Parable of the Sower and Soils
4 Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea [of Galilee]. And a very large crowd gathered around Him, so He got into a boat [anchoring it a short distance out] on the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the shore.(A) 2 And He taught them many things in parables, and in His teaching He said to them, 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow seed; 4 and as he was sowing, some seed fell by the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocks where there was not much soil; and immediately a plant sprang up [a]because the soil had no depth. 6 And when the sun came up, the plant was scorched; and because it had no root, it dried up and withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seed fell into good soil, and as the plants grew and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times [as much as had been sown].” 9 And He said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words.”
10 As soon as He was alone, those who were around Him, together with the twelve [disciples], began asking Him about [the interpretation of] the parables. 11 He said to them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you [who have teachable hearts], but those who are outside [the unbelievers, the spiritually blind] get everything in parables, 12 so that they will continually look but not see, and they will continually hear but not understand, otherwise they might turn [from their rejection of the truth] and be forgiven.”(B)
13 Then He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand and grasp the meaning of all the parables?(C) 14 The sower sows the word [of God, the good news regarding the way of salvation]. 15 These [in the first group] are the ones along the road where the word is sown; but when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 In a similar way these [in the second group] are the ones on whom seed was sown on rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy [but accept it only superficially]; 17 and they have no real root in themselves, so they endure only for a little while; then, when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately they [are offended and displeased at being associated with Me and] stumble and fall away. 18 And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries and cares of the world [the distractions of this age with its worldly pleasures], and the deceitfulness [and the false security or glamour] of wealth [or fame], and the passionate desires for all the other things creep in and choke out the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 And those [in the last group] are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word [of God, the good news regarding the way of salvation] and accept it and bear fruit—thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much [as was sown].”
21 He said to them, “A lamp is not brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed, is it? Is it not [brought in] to be put on the lampstand?(D) 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been kept secret, but that it would come to light [that is, things are hidden only temporarily, until the appropriate time comes for them to be known].(E) 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words.” 24 Then He said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. By your own standard of measurement [that is, to the extent that you study spiritual truth and apply godly wisdom] it will be measured to you [and you will be given even greater ability to respond]—and more will be given to you besides. 25 For [b]whoever has [a teachable heart], to him more [understanding] will be given; and whoever does not have [a yearning for truth], even what he has will be taken away from him.”(F)
Parable of the Seed
26 Then He said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who throws seed on the ground; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up every day, and [in the meantime] the seed sprouts and grows; how [it does this], he does not know. 28 The earth produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head [of grain], then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop ripens, he immediately puts in the sickle [to reap], because [the time for] the harvest has come.”
Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 And He said, “How shall we [c]picture the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use to illustrate and explain it?(G) 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when it is sown on the ground, even though it is [d]smaller than all the [other] seeds that are [sown] on the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden herbs; and it puts out large branches, so that the birds of the sky are able to make nests and live under its shade.”(H)
33 With many such parables, Jesus spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear and understand it; 34 and He did not say anything to them without [using] a parable; He did, however, explain everything privately to His own disciples.
Jesus Stills the Sea
35 On that [same] day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee].” 36 So leaving the crowd, they took Him with them, just as He was, in the boat. And other boats were with Him.(I) 37 And a [e]fierce windstorm began to blow, and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already being swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the stern, asleep [with His head] on the [sailor’s leather] cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are about to die?” 39 And He got up and [sternly] rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still (muzzled)!” And the wind died down [as if it had grown weary] and there was [at once] a great calm [a perfect peacefulness]. 40 Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith and confidence [in Me]?” 41 They were filled with great fear, and said to each other, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
- Mark 4:5 In many parts of Israel a layer of limestone lies an inch or so beneath the surface of the ground. This layer traps the moisture, and for a brief period of time a plant growing there may appear to flourish. But as soon as a dry spell comes, the moisture quickly dissipates. Due to the layer of limestone, the plant cannot sink roots and soon withers and dies (v 6).
- Mark 4:25 The person “who has” is one who is receptive to God’s word, while the one “who does not have” is the person who is blind to and has rejected the spiritual truth and godly wisdom already given to him. As a result, even what little he had previously understood about Jesus will no longer be clear to him.
- Mark 4:30 Lit compare.
- Mark 4:31 In ancient Israel the mustard seed was the smallest known seed, and in rabbinic teaching the mustard seed was used as an example of something very small (in the Talmud).
- Mark 4:37 The Sea of Galilee is famous for its sudden and severe storms, produced by winds that funnel through the passes and canyons of the surrounding hills and create severe turbulence on the water. As experienced fishermen, the disciples knew that this was an almost constant risk in their profession.