Mark 4

1 Again Jesus began teaching by the lake. A great crowd gathered around him, so he sat down in a boat near the shore. All the people stayed on the shore close to the water.
2 Jesus taught them many things, using stories. He said,
3 "Listen! A farmer went out to plant his seed.
4 While he was planting, some seed fell by the road, and the birds came and ate it up.
5 Some seed fell on rocky ground where there wasn't much dirt. That seed grew very fast, because the ground was not deep.
6 But when the sun rose, the plants dried up because they did not have deep roots.
7 Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants. So those plants did not produce a crop.
8 Some other seed fell on good ground and began to grow. It got taller and produced a crop. Some plants made thirty times more, some made sixty times more, and some made a hundred times more."
9 Then Jesus said, "You people who can hear me, listen!"
10 Later, when Jesus was alone, the twelve apostles and others around him asked him about the stories.
11 Jesus said, "You can know the secret about the kingdom of God. But to other people I tell everything by using stories
12 so that: 'They will look and look, but they will not learn. They will listen and listen, but they will not understand. If they did learn and understand, they would come back to me and be forgiven.'"
13 Then Jesus said to his followers, "Don't you understand this story? If you don't, how will you understand any story?
14 The farmer is like a person who plants God's message in people.
15 Sometimes the teaching falls on the road. This is like the people who hear the teaching of God, but Satan quickly comes and takes away the teaching that was planted in them.
16 Others are like the seed planted on rocky ground. They hear the teaching and quickly accept it with joy.
17 But since they don't allow the teaching to go deep into their lives, they keep it only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching they accepted, they quickly give up.
18 Others are like the seed planted among the thorny weeds. They hear the teaching,
19 but the worries of this life, the temptation of wealth, and many other evil desires keep the teaching from growing and producing fruitn in their lives.
20 Others are like the seed planted in the good ground. They hear the teaching and accept it. Then they grow and produce fruit -- sometimes thirty times more, sometimes sixty times more, and sometimes a hundred times more."
21 Then Jesus said to them, "Do you hide a lamp under a bowl or under a bed? No! You put the lamp on a lampstand.
22 Everything that is hidden will be made clear and every secret thing will be made known.
23 You people who can hear me, listen!
24 "Think carefully about what you hear. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you, but God will give you even more.
25 Those who have understanding will be given more. But those who do not have understanding, even what they have will be taken away from them."
26 Then Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is like someone who plants seed in the ground.
27 Night and day, whether the person is asleep or awake, the seed still grows, but the person does not know how it grows.
28 By itself the earth produces grain. First the plant grows, then the head, and then all the grain in the head.
29 When the grain is ready, the farmer cuts it, because this is the harvest time."
30 Then Jesus said, "How can I show you what the kingdom of God is like? What story can I use to explain it?
31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest seed you plant in the ground.
32 But when planted, this seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. It produces large branches, and the wild birds can make nests in its shade."
33 Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God's message -- as much as they could understand.
34 He always used stories to teach them. But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.
35 That evening, Jesus said to his followers, "Let's go across the lake."
36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him in the boat just as he was. There were also other boats with them.
37 A very strong wind came up on the lake. The waves came over the sides and into the boat so that it was already full of water.
38 Jesus was at the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a cushion. His followers woke him and said, "Teacher, don't you care that we are drowning!"
39 Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind stopped, and it became completely calm.
40 Jesus said to his followers, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
41 The followers were very afraid and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves 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.

Mark 4 Commentaries