What does Mark 4:2 mean?
ESV: And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
NIV: He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:
NASB: And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
CSB: He taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them,
NLT: He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
KJV: And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
NKJV: Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:
Verse Commentary:
"Parable" is from the Greek root word parabole. It means to set something similar alongside for comparison. Speaking "in parables" can refer to use of metaphorical stories, or it can mean the story is enigmatic and in riddles. Mark's emphasis is on the fact that Jesus' teaching is puzzling, more than the fact that it's in a particular literary form.

Mark does not record much of Jesus' teaching. Matthew 13 includes a few more parables which Jesus apparently taught at the same time. The parables in Mark 4 all elaborate on the purpose of parables as a teaching method. Parables are useful because they teach spiritual truths through stories about everyday life. Jesus, however, also uses them as a vetting process. Those who refuse to listen at all show their rejection of Jesus. Those who listen and then leave with only a surface understanding reveal that they are not interested in following Jesus. But those who listen and stay to ask Jesus the deeper meaning have softened hearts that are ready to hear Jesus' spiritual message.

Parables such as these work because God Himself established the objects these metaphors are based on. He also conditions us to listen to story through our need to understand history. Today, we are more likely to use allegory, like the Chronicles of Narnia. An allegory is similar to a parable, but the metaphor is based more on the character of people (like Aslan as Jesus) than more esoteric spiritual truths. Jesus' use of parables shows that fiction, when done properly, can be a very effective tool for spreading the gospel and deepening spiritual growth.
Verse Context:
Mark 4:1–9 is this Gospel's first major account of Jesus' teaching. In the previous chapter, Jesus encountered varied reactions to His ministry. This passage opens with a parable describing why people react in these ways. Ironically, the very act of using parables reveals what kind of a student someone is. Those intrigued by the story and trusting of the teacher want to know more. Those who are hardened, shallow, or distracted don't allow Jesus' message to change their hearts. These events are also found in Matthew 13:1–9 and Luke 8:4–8.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus speaks in parables to the assembled crowd, giving them an opportunity to decide how much spiritual truth they want to absorb. The disciples, wanting to learn more, ask Jesus to explain the meaning of the parables He has taught. As Jesus explains these ideas, He demonstrates that a person's spiritual knowledge is based on their willingness to pursue truth. After describing Jesus' teaching in some detail, the Gospel of Mark describes how Jesus calms a storm on the Sea of Galilee.
Chapter Context:
Mark 3 explores the different ways people react to Jesus' teaching and miracles. They either follow Him, use Him, hide Him, or destroy Him. In Mark 4, Jesus explains why people react the way they do. He uses parables to explain who is serious about learning from Him. The softer a person's heart is, the more truth God will reveal. Soon, the twelve will also spread Jesus' message, although they will not be responsible for the spiritual growth of those who believe. The following chapter returns to depicting Jesus' miracles, including two of His most famous.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
Accessed 5/24/2024 10:58:56 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com