GOSPEL OF MARK - CHAPTER 4 - Parables of the Kingdom of God
MARK – Chapter 4 – Parables of the Kingdom of God
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
November 15, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom T
his chapter begins Jesus’ preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God on earth by way of parables. He tells disciples, if you don’t understand these parables, then you will not understand any of them. All of the parables are about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus moves his pulpit to the Sea of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias. This is the largest body of fresh water in Israel. The sea is about 13-miles long and 7-miles wide, but only 150 feet deep. Jesus spent much of his ministry around this seashore.
This is fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by Isaiah, chapter 9:1-2. Matthew 4:14-17: The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to them which sat in the region and the shadow of death, light is sprung up.
Mark 4: 1-9: Jesus began to teach by the sea. A great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. It happened as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. When the sun was up, it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Each one of these verses is a sermon unto themselves. This parable is an encouragement to all ministers. We sow the seed regardless of the spiritual condition of the hearer. The parable of the sower shows the reason why Jesus was opposed by the religious leaders and others. Jesus is addressing this parable to the crowds by the lakeside. Jesus was challenging them to give careful consideration to the nature of their own hearts. Some hearers of His teaching never grasped His message at all; others were discouraged through difficulties; and others again were seduced through prosperity. The thirty, sixty and hundred-fold is a parable of maturity. We can also align it with the “Outer-Court,” “Holy Place” and “Holy of Holies.” We can align it with “children,” “young-men” and “fathers.” Mark 4: 10-12: When he was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. He said to them, to you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.” Prior to explaining the parable to His disciples, Jesus answers their question as to why He employed parables. It is a visual of the spiritual responsiveness of His hearers. Let us keep in mind that this is a very dark area of Gentile worship of idols and the people, thus far, have been following Jesus for healing, deliverance and signs and wonders. The verses, “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them, were given to me by vision in January 2001. I preached on this from Isaiah 6: 9-10 from January 2001-Easter 2001. To Isaiah, it was made clear this his ministry would be remarkably unsuccessful in his own generation, but the very failure was ordered by God-indeed. In God’s eyes, it would be no failure. Paradoxically, his failure to persuade his audience would prove him to be a true prophet. Then in April 2001, I was attending a charismatic assembly. I saw in the Spirit a hollowed-out stump—burned in the center. The Lord said, “Terebinth tree” Isaiah 6:13: But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten; as teil (Terebinth) tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. Since that time, this organization, as well as others have been judged by God and the Holy Seed of that movement is now producing the fruit of the Kingdom of God. Job 14:7: For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, then it will sprout again, its tender shoots will not cease though its root may grow old in the earth and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant. In 2001, I preached a message as a result of the vision on the Terebinth Tree: “The Tenth.” The Holy Seed (the elect remnant) is the stump and substance of Israel and the Church which is Spiritual Israel. The remnant in Isaiah 6:13 is noted to be a tithe. Tithing is in three dimensions: Body, Soul, and Spirit: 1. The natural realm is the tithe of our finances. 2. The soul realm has to do with the giving of Faith, Love, Joy, Kindness, Goodness, long-suffering, Mercy, Grace, Peace and self to the Lord and each other. 3. The Spirit realm has to do with a people who are becoming the tithe of the Lord (Lev. 27:32). This is the Holy Remnant. In them is the Holy Seed! These are the Bread of God eaten by Him! These will pass through the fire! The prophet Isaiah was told that despite all of the earnestness of his prayers, prophecies and sermons, which he had delivered from his lips (which had just been touched by a live coal from the altar); still the people of Israel would persevere in their sins, and therefore would certainly be destroyed. Isa. 6: 8-10: I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, who will go for Us? Then said I, her am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, hear you indeed, but understand not; and see you indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes less they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed. Then said I, Lord how long? And He answered, “Until the cities are wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man and the land be utterly desolate. Then Isaiah was told that a tenth, a small remnant of people, would be saved but by fire. A remnant would return and a holy posterity (the Seed of God---the royal Seed – Gen. 3:15) would survive in Whom the ultimate hope of God’s people would rest and in Whom the Covenants and promises would be realized. Jesus was the SEED of Abraham and David. Mark 4:13: Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The parables are about the Kingdom of God which is also the Kingdom of Heaven. All parables apply to both these terms. This also implies that if one can understand this parable, he can understand all others, for in this one is the principle of interpretation of all of them. 4:14-20: The sower sows the Word. These are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness. They have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. These are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred. In the fiery trials of this election and the corruption of our government, let none be found among the thorns and the cares of this world choke out the word. The Sower is the Son of Man and God’s ministers. The seed is the Word of God. Satan’s first business is to come and steal the word sown in a baby Christian’s heart. 1. The stony ground illustrates those who hear the Word of God and gladly receive it, but have no depth of consecration, no root to endure, no stability to stand persecution, trial, and misunderstandings which are sure to come. 2. Those sown among thorns illustrate those who hear the Word and fail to produce fruit because the Word is choked by three things: (a) Cares of the world; (b) Deceitfulness of riches; (c) The lusts of other things or pleasures. 3. Those who are sown on good ground, hear the Word of God, wholeheartedly and eternally surrender to obey it, and to please God on all things. They get rid of all shallowness, fickleness, and irresponsibility, along with deceitfulness of riches and pleasures, lusts of the flesh, pride of life, and lusts for other things that would hinder them in living for God. They are honest and true and conform with their hearts to the love of God and his people. 4:21-25: Jesus said to them, is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever, has to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Just as a lamp is only useful when placed on a stand, the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ parables is to reveal truth rather than to hide it. Though they might express the truth in a mystery, consider carefully what you hear. Do not regard these parables as being mere stories, but penetrate the message which they are intended to impart. The measure we use will be that with which it will be measured to us. For whoever has, more will be given. Whereas casual hearers will only land themselves in a state of ever-increasing confusion. By speaking in parables, Jesus suited His teaching to the degree of receptivity of His hearers, hoping that through the parables, His hearer might not only apprehend the truth, but be drawn to Himself, the wellspring of all truth. 4: 26-29: Jesus said, the kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. This parable is explicitly about the Kingdom of God, and is only mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. The Kingdom of God will grow supernaturally and certainly attain its consummation, even though initially no dramatic observance. By Jesus’ preaching, the seed is sown. Nothing can prevent the harvest which will ultimately result from it. Rather than be fretful, we should show calm patience and confident expectation. 4: 30-32: Then Jesus said, to what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade. Church doctrine which left the present reality of the kingdom of God out of their doctrine may have to answer to not having ears to hear Jesus’ parables. The parable of the mustard seed testifies to the mighty future destined for the kingdom of God despite the few in number, who up till then, had been born into it. Mustard seed, proverbially the tiniest of seeds, but within a few weeks could develop into a shrub of over ten feet in height. Jesus said this is a picture of the phenomenally rapid spread of Christianity. The birds of the air which rested in the shade of the shrub depict the inclusion within God’s kingdom of people from the gentile nations. Ez. 17:23: On the mountain height of Israel, I will plant it, and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort, in the shadow of its branches they will dwell. Daniel 4:20-21: The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reached to the heavens and which could be seen by all the earth, whose leaves were lovely and its fruit abundant, in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home. 4:33-34: With many such parables, Jesus spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable, He did not speak to them. When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. THE STORM ON THE LAKE Weary at the close of a day of teaching, Jesus was rowed eastward across the lake by His disciples. Upon the boat’s stern, Jesus rested and fell asleep. 4:35-38: On the same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, Let us cross over to the other side. When they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was, and other little boats were also with Him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. They awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Who can estimate the priceless worth of that handful of men? Also, the word indicates there were small boats following them. The small fishing boat contained the infant Church and the world’s salvation. This short summary of the power of Jesus speaks concerning Christ and His Church (Eph. 5;32). One bible scholar suggests the satanic prince of the power of the air stirred up this storm as an act of warfare. On the other side of the lake where He was going, a demon-crowd of Devils haunted the gorges of Gadara. They may have been riding now on the wings of this storm, doing their best to avert their own approaching adversary, the Son of God. Gadara will soon be his next port. This was no ordinary storm. These fishermen-disciples knew this sea very well from their youth. They cowered in terror for their safety and gave themselves over to despair. Psalm 89: 8-9: O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them! As the “Son of Man,” Jesus slept, but as the Son of God in Man, he awakes and speaks. For Himself, exhausted for others, Almighty, He opens His eyes on that scene of nature’s wildest uproar, and sits undisturbed in the midst of it. Mark 4: 39-40: He awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said to the Sea, “Shalom! Be still! The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? How is that you have no faith?” Christ rebukes the wind saying “Peace.” Then he tells the waves to “Be still!” Christ owns the sea. Psa. 95:5: The sea is His, and He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Oh, come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker! The roaring sea is now a trophy at his feet. His name is Immanuel, God with us. While we look up to heaven and see a man upon the throne (1 Ki. 2:4), we can at the same time exclaim, “Your Throne, O God, is forever and ever (Heb. 1:8)! The combination of the two in the one person of the Ever-living Redeemer, make Him to be all we need, and all that we can desire. His years on earth of human weariness is over. In Heaven, he faints not, neither is weary (Isa. 40:28). He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. He is that same Jesus (Acts 2:36) our God, yet our Brother, yet our God. Mark 4:41: The disciples feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” No storm that sweeps the ocean can defy His power, or resist His control. These boisterous elements are His ministers and messengers. Not one storm-cloud can gather---not one crested wave rise---not one board can loosen---without his permission, who “gathers the winds in His fists (Prov. 30:4).” All power is committed to Him in Heaven and on earth. The lack of faith is addressed. It is the lack of faith which “casts out fear.” It is glorious sight, when Heaven sees a Believer growing in strength and trust in God, by reason of his trials.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from N.K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary, Dake’s Annotated Bible Commentary and John Ross MacDuff, Sermons. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those who I entered into their labors.