Mark 4


Verses 1-9. See the parable of the sower Mt 13:1-9.

(w) "And he began again" Mt 13:1, Lk 8:4
Verse 2.

(x) "by parables" Ps 78:2, Mk 4:34
Verse 3.

(y) "Hearken" Mk 4:9,23, 7:16
Verse 4.

(z) "fowls" Gen 15:11
Verse 5.

(a) "stony" Eze 11:19, 36:26
Verse 6.

(b) "and because it" Ps 1:4
Verse 7.

(c) "among thorns" Jer 4:3
Verse 8.

(d) "good ground" Heb 6:7,8 (e) "yield fruit" Col 1:6
Verses 10-12. Mt 13:10, and Mt 13:11-17, particularly Jn 12:39; Jn 12:40.

When he was alone. That is, separate from the multitude, When he withdrew from the multitude, a few followed him for the purpose of farther instruction.

(f) "And when" Mt 13:10
Verse 11.

(g) "Unto you" Eph 1:9 (h) "are without" Col 4:5, 1Thes 4:12, 1Timm 3:7
Verse 12.

(i) "That seeing" Isa 6:9,10, Jn 12:40, Acts 28:26,27, Rom 11:8
Verse 13. Know ye not this parable? This which is so plain and obvious.

How then will ye know all parables? Those which are more difficult and obscure. As they were themselves to be teachers, it was important that they should be acquainted with the whole system of religion --of much more importance for them at that time, than for the mass of the people.
Verses 14-20. See Mt 13:18-23.

(k) "sower" Isa 32:20, 1Pet 1:25
Verse 15.

(l) "Satan cometh" 1Pet 5:8, Rev 12:9 (m) "away the word" Heb 2:1
Verse 17.

(n) "no root" Job 19:28 (o) "but for a time" Job 27:10 (p) "immediately" 2Ti 1:15
Verse 19.

(q) "cares" Lk 14:18-20, 1Timm 6:9,17, 2Ti 4:10 (r) "deceitfulness" Prov 23:5 (s) "lusts" 1Jn 2:16,17 (t) "unfruitful" Isa 5:2,4
Verse 20.

(u) "fruit" Rom 7:4, Col 1:10, 2Pet 1:8
Verse 21. Is a candle brought, etc. A candle is not lit up to be put immediately under a measure, or a bed, where it can give no light. Its design is to give light. So my preaching by parables is not designed to obscure the truth, but to throw light on it. You should understand those parables; and, understanding them, should impart the truth to others also, as a candle throws its beams upon a dark world.

Bushel. In the original, a measure for grain, containing about twelve quarts.

Bed. A couch, either to sleep on at night, or to recline on at their meals. Probably the latter is here meant, and is equivalent to our saying, a candle is not brought to be put under the table, but on it. Mt 23:6.

(1) "bushel" Mt 5:15
Verse 22. There is nothing hid, etc. Mt 10:26.

(v) "For there is" Eccl 12:14, Mt 10:26, Lk 12:2, 1Cor 4:5
Verse 24. Take heed what ye hear. Or, consider well what you hear Make a good improvement of it.

With what measure ye mete, etc. You shall be treated according to the use you make of your opportunities of learning. If you consider it well, and make a good improvement of what you hear, you shall be well rewarded. If not, your reward shall be small. This is a proverbial expression. Mt 7:1,2.

Mete. Measure. With what measure ye measure.

Unto you that hear. To you who are attentive, and who improve what you hear.

(w) "what ye hear" 1Pet 2:2 (x) "with what measure" Mt 7:2
Verse 25. For he that hath, Mt 13:12. The meaning here seems to be--He that diligently attends to my words, shall increase more and more in the knowledge of the truth; but he that neglects them, and is inattentive, shall become more ignorant; the few things which he had learned he will forget, and his trifling knowledge will be diminished.

Hath not. Does not improve what he possessed; or does not make proper use of his means of learning.

That which he hath. That which he had already learned. By this we are taught the indispensable necessity of giving attention to the means of instruction. The attention must be continued. It is not sufficient that we have learned some things, or appear to have learned much. All will be in vain unless we go forward, and improve every opportunity of learning the will of God, and the way of salvation. So what children are taught will be of little use unless they follow it up, and endeavour to improve themselves.

(b) "from him" Lk 8:18
Verse 26. So is the kingdom of God. The gospel, or religion in the soul, may be compared to this. See Mt 3:2.

(c) "So" Mt 13:24
Verse 27. And should sleep, and rise night and day. Should sleep in the night, and rise by day, for so the expression is to be understood. That is, should live in his usual way, without exerting any influence over the growing grain. By this we are not to infer that men are to use no diligence in the obtainment and growth of piety; but the illustration shows this, and this only, that as we cannot tell how grain grows, so we cannot tell the mode in which piety increases in the heart.

He knoweth not how. This is still true. After all the researches of philosophers, not one has been able to tell the way in which grain grows. They can observe one fact after another; they can see the changes; they can see the necessity of rains and suns, of care and shelter, but beyond this they cannot go. So in religion. We can mark the change; we can see the need of prayer, and examination, and searching the Scriptures, and the ordinances of religion, but we cannot tell in what way the religious principle is strengthened. As God unseen, yet by the use of proper means, makes the grass to flourish, so God unseen, but by proper means, nourishes the soul, and the plants of piety spring up, and bloom, and bear fruit. See Jn 3:8.
Verse 28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself. That is, it is done without the power of man. It is done while man is engaged in other things. The scope of the place does not require us to suppose that our Saviour meant to say that the earth had any productive power of itself, but only that it produced its fruits not by the power of man. God gives it its power. It has no power of its own. So religion in the heart is not by the power of man. It grows he cannot tell how; and of course he cannot, without Divine aid, control it. It is by the power of God. At the same time, as without industry man would have no harvest, so without active effort he would have no religion. Both are connected with his effort; both are to be measured commonly by his effort, (Php 2:12) both grow he cannot tell how; both increase when the proper means are used; and both depend on God for increase.

First the blade. The green, tender shoot, that first starts out of the earth, before the stalk is formed.

Then the ear. The original means, the stalk or spire of wheat or barley, as well as the ear.

The full corn. The ripe wheat. The grain swollen to its proper size. By this is denoted, undoubtedly, that grace or religion in the heart is of gradual growth. It is at first tender, feeble, perhaps almost imperceptible, like the first shootings of the grain in the earth. Perhaps also, like grain, it often lies long in the earth before there are signs of life. Like the tender grain, also, it needs care, kindness, and culture. A light frost, a cold storm, or a burning sun, alike injure it. So tender piety, in the heart of a child, needs care, kindness, culture. It needs shelter from the frosts and storms of a cold, unfeeling world. It needs the genial dews and mild suns of heaven. In other words, it needs instruction, prayer, and friendly counsel from parents, teachers, ministers, and experienced Christians, that it may grow, and bring forth the full fruits of holiness. Like the grain also, in due time, it will grow strong; it will produce its appropriate fruit--a full and rich harvest, to the praise of God.

(d) "fruit of herself" Gen 1:11,12 (e) "first" Eccl 3:1,11
Verse 29. 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. Every parable contains circumstances thrown in to fill up the story, which cannot be literally interpreted. In this, the circumstance of sleeping and rising cannot be applied to Christ; and in like manner the harvest, I suppose, is not to be literally interpreted. Perhaps the whole parable may be differently interpreted. The seed sown may mean the gospel which he was preaching. In Judea its beginnings were small. Yet he would leave it; commit it to his disciples; and return to his Father. The gospel in the meantime, left by him, would take root, spring up, and produce an abundant harvest. In due time he would return, send forth the angels, and gather in the harvest, and save his people for ever.

(1) "brought forth" or, "ripe" (f) "putteth in the sickle" Rev 14:15
Verse 30. Whereunto shall we liken, etc. This shows the great solicitude which Jesus had to adapt his instructions to the capacity of his disciples, he sought out the most plain and striking illustrations-- an example which should be followed by all the ministers of the gospel. At the same time that the instructions of the pulpit should be dignified--as our Saviour's always were--they should be plain, adapted to the capacity of the audience, and easily understood. To do this, the following things are necessary in a minister:

(1.) Humility. A freedom from a desire to shine, and astonish the world by the splendour of his talents, and by his learning and eloquence.

(2.) Good sense. A satisfaction in being understood.

(3.) Acquaintance with the habits of thought and manner of speaking among the people. To do this, frequent intercourse with them is necessary.

(4.) A good, sound education. It is the men of ignorance, with some smattering of learning, and with a desire to confound and astonish men by the use of unintelligible words, and by the introduction of matter that is wholly unconnected with the subject, that most often shoot over the heads of the people. Preachers of humility; good sense, and education, are content with being understood, and free from the affectation of saying things to amaze and confound their auditors.

The kingdom of God. Mt 3:2.
Verse 31. Mt 13:31,32

(g) "It is like" Mt 13:31,32, Lk 13:18,19
Verse 32.

(h) "becometh greater" Prov 4:18, Isa 11:9, Dan 2:44, Mal 1:11
Verse 33. Spake he the word. The word of God. The doctrines of his gospel.

As they were able to hear it. As they could comprehend it. They were like children; and he was obliged to lead them along cautiously, and by degrees, to a full understanding of the plan of salvation.

(h) "greater than all herbs" Prov 4:18, Isa 11:9, Dan 11:44, Mal 1:11 (i) "as they were able" Jn 16:12
Verse 34. Without a parable spake he not unto them. That is, the things pertaining to his kingdom. On other subjects he spake without parables. On these, such was their prejudice, so many notions had they contrary to the nature of his kingdom, and so liable would plain instructions have been to give offence, that he employed this method to insinuate truth gradually into their minds, and to prepare them fully to understand the nature of his kingdom.

They were alone. His disciples.

He expounded. Explained. Showed them more at length the spiritual meaning of the parables.
Verses 35-41. See Mt 8:18-27. Verse 36. Even as he was in the ship. They took him without making any preparation for the voyage; without providing any food or raiment. He was sitting in a ship, or boat, instructing the people. In the same boat, probably ill-fitted to encounter a storm on the lake, they sailed. This would render their danger more imminent, and the miracle more striking.

There were also with him other little ships. Belonging probably to the people, who, seeing him sail, resolved to follow him.
Verse 37.

(k) "And there arose" Mt 8:24, Lk 8:23
Verse 39. Peace, be still. There is something exceedingly authoritative and majestic in this command of our Lord. Standing amidst the howling tempest, on the heaving sea, and in the darkness of the night, by his own power he stills the waves, and bids the storm subside. None but the God of the storms and the billows could awe, by a word, the troubled elements, and send a universal peace and stillness among the winds and waves. He must, therefore, be Divine.

(m) "And the wind" Ps 89:9, Lam 3:31,32
Verse 40.

(n) "so fearful" Ps 46:1,2, Isa 43:2
Verse 41.

(o) "feared exceedingly" Jonah 1:10,16 (p) "the sea" Job 38:11
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