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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Mark 4

Verse 1

1 This chapter corresponds with Matthew 13.

Verse 2

2 A parable is the placing of one thing beside another for the purpose of an illustration. The reader should see the precautionary comments offered at Mat 13:3 as to the right use to make of the parables.

Verse 3

3 Hearken means a special call to attention.

Verse 4

4 Seed was sown by hand only, in Bible times, and that would make it natural for it to fall into various places as the parable shows. Wayside was a beaten path where the ground was hard so that the seed could not find any opening to bury itself.

Verse 5

5 The soil over the stones would be scarce and the seed would soon use up all the strength in the ground, and that would force it to spring up at once toward the sun and atmosphere for sustenance.

Verse 6

6 However, the full strength of the sun would be too much for the tender plant because it did not have a completed root, as a result it would be scorched and die.

Verse 7

7 These thorns were a plant defined in the lexicon as "a bramble-bush, brier." The plant was not in sight when the sowing was done, but at the growing time it sprang up and choked out the good seed, it being a hardier plant.

Verse 8

9 The good ground brought forth various amounts of the good seed which was the only difference; the quality was the same in all.

Verse 10

0 Asked of him the parable signifies they did not understand the meaning of it. See the comments on Mat 13:11 as to why the apostles needed to have the parables explained to them aside from the crowd.

Verse 11

1 Them that are without refers to the people who were not disciples. This also is explained in the comments referred to in the preceding verse.

Verse 12

2 This unusual language means that the people did not use the opportunities they had been given to grasp the truths of Heaven. That refusal to open their eyes and ears to the things offered them is likened to a man who has eyes and ears, but refuses to use them for fear he will see and hear things that will condemn his manner of life.

Verse 13

3 The parable of the sower-is so natural that the apostles should have seen the lesson in it. The question of Jesus is a mild rebuke and implies that they should bestir themselves a little more and not lean so heavily on him for instruction.

Verse 14

5 Jesus loved his dis- ciples, and notwithstanding their apparent dullness he wished to give them the information they desired. The sower soweth the word is very brief, but it indicates that the things that happened afterward were no fault of the sower. As seed remaining on the surface of the ground would soon be picked up by the birds, so if men do not take the good seed into their hearts, Satan will have a chance at it and will soon take it away with his many subjects of worldly interests.

Verse 16

6 These people were more enthusiastic over the newly-found subject than they were serious. Hence what they did was done somewhat in the spirit of excitement.

Verse 17

7 Excitement is momentary and such an interest is not very deep-seated. When the real test comes of facing the attacks of worldly enemies, such people become offended which means they stumble over the word.

Verse 18

8 As far as the text shows, these people gave attention to what was said and understood it. If they failed to produce any fruit from it the reason was something else besides not knowing about the value of the word which they had heard.

Verse 19

9 This verse explains why the word did not produce a crop with these people even though they understood it. Cares of this world denotes that concern and anxiety that some people have over the things of this life. They give so much attention to those things that it crowds out their consideration for the word. Deceitfulness of riches. Many people think that if they can accumulate a large amount of wealth that it will bring them happiness. But they are being deceived, for the so-called pleasures that can come only through money are temporal and at best are uncertain. Solomon says of this, "For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven" (Pro 23:5).

Verse 20

0 The good ground illustrates those who not only hear the word but also receive it; not only that but go to work with it to make it reproduce. The different amounts that were produced merely denotes that some good people have more ability to produce than others, but the Lord asks us only to be faithful and do what we can.

Verse 21

1 In purely temporal or material things, men will act with better judgment than they do in things moral and spiritual. A man would not make a light for the accommodation of his guests, then put something over it that would prevent them from benefiting by it. Neither should we allow some careless conduct keep our possible influence for good from being seen by those about us. (See Mat 5:15-16.)

Verse 22

2 All evil deeds will some day be exposed by the Lord. Our good deeds, therefore, should be permitted to be a benefit to others, and not be lost upon them by some unwise conduct on our part.

Verse 23

3 This verse means for men to make use of their opportunities to hear the truth as the Lord provides it for them through his servants.

Verse 24

4 The admonition as to what we hear is connected with the statement about the measure. The thought is that the more and better attention we give to what is said to us, the more benefit we will receive from what is said.

Verse 25

5 To take from one which he does not have is explained at Mat 25:29.

Verse 26

6 This short parable has an important lesson. What we do becomes an influence that lives and acts even when we are not aware of it. How necessary it is, then, that we guard our every act.

Verse 27

7 Knoweth not how. We do not understand how God makes things grow in the material kingdom, yet it makes its development notwithstanding our lack of that knowledge. Likewise, our work in the kingdom of God will have its reward in its proper time and in the Lord's own way even though we cannot always understand how it is.

Verse 28

8 This shows that everything in God's creation is accomplished by growth.

Verse 29

9 The lesson should be grasped that it takes faith and patience to accomplish the desired results in the service of the Lord. (See Gal 6:9.)

Verse 30

0 These questions were asked to get the attention of the hearers.

Verse 31

1 According to historical information the mustard seed that was produced in Palestine was the smallest of all those that grew in that country.

Verse 32

2 The physical growth of the little seed is like that which is expected to be made in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. From small beginnings the work of the Lord may grow on until it is of service to many around us.

Verse 33

3 As they were able to hear it. Jesus did not wish to deliver his teaching in greater amounts or depths than they would be able to grasp. (See Joh 16:12.)

Verse 34

4 This verse is explained at Mat 13:11.

Verse 35

5 The multitudes sometimes were so great that it made a hindrance to the work of Jesus. He never actually refused to serve them when in their midst, but would move to other parts of the country. Thus he told his disciples they would pass over to the other side which meant the other shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Verse 36

6 Jesus dismissed the multitudes which is the meaning of the phrase sent them away, for they would not all depart. They took him denotes they would not leave him entirely alone, but some of them found the other little ships nearby. Just how far they tried to accompany him is not stated. Doubtless most of them remained on the same side of the sea until he returned, for verse 21 states that when he came back "much people gathered unto him."

Verse 37

7 After starting across the sea a violent storm arose. It was now full is a figure of speech meaning that the boat was filling, and unless something could be done it would soon be literally filled and sink.

Verse 38

8 Jesus was asleep which shows that the water had not yet reached to him as he lay on a pillow. In their fright they awoke him and cried for him to rescue them.

Verse 39

9 Jesus was more severe in his language to the storm and sea than he was to the disciples. He rebuked both storm and waves and commanded them to be still. Both of them were dumb objects and could not render intelligent obedience, hence their response proved the authority of the Master to rule as his wisdom directed.

Verse 40

0 The disciples were intelligent beings and hence Jesus gave them a mild rebuke, charging them with having little faith.

Verse 41

1. One meaning of the original word for feared is, "To be filled with awe and amazement." They wondered what manner of man it would be who could regulate dumb objects of creation with his mere word.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Mark 4". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.