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.
The sower went out to sow, and, as he sowed, there was a great waste. Much precious seed fell, to his right hand and to his left, on ground unprepared to receive it. Ground hard as the nether millstone was one part of the surface on which the germ of food and life fell. It lay there for a few moments, more or less, but it sank not in, it found no receptive, no digestive, no assimilating power in the earth on which it lighted; it was caught away and devoured, and the act of sowing was all that it ever knew of a harvest.
I. The text teaches us to regard waste of all kinds as a great fault and sin. Wasted food, wasted money, wasted health, wasted time, wasted opportunities of doing and receiving good, these, in their several ways, are all sins against God and our own souls.
II. Observe that, sinful as waste of any kind is in us, there is in nature, in providence, in the spiritual world, a constant waste going on, suggesting much of anxious and painful wonder. In nature, might we not almost say that for one thing used, ten are wasted? for every seed brought to maturity in plant or tree, ten perish and are defeated? for every human body preserved through the accidents and risks of life to complete its term of earthly existence, ten fall prematurely into disease and decay, and are abruptly cut off from that amount of enjoyment and of usefulness which might seem, theoretically at least, to be the birthright and inheritance of all into whose nostrils has once been breathed the creative breath of life? Would we could stop here! would that we could ascribe only to that part of God's operations which we call nature, or at the utmost to that part of God's operations which we call providence, the manifestation of that principle of which we are speaking. But in the spiritual world also—it is the saddest sight of all—we seem to see it in its fullest development. How much of truth—precious life-giving truth—have we trifled away in our short lifetimes! Let us awake to a better appreciation of the gift of the Word of life, that we may at last hear unto profiting, and believe to the saving of our souls.
C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 304.
References: Mark 4:3.—J. Keble, Sermons from Septuagesima to Ash-Wednesday, p. 151. Mark 4:3-9.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 50.
Mark 4:7, Mark 4:18-19Prosperity a Trial.
I. The growing occupation of time, although apt to be overlooked, is one of the most serious clangers of prosperity; for usually money is not made, social circumstances are not made, influence of any kind is not gotten among our fellow men, without great efforts. He who seeks these things, as a rule, you may depend upon it, rises early, sits up late, and eats the bread of carefulness. One of the chief dangers of a state of general prosperity, especially when that prosperity is in a growing state, is the constant tendency to the entire occupation of time with merely secular duties, which may be done in a religious spirit, but which will be done in a religious spirit with more and still more difficulty if there are not select and express times for the purpose of refreshing.
II. Is it not very evident that if the time, which rightfully should be devoted to the care and cultivation of religion expressly, be unwarrantably abridged, and other subjects and interests, social or what not, engross the attention and fill the heart, is it not very evident that when the time comes, the inclination and spiritual taste for religious improvement may be very much abated? Spiritual things prove dim and hazy; the busy labours of the day are succeeded by the slumbers of the night; and bargains, and speculations, and gains and losses, will form the subject even of the man's dreams and visions in the night. "The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful,"
III. The third danger to be apprehended from a growing prosperity is the increase of pride.
IV. Closely associated with this danger comes another; that of self-indulgence, an easy, soft, luxurious temper.
V. Worldly success has a tendency to lead to what we usually understand and I think fairly describe, without uncharitableness, as a worldly life, that is, a life occupied with transitory things, a life from which spiritual religion is, to a considerable extent, excluded altogether, a life without religious hope, a life without God in the world.
A. Raleigh, Penny Pulpit (New series), No. 96.
References: Mark 4:7, Mark 4:18, Mark 4:19.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 65. Mark 4:11.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 111. Mark 4:13-25.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 80. Mark 4:14-20.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 234. Mark 4:16, Mark 4:17.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ii., p. 49. Mark 4:20-29.—W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, p. 45. Mark 4:21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 353. Mark 4:21, Mark 4:22.—S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 130. Mark 4:21-24.—Ibid., 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 149. Mark 4:21-25.—Ibid., 2nd series, vol. i., p. 372.
Mark 4:22-23The Manifestation of Hidden Things.
I. We all know that such is necessarily the imperfectness of human legislation, that a great deal of crime passes undiscovered, and that what is discovered often goes unpunished; and whilst an active system of government represses or prevents much wickedness, its unavoidable incapacity of finding out all crime and fastening it upon the perpetrator, encourages many to commit it with the hope of impunity. There is hardly anything so widely powerful in the encouragement to sin as the expectation of concealment. It is virtually this which produces the chief mass of wrong-doing.
II. There is not one of us who would not be thoroughly shocked at having what passes through his mind in a single day laid bare for public inspection. And yet there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed—revealed either as ground of accusation against those brought to Christ's bar, or as material of vindication of the sentences which have been passed. In either case, what hope have you of escape. Look on the right hand, look on the left; what is to hide you from wrath, when the disclosed impurity of a thought is all that is needed to provoke its visitation. No living man can endure such a scrutiny, unless he have applied to his conscience that blood which "cleanseth from all sin"; and surely therefore there is no one who can be easy in the prospect of such a scrutiny, until he has prepared for it by making Christ his Advocate with the Father.
III. All of you can understand and appreciate the motive to right doing, which we thus fetch from the sublime scenes of the last great assize. If the certainty of being found out would keep you from crime, if the shame of being detected in anything vile and dishonourable help to make you shun what would forfeit good opinion, then believe and remember, that when the Lord cometh, He will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,096.
References: Mark 4:24.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 59; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 113. Mark 4:24, Mark 4:25.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 119. Mark 4:26.—F. W. Robertson, The Human Race, p. 71.
Mark 4:26-27Mysterious growth.
We little think how much is always going on in what we may call the underground of life; and how much more we have to do with those secret processes which underlie everything, than might at first sight appear.
I. For we are all, whether we realize it or not, always casting seeds, and those seeds, dead though they look, are always alive. Every word we say, every act we do, goes down into somebody's mind, and lives there; and there it has its influence. To what an awful consideration this might turn.
II. You look at a man today, and you see nothing in him. You may look at him tomorrow, and there is a change in that man, evident, palpable. The bud may be either just peeping, or the fruit may be full burst, just as God pleases. But it will come in its time; it will come out in a distinct view; it will be as the stars wake up at even; it will be as Jesus rose unseen from His grave. If you begin to ask the when and the where and the why and the how, I can only say, "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." It is very kind of God to give us this wide margin of thought, seeing His own work in the heart is such a long hidden thing. And who can tell where, at this moment, it may be going on, under the most unlikely surface. It is a good thing to have a faith in every one's salvation, and so to regard and treat everybody hopefully, honourably. Who knows, if the process be so very far out of sight, whether it is not going on in any one at this moment. Fathers and mothers, who have cast the early seed, you have slept for very sorrow, and many a day, and many a night, you have risen up to see what has come of all your sowing in your child's heart. But you see nothing. Wait on. It may be all there. And the springing and the growing will be you know not where, and you know not how.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1865, No. 33.
References: Mark 4:26-27.—J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 293; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 185. Mark 4:26, Mark 4:27.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 68.
Mark 4:26-29We have in this parable:
I. A most simple, yet striking representation of the business, and, at the same time, the helplessness of the spiritual husbandman. To the ministers of the Gospel, who are the great moral labourers in the field of the world, there is entrusted the task of preparing the soil and casting in the seed. And if they bring to the task all the fidelity and all the diligence of intent and single-eyed labourers, if by a faithful publication of the grand truths of the Gospel they throw in the seed of the Word, why, they have reached the boundary of their office, and the boundary also of their strength, and are to the full as powerless in the making the seed germinate, as the husbandman in the causing the valley to stand thick with corn. "It springeth and groweth up, he knoweth not how."
II. But if we are ignorant of the mode, we are well acquainted with the result. "The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself,"—not through the skill of the tiller, but through the virtues wherewith God has endowed her—"first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear." You have here an account of the successive stages of long experience. (1) There is first the convert in the young days of his godliness—the green blades just breaking through the soil, and giving witness to the germination of the seed. This is ordinarily a season of great promise. We have not, and we look not for, the rich fruit of a matured well-disciplined piety, but we have the glow of verdant profession, everything looks fresh. (2) Next comes the ear; this is a season of weariness and of watching. Sometimes there will be long intervals without any perceptible growth; sometimes the corn will look sickly, as though blasted by the mildew; sometimes the storm will rush over it and almost level it with the earth. All this takes place in the experience of the Christian. (3) "When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle." When we look on aged believers, who appear to have been long ago fitted to depart hence and to be with the Lord, we almost marvel that they have not been called home, and that God still exercises them by the discipline of affliction. But of this we may be sure—the ear is not full, otherwise it would be plucked.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,988.
The Seed growing secretly.
I. The work of sowing and the joy of reaping advance simultaneously on the spiritual field. The labour of the husbandman in the natural sphere is all and only sowing at one season, all and only reaping at another; the seed of the Word affords a difference of experience; in the kingdom of God there is no period of the year when you must not sow or may not reap. These two processes are in experience very closely linked together. They become alternately and reciprocally cause and effect; if we were not permitted at an early period to reap a little, the work of sowing would proceed languidly, or altogether cease; on the other hand, if we cease to sow, we shall not long continue to reap. When the workmen are introduced into this circle, it carries them continuously round.
II. In any given spot in the field there may be sowing in spring, and yet no reaping in harvest. If there is not sowing, there will be no reaping, but the converse does not hold good; you cannot say, wherever there has been sowing it will be followed by a reaping. The seed may be carried away by wild birds, or wither on stony ground, or be choked by thorns.
III. The growth of the sown seed is secret; secret also is its failure. It is quite true, there may be grace in the heart of a neighbour unseen, unsuspected by me; but the heart of my neighbour may be graceless, while I am in its earlier stages ignorant of the fact.
IV. Though the sower is helpless after he has cast the seed into the ground, he should not be hopeless; we know that the seed is a living thing, and will grow except where it is impeded by extraneous obstacles.
V. In every case the harvest, in one sense, will come; on every spot of all the field there will be a reaping. If one set of ministers do not reap there, another will. Where there is not conversion, there will be condemnation. The regeneration is one harvest; the judgment is another. The angels are not sowers, but they are reapers.
W. Arnot, The Parables of our Lord, p. 312.
I. Though the sower sleep after his labour, yet the process of germination goes on night and day.
II. Simple beginnings and practical results may be connected by mysterious processes: "he knoweth not how." There is a point in Christian work where knowledge must yield to mystery.
III. As the work of the sower is assisted by natural processes, so the seed of truth is aided by the natural conscience and aspiration which God has given to all men.
IV. The mysteriousness of processes ought not to deter from reaping the harvest. The spiritual labourer may learn from the husbandman.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 81.
References: Mark 4:26-29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1603; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 84; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 186; W. M. Taylor, Parables of our Saviour, p. 196; A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 117.
Mark 4:26-33Christ's Idea of Christianity.
I. The kingdom of God, or the beginning of a truly religious life in the soul of a man, may be obscure, imperceptible and unconscious. When a man is building a house he sees it as it goes on. That is an outside matter. A man goes into his garden and plants seed. He may sit up all night with spectacles and a lantern, but he will not see anything going on; and yet there is something going on which is vitally connected with the whole operation of vegetable development. So is it with the spiritual life. The work of God in the human soul is gradual. Further, the working of religion in the human soul is not scattering, accidental, promiscuous, just as it may happen. It has its regular stages, and one will not precede the other except in the order of these stages. First the blade, then the ear, then the kernel in the ear, and you cannot make one of them anticipate the others so that they will not follow in that sequence.
II. Conversion is often an imperceptible condition. That is, when a man is converted in the old-fashioned understanding of that word, when he has passed from death to life, when the balance is struck, and it is for purity, for holiness, for obedience to God, for love; he may not know it. Unconscious piety is simply this, the being trained from your cradle by your surrounding circumstances into those very moods and into that very purpose of life which conversion means. It is being inwardly changed, away from animal toward spiritual life; away from the law of selfishness toward the law of a true love. The moment a man can have the testimony of himself that that is his purpose, though not his attainment, then he is converted, though he may not know it.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, p. 120.
Reference: Mark 4:27, Mark 4:28.—W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 209.
Mark 4:28-29The seed cast into the ground is undoubtedly to be understood of the knowledge of good which may be at any time laid before the mind of another. We have an opportunity, it may be, of doing this; a person is with us for a certain time, and then perhaps is removed from us; we must even leave the seed to itself and go on our way trusting that God in His good providence will preserve it, and make it spring up in its season.
I. It may be asked, What is the lesson we are to learn from this? for it is not the custom of our Lord merely to state a thing as a matter of fact actually occurring in life, unless there may be something derived from it practically useful. And we cannot suppose that He means to advise us to be careless, to take no pains of our own, but to leave the event wholly to God. Undoubtedly it does not mean this; for how does our Lord represent Himself? As the gardener digging about and dressing the barren fig-tree, in the hope that it might perhaps at last bring forth fruit. And what Christ teaches us in one parable will never contradict what He teaches us in another. Let the two parables teach us different lessons, each making that of the other complete. We should do all that we can do, and then leave the event to God with confidence. To provide for the future by any present act is wise and good; but to be anxious about the future, where no act of ours can affect it, is a weakness and a want of faith. The parable of the fig-tree teaches us the first, the parable of the growth of the corn while men slept, teaches us the foolishness of the second.
II. But together with a vain anxiety, the parable also condemns a vain impatience. "The earth brought forth first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." Each in its own order, but not all at once, and still less the last first. What we should look for in the spring is promise, in the summer and autumn, it is performance. What should disappoint us is to find these wanting; it were a strange folly that should seek in summer for the fresh leaves and delicate flowers of spring, or in spring should require the deep foliage and abundant fruits of summer.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 140.
The Seed growing secretly.
I. In this passage we have a striking picture of the silent growth of God's word, whether in the individual, or in the Church at large. So is the kingdom of God: not different, but exactly similar in its development to the process by which food is brought out of the earth. The sower does not meddle with the seed when once it is in the ground. He does not, after a week or a month, go to the field and take up the seed, and look if it be growing. No; but he leaves it there, confident that it has a quickening power in itself, and that in due time it will break through the clods and spring up and bear fruit. And this should teach us to have faith in the power of God's Word, which His ministers sow in the hearts of their hearers. It should teach us patience; it should teach us to wait in faith, till the Word we sow has had time; it should increase our faith in the power of the Word to grow of itself, when once it has been received.
II. And this growing of itself is further set forth in the words that follow—"For the earth bringeth forth of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." You cannot hurry the growth of a seed of corn. It must have time and its own time. It must go through the several stages of its appointed growth. Nor is it otherwise with the seed sown in our hearts, the Word of God, the Gospel, the teaching of Jesus Christ. There must be in the young a growth in grace, a gradual going forwards. We must not expect to see in them a wisdom and a goodness which belong only to a riper age.
III. Let us bear in mind for our warning that what God requires in all the plants of His sowing is fruit-return for the care bestowed. He showers down upon the soul the dew of His blessing. He gives us largely in this country every means of grace, that we may grow thereby, and in return He expects fruit. He expects that we, thus highly favoured, should not be barren and unprofitable, but should bring forth fruit unto Him—fruit that shall remain, fit to be stored in the heavenly garner—fruit unto life eternal.
R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches, 2nd series, p. 130.
References: Mark 4:28.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 72; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 164; G. Litting, Thirty Children's Sermons, p. 205.
Mark 4:30The kingdom of God is not the Church, but a far wider, vast, outlying region; where Jehovah's omnipotence and wisdom—with, indeed, all His glorious attributes—reign absolutely. The Church is the centre of this kingdom; the kingdom, the outlying territory of the Church.
I. This doctrine of the kingdom of God as distinct from the Church will assist us in the interpretation of many passages of Scripture, and notably of our Lord's parables. To take one instance, there is the question whether the Church in any given land ought to include all the inhabitants within its fellowship; or to exclude those of wicked, sinful life. Men turn to the parable of the tares, in which it is said, "Let both grow together until the harvest," and argue that Christ has absolutely forbidden the exercise of discipline and the removal of wicked men from the Church. This might be correct if the Lord had said, "To what shall we liken the Church of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? "Instead of that, He said, "The field is the world"—not the Church.
II. This doctrine of the kingdom of God as distinct from the Church, will assist us in our estimate of things sacred and secular. Many things outside the Church are yet inside the kingdom. Many things belong to God that have nothing to do with the Gospel. The commerce and manufactures of Great Britain are as much God's gifts to us for His service and praise as were Bethlehem's fields to Jesse. The science and marvellous discoveries of the nineteenth century are as directly Jehovah's bestowments upon us as were the abundance of the sea and the treasures hid in the sand His blessings upon Zebulon.
III. The doctrine of the distinction between the kingdom of God and the Church will assist us to overcome the irreligiousness with which we deal with earthly things.
IV. The doctrine of the distinction between the kingdom of God and the Church will assist us to appreciate the greatness of our privileges as members of the Church of Christ. Wherefore has the kingdom of God the Church for its centre, but that she may be stored with privileges and blessings that shall regenerate the world. As were the Apostles to the Church, so is the Church to Christendom. The Church is the army of liberation for this sin-worn desolated world.
A. Davies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 269.
Reference: Mark 4:30.—A. Davies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., pp. 252, 269.
Mark 4:30-32I. Observe the minuteness of the seed which is ordinarily first deposited by God's Spirit in man's heart. If you examine the records of Christian biography, you will find, so far as it is possible to search out such facts, that conversion is commonly to be traced to inconsiderable beginnings, a single word, a solitary verse, a casual expression, one of these it is which, in the vast variety of cases, settles down into the heart, and after lying buried there a year it may be, or two years, or ten years, it will suddenly and unexpectedly vegetate, so that the forgotten and apparently dead grain shoots into a plant of conversion and righteousness.
II. The parable under review is an accurate figure of the religion of Jesus Christ, when considered in respect of its spreading over all the earth. It has been sometimes thought that there lies an evidence against the Divine origin of Christianity, in the fact of the inconsiderable progress that it has hitherto made among men. We think, calculating probabilities by our imperfect arithmetic, that Christianity, as soon as published, might have been expected to start into unlimited empire. But the Bible gives no countenance to such an expectation. On the contrary, a season of depression and disaster, and occasionally almost extinction,—introductory, indeed, but at long distance, to a season of strength and glory—this is throughout the Scriptures a Scriptural representation. The parable before us agrees in all its main features with those ordinarily given in Scripture. The imagery drawn from our fields and gardens will always suggest the idea of a difficult and interrupted growth. As a general rule, vegetable productions pass through so many positions of danger ere they reach their maturity, that likening the text to a kingdom or dispensation will always suggest, if not actually require, the idea that such a kingdom or such a dispensation can only reach its greatness or its fulness by passing through long stages of difficulty or hindrance.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,907.
I. Small beginning may have great endings. (a) This should encourage all holy labourers. (b) This should alarm all wicked men.
II. Vitality is more than magnitude. (a) This applies to creeds; (b) to church agencies or organisations; (c) to a public profession of faith.
III. The least thing in nature is a better illustration of Divine truth than the greatest object in art. The least of all seeds more fitly represents the kingdom of heaven than the most elaborate of all statuary.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 82.
References: Mark 4:30-32.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 472. Mark 4:30-34.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 89.
Mark 4:33-34This text may be used as supplying three lessons as to the duties of the Christian teacher.
I. He must adapt himself to his hearers.
II. He must consider his hearers rather than himself.
III. He must increase his communication of truth and light according to the progress of his scholars.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 82.
References: Mark 4:33-34.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1669. Mark 4:34.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 191. Mark 4:34-41.—Homilist, vol. iv., p. 177.
Mark 4:35Veiled under some real fact in our Lord's life on earth, lie all the revelations of His will in faith and doctrine concerning His Church and His children throughout the ages; so I seem to trace the spiritual teaching of Advent under the storm that befel the disciples on the lake long ago.
I. As I see the time when this took place, I learn something. It was eventide—nay, it was more than that—it was eventide when these disciples braced the halyards and drew up the brown sail, and gave the prow of their little vessel to the setting sun; but at the crisis of the story it was more than eventide—it was night; the hours had sped on, twilight so short in those eastern lands had slipped suddenly away; not alone a storm, but darkness had overtaken these disciples. So with us now the time as of old is eventide; the ages have slipped by and we are standing here, heirs of all the ages past, nearer the time than when we believed. It is eventide with us, and it is something more—darkness has overtaken us also.
II. From this darkness on the lake I learn another thing. The darknesses of our holy religion—its mysteries, its sacraments—make Christ to be prized even more highly than if our faith existed without such darkness and such shrouds. In the dark shadow of these mysteries sits Jesus Christ. It was so of old. It is so now. These disciples, sitting in the setting sun, with light all around them, with no storm battling against their sails; no darkness around them; nothing to hide Christ from them;—think you it was good for them; nay that they half realized what they realized of their Master when loosing their vessel, they swept across the sea of Galilee, and entered the darkness; spent the night with Him; discovered the mystery of His hidden presence? I think not; but when they had thus proceeded, how different it was with them, The darkness came; did it take Christ away? nay, it brought Him nearer as their helper. The night fell; it shrouded Him, but it took not Christ away; dearer and closer their yokefellow in danger; it was the reason that he rose up at their greatest need and cried His great words of "Peace, be still."
W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 9.
References: Mark 4:35, Mark 4:36.—A. G. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 309. Mark 4:35-39.—Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, vol. i., p. 47.
Mark 4:35-41There are various instances in Sacred Scripture of the effect produced by the revelation of God to man, sometimes by mere power, sometimes by terror, sometimes, as in the drama of Job, by a long discourse of natural history. But here it was the mercifulness, the sympathy, the succour which were manifested, that touched the hearts of the disciples. He came to their rescue; and although the wonder of His power over great natural laws was not without its effect, yet that which seems to have touched them and filled them all the rest of their lives, was the sense that He was their protector, their Saviour.
I. Everyone comes first or last to God, through tribulation. There never was a people that lived and flourished on the earth, outside of a fable, who did not need a God of compassion. Taking the human race comprehensively, the whole world has been in a condition that no other than such a Deity could possibly fit, or endure, either the measurement or the morality which has been inspired by the Gospel. Consider what poverty has done and is doing all over the world. Go inside of men, and see what a torment is the sense of right and wrong, of unaccomplished rectitude, of unfulfilled vows, and of purpose ignobly wasted. Men, looking at them in their very best conditions, as in modern developed society, are continually in need of somebody to be willing to help them; and the mischief is, that according to our ideas of the laws of nature and the laws of grace, men feel, I dare not ask for help. What am I that I should? But if there could break out from heaven a voice, saying, "Not because you are rich, but because of your poverty; not by reason of your worth, but by reason of your misery, I will help you?" The very conception of the love of God under such circumstances—how much light it brings to despairing souls.
II. The doctrine of the compassion of God, of the compassion of Christ, I think, has been the salvation of the Bible, of the Church and of faith; and every limitation of it is a peril. The Christ in art has mostly perished. There was a time when men spoke by art, carved, built, painted; and there are certain ages in which the idea of art conveys more really the living thought of the age than anything that is recorded in book of history. That has gone by long ago, and the glory of Christ, and the thoughts of men about Christ, are diffusing themselves throughout the whole Christian world. Christ in humanity, Christ in sympathy for others, that has become the Christ of our age. That amelioration has been going on in barbarous countries and among civilised nations. That different conception of the outcast and criminal classes; that hopefulness of reformation under certain possible conditions of mind; that general kindness and tenderness even to those whom society must banish frequently from itself; the recognition of the brotherhood of men—that is Christ at the present time, working into actual affairs, and leavening the whole lump.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 51.
I. We see here the organised Church in peril—Christ and His disciples were all in this tempest.
II. Dangers beset the Church even whilst it is carrying out the express commands of Christ.
III. The spirit of Christ, not the body of Christ, must save the Church in all peril.
IV. Jesus Christ answers the personal appeal of the imperilled Church.
V. All the perils of the Church may be successfully encountered by profound faith in God.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 82.
References: Mark 4:35-41.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 94; Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 95; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 248; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 136. Mark 4:36.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 258.
Mark 4:36-38The toiling Christ.
Among the many loftier characteristics belonging to Christ's life and work, there is a very homely one which is often lost sight of; and that is, the amount of hard physical exertion, prolonged even to fatigue and exhaustion, which He endured. "They took Him even as He was into the ship." And many expositors suppose that in the very form of that phrase there is suggested the extreme of weariness and exhaustion which He suffered, after the hard day's toil. Whether that be so or not, the swiftness of the move to the little boat, and His going on board without a moment's preparation, leaving the crowd on the beach, seems most naturally accounted for by supposing that He had come to the last point of physical endurance, and that his frame, worn out by the hard day's work, needed one thing—rest.
I. First, let me point out some of the significant hints which the Gospel records give us of the toilsomeness of Christ's service. We are chiefly indebted for these to the Gospel of Mark. Note (1) how distinctly this Gospel gives the impression of swift, strenuous work. The narrative is brief and condensed. There is one word which is reiterated over and over again in the earlier chapters, remarkably conveying this impression of haste and strenuous work. Mark's favourite word is "straightway," "immediately," "forthwith," "anon," which are all translations of one expression. The story seems as it were to pant with haste, to keep up with Him as He moves among men, swift as the sunbeam and continuous in the outflow of His love as these unceasing rays. (2) Again, we see in Christ's service, toil prolonged to the point of actual physical exhaustion. (3) We see in Christ toil that puts aside the claims of physical wants. (4) We see in Christ's service a love which is at every man's beck and call, a toil cheerfully rendered at the unreasonable and unseasonable times.
II. Notice how we get from our Lord's own words a glimpse into the springs of this wonderful activity. There are three points which distinctly come out in various places of the Gospels as His motives for such unresting sedulousness and continuance of toil. (1) The first is conveyed in such words as these, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me." "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." All these express one thought. Christ lived and toiled and bore weariness and exhaustion, because wherever He went, and whatsoever He set His hand to, He had the one consciousness of a great task laid upon Him by a loving Father, whom He loved, and whom, therefore, it was His joy and His blessedness to serve. (2) And still further, another of the secret springs that move His unwearied activity, His heroism of toil, is the thought expressed in such words as these, "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." "The night cometh when no man can work." He recognised the brief hour of sunny life as being an hour that must be filled with service, and recognised the fact that there was a task that He could only do when He lived the life of a man upon earth. (3) And there was a final motive which I need barely touch. He was impelled to His sedulous service by the motive expressed in such words as these, in which this Gospel is remarkably rich, "Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him."
III. So much for the motive; and now a word finally as to the worth of this toil for us. What do we learn from His example? (1) Task all your capacity, and use every minute in doing the thing that is plainly set before you to do. (2) We may bring the greatest principles to bear on the smallest duties. (3) We learn the possible harmony of communion and service.
A. Maclaren, Sermons preached in Manchester, 3rd series, p. 273.
Mark 4:38I. Look at the illustrious sleeper. The greatest of all slept. Thus was He in all points like unto His brethren; the substance of His body was wasted and was repaired, renewed and restored by food; the brain and nerves were exhausted, and their power was renewed by sleep. A morbid piety and a false morality find virtue in wakefulness, when nature preaches forgetfulness and demands repose. Religion is rather in going to sleep when Nature has need of slumber, than in a forced watchfulness for its sake. Doubtless, Christ was often weary, and now we see Him at rest. He sleeps after the hard work of a very busy day. To cease from labour is as much a duty as to work; rest is pure and holy and good, when in season. To everything there is a season and a time, for every purpose under heaven there is a time to rest. He who, in his working, works the work of God, and does God's will instead of his own, will see the season for rest, and will have the hour for rest.
II. This sleep of Jesus, the Man and the Christ of God, in the storm, was natural, and not in any sense forced or artificial; but it presents two things—first, the complete exhaustion of the body of Jesus, and secondly, the sweet and perfect peace of His spirit. Safe from evil and from every fear, He must live until of His work it could be said, "It is done." He will die, but not now; He will be killed, but not by the storm; He will go to the grave, but will not find His tomb in the depths of the sea. In the fulness of time He will die, and by means fixed in the foreknowledge, and predetermined in the counsel of God. Until that day He will deliver Him from all evil—God will guard His soul. He was in the hinder part of the ship asleep.
III. In the case before us, the disciples were awake, the Master was sleeping. Now, the Master sleeps not, slumbers not, and the disciples may, in season, safely, quietly, peacefully sleep. Let Christ be with you always, with you everywhere—with you at all times, with you in all circumstances. Seek to be conscious of His presence, and you will not only be safe, but you will feel blessed.
S. Martin, Penny Pulpit (New series), No. 389.
Mark 4:38The Sympathy of God and Necessity of Man.
I. It cannot be denied that there are many facts and many experiences in the life of this world, which irresistibly suggest the question whether God can be waking, or if wakeful, caring. To try to enumerate such phenomena is as needless as it would be painful. We cannot but read this sleep of Jesus Christ in the boat, tossed by the waves, with His disciples standing by, wondering and half murmuring, as intended to represent the world-wide, age-long mystery to which we are pointing.
II. The sympathy of God is more vital to us even than His omnipotence. The disciples accepted the perishing—in other words, the non-intervention of Christ to save—what they could not accept was His not caring. In its influence upon the heart, to care is more than to save. Love is more than power, even in the Divine. Far better would it be for us, as spiritual and immortal beings, to imagine that there might be some opposing and thwarting impediment in the way of the present exercise of God's attribute of omnipotence, than that there should be any defect or any coldness in His love. And when a man has made up his mind at all costs to believe in the Divine care for him, he will find, as he casts himself day by day upon that love and that compassion that, for him at all events, however it may be for the universe, the power is already sufficient too. Beginning with the axiom, "Thou, God, carest," he passes on into the experimental conviction, "There is none like unto Thee, O Lord, there is not one that can do as Thou doest."
III. "Carest thou not?" has a voice for the disciple as well as for the Master. It reproves the lazy loitering, the purposeless sauntering, the silly dreaming, in which so many of us pilgrims and voyagers pass this responsible, this anxious lifetime. Not to care that we perish is suicide; not to care that our brother perishes is murder. Christ cared, God cared, that we might care; and yet, as I look within, as I look around me, I find almost nothing that expresses, almost nothing that is consistent with this anxiety. I see lives given to this one thing, the making themselves easy, soft and luxurious. "Give me one serious man" was the French statesman's challenge. "Give me one," we will echo it, "who cares if he himself, cares if his brother perishes."
C. J. Vaughan, University Sermons, p. 305.
References: Mark 4:38.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1121. Mark 4:39.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 77. Mark 4:39, Mark 4:40.—J. H. Thom, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, p. 47. Mark 4:40, Mark 4:41.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 138.
Mark 4:41Our Divine Saviour teaches us sometimes by deeds, sometimes by words, sometimes by silence. His silence speaks more than the words of other men; His words do more than all men's deeds together; while His deeds themselves possess moreover an infinite eloquence. We have in this miracle, as we shall see in the sequel, all these modes of teaching combined.
I. Jesus had all day long, like His own good householder, been busy, bringing forth every form and phase of truth which might comfort and forewarn His little flock. And having so done, He winds up His day by that act of marked significance which is now before us. Does He not in this parabolic miracle show to those who were the nucleus and kernel of His kingdom, to those valiant souls who were with Him in His labours and were to be with Him in His approaching trials, that let come what storm there might upon the Church and on the soul, He was with them still, and would be with them even to the end? Let us not be like that captain, who having a true and correct chart in his cabin, failed to consult it while the weather was calm, but went below to look for it only when the wind and tide had drifted his barque upon the bar, and so with his eyes upon the course he should have steered, felt the shock, which in a few moments sent them down to the abyss. Our souls are like a ship upon the deep, and as we sail over the waves of life, we must, like wary mariners, take the hints given us in our nature. If we see on the horizon a cloud of some possible temptation no bigger than a man's hand, though all else be bright and clear, we must beware; for in that speck may couch a tempest ready to spring up and leap down upon our souls. Above all, we should always have Christ aboard with us; we should have Him formed within us as our hope of glory; under His ensign we should sail as our only hope of reaching that haven for which we are making.
II. The Church at large and the several members of the Church, like the boat in the miracle, have Him with us whom even the winds and the sea obey. Though He seem to be careless of us, is it not the fact it is we who are forgetful of Him? Though he sleeps, so to speak, that is to say, though He seem to our faithless hearts to hide Himself for a moment, His heart waketh, and a single cry to Him will let us know to our peace and joy that He is there;
W. B. Philpot, Church of England Pulpit, p. 208.
Mark 4:41The Unknown Quantity in Christ.
The unknown quantity in Christ was (1) beneficent, and therefore not from beneath; (2) intensely spiritual, and therefore not of the earth, earthy; (3) wholly self-sacrificial, and therefore different from ordinary human policy and purpose; (4) it set aside canons, traditions, and standards established by men, and therefore claimed a wisdom superior to the ripest wisdom of all human teachers.
Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 97.
References: Mark 4:41.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1686; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 184; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ix., p. 271. Mark 4—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 190. Mark 5:1-10.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 99.
And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
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.
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
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.
And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
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:
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.
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
The sower soweth the word.
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.
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
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.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
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.
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.
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?
For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
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.
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
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:
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.
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
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.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
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?
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.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?