Mark 4#Mr 4:1| LIV. THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) A. INTRODUCTION. #Mt 13:1-3 Mr 4:1,2 Lu 8:4| And again he began again to teach by the sea side. By the Sea of Galilee. So that he entered into a boat, and sat in the sea. That the multitudes might be better able to see and hear him. (TFG 328) #Mr 4:2| And he taught them many things in parables. While Jesus had used parables before, this appears to have been the first occasion when he strung them together so as to form 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. (TFG 328-329) #Mr 4:3| LIV. THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) B. PARABLE OF THE SOWER. #Mt 13:3-23 Mr 4:3-25 Lu 8:5-18| Behold, the sower went forth to sow. Orientals live in cities and towns. Isolated farmhouses are practically unknown. A farmer may therefore live several miles from his field, in which case he literally "goes forth" to it. (TFG 329) #Mr 4:4| Some seed fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it. Palestine is an unfenced land, and the roads or paths lead through the fields. They are usually trodden hard by centuries of use. Grain falling on them could not take root. Its fate was either to be crushed by some foot, or to be carried off by some bird. (TFG 329) #Mr 4:5,6| And other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth. This seed fell upon a ledge of rock covered with a very thin coating of soil. Its roots were prevented by the rock from striking down to the moisture, and so under the blazing Syrian sun it died ere it had well begun to live. (TFG 329) #Mr 4:7| And other fell among the thorns. Palestine abounds in thorns. Celsius describes sixteen varieties of thorny plants. Porter tells us that in the Plain of Gennesaret thistles grow so tall and rank that a horse can not push through them. (TFG 330) #Mr 4:8| And others fell into the good ground, . . . and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. Thirty-fold is a good crop in Palestine, but it is asserted that a hundred-fold has been reaped in the Plain of Esdraelon even in recent years. These four several conditions of soil may be readily found lying close to each other in the Plain of Gennesaret. A sowing like this described may have been enacted before the eyes of the people even while Jesus was speaking. (TFG 330) #Mr 4:9| And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. A saying often used by Jesus (#Mt 11:15 13:9,43 Mr 4:9,23 7:16 Lu 8:8 14:35|). He intended it to prevent the people from regarding the parable as merely a beautiful description. It warned them of a meaning beneath the surface, and incited them to seek for it. (TFG 330) #Mr 4:10| And when he was alone. That is, after he had finished speaking all the parables. The explanation of the parable is put next to the parable to aid us in understanding it. They that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parables. Their questions (#Mt 13:10 Lu 8:9|) show that as yet parables were unusual. (TFG 330) #Mr 4:11| Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables. Jesus adapted his lessons to the condition of his pupils; hence his disciples might know what the multitude must not yet know (#1Co 2:6-11|). Jesus already drew a line of demarcation between disciples and unbelievers; which line became more marked and visible after the church was organized at Pentecost. The word "mystery" in current language means that which is not understood; but as used in the Scriptures it means that which is not understood because it has not been revealed, but which is plain as soon as revealed. Bible mysteries are not unraveled by science, but are unfolded by revelation (#Col 1:26 1Ti 3:16 Mt 11:25,26 Re 17:5 Da 2:47|). (TFG 330-331) #Mr 4:12| That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand. The people saw Christ's miracles, but not in their true light; they heard his words, but not in their true meaning. Jesus could thus teach without hindrance, but, unfortunately for the unbelieving, they were hearing without obtaining any blessing. (TFG 332) #Mr 4:13| Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables? This is a concession rather than a reproof. Parables could not be understood without a key; but a few examples of parables explained would furnish such a key. (TFG 332) #Mr 4:15| And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; and when they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the word which hath been sown in them. The four soils are four hearts into which truth is sown. The first heart, represented by the wayside, is one which is too hardened for the Word to make any impression. It represents several classes of people, as: 1. Those whose hearts have been made insensible by the routine of meaningless rites and lifeless formalities. 2. Those who had deadened their sensibilities by perversity and indifference. 3. Those whose hearts were hardened by the constant march and countermarch of evil thoughts. God's word lies on the surface of such hearts, and Satan can use any insignificant or innocent passing thoughts as a bird to carry out of their minds anything which they may have heard. The preacher's voice has scarcely died away until some idle criticism of him or some careless bit of gossip about a neighbor causes them to forget the sermon. (TFG 333) #Mr 4:16,17| And these in like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky places, etc. This shallow, rock-covered soil represents those who are deficient in tenacity of purpose. Those who receive the word, but whose impulsive, shallow nature does not retain it, and whose enthusiasm was as short-lived as it was vigorous. (TFG 334) Mr 4:17 Then, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway they stumble. Any opposition, slight or severe, makes them partial or total apostates. As sunlight strengthens the healthy plant, but withers the sickly, ill-rooted one, so tribulation establishes real faith, but destroys its counterfeit. (TFG 334) #Mr 4:18,19| And others are they that are sown among the thorns, etc. This third class represents those who begin well, but afterwards permit worldly cares to gain the mastery. These today outnumber all other classes, and perhaps they have always been so. (TFG 334) #Mr 4:20| And those are they that were sown upon the good ground, etc. Christianity requires three things: a sower, good seed or a pure gospel, and an honest hearer. All hearers are not equal in faithfulness. But we are not to take it that the diversity is limited to the three rates or proportions specified. Of the four hearts indicated, the first one hears, but heeds nothing (#Mr 4:4|); the second one heeds, but is checked by external influences (#Mr 4:5,6|); the third heeds, but is choked by internal influences (#Mr 4:7|); the fourth heeds and holds fast until the harvest (#Mr 4:8|). Gallio exemplifies the first (#Ac 18:17|). Peter and Mark for a time exemplified the second (#Mr 14:66-72 Ac 12:25 13:13 15:37-39|). The rich ruler and Demas represent the third (#Mt 19:22 2Ti 4:10|), as does also Judas Iscariot. Cornelius and the Bereans (#Ac 10:33 17:11|) show us examples of the fourth. (TFG 334-335) #Mr 4:21| Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed, and not to be put on the stand? A passage similar to this is found at #Mt 5:15|. See TFG "#Mt 5:15|". (TFG 335) #Mr 4:22| For there is nothing hid, save that it should be manifested; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light. This passage is often taken to indicate the exposure of all things on the day of judgment. While all things shall be revealed at the judgment, this passage does not refer to that fact. Jesus did not come to put his light under a bushel (#Mr 4:21|); that is, to hide his teaching. All inner instruction and private information was but temporary. Our Lord's design was to reveal, not conceal. What was now concealed was only to keep back that in the end it might be more fully known. Jesus covered his light as one might shelter a candle with his hand until the flame has fully caught hold of the wick. (TFG 335) #Mr 4:23| If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. See TFG "#Mr 4:9|". #Mr 4:24| Take heed what ye hear, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you; and more shall be given unto you. Most of this passage has been explained just above; see TFG "Mr 4:12". It warns us as to what we hear--things carnal or spiritual--and how we hear them, whether carefully or carelessly. As we measure attention unto the Lord, he measures back knowledge to us. (TFG 335-336) #Mr 4:25| For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. To understand this saying, we must remember that it was the teaching of Jesus which was under discussion. In the beginning of his ministry Jesus taught plainly, and all his hearers had equal opportunity to know his doctrine and believe in him. But from now on his teaching would be largely veiled in parables. These parables would enrich their knowledge and understanding of the believers; but they would add nothing to the store of unbelievers, and their efforts to understand the parables would withdraw their minds from the truths which they had already learned, so that they would either forget them or fail to profit by them. If we improve our opportunities, they bring us to other and higher ones; but if we neglect them, even the initial opportunities are taken away. (TFG 331) #Mr 4:26| LIV. THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) C. PARABLE OF THE SEED GROWING ITSELF. #Mr 4:26-29| So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth. In the kingdom of grace, as well as in the kingdom of nature, we are laborers together with God. As preachers, teachers, or friends we sow the seed of the kingdom and God brings it to perfection (#1Co 3:6-9|). (TFG 336) #Mr 4:27| And the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. The seed here spoken of, being wheat or barley, needed no cultivation, and hence the planter let it alone, and did not know how it grew, whether fast or slow, or even whether it grew at all. (TFG 336) #Mr 4:28| First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. Truth, spoken, lies hidden in the human breast, and we do not see its earliest stages of its development, but as it proceeds toward perfection, it becomes step by step more visible. (TFG 336) #Mr 4:29| But when the fruit is ripe, straightway he putteth forth the sickle, because the harvest is come. In both fields the sower has little to do with the field between the time of sowing and reaping. In the spiritual field, however, it is well to keep sowing until the grain shows signs of sprouting. (TFG 336) #Mr 4:30| LIV. THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) E. PARABLES OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND LEAVEN. #Mt 13:31-35 Mr 4:30-34| How shall we liken the kingdom of God? or in what parable shall we set it forth? These questions are intended to emphasize the superior excellence of the kingdom. On the rhetorical plural "we," see TFG on "Joh 3:11"). (TFG 337) #Mr 4:31| It is like a grain of mustard seed, . . . less than all the seeds that are upon the earth. That is, the smallest of all the seeds that are sown in a garden. (TFG 338) #Mr 4:32| Yet when it is sown, groweth up, and becometh greater than all the herbs, and putteth out great branches. In Palestine it attains the height of ten feet. So that the birds of the heaven can lodge under the shadow thereof. This parable sets forth the smallness of the beginning of the kingdom, and the magnitude of its growth. (TFG 338) #Mr 4:33| As they were able to hear it. That is, as they had leisure or opportunity to listen. (TFG 338) #Mr 4:34| And without a parable spake he not unto them. That is, he used nothing but parables on that occasion, for both before and after this he taught without parables. (TFG 338) #Mr 4:35| LV. JESUS STILLS THE STORM. (Sea of Galilee; same day as last section.) #Mt 8:18-27 Mr 4:35-41 Lu 8:22-25| And on that day, when even was come. About sunset. Let us go over unto the other side. Wearied with a day of strenuous toil, Jesus sought rest from the multitude by passing to the thinly settled on the east side of Galilee. (TFG 341) #Mr 4:36| And leaving the multitude, they take him with them, even as he was, in the boat. They took Jesus without any preparation for the journey. The crowd, doubtless, made it inconvenient to go ashore to get provisions. And other boats were with him. The owners of these boats had probably been using them to get near to Jesus as he preached. They are probably mentioned to show that a large number witnessed the miracle when Jesus stilled the tempest. (TFG 342) #Mr 4:37| And there ariseth a great storm of wind. These storms come with great suddenness. See McGarvey's Lands of the Bible, p. 519. (TFG 342-343) #Mr 4:38| And he himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. The cushion was the seat-cover, which, as Smith remarks, was probably "a sheepskin with the fleece, which, when rolled up, served as a pillow." The stern was the most commodious place for passengers. The tossing ship has been accepted in all ages as a type of the church in seasons of peril. Teacher, carest thou not that we perish? See also #Mt 8:25 Lu 8:24|. There was a babble of confused voices, betraying the extreme agitation of the disciples. (TFG 343) #Mr 4:39| And he awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. In addressing the winds and waves Jesus personified them to give emphasis to his authority over them. The calm showed the perfection of the miracle, for the waves of such a lake continue to roll long after the winds have ceased. (TFG 343) #Mr 4:40| And he said unto them, Why are ye fearful? have ye not yet faith? They had little faith or they would not have been so frightened; but they had some faith, else they would not have appealed to Jesus. (TFG 343) #Mr 4:41| Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Jesus' complete lordship over the realm of nature made his disciples very certain of his divinity. (TFG 343)
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