Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas
Bible reading: Mark 4:1-9
A multitude gathers around the seaside by Jesus, so many that he is congested by them. People push against him and try to get closer to Jesus. Jesus is crowded up against the water there, so he enters into a little boat and goes a little into the sea and there within their hearing he began to teach.
Mark 4:1-3 1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.
It is within that context that Jesus who had reached this great point in his earthly ministry changed his method of teaching by large. Jesus taught for the first time with a full-fledged parable. He had used illustrations before. He had made references to things in passing. As far as this being a full-fledged parable, a story which Jesus gave them by the way of illustration, this was the first one in his ministry. This was to become his primary method of teaching from this point on.
Jesus gave them this parable of the sower. We understand the meaning of this because Jesus explained the meaning a little bit later to his disciples.
The sower was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ in this immediate context. The seed which he sowed was the Word of God. Remember that as Jesus saw the multitudes day after day, whether it was in the small crowds in the synagogue or out in the wilderness by the seaside, Jesus was involved in doing 2 things. Jesus was primarily teaching and preaching the Word of God. He of course healed and fed them but Jesus had come not just to bring some temporary relief to their needs in life but Jesus had come for a much greater purpose than that. He had come as the Lamb of God who was going to give himself perfect and sinless in place of sinful man as a sacrifice, so that you and I, men and woman could escape the penalty of our sins. What a wonderful purpose was that – A purpose with eternal consequences, not just consequences for this immediate life. So Jesus had been engaged in the activities of healing and feeding the multitude, but he had also been sowing the seed; teaching and preaching the word of God.
The seed was sown, it was the Word of God which Jesus had been preaching. We know the parable. Mark 4:4-84As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.Jesus concludes the parable with a very interesting saying: Mark 4:9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Later, when Jesus was alone with his disciples and a small group of people, they ask of him the parable. Mark 4:10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.
When you begin to read Jesus’ answers as it is recorded in the Bible, you understand that they were not primarily asking him to interpret them parable for them. Jesus in fact interpreted but it was a little bit later. He had some other things to say to them first. They were not primarily saying, “Lord Jesus interpret this parable for us.” They are asking Jesus, “Why are you teaching in stories now.” Jesus had not taught in full parables before. He spoke with authority, now he is talking simple stories. Therefore, his disciples were asking him why this change in his method of preaching and teaching.
Jesus responds to them with some interesting words. Jesus said to the disciples: Mark 4:11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables.”
Jesus is pointing out two groups of people here: The disciples and the crowd.
a. The Disciples. They are the ones who really heard Jesus and believed on him. They are the ones who followed Jesus and are with him.
b. Crowd. This was the great multitude who had heard such wonderful things from Jesus. But they were so caught up with the cares of this life, who were so caught up with their illnesses and problems of the immediate day, that they missed the Word Jesus was sowing. They were with Jesus but outside the Kingdom.
Jesus said, “Unto you who are disciples who have believed, you have the privilege of learning the mysteries, the details, the deep things of the Kingdom of God but unto those who are without, those who have not believed, those who are not in the Kingdom of God, it is them that all these things are taught in parables.”
Mark 4:12 ..so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”
There are 3 accounts of this event in the 4 gospels. Matthew 13 gives us considerable details about it. Matthew 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Let us pause for a moment. Put that into the context of Mark 4. Jesus is surrounded by these great multitudes and the question all through has been: Who is this Jesus?
In the first account we find of his ministry in the gospel of Mark there in the synagogue in Capernaum. He spoke to them not as the scribes but with authority. So much that the people wondered what kind of teacher is this that we are hearing, it is so different from others we have heard. Who is this man? Jesus then before healing the paralyzed man said, “Son thy sins are forgiven thee.” They questioned, “Who is this? Only God can forgive sins.” Just in the previous chapter when Jesus healed the man with a withered hand, the heart of the Pharisees became subborn and hardened. They were not getting what Jesus was doing. They later criticized saying that Jesus is doing this by the power of Beelzebeb, satan himself. Here is the question. Who is this man? Who is Jesus? By what power is he doing things? Undoubtedly some of those thoughts had also passed onto some of the multitude and crowd that followed Jesus. While it may not have become as hard as the Pharisees but the crowd was also hardening their hearts slowly towards Jesus.
The crowd had seen and heard Jesus but they really have not seen and really have not heard Jesus. Do you remember when you were a child perhaps your parents used some expression in your family where they would say to you, “Listen to me, please hear what I am saying.” So many times we hear with our physical ears but it does not just sink in. So it was with the crowd, the multitude who were unbelievers. They had heard but they had not heard. They had seen but they had not seen. Many of them wanted things from him: Healing, casting of the devils. They had all kinds of needs and they wanted those things but they had not trusted him for who he was, the eternal Son of God, the Lamb of God.
Then Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 13:14-15 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
Jesus is saying to his disciples, “The people are not listening or hearing because they have hardened their hearts. They have closed their eyes and ears. They must hear.” So Jesus said, ” I am changing my method of teaching. I am going to teach them in parables, not that they will not hear but perhaps some of them would listen. I am not going to teach in the great crowds the mysteries, the deep things of the Kingdom of God. I am going to teach them that there is the Kingdom of God and I am going to use parables so that perhaps I can get their attention, maybe some of them will sit up and start to listen, maybe some of them will tune to me. If they listen to me, perhaps some of them will believe that I am the only begotten Son of God, the Lamb of God and be saved.
To those who believe me like you disciples, to you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God having heard and having believed. There are wonderful truths yet that I can teach you about the great things of God.” Then Jesus went ahead to explain to them this parable of the sower.
When Jesus came to the end of the explanation Jesus gave them 2 more parables just right on the heels of that large one. Mark 4:21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? This is another little parable. Jesus is still answering their question, why are you teaching in parables.
A light is not set out so that it can be hidden. You do not put it under a bush or a basket. You do not hide that light under a bed, rather a light is supposed to be seen and that is why I am teaching in parables, so that perhaps some of them will soften their hearts and will look at my light.
Then Jesus goes on to say Mark 4:22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. The purpose of teaching in parables is not to keep it secret to these people but rather so that they would be attracted and open their hearts and so the truth of the Lord can be shared to them in their hearts because the truth is given to be seen and heard. Again Jesus said: Mark 4:23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.
Then Jesus goes on to the third parable. You give me a tumbler, I will fill the tumbler. If you give me a big drum I will fill that too. Mark 4:24-25 24“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
That is such a great commentary from Jesus Christ. He has just quoted from Isaiah the prophet which is mentioned in Matthew 13 and in part in Mark 4. Isaiah 6:9-10 9He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
He had said these people have ears but they will not listen to what I say, they have eyes but they will not see as they have hardened their hearts. Jesus is focusing on the fact that it is the people who have done it themselves. But there is something that will follow that kind of action. Mark 4:25 Jesus said: Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
Dear friend those are big words, and the same words are made for us today. You have heard the gospel, the wonderful good news of Jesus who died for you. Jesus wants you to understand. He wants you to open your heart and to hear him and to see him for what he has come and given his life for. He wants us to see and believe that he came to die for you. His death is the penalty of our sins. If you recognize the mission of Jesus and ask you sins to be forgiven, you will be set on the way to heaven and made the child of God. If you will believe and trust, he will open your heart more and more so that you will receive more and more by the way of understanding.
But if you make your heart hard, if you close your eyes and if you shut the word of God from your ears, remember Jesus keeps on knocking, he is teaching and continuously speaking to us. He is even teaching with parables to get your attention and to teach you the purpose of his life and mission but if you keep hardening your heart, the day will come when the Lord will say, “I do not know you because you hardened yourself when I spoke to you in many ways.”
Dear friend, the chance for forgiveness for sins is not forever. It ends when a man departs this world. When you and I die, when we close our eyes in death, if we have not had Jesus as saviour there will be no opportunity then. Today is the day of salvation. If you have never trusted Jesus as saviour I would invite you to do right now. If you will just pray in your heart. Lord Jesus …. If you pray that prayer, the Bible tells us that Jesus will save you right now and your sins will be forgiven.
Now, I want to speak to my dear believers here. God keeps on knocking their hearts by the word of God about something we need to correct, something that we ought to do, or sins that you need to stop doing but how many times do we harden our hearts? We listen to those words of Jesus but yet not listening. Jesus is again giving us an opportunity today to set our lives right based on the word of God. Let’s not wander into the world until it is too late.
Something else very interesting happens in Mark 4, Jesus calms the storm. This is very familiar to us but let us see it in the context of what Jesus is trying to teach the multitude here and his disciples.
Having finished his teaching we are told Mark 4:35-36 35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
Now Jesus was weary with all of this teaching and dealing with the Pharisees and the hostility. So they launch out in the Sea of Galilee. They took Jesus just as he was. He was God but at the same time he was man here. So Jesus took a pillow and went to sleep in the deck of the ship. Jesus was very tired.
Mark 4:37-38 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. A storm came up, a terrible rage of storm. The Bible tells us about these disciples, many of them fishermen feared exceedingly. They were afraid. The fear I want you to focus here is the fear of the disciples. The storm was raging, they were doing everything they could to keep the ship aright, finally they came to Jesus. They found him asleep in a pillow. That is amazing. This little boat was being tossed and waters coming into it in this Sea of Galilee, how could anyone be asleep be in that storm? Jesus could because Jesus was and is God. Mark 4:38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
They said to him. “Master do not you worry that we perish.” See here they were perturbed and upset. But they were not so much upset over the idea that they as the disciples were going to drown. They have seen terrible storms before. Even if the boat tilts, most of them are fisherman and they know how to save themselves in this sea.
Now that they are with Jesus, following Jesus; they were upset that Jesus was asleep. Don’t you care that we (Jesus included) perish. Now that they are with Jesus, they are in Christ, following him, why this problem? They were not just worrying about themselves, they were waking up Jesus and saying to him, “Don’t you care that you and I and all of us, we are going to perish. How is it that you can sleep?” The dsiciples were upset that Jesus was not paying any attention to them in their hour of need. He was asleep.
Mark 4:39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. I find it very interesting. The order which Jesus gave to the wind and the sea was identical to the order he gave to the demon possessed man there in Capernaum in the synagogue in the first miracle recorded in the Gospel of Mark. He rebuked the demon and said, “Be quiet.” That is what Jesus did to the wind, he rebuked the wind. That is a little strange to rebuke the wind. I suspect the reason is prince of the power of the air and these demons were involved in trying to wreck this ship and destroy Jesus.
Then Jesus said to the sea, “Quiet, be still” and immediately the sea quietened down. There was no extension of the waves at all. It died immediately and there was a great calm. Mark 4:40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Let us put that in the context. Jesus said, “You are my disciples. Do not you believe who I am? Sure there is a storm but I am God. I am at peace because this storm cannot destroy me. I am the Son of God and I can sleep during the storm, and don’t you understand that as long as you are with me you are mine. The storm cannot touch you because you are in me. Why are you so fearful? Why are you so afraid? The crowds see and do not see, but you have believed me. Dear disciples there are more lessons to be learned, open your ears and hear, open your eyes and see and trust in Me.”
In the midst of the storm while it is difficult and you are having to bail water understand that God is not taken by surprise. He is at peace and so you can be at peace and trust in Him. The disciples said: Mark 4:41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
They are still learning and they are still asking that same question – Who is this Jesus? They have believed on Jesus but they are learning something far deeper in the mysteries of the Kingdom as they live out this parable which Jesus has brought into their lives to learn with. Jesus gave them a real-life parable here.
My dear friend, storms may come in our lives. There are family storms, there are physical storms, health, financial, classes, exams. Jesus is at peace because He is God. You belong to him. Learn something of his greatness and his goodness and as you have put your trust in him for eternity, learn from these parables of life to put your trust in Him for life.