Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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MARK - Chapter 4

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Mark 4

Supplemental Commentary:

Note.  Only those words and passages which have no parallel in the First Gospel are commented upon here.  For the rest the reader should consult the Commentary on the parallel passages in Matthew.

I. THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1-13 (continued)

3.  Second Period of the Ministry in Galilee and Across Its Lake  3, 20 -- 7, 23 (continued)

4, 1-20:  Parable of the Sower.  Parallels in Matt. 13, 1-15.18-23 and Luke 8, 4-15.  Only 13 is peculiar to Mark; the other Evangelists suppressed this reference to the Apostles' lack of spiritual understanding.

4, 21-25:  Purpose of This Teaching.  Parallel in Luke 8, 16-18.  This is a group of proverbial sayings which Christ apparently uttered on various occasions.  Some of these sayings have a somewhat different meaning when joined to other contexts.    21.  The sense of these words here is: "Just as a lamp is intended to give light, so these parables are intended to be understood and give spiritual light."  For the same words used with other applications, cf. Matt. 5, 15; Luke 11, 33.    22.  The same thought as in 21.  For the same words with different connotations, cf. Matt. 10, 26; Luke 12, 2.    24b.  With what measure . . . : Mark alone has these words in connection with the parables; here the sense seems to be, "Be generous in sharing these spiritual truths with others," or, "Your spiritual profit will be in proportion to the understanding and practical application that you give to these truths."  Cf. the same words with different meaning in Matt. 7, 2b; and Luke 6, 38b.    25.  Cf. also Matt. 13, 12; 25, 29; Luke 19, 26.

4, 26-29:  Seed Grows of Itself.  This is the only parable that is found solely in the Second Gospel.  Commentators are not agreed on what our Lord intended as the principal lesson of this little parable.  By the seed cast into the earth is certainly meant the word of God, or divine grace, which is given to man.  But beyond that, this parable should not be interpreted allegorically; for there is no comparison here between the sower of the seed and God, since we may not say that "the seed grows without His knowing it."  It would not be right to say that the soul "of itself" has the power to give increase to the seed of God's grace just as of itself the earth bears the crop.  Nothing in this parable speaks of the seed having the power to grow of itself.  The emphasis of the parable seems to be on the gradual but persistent growth of the seed.  A farmer cannot stand and watch his seed growing, but the seed grows without his knowing it, as he goes about his daily work, sleeping and rising.  But the growth of the seed is steady: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear, and finally the harvest.  So also the growth of grace, the growth of the kingdom of God.  It may be hardly perceptible to the disciples of Christ, nevertheless that growth is always there, a slow but steady development, until the Kingdom of God comes to full maturity at the harvest which is the end of the world.  The moral of the parable: patience and trust in God!

4, 30-34:  The Mustard Seed.    30-32.  Parallels in Matt. 13, 31 f and Luke 13, 18 f.    33 f.  Parallel in Matt. 13, 34.    34b.  Only in Mark.

4, 35-40:  The Storm on the Lake.  Parallels in Matt. 8, 18.23-27 and Luke 8, 22-25.  Mark gives more details than the other Synoptics.    39.  Peace, be still: literally in Greek, shut up, be muzzled; these are words that one would use to a barking dog.


Confraternity Bible:

Parable of the Sower  1 And again he began to teach by the water's edge.  And as a great crowd gathered about him, he got into a boat and sat on board.  And all the crowd remained on land facing the sea.

2 And he taught them many things in parables, and he said to them in his instruction, 3 "Hear! Behold, the sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds came and ate it up.  5 And other seed fell upon rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and it sprang up at once, because it had no depth of earth; 6 but when the sun arose it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away.  7 And other seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.  8 And other seed fell upon good ground, and yielded fruit that grew up, made increase and produced, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundredfold."  9 Then he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

10 And when he was alone, those who were with him and the Twelve asked him about the parables.  11 And he said to them, "To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those outside, all things are treated in parables, 12* that
'Seeing they may see, but not perceive; and hearing they may hear, but not understand;

Lest perhaps at any time they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them.'"
13 And he said to them, "Do you not know this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?  14 The sower sows the word.  15 And those by the wayside are they in whom the word is sown; as soon as they have heard, Satan at once comes and takes away the word that has been sewn in their hearts.  16 And those likewise who are sown on the rocky ground are they who, when they have heard the word, receive it immediately with joy; 17 and they have no root in themselves, but continue only for a time; then, when trouble and persecution come because of the word, they at once fall away.  18 And those who are sewn among the thorns are they who listen to the word; 19 but the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire about other things, entering in, choke the word, and it is made fruitless.  20 And those who are sown upon good ground are they who hear the word, and welcome it, and yield fruit, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundredfold."

Purpose of This Teaching  21 And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought to be put under the measure, or under the couch?  Is it not rather to be put upon the lamp-stand?  22 For there is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest; nor is anything concealed that will not come to light.  23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."  24 And he said to them, "Take heed what you hear.  With what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you, and more shall be given to you.  25 For to him who has shall be given; and from him who does not have, even that which he has shall be taken away."

Seed Grows of Itself  26 And he said, "Thus is the kingdom of God, as though a man should cast seed into the earth, 27 then sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow without his knowing it.  28 For of itself the earth bears the crop, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  29 But when the fruit is ripe, immediately he puts in the sickle because the harvest has come."

The Mustard Seed  30 And he said, "To what shall we liken the kingdom of God; or to what parable shall we compare it?  31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the earth, is the smallest of all the seeds upon the earth; 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than any herb, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the air can dwell beneath its shade."

33 And in many such parables he spoke the word to them, according as they were able to understand it; 34 but without a parable he did not speak to them.  But privately he explained all things to his disciples.

The Storm on the Lake  35 And he said to them on that day, when evening had come, "Let us cross over to the other side."  36 And sending away the crowd, they took him just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him.  37 And there arose a great squall, and the waves were beating into the boat, so that the boat was now filling.  38 And he himself was in the stern of the boat, on the cushion, asleep.  And they woke him and said to him, "Master, does it not concern thee that we are perishing?"  39 Then rising up, he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!"  And the wind fell and there came a great calm.  40 And he said to them, "Why are you fearful?  Are you still without faith?"  And they feared exceedingly and said to one another, "Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
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*

12: Isa. 6, 9.  God does not cause, but merely permits, such hardening of heart and blindness of soul.