The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Mark 4

Mar 4:3

Sowing: what to sow (Luk 8:11), what not to sow (Deu 22:9), how to sow (Psa 126:5,6), when to sow (Ecc 11:6), reward of sowing (1Co 15:58).

LISTEN: Placing supreme importance upon next words. This, the beginning and key to all Christ's parables. "Hear, O Israel" (Deu 4:6). "To him shall you listen" (Deu 18:15). In ct to Mat 13, Mar 4 uses only 3 (of 8) parables, and stresses the positive aspects of gospel proclamation and realization.

Mar 4:4

Vv 4-8: 4 hearers: careless, casual, worldly, and sincere.

Mar 4:13

DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THIS PARABLE?: Which is comparatively simple and obvious...

HOW THEN WILL YOU UNDERSTAND ANY PARABLE?: That is, the more difficult and obscure ones? Christ gives an explanation, as a guide to knowing other parables.

Mar 4:20

Even at this late stage, complacency is discouraged, and carefulness is needed to produce the very most fruit.

THIRTY, SIXTY, OR EVEN A HUNDRED TIMES: "Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him" (Gen 26:12).

Mar 4:21

BOWL: Or "bushel" (RSV; AV). Gr word only in this instance, ie Mat 5:15; Mar 4:21; Luk 11:33: an instrument of commerce! "Light" obscured by "business".

BED: An instrument of leisure. "Light" obscured by "sleep": see Pro 26:14.

Mar 4:22

The manifestation of the hidden/concealed glory out of the sanctuary: Psa 27:5; 31:20; 81:7.

Mar 4:25

EVEN WHAT HE HAS: Or, as in Luk 8:18, "seems to have".

Mar 4:26

A MAN SCATTERS SEED: Gathering seed is pleasant, but scattering it may be profitable.

Mar 4:27

THE SEED SPROUTS AND GROWS: "God is a Loving Father teaching us to walk. We are infants in His hand. He does not condemn us for our constant stumblings, for the weakness and unsteadiness of our legs, for our clumsiness and lack of balance. He knows that all that is inevitably part of the learning process. He does not demand instant perfection or ability or dexterity. But He does demand desire, and effort, and perseverance, and dedication. He does condemn us for failure to try, for wandering interest, for indolent contentment to remain spoon-fed, spiritual infants. He does not condemn us for difficulties and setbacks in the process of growing up to Him. But He does condemn us -- and will ultimately reject us -- for not giving total effort and zeal" (GVG).

THOUGH HE DOES NOT KNOW HOW: Life is a mystery, but also a fact -- for it proves itself. The vitality of the seed is independent of the sower.

Mar 4:32

BIRDS: Often used in an unclean sense: Gen 15:11; Eze 31:6; Isa 34:14,15.

SHADE: See Isa 32:2; Eze 17:23; 31:6. Shade/shadow of sun, to avoid its harsh rays (sig affliction).

Mar 4:35

Vv 35-41: Cp experiences of Jonah.

Jesus needs solitude for thought and prayer (cp Isa 50:4; Psa 119:147,148). A list of "solitude passages": Mar 1:35-37; 3:7,9,20,21; 4:35-38; 6:31; 7:17,18,24; 8:10,11,27; 9:30; 10:32; 14:32.

Mar 4:36

The four-fold power of Christ:
1. Over the elements (Mar 4:36-41): the storm without.
2. Over madness (Mar 5:1-20): the "storm" within.
3. Over disease (Mar 5:24-34):the primary effect of sin.
4. Over death (Mar 5:35-43): the last effect of sin.

JUST AS HE WAS: Without necessary rest (Mat 8:20), either from fear of authorities, or in haste to leave crowds behind, or without the necessary provisions.

THERE WERE ALSO OTHER BOATS WITH HIM: Sym: "All around them the storm of opposition had sprung up. It was sinking other 'little ships' and would threaten to sink them, too" (Xd 115:329).

"His presence preserved the whole convoy. It is well to sail with Jesus, even though it be in a little ship. When we sail in Christ's company, we may not make sure of fair weather, for great storms may toss the vessel which carries the Lord Himself, and we must not expect to find the sea less boisterous around our little boat. If we go with Jesus we must be content to fare as he fares; and when the waves are rough to him, they will be rough to us. It is by tempest and tossing that we shall come to land, as He did before us. When the storm swept over Galilee's dark lake all faces gathered blackness, and all hearts dreaded shipwreck.

"When all creature help was useless, the slumbering Saviour arose, and with a word, transformed the riot of the tempest into the deep quiet of a calm; then were the little vessels at rest as well as that which carried the Lord. Jesus is the star of the sea; and though there be sorrow upon the sea, when Jesus is on it there is joy too. May our hearts make Jesus their anchor, their rudder, their lighthouse, their lifeboat, and their harbour" (CHS).

Mar 4:37

A FURIOUS SQUALL CAME UP: The sea of Galilee is very susceptible to sudden storms. "The wicked as a troubled sea" (Isa 57:20). "The wind strove upon the great sea" (Dan 7:2,3). But God rules, even over the storms at sea: Psa 107:28-30; 89:9: 65:7; 93:3,4; Isa 57:20; Dan 7:2,3; Rev 15:2.

Mar 4:38

An echo of Psa 44:23: "Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? Arise, cast us not off."

JESUS WAS... SLEEPING: The only sleep of Jesus mentioned in the gospels.

ON A CUSHION: See Mat 8:20.

DON'T YOU CARE IF WE DROWN?: Christ will not be raised by the "storm", but only by the power of prayer. "To be tossed by the waves is no proof of desertion, or even of danger" (Burgon, cited WGos 280).

Mar 4:39

First, the mysteries of the kingdom. And now, the power of the king. The four-fold power of Christ: (1) Over storm (Mar 4:37-41); (2) over madness (Mar 5:1-20); (3) over disease (Mar 5:21-34); and (4) over death (Mar 5:35-43).

HE GOT UP: Christ will not be roused by the "storm" alone, but only by the voice of prayer.

REBUKED THE WIND: As a father addressing children!

QUIET! BE STILL!: Cp Rev 15:2: the Lamb and the sea of glass.

The LORD, the Creator, spoke and the waters stood firm (Psa 33:6-9). Now His Son, a "creator" in his own right, does likewise.

"Jesus of Nazareth invested the tiny band that he called apart to testify to him and all he stood for with a staggering responsibility. Into all the world they were to go. Not with the hope of converting the world, but with the aim of creating and forming a redemptive society that would be as the savour of salt in a world of corruption. In parable, metaphor and allegory, the Gospels illuminate the Master's teaching as embodying the one element of performance and true selfhood in a world of doubt, changeableness and transience. To build on it was to build on a rock; by it one entered the light and joy of the bridal festivities while outside was the darkness; to bear witness to it was to be bearing lamps which shone with divine illumination; it was enduring bread and living water. In the wild darkness of the stormy night human guidance was in vain, and all their rowing brought no aid to a boat sinking with water. They were unable to discern any ethical landmarks; in all their doubts and fears they were in jeopardy. It was the voice of the Lord which stilled their storm" (Prot 192).

"Sometimes God calms the storm, sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child."

Mar 4:40

A seagoing captain commanded a passenger ship that was sailing from Liverpool, England, to New York. His family was on board with him. One night when everyone was asleep, a squall unexpectedly swept over the waters and tossed the ship violently, awakening the passengers. They were all terribly afraid because of the storm. The captain's little 8-year-old girl was also awakened. "What's the matter?" cried the frightened child. Her mother told her that a sudden storm had struck the ship. "Is Father on deck?" she asked. "Yes, Father's on deck," came the encouraging answer. Hearing this, the little girl snuggled back into her bed and in a few moments was sound asleep. The winds still blew and the waves still rolled, but her fears were calmed because her father was at the helm.

Mar 4:41

A growing fear of Jesus, traceable in Mar 4:41; 6:50; 9:6,32; 10:32; 16:8.

THEY WERE TERRIFIED: One fear (v 38) is removed, but is replaced by another, greater fear!

WHO IS THIS?: Or "What manner of man is this?" (AV). Their proper estimation of Jesus still needed scaling upward (WGos 281).

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