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Mark Chapter 04

Memory verses for this week:  Psa 127:1  A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Introduction: We continue with our study of Mark Chapter 4.   In chapter 3, we found the Pharisees again seeking to find fault in Christ, this time for healing the man with a withered hand.  In the middle of the chapter, Jesus chooses the 12 disciples and ordains them as apostles. We closed discussing the one unpardonable sin.   The one sin that can not be forgiven is blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  If God deals with us about our sin and we refuse to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, this sin can not be forgiven and we must pay the consequence of our sins which is eternal separation from God.


I.   The Parable of the Sower

Mark 4:1  And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

Mark 4:2  And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

Mark 4:3  Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

Jesus taught many times from a ship as people stood on the shore side.   It says on this day he taught them many things by parables.     When we see the word “Hearken” as Christ used in verse 3, he is telling us to pay attention.

Mark 4:4  And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

Christ begins teaching about a sower that went forth to sow, but the parable turns on the difference of four kinds of soil, rather than on the sower.  In verse 4, it says some fell by the ‘way side.’  It says that the fowls of the air came and devoured the seed.   Why did the fowls devour the seed?  If you look along side the highway, many times there is grain there that has fallen from a truck or a trailer.  Sometimes if this grain is not eaten by the birds, it will sprout in the shallow ground.

Mark 4:5  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

Mark 4:6  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 

Some seed fell on stony ground.   Those that fell on stony ground soon died because the roots could not go down deep enough to get moisture.

Mark 4:7  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

Some of the seed fell  among thorns.   If you’ve ever done any gardening, you know how hard it is to keep the weeds out.    Even in your grass, there are always pesky weeds that come up to take away the moisture from the good plants.   These thorns choked out the good seed and they did not produce any fruit.

Mark 4:8  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

Mark 4:9  And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

However, some seed fell on the good ground, and those yielded fruit that sprang up and increased.  Some brought forth thirty fold, some sixty, some an hundred.   Even those seed that fell on good fertile soil did not yield the same.   Jesus warns those that have ears to hear what he is saying.

Mark 4:10  And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

Mark 4:11  And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

Mark 4:12  That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

The disciples ask Christ why that he taught in parables.  He explains that some things are taught in such a way that only the  spiritual man can understand.   Sometimes the lost do have it explained to them, and then they can be converted and their sins forgiven.  I believe the reason we have so many versions of the bible being printed today is due partially to lost men and women trying to make something spiritual understandable to the lost man.  And they will never be able to do this.   Other reasons for the various versions are greed of money to sell the newer version, and the direct attack of Satan on the Deity of Christ, the blood atonement,  and the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.   God said what he meant in the Word of God, and we are warned to not add or take from the words written both in Deuteronomy and Revelation.

1 Cor 2:14  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.


II.  The Parable of the Sower Explained

Mark 4:13  And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Mark 4:14  The sower soweth the word.

Mark 4:15  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

Jesus explains the parable to the disciples.  The sower is sowing the Word of God.  The way side hearers are those who have word taken away immediately by Satan as soon as it is sown.    Perhaps a man hears the word and wants to respond, but Satan tells him to ignore the Word or just put it off another day when things are more convenient.    When Paul reasoned with Felix about the Gospel, he did not readily respond.

Acts 24:24  And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.

Acts 24:25  And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

We have no record that there was ever a convenient season for Felix.  If he never accepted Christ, he is one paying for his sins in Hell today.   Put it off until tomorrow is one of Satan’s favorite tricks.  Sometimes we don’t have another tomorrow.   The bible says today is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time.

2 Cor 6:2  (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)


Mark 4:16  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

Mark 4:17  And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.

The stony ground hearers symbolize those with shallow hearts.  They respond to the word, but have no depths of moral or spiritual character.   In other words they never truly come to true faith and repentance, but have a spiritual experience, not a salvation experience.

J. Vernon McGee summarized it all quickly in a few sentences.

I’ll go over it quickly. The sower is the Son of Man and the seed is the Word of God. The birds by the wayside are SATAN. The stony-ground hearers are those who let affliction and persecution turn them from God. That is the flesh, and many people today are letting the flesh keep them from God. Then there are the thorny-ground hearers, those who let the cares of the world distract them. That is the world today. So many people today are letting the world shut them out from God. Then the good-ground hearers are those who are converted genuinely by the Word of God. They bring forth only percentages of fruit and only one third of these bring forth an hundredfold. So we see that we have here a parable with real action.  [i]


Mark 4:18  And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

Mark 4:19  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Jesus teaches three things about the seed sown among thorns.

a.  The cares of this world choke the word.

b.  The deceitfulness of riches choke the word

c.  The lust of other things choke the word.   

All of these things go back to being worldly, and not spiritual.  The three things that bring us down are listed in I John.

1 John 2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 John 2:17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.


Gal 5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Gal 5:17  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Mark 4:20  And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Only the seed which falls into good ground yields fruit.   The good ground hearers are fruitful, some thirtyfold, some sixty, some an hundred.   The bible says by their fruits you can know the true Christian.  These that truly get saved hear the Word, they receive the Word, and they bring forth fruit.   If you never brings forth fruit, you’d better check your salvation.  Not all produce the same quantity, but I think all true branches out the true vine produce some fruit. 

III.   The Parable of  the Candle

Mark 4:21  And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

Mark 4:22  For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

Mark 4:23  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Mark 4:24  And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

Mark 4:25  For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Jesus teaches us in these verses that when we are saved, we are to be a light to the lost.   The time will come one day when all that we have done will be revealed and manifested for all to see.   It is a reminder that we need to be about the Father’s business and be serious about spreading the Gospel.   We are to be careful that we hear truth, and that we measure carefully.   Those that judge harshly will in doubt be judged harshly.  But if we show grace, I think we will receive grace likewise.    He warns us to be about our work or we may lose even that which we have.   One of the most commonly used verses in the bible is Matthew 5:15-16.  It is a warning to us to be sure we glorify the Lord with our lives.

Mat 5:15  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Mat 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


IV.  The Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly

Mark 4:26  And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

Mark 4:27  And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

Mark 4:28  For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Mark 4:29  But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

This parable is only found here in the book of Mark.   It is very brief and no interpretation is given.  It has an important message for all who sow the Word of God.   When the seed has been faithfully sown, it should be given time to grow.   We should not expect a full crop immediately.   We need to have patience and perseverance about us.  If we will continually and faithfully sow, God promises a return.

Psa 126:5  They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Psa 126:6  He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

This parable could also apply to spiritual growth, or even possibly to the growth of the church.  The one thing that is clear, one day, there will be a harvest.

V.  The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Mark 4:30  And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

Mark 4:31  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

Mark 4:32  But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

Mark 4:33  And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

Mark 4:34  But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

This parable relates to the sowing of the seed.   The parable of the mustard seed represents Christendom (meaning all professed Christians.)   The fowls of the air lodging in it speak of false teachers that pervert the truth.  Christ’s manner was to speak in parables to the multitudes and then explain the teachings to his disciples while they were alone with Him.   I sure look forward to hearing the Lord teach us in the Millennial kingdom one day.   It will be great to hear the Word expounded with power like we have never experienced before.

VI.  Jesus Stills the Storm

Mark 4:35  And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

Mark 4:36  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

Mark 4:37  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

Mark 4:38  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

Jesus and the apostles board a small ship and pass over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.   Jesus was asleep when the storm came upon the sea.   The fact that the storm did not awaken him might indicate how tired and weary he might have been at this time.  The water was beating against the ship as the waves rose up.   And it was coming in faster than they could bail it out.   The disciples go down to Christ and ask Him if he even cared that they were about to perish.

Mark 4:39  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:40  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Mark 4:41  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Don’t you know this was something to see?  Jesus stands up and says “Peace, be still.”   Boy when Jesus comes on the scene, he can bring great peace.   As I prepare this lesson the first of March 2003, my family experienced a great loss.  My wife’s father, Vernon Wright, went on to be with the Lord this past week.  But just like Jesus calmed those troubled seas that day, he calms the cares and troubles of this life. Praise God for the power of the maker of the universe.  His ways are truly beyond finding out…   It says the disciples feared exceedingly and said “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”   He was no ordinary man, He was God manifested in the flesh.

Matthew Henry said this of Christ’s calming of the sea.

A word of comfort to us, that, be the storm of trouble ever so loud, ever so strong, Jesus Christ can lay it with a word’s speaking. When without are fightings, and within are fears, and the spirits are in a tumult, Christ can create the fruit of the lips, peace. If he say, Peace, be still, there is a great calm presently. It is spoken of as God’s prerogative to command the seas, Jer. 31:35. By this therefore Christ proves himself to be God. He that made the seas, can make them quiet.

10. The reproof Christ gave them for their fears, is here carried further than in Matthew. There it is, Why are ye fearful? Here, Why are ye so fearful? Though there may be cause for some fear, yet not for fear to such a degree as this. There it is, O ye of little faith. Here it is, How is it that ye have no faith? Not that the disciples were without faith. No, they believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; but at this time their fears prevailed so that they seemed to have no faith at all. It was out of the way, when they had occasion for it, and so it was as if they had not had it. "How is it, that in this matter ye have no faith, that ye think I would not come in with seasonable and effectual relief?’’ Those may suspect their faith, who can entertain such a thought as that Christ careth not though his people perish, and Christ justly takes it ill.

Lastly, The impression this miracle made upon the disciples, is here differently expressed. In Matthew it is said, The men marvelled; here it is said, They feared greatly. They feared a great fear; so the original reads it. Now their fear was rectified by their faith. When they feared the winds and the seas, it was for want of the reverence they ought to have had for Christ. But now that they saw a demonstration of his power over them, they feared them less, and him more. They feared lest they had offended Christ by their unbelieving fears; and therefore studied now to give him honour. They had feared the power and wrath of the Creator in the storm, and that fear had torment and amazement in it; but now they feared the power and grace of the Redeemer in the calm; they feared the Lord and his goodness, and it had pleasure and satisfaction in it, and by it they gave glory to Christ, as Jonah’s mariners, who, when the sea ceased from her raging, feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, Jon. 1:16. This sacrifice they offered to the honour of Christ; they said, What manner of man is this? Surely more than a man, for even the winds and the seas obey him.



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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[i]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[ii]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.