Parable of the Sower—Reason for Teaching in Parables—Parables of the Seed Growing We Know Not How, and of the
Mustard Seed. ( = Mt 13:1-23, 31, 32; Lu 8:4-18).
1. And he began again to teach by the seaside: and
there was gathered unto him a great multitude—or, according
to another well-supported reading, "a mighty" or "immense
so that he entered into a ship—rather,
"the ship," meaning the one mentioned in Mr 3:9. (See on Mt
and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was
by the sea on the land—crowded on the seashore to listen to
Him. (See on Mt 13:1, 2.)
2. And he taught them many things by parables, and
said unto them in his doctrine—or "teaching."
Parable of the Sower (Mr 4:3-9,
Mr 4:3, 14.
The Sower, the Seed, and the Soil.
3. Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to
sow—What means this? See on Mr
First Case: The
Wayside. (Mr 4:4, 15).
4. And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by
the wayside—by the side of the hard path through the field,
where the soil was not broken up.
and the fowls of the air came and
devoured it up—Not only could the seed not get beneath the
surface, but "it was trodden down" (Lu 8:5), and afterwards picked up and devoured
by the fowls. What means this? See on Mr
Second Case: The
Stony or rather, Rocky Ground.
5. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not
much earth—"the rocky ground"; in Matthew (Mt 13:5), "the rocky places"; in Luke (Lu 8:6), "the rock." The thing intended is, not
ground with stones in it which would not prevent the roots striking
downward, but ground where a quite thin surface of earth covers a rock.
What means this? See on Mr 4:16.
Third Case: The Thorny
Ground. (Mr 4:7, 18, 19).
7. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew
up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit—This case is that
of ground not thoroughly cleaned of the thistles, &c.; which,
rising above the good seed, "choke" or "smother" it, excluding light
and air, and drawing away the moisture and richness of the soil. Hence
it "becomes unfruitful" (Mt 13:22);
it grows, but its growth is checked, and it never ripens. The evil here
is neither a hard nor a shallow soil—there is softness
enough, and depth enough; but it is the existence in it of what
draws all the moisture and richness of the soil away to itself, and so
starves the plant. What now are these "thorns?" See on Mr 4:19.
Fourth Case: The Good
Ground. (Mr 4:8, 20).
8. And other fell on good ground, and did yield
fruit, &c.—The goodness of this last soil consists in its
qualities being precisely the reverse of the other three soils: from
its softness and tenderness, receiving and cherishing the seed; from
its depth, allowing it to take firm root, and not quickly losing its
moisture; and from its cleanness, giving its whole vigor and sap to the
plant. In such a soil the seed "brings forth fruit," in all different
degrees of profusion, according to the measure in which the soil
possesses those qualities. See on Mr 4:20.
9. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to
hear, let him hear.
After this parable is recorded the Evangelist
10. And when he was alone, they that were about
him with the twelve—probably those who followed Him most
closely and were firmest in discipleship, next to the Twelve.
asked of him the parable—The reply
would seem to intimate that this parable of the sower was of that
fundamental, comprehensive, and introductory character which we have
assigned to it (see on Mt 13:1).
Reason for Teaching in Parables (Mr 4:11, 12,
11, 12. And he said unto them, Unto you it is
given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them,
&c.—See on Mt 13:10-17.
13. Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye
know all parables?—Probably this was said not so much in the
spirit of rebuke, as to call their attention to the exposition of it
which He was about to give, and so train them to the right apprehension
of His future parables. As in the parables which we have endeavored to
explain in Mt 13., we shall take this parable
and the Lord's own exposition of the different parts of it
14. The sower soweth the word—or, as in
8:11), "Now the parable is
this: The seed is the word of God." But who is "the sower?" This
is not expressed here because if "the word of God" be the seed, every
scatterer of that precious seed must be regarded as a sower. It is true
that in the parable of the tares it is said, "He that soweth the good
seed is the Son of man," as "He that soweth the tares is the devil"
13:37, 38). But these are
only the great unseen parties, struggling in this world for the
possession of man. Each of these has his agents among men themselves;
and Christ's agents in the sowing of the good seed are the
preachers of the word. Thus, as in all the cases about to be
described, the sower is the same, and the seed is the same; while the
result is entirely different, the whole difference must lie in the
soils, which mean the different states of the human
heart. And so, the great general lesson held forth in this parable
of the sower is, that however faithful the preacher, and how pure
soever his message, the effect of the preaching of the word depends
upon the state of the hearer's heart. Now follow the cases. See on
15. And these are they by the wayside, where the
word is sown; but, when they have heard, &c.—or, more
13:19), "When any one heareth
the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the
wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart." The
great truth here taught is, that hearts all unbroken and hard are no
fit soil for saving truth. They apprehend it not (Mt 13:19) as God's means of restoring them to
Himself; it penetrates not, makes no impression, but lies loosely on
the surface of the heart, till the wicked one—afraid of losing a
victim by his "believing to salvation" (Lu 8:12)—finds some frivolous subject by
whose greater attractions to draw off the attention, and straightway it
is gone. Of how many hearers of the word is this the graphic but
16. And these are they likewise which are sown on
stony ground, &c.—"Immediately" the seed in such a case
"springs up"—all the quicker from the shallowness of the
soil—"because it has no depth of earth." But the sun, beating on
it, as quickly scorches and withers it up, "because it has no root"
(Mr 4:6), and "lacks moisture" (Lu 8:6). The great truth here taught is that
hearts superficially impressed are apt to receive the truth with
readiness, and even with joy (Lu 8:13); but the heat of tribulation or
persecution because of the word, or the trials which their new
profession brings upon them quickly dries up their relish for the
truth, and withers all the hasty promise of fruit which they
showed. Such disappointing issues of a faithful and awakening
ministry—alas, how frequent are they!
18. And these are they which are sown among
thorns; such as hear the word,
19. And the cares of this world, and the
deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering
in—or "the pleasures of this life" (Lu 8:14).
choke the word, and it becometh
unfruitful—First, "The cares of this world"—anxious,
unrelaxing attention to the business of this present life; second, "The
deceitfulness of riches"—of those riches which are the fruit of
this worldly "care"; third, "The pleasures of this life," or "the lusts
of other things entering in"—the enjoyments in themselves may be
innocent, which worldly prosperity enables one to indulge. These
"choke" or "smother" the word; drawing off so much of
one's attention, absorbing so much of one's interest, and using up so
much of one's time, that only the dregs of these remain for spiritual
things, and a fagged, hurried, and heartless formalism is at length all
the religion of such persons. What a vivid picture is this of the
mournful condition of many, especially in great commercial countries,
who once promised much fruit! "They bring no fruit to
perfection" (Lu 8:14);
indicating how much growth there may be, in the early stages of
such a case, and promise of fruit—which after all never
20. And these are they which are sown on good
ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit,
some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred—A heart soft
and tender, stirred to its depths on the great things of eternity, and
jealously guarded from worldly engrossments, such only is the "honest
and good heart" (Lu 8:15),
which "keeps," that is, "retains" the seed of the word, and bears fruit
just in proportion as it is such a heart. Such "bring forth fruit with
patience" (Mr 4:15), or
continuance, "enduring to the end"; in contrast with those in whom the
word is "choked" and brings no fruit to perfection. The
"thirtyfold" is designed to express the lowest degree of
fruitfulness; the "hundredfold" the highest; and the "sixtyfold"
the intermediate degrees of fruitfulness. As a "hundredfold,"
though not unexampled (Ge 26:12),
is a rare return in the natural husbandry, so the highest degrees of
spiritual fruitfulness are too seldom witnessed. The closing words of
this introductory parable seem designed to call attention to the
fundamental and universal character of it.
21. And he said unto them, Is a
brought to be put under a bushel, or under a
bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?—"that they which
enter in may see the light" (Lu 8:16). See
on Mt 5:15, of which this is nearly a
22. For there is nothing hid which shall not be
manifested, &c.—See on Mt 10:26,
27; but the connection there and here is slightly different. Here
the idea seems to be this—"I have privately expounded to you
these great truths, but only that ye may proclaim them publicly; and if
ye will not, others will. For these are not designed for secrecy. They
are imparted to be diffused abroad, and they shall be so; yea, a time
is coming when the most hidden things shall be brought to light."
23. If any man have ears to hear, let him
hear—This for the second time on the same subject (see on Mr 4:9).
24. And he saith unto them, Take heed what ye
hear—In Luke (Lu 8:18) it
is, "Take heed how ye hear." The one implies the other, but both
precepts are very weighty.
with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured
to you—See on Mt 7:2.
and unto you that hear—that is,
thankfully, teachably, profitably.
shall more be given.
25. For he that hath, to him shall be given; and
he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he
hath—or "seemeth to have," or "thinketh he hath." (See on Mt 13:12). This "having" and "thinking he hath" are
not different; for when it hangs loosely upon him, and is not
appropriated to its proper ends and uses, it both is and is
Parable of the Seed Growing We Know Not How
This beautiful parable is peculiar to Mark. Its
design is to teach the Imperceptible Growth of the word sown in
the heart, from its earliest stage of development to the ripest fruits
of practical righteousness.
26, 27. So is the kingdom of God, as if a man
should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and
day—go about his other ordinary occupations, leaving it to
the well-known laws of vegetation under the genial influences of
heaven. This is the sense of "the earth bringing forth fruit of
herself," in Mr 4:27.
28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself;
first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the
ear—beautiful allusion to the succession of similar stages,
though not definitely marked periods, in the Christian life, and
generally in the kingdom of God.
29. But when the fruit is brought
immediately he putteth in the sickle, because
the harvest is come—This charmingly points to the transition
from the earthly to the heavenly condition of the Christian and the
Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mr 4:30-32).
For the exposition of this portion, see on Mt 13:31, 32.
33. And with many such parables spake he the word
unto them, as they were able to hear it—Had this been said in
the corresponding passage of Matthew, we should have concluded that
what that Evangelist recorded was but a specimen of other parables
spoken on the same occasion. But Matthew (Mt 13:34) says, "All these things spake
Jesus unto the multitude in parables"; and as Mark records only some of
the parables which Matthew gives, we are warranted to infer that the
"many such parables" alluded to here mean no more than the full
complement of them which we find in Matthew.
34. But without a parable spake he not unto
them—See on Mt 13:34.
and when they were alone, he expounded all
things to his disciples—See on Mr
Mr 4:35-5:20. Jesus Crossing
the Sea of Galilee, Miraculously Stills a Tempest—He Cures the Demoniac of Gadara. ( = Mt
8:23-34; Lu 8:22-39).
The time of this section is very definitely marked by
our Evangelist, and by him alone, in the opening words.
Jesus Stills a Tempest on the Sea of Galilee
35. And the same day—on which He spoke
the memorable parables of the Mr 4:1-32, and of Mt 13:1-52.
when the even was come—(See on Mr 6:35). This must have been the earlier
evening—what we should call the afternoon—since after all
that passed on the other side, when He returned to the west side, the
people were waiting for Him in great numbers (Mr 4:21; Lu
he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the
other side—to the east side of the lake, to grapple with a
desperate case of possession, and set the captive free, and to give the
Gadarenes an opportunity of hearing the message of salvation, amid the
wonder which that marvellous cure was fitted to awaken and the awe
which the subsequent events could not but strike into them.
36. And when they had sent away the multitude,
they took him even as he was in the ship—that is, without any
preparation, and without so much as leaving the vessel, out of which He
had been all day teaching.
And there were also with him other little
ships—with passengers, probably, wishing to accompany
37. And there arose a great storm of
wind—"a tempest of wind." To such sudden squalls the Sea of
Galilee is very liable from its position, in a deep basin, skirted on
the east by lofty mountain ranges, while on the west the hills are
intersected by narrow gorges through which the wind sweeps across the
lake, and raises its waters with great rapidity into a storm.
and the waves beat into the ship—kept
beating or pitching on the ship.
so that it was now full—rather, "so
that it was already filling." In Matthew (Mt 8:24), "insomuch that the ship was covered
with the waves"; but this is too strong. It should be, "so that the
ship was getting covered by the waves." So we must translate the word
used in Luke (Lu 8:23)—not as in our version—"And
there came down a storm on the lake, and they were filled [with
water]"—but "they were getting filled," that is, those who
sailed; meaning, of course, that their ship was so.
38. And he was in the hinder part of the
asleep on a pillow—either a place in
the vessel made to receive the head, or a cushion for the head to rest
on. It was evening; and after the fatigues of a busy day of teaching
under the hot sun, having nothing to do while crossing the lake, He
sinks into a deep sleep, which even this tempest raging around and
tossing the little vessel did not disturb.
and they awake him, and say unto him,
Master—or "Teacher." In Luke (Lu 8:24) this is doubled—in token of their
life-and-death earnestness—"Master, Master."
carest thou not that we
perish?—Unbelief and fear made them sadly forget their place,
to speak so. Matthew (Mt 8:25) has
it, "Lord, save us, we perish." When those accustomed to fish upon that
deep thus spake, the danger must have been imminent. They say nothing
of what would become of Him, if they perished; nor think,
whether, if He could not perish, it was likely He would let this happen
to them; but they hardly knew what they said.
39. And he arose, and rebuked the
wind—"and the raging of the water" (Lu 8:24).
and said unto the sea, Peace, be
still—two sublime words of command, from a Master to His
servants, the elements.
And the wind ceased, and there was a great
calm—The sudden hushing of the wind would not at once have
calmed the sea, whose commotion would have settled only after a
considerable time. But the word of command was given to both elements
40. And he said unto them, Why are ye so
fearful?—There is a natural apprehension under danger; but
there was unbelief in their fear. It is worthy of notice how
considerately the Lord defers this rebuke till He had first removed the
danger, in the midst of which they would not have been in a state to
listen to anything.
how is it that ye have no faith?—next
to none, or none in present exercise. In Matthew (Mt 8:26) it is, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of
little faith?" Faith they had, for they applied to Christ for
relief: but little, for they were afraid, though Christ was in
the ship. Faith dispels fear, but only in proportion to its
41. And they feared exceedingly—were
struck with deep awe.
and said one to another, What manner of man is
this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?—"What is this?
Israel has all along been singing of Jehovah, 'Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when
the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them!' 'The Lord on high is
mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of
the sea!' (Ps 89:9; 93:4). But, lo, in this very boat of ours is
One of our own flesh and blood, who with His word of command hath done
the same! Exhausted with the fatigues of the day, He was but a moment
ago in a deep sleep, undisturbed by the howling tempest, and we had to
waken Him with the cry of our terror; but rising at our call, His
majesty was felt by the raging elements, for they were instantly
hushed—'What Manner of Man is