Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.Chapter 4
1. Teaching by the Seaside. The Parable of the Sower. (Mark 4:1-20. Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-15.) 3. The Parable of the Growth of the Seed and the Harvest. (Mark 4:26-29.)
3. The Parable of the Growth of the Seed and the Harvest. (Mark 4:26-29.)
1. Teaching by the Seaside. The Parable of the Sower. Mark 4:1-20
In the Gospel of Matthew the scene which closes the preceding chapter is followed by the seven parables (Matthew 13:1-58). In the seven parable discourse the Lord teaches the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven in its present form. These parables belong into the first Gospel because it is the Gospel of the King. First He proclaimed the principles of the Kingdom (Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29); then after His rejection He taught in parables the Kingdom in mystery. Only two of these parables are reported by Mark, the parable of the Sower and of the Mustard Seed. Both relate to His work of ministry. Another parable, however, is added, which is found nowhere else in the Gospels.
The parable of the Sower is explained by Himself (Mark 4:13-20). He Himself is the great Sower and His fellow servants sow after Him. That which is sown is the Word, even as He came to preach the Word. The devil, the flesh and the world are the hindering forces.
The Parable of the Sower is very simple. It is also noteworthy that Mark adds a sentence, which is not found elsewhere. “Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye be acquainted with all parables?” It is a fundamental parable and a key to other parables. He graciously explains it. What patience He had with His dull fellow servants! He is the Sower. That which is sown is the Word; for this He came. Man cannot bring any fruit. That which He sows can produce fruit. The devil, the flesh and the world are antagonistic to the Word and the causes of failure and unfruitfulness. Those who hear the Word and receive it (believe) yield fruit. But the devil, the flesh and the world are even then active and influence fruitbearing.
2. The Word to shine forth in testimony. Mark 4:21-25
The Word received in faith gives life and yields fruit. It must also shine forth in testimony. This testimony may be obscured by “the bushel and the bed.” The bushel stands for the cares and material things of this present age; the bed for ease and comfort. The cure for occupation with earthly things and for an ease-loving life, the hindrances of a bright shining testimony, is to remember the coming day of manifestation (Mark 4:22). How bright and perfect the example of the Servant. He did not know the bushel nor the bed.
3. The Parable of the Growth of the seed and the Harvest. Mark 4:26-29
This parable is not recorded by any of the other evangelists. It is closely linked with the words which precede. The day of manifestation is the day of the harvest. The seed sown grows in secret. None knows how. Life is in the Word. The blade, the ear and the full corn, after that the harvest. This is the comforting assurance of the Servant. He sowed the seed and then “slept and rose”--He died and rose from the dead. In view of it He could rejoice in the knowledge that the seed would spring up, increase and bring a harvest. And the sower will put in the sickle. The harvest (the end of the age) is more fully revealed in Matthew 13:1-58. What was His comfort is the comfort of all His true servants who sow the word.
4. The Parable of the Mustard Seed. Mark 4:30-34
The unexpected growth of the Kingdom during the absence of the Sower is taught in this parable. In Matthew it is linked with the parable of the leaven. The external growth (mustard seed) and the internal corruption (leaven) of Christianity are foretold by Him. Christendom has developed into a powerful world institution and become the lodging place of the fowls of the air. These typify unclean beings (Mark 4:4, Mark 4:15). The humble Servant never meant the Word to produce such an abnormal growth.
5. The Storm on the Lake and the Wind rebuked. Mark 4:35-41
The close of the chapter fits in beautifully with the whole. The Servant is seen in chapter 4 as the rejected One. He is sowing the seed. He leaves the earth while the seed groweth unto the harvest. The storm on the lake gives the picture of the trials and dangers of His own during this age; but He is in the ship. Note a statement peculiar to Mark. “They took Him even as He was in the ship.” The Servant, though Lord of all, had a real human body. Here we have a little picture of His weariness as Servant. Yet what a scene! He had perfect rest in the midst of the storm while His disciples were unbelieving. And then He manifested His power in rebuking the wind.
“Reader, do you think that the power of the Son of God and God’s counsels could have failed because of an unexpected storm? Impossible! The disciples were in the same boat with Jesus. Here is a lesson for us. In all the difficulties and dangers of the Christian life, during the whole journey upon the waves, often agitated by the tempestuous sea of life, we are always in the same boat with Jesus, if we are doing His will. It may seem to us that He is sleeping; nevertheless, if He allows the tempest to rise in order to prove our faith, we shall not perish since we are with Him in the storm; evidently neither He or we can perish. His security is our own.”