The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 4   

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The Parable of the Sower

1 Once again Jesus began to teach beside the sea, and such a large crowd gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people crowded along the shore.

2 And He taught them many things in parables, and in His teaching He said, 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 And as he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.

5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun rose, the seedlings were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the seedlings, and they yielded no crop.

8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it sprouted, grew up, and produced a crop—one bearing thirtyfold, another sixtyfold, and another a hundredfold.”

9 Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”


The Purpose of Jesus’ Parables

10 As soon as Jesus was alone with the Twelve and those around Him, they asked Him about the parable.

11 He replied, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is expressed in parables, 12 so that,

‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,

and ever hearing but never understanding;

otherwise they might turn

and be forgiven.’

Study Questions to consider: Often Jesus would be teaching his disciples at the same time he was teaching the crowd. Listeners who really sought to understand would spend the time and effort to learn from the parables. Others would just let the teaching pass by, and focused on the experience of being with the crowd. Repentence comes from self examination, not just doing what everyone else is doing. The 12 disciples also benefited from being able to ask Jesus follow-up questions.


The Parable of the Sower Explained

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables?

14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some are like the seedsb along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

16 Some are like the seeds sown on rocky ground. They hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But they themselves have no root, and they remain for only a season. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

18 Others are like the seeds sown among the thorns. They hear the word, 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

20 Still others are like the seeds sown on good soil. They hear the word, receive it, and produce a crop—thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold.”

Study Questions: The word the farmer sows is the Gospel. The response to the Gospel is dependent upon the hearers, the soil. What happens to the soil along the path? What happens to the seed on rocky ground? How about the seed among the thorns? Finally, what happens to the seed sown on good soil? We would all hope to be like the good soil when we hear the Gospel.


The Lesson of the Lamp

21 Jesus also said to them, “Does anyone bring in a lamp to put it under a basket or under a bed? Doesn’t he set it on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be brought to light.

23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

24 He went on to say, “Pay attention to what you hear. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and even more will be added to you. 25 For whoever has will be given more. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

Study Questions: As believers, we have the light of Christ dwelling within us by the Holy Spirit, and the hope of eternal life for the future. Our good works should also give glory to God. These messages need to be shared with others because they bring life–but don’t be surprised that some who live in “darkness” may not want their deeds exposed. Do all in the character of loving your neighbor. Are there some family or friends you know who need to hear the good news of Jesus? Pray that God would guide you about how to share with them.


The Seed Growing Secretly

26 Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day he sleeps and wakes, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he knows not how. 28All by itself the earth produces a crop—first the stalk, then the head, then grain that ripens within. 29And as soon as the grain is ripe, he swings the sickle, because the harvest has come.c

Study Questions: Here is one interpretation: The man scatters the seed, but does not understand how it grows to maturity. So you and I should be faithful to spread the good news, but the spiritual growth from seed to fruit is hidden with God. But be ready for the harvest when it comes!

How would you interpret this parable?


The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 Then He asked, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God? With what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds sown upon the earth. 32 But after it is planted, it grows to be the largest of all garden plants and puts forth great branches, so that the birds of the air nest in its shade.”

33 With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to them, to the extent that they could understand. 34 He did not tell them anything without using a parable. But privately He explained everything to His own disciples.

Study Questions: Here’s one interpretation: Jesus is comparing the coming Kingdom of God with a huge plant that begins from the smallest seed. It grows very large–so large in fact that even the birds of the air nest in it’s shade. The Kingdom of God — represented on earth as Christ’s church– starts small and yet grows large. So large that the birds of the air — Satan’s emissaries — take advantage and find a hiding-place within it!

How would you interpret this parable?


Jesus Calms the Storm

35 When that evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us cross to the other side.” 36 After they had dismissed the crowd, they took Jesus with them, since He was already in the boat. And there were other boats with Him.

37 Soon a violent windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him and said, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?”

39 Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea. “Silence!” He commanded. “Be still!” And the wind died down, and it was perfectly calm.

40 “Why are you so afraid?” He asked. “Do you still have no faith?”

41 Overwhelmed with fear, they asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Study Questions: The faith that the disciples lacked, hinged upon their limited understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God. He and those in the boat with him were never in any danger whatsoever. They conclude, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” How do answer them? Do you believe that Jesus is God the Son?