Gospel of Mark Chapter Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Audio Sermon – Mark 4
The Kingdom of God
In Verse 1 we find another mob of people, so many that Jesus spoke from one of those 30-foot boats that dotted the Sea of Galilee. “And the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea.” In Verse 2 we find that “He taught them… by parables,” and you might wonder, “Why did He do it that way? The answer is in Verse 12. It would be unfair for us to be saved through mere intellectual understanding of His words because not all of us are the same - but all, even someone in a coma, can trust in the Lord and receive His Spirit.
His first parable is seen in Verses 3-8 -“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow and it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And then He followed it up with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
What does that parable mean? And what are the “ears” He spoke of in Verse 9? Does it mean that a deaf person is in trouble because they cannot hear? The parable will be explained in Verses 14-20, and the “ears” statement is not about physical deafness, but it has to do with openness to the Lord. All can begin to “hear” the Holy Spirit when we trust in Jesus Christ.
The disciples of Jesus were concerned. They couldn’t grasp the parable either, for as seen in Verse 10, “the twelve asked Him about the parable.” Through the grace of God, the Lord answered not only them, but His words are recorded for us as well. Jesus patiently said to them in Verses 11-12, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.’” You can find similar words in Isaiah 6:9-10.
We are all sinners in the sight of our Holy God and we all need forgiveness. And yet if it was as simple as saying “I’m sorry” to appease God, all would be saved and eternity would be just as much of a mess as humanity is today. Something much deeper is needed. As a well-known Scripture teaches, yes, you are to “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus,” but then it continues, “AND believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.” Then “you WILL be saved… For with the heart one believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” - we must completely surrender to God (Romans 10:9-10).
Jesus said to His disciples in Verse 13, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” And He began to clearly explain in Verses 14-20 the parable He had told the multitude from the deck of the fishing boat. Here’s what He said:
“The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.“
God Himself is the “Sower.” If you have faith, note places like Hebrews 12:2 – “Jesus (is) the author and finisher of our faith.” We are the ground, the earth in Jesus’ parable. The Word of God is planted into humanity. Whether or not we have heard of Jesus in our time or culture is not the point, for, “Since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen… so that (we) are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Some listen to the lies of the enemy and don’t benefit from the Word of God, the seed planted within. Others are shallow and only last for a time. Still more only have eyes for this world and what it offers and bear no fruit for the Lord. But the disciples and you are encouraged to be “good ground,” to trust in the Lord more than in any created thing, enabling you to "hear" the Lord and respond.
He continued in Verses 21 and forward with still more parables: “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” In the same manner that we are to “bear fruit,” it is expected we will allow God's Spirit to be seen in us. If we fell into a deep, dark cave under the earth, which is not unlike the condition of this world, we and the people around us couldn’t see anything. When we become willing to have faith in the Lord, receiving the Holy Spirit is something like being given a flashlight. And the question is: Will you turn it on so that you and others can see? As you are led by the Spirit of God, let the good things of God be seen in you! And LISTEN to the Lord, who said in Verse 23: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
In Verses 24-25, Jesus taught: “With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.” If you are willing to have faith in Him, even “more will be given; but whoever does not have,” will suffer loss. He continued in Verses 26-29, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Something good and wonderful is planted in you, and you are to YIELD, saying "Yes!" to God.
He taught us in Verses 30-32, that “the kingdom of God… is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” Something very small as we perceive things is planted in us, but it is like an acorn which becomes the mighty oak tree. Let Him have His way and you will be amazed at the work He does in you.
More parables were given, as mentioned in Verses 33-34, some recorded in other places, and others possibly not, but the idea of it all is here. We are like the ground and He is the Sower. Allow Him into your heart and life. You won’t be sorry - ever. Jesus also revealed the Kingdom through events in the disciples lives, like the storm that now followed.
In Verses 35 and forward, we see a storm on the Sea of Galilee, not unlike the storms in your life, and the disciples were afraid. They demanded, “Don’t You care?” as we might have asked. He said to the storm, “Peace, be still!” and to them: “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” They said to each other, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” He is God and through faith in Him, we are in His kingdom.
Lord, we confess our need and surrender to You. Fill us with Your Spirit. In Jesus Name. Amen.