Mark 4

Mark 4:1

He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.

The sea of Galilee, which was really a lake. Mark mentions the sea three times in this verse.

Mark 4:2

And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,

Parables; see entry for Matt. 13:3.

Mark 4:12


(a) Return. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a return or turning to God (see entry for Acts 26:20).

(b) Be forgiven. On the cross the Lamb of God bore the sins of the whole world (John 1:29, 2 John 2:2). All your sins have been forgiven. This is why, on the night he rose from the dead, Jesus told the disciples to preach the remission of sins or the good news of unconditional forgiveness (see entry for Luke 24:47). However, you will never experience his forgiveness unless you receive it by faith (Acts 10:43, 26:18). Only in Christ do we have the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14).

God has forgiven us but those who don’t turn to him continue to carry their sins with them. Although God has provided the solution for their sins, they prefer to hold onto their sins rather than receive his forgiveness.

Mark 4:14

“The sower sows the word.

The word is not the Bible but the word of God or the word of Christ or the word of his grace. The gospel of grace, in other words. See entry for Acts 4:31.

Mark 4:16

“In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;

The rocky places describe the mindset of someone who is trusting in the tablets of stone or the law. Since they are relying on the law, the word of grace is unable to take root in their life.

Mark 4:17

and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.

(a) Have no firm root. Jesus is the Root of Jesse, the Root of David, and the Righteous Root that sustains us (Rom. 11:18, 15:12, Rev. 5:5). Those who look to the law to establish their own righteousness have no firm root because their trust is in themselves.

(b) When affliction or persecution arises because of the word. Some hear the gospel of grace and rejoice only to wilt under the frowns of those preaching of law and dead works.

(c) They fall away. The one who relies on his own moral or law-keeping performance is unable to stand because he is not rooted in the Righteous root.

Mark 4:20

“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

To hear the word and accept it is to believe the good news about Jesus.

In the New Testament, there are more than 200 imperative statements linked with faith. Some of these statements exhort us to: receive Jesus (John 1:11-12, 5:43), receive the message of Jesus (John 17:8), obey or heed the message or good news of Jesus (John 17:6) and turn to God in repentance (Acts 26:20).

Other scriptures encourage us to accept the word (Mark 4:20), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), call on the name of the Lord (Act 2:21), eat the bread of life (John 6:50-51), be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3), and be born again (John 3:3, 7).

But the one imperative that appears far more than any other, is the instruction to believe. We are to believe in Jesus (see entry for John 3:16).

Mark 4:23

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Ears to hear. “You need to hear and receive this.” See entry for Matt. 11:15.

Mark 4:25

“For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”

Whoever has. See entry for Matt. 13:12.

Mark 4:33

With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it;

(a) Parables; see entry for Matt. 13:3.

(b) Able to hear it. Jesus told stories about farmers and laborers that ordinary people could relate to. “They were able to hear” means “they were relatable.” They weren’t mystical prophecies about four-headed beasts or heavenly visions of wheels within wheels.

Mark 4:35

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”

The other side. Jesus and the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee from north to south. Their trip began in Capernaum and ended in the region of Gadara, on the southeastern shore. (Matt 8:5, 18, 28).

Mark 4:37

And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.

A fierce gale. On the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee are mountains up to 2000 feet high. The air on top of these mountains is often cool and dry, while the air on the lake shore is warm and moist. When the wind blows from the east, the collision of the different air masses can lead to violent storms such as the one experienced by the disciples.

Mark 4:39

And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.

Rebuked. Jesus rebuked the wind and the word used (epitimao) is the same Greek word for when Jesus rebuked the devil (Matt. 17:18) and various demons (e.g., Mark 1:25). This has led some to conclude that the storm was demonic in nature. However, the Bible never says this and we risk glorifying the devil by attributing to him powers he may not have.

In the poetry of the prophets, it is the Lord who is ultimately credited with the wonders of nature (e.g., Jer. 10:13, 51:16). Just as it is wrong to blame the devil, it is equally misguided to think that all the storms that come our way were sent by God to test us. The story rather illustrates the power we have in Christ to face the storms of life, wherever they come from.

Mark 4:40

And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

No faith. Faith is a positive response to God’s word. Jesus had said they were going to the other side (Mark 4:35), but the disciples did not believe him. They placed more confidence in their own assessment of the circumstances. See entry for Faith.

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