Mark 4:1-20 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 4:1-20

  • Mark 4:1-2
  • Again he began to teach by the sea, and a very large crowd gathered around him. So he got into a boat on the sea and sat down, while the whole crowd was by the sea on the shore. 2 He taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them,
  • Jesus and the use of Parables
    • Jesus was prepared to use new methods. He was willing to take religious preaching and teaching out of its conventional setting in the synagogue into the open air and among the crowds of ordinary men and women
    • There must have been many among the religious leaders of the day who regarded Jesus’ methods as sensationalism ((especially in journalism) the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement); but Jesus was wise enough to know when new methods were necessary and adventurous enough to use them
      • I see this often today when someone is attempting to adapt methods to reach a crowd that doesn’t know Jesus yet…We’ve never done it that way before…the message stays the same but the method in which the message is presented can and needs to be updated
    • Jesus chose to use a new method of speaking in parables
      • A parable is basically a comparison
      • It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning
    • Why did Jesus choose this method? And why did it become so characteristic of Him that He is known forever as the master of the parable?
      • Jesus chose the parabolic method simply to make people listen
        • I hear it all the time “the church shouldn’t try to be entertainment”. And I agree with that for the most part (too many things to compete with)
        • But, there is an element in which we need to do things in such a way that we catch people’s interest or we are never going to reach them with the message
        • That’s why I use things like humor, stories, videos at times, and other elements in my sermons when they fit 
        • Jesus was talking to a crowd out in the open. If He didn’t catch their attention, they would just leave
      • Jesus was using something with which Jewish teachers and audiences were entirely familiar
        • Other Rabbis were using parables as part of their teaching method, so the Jewish audience was used to this
        • OT contains parables as well; maybe the most famous being the story of the man who steals his neighbor’s only lamb that Nathan told David when confronting him about his sin with Bathsheba
      • Jesus was making an abstract idea concrete
        • Few people can grasp abstract ideas. Most people think in pictures
        • There is a sense in which every word must become flesh
      • Jesus was compelling people to think for themselves
        • If you really want to help someone grasp an idea or a lesson, you don’t do it for them. You give them the tools to figure out how to do it themselves
  • Mark 4:3-9
  • 3 “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow. 4 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 didn’t have much soil, and it grew up quickly, since the soil wasn’t deep. 6 When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce fruit. 8 Still other seed fell on good ground and it grew up, producing fruit that increased thirty, sixty, and a hundred times.” 9 Then he said, “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.”
  • The Sowing of the Word
    • Jesus started from the here and now to get to the there and then
      • He started with the simplest of things in which even a child could understand
    • Jesus showed that He believed that there was a real kinship between earth and heaven
      • It was possible to see God in the ordinary, common, everyday things of life
      • Archbishop William Temple “Jesus taught men to see the operation of God in the regular and the normal—in the rising of the sun and the falling of the rain and the growth of the plant”
      • Romans 1:20 “For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”
    • The very essence of the parables is that they were spontaneous, of the moment, and unrehearsed
      • Their supreme greatness is that Jesus composed these immortal short stories on the spur of the moment
      • In its most characteristic use the parable is a weapon of controversy, not shaped like a sonnet in undisturbed concentration but improved in conflict to meet the unpremeditated situation
      • When we bear in mind that the parables of Jesus were fleshed out spontaneously, their wonder is increased a hundredfold 
    • They were meant to be heard, not read and studied
      • The parables must never be treated as allegories
        • In an allegory, every part and action and detail of the story has an inner significance
      • An allegory is something to be read and studied and examined
      • A parable is something which was heard once and only once
      • It was a situation in which one great idea let out and shone like a flash of lightening
      • It is always wrong to attempt to make every detail of a parable mean something. 
      • It is always right to say: What one idea would flash into someone’s mind on hearing this story for the first time?
  • Mark 4:10-12
  • 10 When he was alone, those around him with the Twelve asked him about the parables. 11 He answered them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables 12 so that they may indeed look, and yet not perceive; they may indeed listen, and yet not understand; otherwise, they might turn back and be forgiven.”
  • Why Jesus Used Parables/The Secrets of the Kingdom
    • The Secrets of the Kingdom
      • It means something which is quite unintelligible to the person who has not been initiated into its meaning, but is perfectly plain to the person who has been initiated. It does not mean that the kingdom is remote and hard to understand; but it does mean that it is quite unintelligible to those who have not given their hearts to Jesus, and that only those who have taken Jesus as Mater and Lord can understand what the kingdom of God means
      • I Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved
    • Quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10
      • Some will always hear but for whatever reason refuse to understand
      • If we read this hearing not a tone of bitter exasperation but a tone of regretful love, it will sound quite different. It will tell us not of a God who deliberately caused blindness and his His truth, but of people who were so dully uncomprehending that it seemed no use even for God to try to penetrate the iron curtain of their lazy incomprehension. 
  • Mark 4:13-20
  • 13 Then he said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand all of the parables?14 The sower sows the word. 15 Some are like the word sown on the path. When they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word sown in them. 16 And others are like seed sown on rocky ground. When they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root; they are short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, they immediately fall away. 18 Others are like seed sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the worries of this age, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 And those like seed sown on good ground hear the word, welcome it, and produce fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred times what was sown.”
  • The Parable of the Sower Explained
    • Four types of soil 
      • The hard ground beside the road
        • Fields were in the form of long, narrow strips. They were divided by little grass paths which would become hard as stone as people walked on them
        • There are some people into whose hearts Christian truth can find no entry
        • This is due to their lack of interest; and that comes from a failure to realize how important the Christian decision is. Christianity fails to make an impact on so many people not because they are hostile to it, but because they are indifferent
      • The rocky ground
        • This was not ground full of stones; it was a thin soil over a shelf of limestone rock that was prevalent in Palestine
        • Seed which fell there sprouted all right; but because the soil was so shallow and held so little nourishment and moisture, the heat of the sun soon withered the sprouting seed and it died
        • It is always easier to begin a thing than to finish it (finish well)
        • Someone once said “We have learned that it takes about five percent effort to win a man to Christ, and ninety-five percent to keep him in Christ and growing into maturity in the church”
        • Two troubles
          • The failure to think the thing out and to think it through, the failure to realize what it means and what it costs before the start is made
          • There are thousands of people who are attracted by Christianity but who never let it get beyond the surface of their lives
          • The fact is that with Christianity it is a case of all or nothing. We are safe only when we have given ourselves in total commitment to Christ
      • The ground full of thorns
        • It is easy to pack life with such a multiplicity of interests that there is no time left for Christ
        • I’m sure we can all think of someone who was once faithful that fell away because they let the world distract them
      • The good, clean, deep soil
        • If we are really to benefit by the Christian message, the parable tells us that we must do three things
          • Hear it
          • Receive it
          • Put it into action
            • Many people hear it, fewer receive it, and even fewer put the message into action
            • Life on Mission
            • If the Word of God is not changing you, then you haven’t let it penetrate your life
    • What’s the one big idea that someone first hearing this parable would get?
      • Although part of the seed never grew, the fact remained that at the end of the day there was a splendid harvest. This parable was meant to end despair. 
      • It may seem that much of our effort achieves no result; it may seem that much of our labor is wasted
      • But this parable says “Patience! Do your work. Sow the seed. Leave the rest to God. The harvest is sure.”

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