May 29, 2005

Mark 4:1-20 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

Mark 4:1-20
(May 29, 2005 Sermon Notes)

Jesus didn’t always use parables. He began to only when opposition arose (Mark 2-3). Now, in Mark 4, Jesus not only uses parables; He also discusses why He uses them. He uses them because of their effect on those who hear them. And the first parable is all about hearing.

WHY PARABLES? (4:1-12)

Jesus teaches by the sea again and a crowd gathers. This time, however, the crowd came so close to crushing Him (3:9) that Jesus got into the boat. They don’t want to listen; they crowd Him to be healed.

Jesus responds by distancing Himself physically (in the boat) and in His manner of teaching (parables). In the Bible, parables are not illustrations to make things clear. They are “dark sayings,” designed to hide things from those outside. Parables go hand in hand with judgment (e.g., Jud. 9:7-20; 2 Sam. 12:1ff.; Ps. 78:2ff.; Ezek. 17:2ff.; 24:3ff.)

Jesus no longer speaks plainly to the crowd; instead He uses parables. When His disciples ask about the parable, Jesus distinguishes insiders (those with Him) from outsiders (see also 3:31-35).

God has graciously given the insiders the knowledge of the mystery of God’s kingdom: They don’t know everything, but they know it’s coming in and through Jesus. But — as in Isaiah 6, which Jesus quotes — the outsiders get everything (including Jesus’ actions) in parables as a form of judgment to leave them blind and deaf under God’s wrath, the wrath they deserve because they trusted their own wisdom instead of following Jesus.

We are insiders, members of Christ’s church. With the disciples, we receive Jesus’ explanation. Indeed, we receive more than the disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus’ parables don’t just conceal; they reveal.


Before Jesus explains the parable, He rebukes His followers. God has granted them knowledge of the mystery of His kingdom and they should be able to use that knowledge to figure out the parable. If they can’t figure it out, if they don’t learn the right attitude from it, they will be like the “outsiders,” unable to understand any of the parables.

But Jesus wants His followers to understand and so He provides the information we need to understand this parable. The sower is Jesus (who “goes out” [1:38; 2:13, 17] to preach “the word” [1:45; 2:2; 4:33; 8:32]), but some people are as hard as the path through the field. The word doesn’t sink in and Satan takes it away. But the fault is their own: If they had been good soil, Satan wouldn’t have been able to snatch the seed away.

Others are rocky soil and what grows doesn’t put down roots. When the sun beats down on them — that is, when persecution comes — they wither. Others let the concerns of “this age” (the Old Covenant era) — their allegiance to temple, land, etc. — become thorns that choke the word. Today, too, other concerns (work, sports, family) may keep us from hearing Christ’s word fruitfully.

This parable isn’t a warning to unbelievers only. Peter acts like the hard path, rejecting Jesus’ word, and Jesus calls him “Satan” (8:32-33). The disciples are rocky soil: when persecution comes because of Jesus’ word, they stumble (14:27). It is not as if a person is only one of these soils throughout his life. Each of us may be one or more of these bad soils at various times.

But the sower’s mission will not fail. The seed will fall in good soil and bear an abundant harvest. But to bear that harvest, we need to make sure Jesus’ word sinks into us, sets down deep roots, and grows unhampered by thorns. If we have ears to hear, we must hear. And when we hear the word and receive it we will bear fruit to God’s glory.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:44 am | Discuss (0)

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