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Chapter 4

4:1 Sat in the sea [kathēsthai en tēi thalassēi]. In the boat, of course, which was in the sea. He first sat by the beach (Mt 13:1) and then a very great multitude [ochlos pleistos] made him enter a boat in which he sat and taught. It was a common experience now to teach the crowds on the beach (2:1, 13; 3:7-9). There is gathered [sunagetai]. Graphic pictorial present again. See the crowds pressing Jesus into the sea.

4:2 He taught them [edidasken autous]. Imperfect tense describing it as going on. In parables [en parabolais]. As in 3:23, only here more extended parables. See on Mt 13 for discussion concerning Christ’s use of parables. Eight are given there, one (the Lamp both in Mr 4:21 and Lu 8:16 (both Sower and the Lamp in Luke), one alone in Mr 4:26-29 (seed growing of itself) not in Matthew or Luke, ten on this occasion. Only four are mentioned in Mr 4:1-34 (The Sower, the Lamp, the Seed Growing of Itself, the Mustard Seed). But Mark adds (4:34) “without a parable spake he not unto them,” clearly meaning that Jesus spoke many others on this occasion and Matt. after mentioning eight (Mt 13:34) makes the same statement. Manifestly, therefore, Jesus spoke many parables on this day and all theories of exegesis or dispensations on the basis of the number of these kingdom parables are quite beside the mark. In beginning Jesus said: Hearken [Akouete]. It is significant that even Jesus had to ask people to listen when he spoke. See also verse 9.

4:7 Choked [sunepnixan]. [Pnigō] means to strangle, throttle. Mark has the compounded form with [sun-], squeezed together. Mt 13:7 has [apepnixan], choked off. Yielded no fruit [karpon ouk edōkan]. In Mark alone. Barren in results.

4:7 Growing up and increasing [anabainonta kai auxanomena]. In Mark alone. A vivid detail enlarging on the continued growth implied in the imperfect “yielded fruit” [edidou karpon]. It kept on yielding as it grew. Fruit is what matters.

4:10 When he was alone [hote egeneto kata monas]. Only in Mark. Vivid recollection of Peter. Mark has also “they that were about him with the twelve” [hoi peri auton sun tois dōdeka], Matthew and Luke simply “the disciples.” They did not want the multitude to see that they did not understand the teaching of Jesus.

4:11 Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God [Humin to mustērion dedotai tēs basileias tou theou]. See on Mt 13:11 for word [mustērion]. Here (Mr 4:11; Mt 13:11; Lu 8:10) alone in the Gospels, but in Paul 21 times and in the Revelation 4 times. It is frequent in Daniel and O.T. Apocrypha. Matthew and Luke use it here in the plural. Matthew and Luke add the word to know [gnōnai], but Mark’s presentation covers a wider range than growing knowledge, the permanent possession of the mystery even before they understand it. The secret is no longer hidden from the initiated. Discipleship means initiation into the secret of God’s kingdom and it will come gradually to these men. But unto them that are without [ekeinois de tois exō]. Peculiar to Mark, those outside our circle, the uninitiated, the hostile group like the scribes and Pharisees, who were charging Jesus with being in league with Beelzebub. Lu 8:10 has “to the rest” [tois loipois], Mt 13:11 simply “to them” [ekeinois]. Without the key the parables are hard to understand, for parables veil the truth of the kingdom being stated in terms of another realm. Without a spiritual truth and insight they are unintelligible and are often today perverted. The parables are thus a condemnation on the wilfully blind and hostile, while a guide and blessing to the enlightened. That [hina]. Mark has the construction of the Hebrew “lest” of Isa 6:9f. with the subjunctive and so Lu 8:10, while Mt 13:13 uses causal [hoti] with the indicative following the LXX. See on Mt 13:13 for the so-called causal use of [hina]. Gould on Mr 4:12 has an intelligent discussion of the differences between Matthew and Mark and Luke. He argues that Mark here probably “preserves the original form of Jesus’ saying.” God ironically commands Isaiah to harden the hearts of the people. If the notion of purpose is preserved in the use of [hina] in Mark and Luke, there is probably some irony also in the sad words of Jesus. If [hina] is given the causative use of [hoti] in Matthew, the difficulty disappears. What is certain is that the use of parables on this occasion was a penalty for judicial blindness on those who will not see.

4:12 Lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them [mēpote epistrepsōsin kai aphethēi autois]. Luke does not have these difficult words that seem in Isaiah to have an ironical turn, though Mt 13:15 does retain them even after using [hoti] for the first part of the quotation. There is no way to make [mēpote] in Mr 4:12 and Mt 13:15 have a causal sense. It is the purpose of condemnation for wilful blindness and rejection such as suits the Pharisees after their blasphemous accusation against Jesus. Bengel says: iam ante non videbant, nunc accedit iudicium divinum. Jesus is pronouncing their doom in the language of Isaiah. It sounds like the dirge of the damned.

4:13 Know ye not this parable? [ouk oidate tēn parabolēn tauten;]. They had asked Jesus his reasons for using parables. This question implies surprise at their dulness though initiated into the secret of God’s Kingdom. Incapacity to comprehend this parable of the sower raises doubt about all the others on this day and at all times.

4:14 The sower soweth the word [ho speirōn ton logon speirei]. Not put thus clearly and simply in Mt 13:19 or Lu 8:11.

4:15 Where the word is sown [hopou speiretai ho logos]. Explanatory detail only in Mark. Satan [Satanās] where Mt 13:19 has the evil one [ho ponēros] and Lu 8:12 the devil [ho diabolos]. Sown in them [esparmenon eis autous]. Within them, not just among them, “in his heart” (Matt.).

4:19 The lusts of other things [hai peri ta loipa epithumiai]. All the passions or longings, sensual, worldly, “pleasures of this life” [hēdonōn tou biou] as Luke has it (Lu 8:14), the world of sense drowning the world of spirit. The word [epithumia] is not evil in itself. One can yearn (this word) for what is high and holy (Lu 22:15; Php 1:23).

4:20 Bear fruit [karpophorousin]. Same word in Mt 13:23 and Lu 8:15. Mark gives the order from thirty, sixty, to a hundred, while Mt 13:23 has it reversed.

4:21 Not to be put on the stand? [ouch hina epi tēn luchnian tethēi;]. First aorist passive subjunctive of [tithēmi] with [hina] (purpose). The lamp in the one-room house was a familiar object along with the bushel, the bed, the lampstand. Note article with each. [Mēti] in the Greek expects the answer no. It is a curious instance of early textual corruption that both Aleph and B, the two oldest and best documents, have [hupo tēn luchnian] (under the lampstand) instead of [epi tēn luchnian], making shipwreck of the sense. Westcott and Hort actually put it in the margin but that is sheer slavery to Aleph and B. Some of the crisp sayings were repeated by Jesus on other occasions as shown in Matthew and Luke. To put the lamp under the bushel [modion] would put it out besides giving no light. So as to the bed or table-couch [klinēn] if it was raised above the floor and liable to be set on fire.

4:22 Save that it should be manifested [ean mē hina phanerōthēi]. Note [ean mē] and [hina]. Lu 8:17 has it that shall not be made manifest [ho ou phaneron genēsetai]. Here in Mark it is stated that the temporary concealment is for final manifestation and a means to that end. Those who are charged with the secret at this time are given the set responsibility of proclaiming it on the housetops after Ascension (Swete). The hidden [krupton] and the secret [apokruphon] are to be revealed in due time.

4:23 Repeats verse 9 with conditional form instead of a relative clause. Perhaps some inattention was noted.

4:24 What ye hear [ti akouete]. Lu 8:17 has it “how ye hear” [pōs akouete] . Both are important. Some things should not be heard at all for they besmirch the mind and heart. What is worth hearing should be heard rightly and heeded. With what measure [en hōi metrōi]. See already in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:2; Lu 6:38).

4:25 Even that which he hath [kai ho echei]. Lu 8:17 has even that which he thinketh that he hath or seemeth to have [kai ho dokei echein]. It is possible that [echei] here has the notion of acquiring. The man who does not acquire soon loses what he thinks that he has. This is one of the paradoxes of Jesus that repay thought and practice.

4:26 As if a man should cast [hōs anthrōpos balēi]. Note [hōs] with the aorist subjunctive without [an]. It is a supposable case and so the subjunctive and the aorist tense because a single instance. Blass considers this idiom “quite impossible,” but it is the true text here and makes good sense (Robertson, Grammar, p. 968). The more common idiom would have been [hōs ean] (or [an].

4:27 Should sleep and rise [katheudēi kai egeirētai]. Present subjunctive for continued action. So also spring up and grow [blastāi kai mēkunētai] two late verbs. The process of growth goes on all night and all day [nukta kai hēmeran], accusative of time). He knoweth not how [hōs ouk oiden autos]. Note position of [hōs] (beginning) and [autos] (end) of clause: How knows not he. The mystery of growth still puzzles farmers and scientists of today with all our modern knowledge. But nature’s secret processes do not fail to operate because we are ignorant. This secret and mysterious growth of the kingdom in the heart and life is the point of this beautiful parable given only by Mark. “When man has done his part, the actual process of growth is beyond his reach or comprehension” (Swete).

4:27 Of herself [automatē]. Automatically, we say. The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil nor in the weather nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature. The word [automatē] is from [autos] (self) and [memaa] desire eagerly from obsolete [maō]. Common word in all Greek history. Only one other example in N.T., in Ac 12:10 when the city gate opens to Peter of its own accord. “The mind is adapted to the truth, as the eye to the light” (Gould). So we sow the seed, God’s kingdom truth, and the soil (the soul) is ready for the seed. The Holy Spirit works on the heart and uses the seed sown and makes it germinate and grow, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear” [prōton chorton, eiten stachun, eiten plērē siton en tōi stachui]. This is the law and order of nature and also of grace in the kingdom of God. Hence it is worth while to preach and teach. “This single fact creates the confidence shown by Jesus in the ultimate establishment of his kingdom in spite of the obstacles which obstruct its progress” (Gould).

4:29 Is ripe [paradoi], second aorist subjunctive with [hotan]. Whenever the fruit yields itself or permits. Putteth forth [apostellei]. Sends forth the sickle. The word for apostle comes from this verb. See Joh 4:38: “I sent you forth to reap” [ego apesteila humās therizein]. Sickle [drepanon] here by metonymy stands for the reapers who use it when the harvest stands ready for it [parestēken], stands by the side, present perfect indicative).

4:30 How shall we liken? [Pōs homoiōsōmen?] Deliberative first aorist subjunctive. This question alone in Mark. So with the other question: In what parable shall we set it forth? [en tini autēn parabolēi thōmen;]. Deliberative second aorist subjunctive. The graphic question draws the interest of the hearers (we) by fine tact. Lu 13:18f. retains the double question which Mt 13:31f. does not have, though he has it in a very different context, probably an illustration of Christ’s favourite sayings often repeated to different audiences as is true of all teachers and preachers.

4:31 When it is sown [hotan sparēi]. Second aorist passive subjunctive of [speirō]. Alone in Mark and repeated in verse 32. Less than all the seeds [mikroteron pantōn tōn spermatōn]. Comparative adjective with the ablative case after it. Hyperbole, of course, but clearly meaning that from a very small seed a large plant grows, the gradual pervasive expansive power of the kingdom of God.

4:32 Groweth up [anabainei]. Mt 13:32 When it is grown [hotan auxēthēi]. Under the shadow thereof [hupo tēn skian autou]. A different picture from Matthew’s in the branches thereof [en tois kladois autou]. But both use [kataskēnoin], to tent or camp down, make nests in the branches in the shade or hop on the ground under the shade just like a covey of birds. In Mt 8:20 the birds have nests [kataskēnōseis]. The use of the mustard seed for smallness seems to have been proverbial and Jesus employs it elsewhere (Mt 17:20; Lu 17:6).

4:33 As they were able to hear it [kathōs ēdunanto akouein]. Only in Mark. Imperfect indicative. See Joh 16:12 for [ou dunasthe bastazein], not able to bear. Jesus used parables now largely, but there was a limit even to the use of them to these men. He gave them the mystery of the kingdom in this veiled parabolic form which was the only feasible form at this stage. But even so they did not understand what they heard.

4:34 But privately to his disciples he expounded all things [kat’ idian de tois idiois mathētais epeluen panta]. To his own [idiois] disciples in private, in distinction from the mass of the people Jesus was in the habit (imperfect tense, [epeluen] of disclosing, revealing, all things [panta] in plain language without the parabolic form used before the crowds. This verb [epiluō] occurs in the N.T. only here and in Ac 19:39 where the town-clerk of Ephesus says of the troubles by the mob: “It shall be settled in the regular assembly” [en tēi ennomōi ekklēsiāi epiluthēsetai]. First future passive indicative from [epiluō]. The word means to give additional [epi] loosening [luō], so to explain, to make plainer, clearer, even to the point of revelation. This last is the idea of the substantive in 2Pe 1:20 where even the Revised Version has it: “No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation” [pāsa prophēteia graphēs idias epiluseōs ou ginetai]. Here the use of [ginetai] (comes) with the ablative case [epiluseōs] and the explanation given in verse 2Pe 1:21 shows plainly that disclosure or revelation to the prophet is what is meant, not interpretation of what the prophet said. The prophetic impulse and message came from God through the Holy Spirit. In private the further disclosures of Jesus amounted to fresh revelations concerning the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

4:35 When even was come [opsias genomenēs]. Genitive absolute. It had been a busy day. The blasphemous accusation, the visit of the mother and brothers and possibly sisters, to take him home, leaving the crowded house for the sea, the first parables by the sea, then more in the house, and now out of the house and over the sea. Let us go over unto the other side [dielthōmen eis to peran]. Hortatory (volitive) subjunctive, second aorist active tense. They were on the western side and a row over to the eastern shore in the evening would be a delightful change and refreshing to the weary Christ. It was the only way to escape the crowds.

4:36 Even as he was [hōs ēn]. Vulgate, ita ut erat. Bengel says: sine apparatu. That is, they take Jesus along [paralambanousin] without previous preparation. Other boats [alla ploia]. This detail also is given only by Mark. Some people had got into boats to get close to Jesus. There was a crowd even on the lake.

4:37 There ariseth a great storm of wind [ginetai lailaps megalē anemou]. Mark’s vivid historical present again. Mt 8:24 has [egeneto] (arose) and Lu 8:23 [katebē] (came down). Luke has also [lailaps], but Matthew [seismos] (tempest), a violent upheaval like an earthquake. [Lailaps] is an old word for these cyclonic gusts or storms. Luke’s “came down” shows that the storm fell suddenly from Mount Hermon down into the Jordan Valley and smote the Sea of Galilee violently at its depth of 682 feet below the Mediterranean Sea. The hot air at this depth draws the storm down with sudden power. These sudden storms continue to this day on the Sea of Galilee. The word occurs in the LXX of the whirlwind out of which God answered Job (Job 38:1) and in Jon 1:4. The waves beat into the boat [ta kumata epeballen eis to ploion]. Imperfect tense (were beating) vividly picturing the rolling over the sides of the boat “so that the boat was covered with the waves” (Mt 8:24). Mark has it: “insomuch that the boat was now filling” [hōste ēdē gemizesthai to ploion]. Graphic description of the plight of the disciples.

4:37 Asleep on the cushion [epi to proskephalaion katheudōn]. Mark also mentions the cushion or bolster and the stern of the boat [en tēi prumnēi]. Mt 8:24 notes that Jesus was sleeping [ekatheuden], Luke that he fell asleep [aphupnōsen], ingressive aorist indicative). He was worn out from the toil of this day. They awake him [egeirousin auton]. So Mark’s graphic present. Matthew and Luke both have “awoke him.” Mark has also what the others do not: “Carest thou not?” [ou melei soi;]. It was a rebuke to Jesus for sleeping in such a storm. We are perishing [apollumetha], linear present middle). Precisely this same form also in Mt 8:25 and Lu 8:24.

4:39 Rebuked the wind [epetimēsen tōi anemōi] as in Mt 8:26 and Lu 8:24. He spoke to the sea also. All three Gospels speak of the sudden calm [galēnē] and the rebuke to the disciples for this lack of faith.

4:40 Why are ye fearful? [Ti deiloi este;]. They had the Lord of the wind and the waves with them in the boat. He was still Master even if asleep in the storm. Have ye not yet faith? [Oupō echete pistin;]. Not yet had they come to feel that Jesus was really Lord of nature. They had accepted his Messiaship, but all the conclusions from it they had not yet drawn. How like us in our troubles they were!

4:41 They feared exceedingly [ephobēthēsan phobon megan]. Cognate accusative with the first aorist passive indicative. They feared a great fear. Mt 8:27 and Lu 8:22 mention that “they marvelled.” But there was fear in it also. Who then is this? [Tis ara houtos estin;]. No wonder that they feared if this One could command the wind and the waves at will as well as demons and drive out all diseases and speak such mysteries in parables. They were growing in their apprehension and comprehension of Jesus Christ. They had much yet to learn. There is much yet for us today to learn or seek to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This incident opened the eyes and minds of the disciples to the majesty of Jesus.

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