • [n]. *Here the direct object is supplied from context in the English translation
  • [o]. The phrase "[times as much]" is not in the Greek text but is implied
  • [p]. The negative construction in Greek anticipates a negative answer here, indicated in the translation by the phrase "[is it]"
  • [q]. The negative construction in Greek anticipates a positive answer here
  • [r]. Literally "[in such a way] as he does not know"
  • [s]. *Here "[although]" is supplied as a component of the participle ("is") which is understood as concessive
  • [t]. *Here the direct object is supplied from context in the English translation
  • [u]. *Here "[when]" is supplied as a component of the temporal genitive absolute participle ("was")
  • [v]. *The words "[with water]" are not in the Greek text but are implied
  • [w]. *Here "[and]" is supplied because the previous participle ("woke up") has been translated as a finite verb
  • [x]. Literally "they feared a great fear"
  • [y]. The imperfect tense has been translated as ingressive here ("began to say")

Mark 4 Commentaries