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Mark chapter 4

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1And 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. 2And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, 3Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8And 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. 9And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11And 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: 12That 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. 13And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? 14The sower soweth the word. 15And 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. 16And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17And 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. 18And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19And 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. 20And 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.
21And 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? 22For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. 23If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. 24And 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. 25For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. 26And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. 30And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31It 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: 32But 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. 33And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

What does Mark chapter 4 mean?

The focus of Mark's Gospel is Jesus' actions. Only here and in Mark 13:3–37 does this book spend significant time recording Jesus' teaching. In the previous chapter, Mark explores the different reactions people have to Jesus, His teachings, and His miracles. The Pharisees (Mark 3:1–6, 22), Herodians (Mark 3:6), and Jesus' family (Mark 3:21, 31) react with varying degrees of horror. The people like what Jesus has to say, but like His healing miracles more (Mark 3:7–12). The twelve, referring to Jesus' inner circle of disciples, and a group of others want to know the deeper meanings of Jesus' teaching (Mark 3:13–19, 34–35). Here, Jesus explains why He is met with such diverse reactions.

The crowd gathered on the shore of the Sea of Galilee makes aggressive attempts to reach Jesus for healing (Mark 3:7–9). So, He sits in a boat to teach them as they remain on the shore. Jesus uses parables, a symbolic form of teaching, to explain the mystery of the gospel (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1–6). Parables are metaphorical stories which reveal the truth in an oblique way. Listeners must work to understand the seemingly simple stories—between public parables and private explanations to His disciples, Jesus mentions listening or hearing more than a dozen times! Not everyone heeds His instruction.

Although the crowd is willing to listen to Jesus' parables, they have no interest in the spiritual meaning behind the stories. The disciples—the twelve and others (Mark 4:10)—ask Jesus for clarification when things are quieter. Jesus explains that the parables act as a gateway. Those who have no wish to dive below the surface are free to go on their way, while those who are drawn in by the simple stories will receive answers for their questions, answers which will eventually lead to forgiveness.

These reactions are illustrated in the parable. The seeds on the path are eaten by birds as Satan snatches spiritual truths from hardened hearts. Seeds in rocky ground are like those who hear Jesus' teaching and react favorably, but don't have the personal depth to keep their attention on Jesus in the face of hardships. The thorns represent worldly distractions, such as wealth, that keep an interested seeker from developing into a true believer. The seeds on the good soil are those who produce spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22–23).

Jesus then tells several parables illustrating how His message of the gospel will spread. First, He explains that although the gospel has been hidden until now, it is time to expose the truth, like a lamp lighting a room. The more open people are to Jesus' teaching, the more spiritual wisdom God will give to them. Those who only want to understand a little will wind up with nothing at all. Soon, Jesus will send the apostles out to propagate His message (Mark 6:7–13). As they teach, they should understand they are not responsible for the spiritual growth of their listeners any more than a farmer is responsible for making his crops grow. And they should be prepared; the simple truths of the gospel will create a great movement that blesses all the nations.

In that vein, Jesus tells the disciples it is time to cross the Sea of Galilee to reach other people. He takes advantage of the boat ride to sleep, despite getting caught in a horrible storm. Terrified of imminent death, the twelve awaken Jesus. After scolding them for their lack of faith, He tells the wind and sea, "Peace! Be still!" The weather immediately clears, and the disciples redirect their focus from fear to faith; from storms to Jesus, the man who can control the wind and the sea.
What is the Gospel?
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