Welcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Last week we covered Mark 3, where we saw Jesus declare Himself Lord of the Sabbath and demonstrated His authority to forgive sin.
Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 4 of the Gospel According to Mark.
Mark 4:1-9 (ESV) | The Parable of the Sower
4 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:10-20 (ESV) | The Purpose of the Parables
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
There is a bad habit in the church to boil down the question of evangelism to two responses… belief and unbelief. While those are indeed the two camps into which all mankind fall (believers and unbelievers, sheep and goats, saved and condemned), Jesus teaches that there are four responses to the Gospel, four types of soil. The Word does the work in the soil, but this parable doesn’t address how the soil is to be tilled. Soil doesn’t till itself and the work of the sower here is to sow the seed of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel. So, in the judgement that is to come, there are only 2 outcomes, but regarding mankind’s response to the Preached Word, there are 4 types of soil.
Mark 4:21-25 (ESV) | A Lamp Under a Basket
21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
This is about faith. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). For the one lacking faith, even what he has will be taken away. For the man of faith, more will be added to him.
Mark 4:26-29 (ESV) | The Parable of the Seed Growing
26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:30-34 (ESV) | The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Mark 4:35-41 (ESV) | Jesus Calms a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This is the question that must be answered by faith. As with the parable of the seed growing, the disciples (minus one) are growing in faith. They are not yet fully mature, and still struggle understanding who Jesus is. We know that these unlikely heroes of the faith were like the mustard seed being planted in the garden… in time they grew in faith, wisdom, and knowledge of Christ, such that their branches would extend out providing a place of refuge for the birds of the air… these Apostles (minus Judas) would lay the foundation of the Church with Christ as both its Head and its Cornerstone. Their focus would become to sow the seed of the Word of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the Earth, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Next week, we’ll continue working through the Gospel According to Mark, starting in chapter 5. Until then, we will continue our expanded Discernment in Music work. It is our sincere prayer that you will devote some time to reading and studying God’s word, and researching your church’s confessions and doctrine. Know what you believe and why you believe it… where it is taught in Scripture. The Pharisees were completely wrong about the Sabbath… and they were the ones charged to serve Israel as stewards of the Law.
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) | Doxology
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
In Christ Jesus,