From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Mark  Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2013


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4:1                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Once more He began to teach by the side of the Lake, and a vast multitude of people came together to listen to Him. He therefore went on board the boat and sat there, a little way from the land; and all the people were on the shore close to the water.

WEB:              Again he began to teach by the seaside. A great multitude was gathered to him, so that he entered into a boat in the sea, and sat down. All the multitude were on the land by the sea.

Young’s:         And again he began to teach by the sea, and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he, having gone into the boat, sat in the sea, and all the multitude was near the sea, on the land,

Conte (RC):    And again, he began to teach by the sea. And a great crowd was gathered to him, so much so that, climbing into a boat, he was seated on the sea. And the entire crowd was on the land along the sea.


4:1                   And He began again to teach.  From Matthew 13:1 we learn that this was “the same day” of the teaching just given in the last chapter.  It is not strange, then, that when the day's teaching was over, He was so wearied as to sleep amidst the noise of the tempest and the confusion on shipboard (Vs. 38).  [45]

                        by the sea side.  The lake of Tiberias.  [3]

                        Prior to this occasion, Mark mentions three [other occasions], when Jesus was beside the sea (Mark 1:16; 2:13; 3:7).  [8]

                        And there was gathered unto Him a great multitude.  However much He might set on edge the religious authorities of the day, the average Jewish believer retained an interest in hearing what He had to say.  Although religious leaders are supposed to be more knowledgeable, spiritually sensitive, and alert. to greater religious insight, the simple truth is that in many cases the greater receptivity is found on “the other side” of the pulpit.  [rw]

So that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea.  For His resorting to the boat no reason is apparent besides the sufficient one of a desire to escape the crowd and be able to address them at better advantage.  There is no ground for imagining that He wished to be safe from attack, after His exciting words, recorded most fully in Matthew 12.  He used the boat before to escape the crowd, but now as a pulpit.  [23]

                        And the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.  The unusual format did not discourage them in the least; they stayed to hear what would be said.  [rw]



4:2                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Then He proceeded to teach them many lessons in figurative language; and in His teaching He said,

WEB:              He taught them many things in parables, and told them in his teaching,

Young’s:         and he taught them many things in similes, and he said to them in his teaching:

Conte (RC):    And he taught them many things in parables, and he said to them, in his doctrine:


4:2                   And He taught them many things by parables.  The parabolic form of teaching is pleasant to listen to; it is easily retained in the memory; it stimulates thought, each man being left to find an interpretation for himself; and it avoids the offensiveness of direct rebuke.  To the crowd Jesus speaks only of the sower in the fields, and makes no explicit reference to Himself or to them.  [37]

                        This was a new system of teaching.  For some months He had taught directly.  But as He found that this direct teaching was met in some quarters with unbelief and scorn, He abandoned it for the less direct method of the parable.  [39]

                        many things by parables.  Of which only samples are preserved, even by Matthew, and still fewer in the book before us, showing that the writer's aim was not to furnish an exhaustive history, but to illustrate by examples the ministry of Christ.  [3]

                        parables.  The word "parable" is derived from a Greek word signifying "to compare together," and denotes a similitude taken from a natural object, to illustrate a spiritual or moral subject.  [24]

                        and said unto them in His doctrine [teaching, NKJV].  “Bridging language” to introduce the readers to some of what He had to say and to impress upon them that this was the particular occasion it was said.  Also, if any had any difficulty with the concept of what a “parable” was, to show them by actual illustration what was meant.  [rw]

                        In depth:  Why did Jesus use parables  [44]?    The answer to this question is given in Mark 4:10-12 and Matthew 13:10-16.  With these statements should be compared Mark 4:21-22, 33-34, and Matthew 13:34-35.  A careful study of these passages will show:

                        (1)  That Jesus used the parable because it enabled Him to present truth in a veiled form.  This permitted Him to teach in public in such a way as not to be misunderstood and, in private, to explain His thought to His disciples.

                        (2)  That Jesus did not wish the crowds to join Him so long as their "hearts were gross” (Mark 4:10-12).  To have preached openly that He was the Christ and to have endeavored to get everybody to join the kingdom would have been to invite misunderstanding and even revolution.  He had to content Himself in His own mission with the discovery of sympathetic, teachable persons with whom He could live intimately as a teacher and friend.  Thus He could make them into evangelists of the truths He Himself was forced to veil (Mark 4:21-22).

                        (3)  That Jesus thus expected that some day these “hidden” truths would be revealed.  It is a fact that a man will remember indefinitely a truth he does not understand if it is put into the form of a story.  Some day, when he is ready for the truth, he sees it in the story he has remembered so long.

                        (4)  That the kingdom thus had its  "mystery” (Mark 4:11; Matthew 13:11), which could be shared and enjoyed only by its members.  This mystery was probably Jesus' teaching as to the nature of the kingdom itself, and later, as to His being the Christ. 

                        In depth:  How are parables to be interpreted  [45]?  From Christ's own explanations and from a careful comparison of His parables, we may deduce the following rules for their interpretation:

                        (1)  The scope or chief point of the parable must be kept in view.  This is often evident in the parable itself or may be learned from the context, from some introductory remark, or from a conclusion drawn from it.

                        (2)  That solution is to be adopted which is most exhaustive of the points or facts in the parable and at the same time is in accordance with its ascertained scope.

                        (3)  Such particulars as are meant to fill out the narrative, or belong incidentally to the object of the similitude, are not to be pressed for a meaning in the exposition.

                        (4)  Regard must be had, in the interpretation, to other parts of Scripture; or, as theologians say, “the analogy of faith must be observed."  For, since all Scripture is the word of one Spirit, the figurative parts such as the parables must not have a meaning put upon them that contradicts other plain teachings.               


4:3                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     "Listen: the sower goes out to sow.

WEB:              "Listen! Behold, the farmer went out to sow,

Young’s:         'Hearken, lo, the sower went forth to sow;

Conte (RC):    "Listen. Behold, the sower went out to sow.


4:3                   Hearken (Listen, NKJV)!  This is given by Mark alone.  it forms no part of the parable, but was uttered, doubtless, in a loud and impressive tone, to gain both the eyes and ears of the crowd upon the shore, and fix their attention upon what He was about to say.  It is, therefore, another instance of the graphic style of this writer.  [45]

                        Behold, there went out.  The expression implies that the sower did not sow near his own house, or in a garden fenced or walled, but went forth into the open country.  [8]  

          a sower.  The parable is commonly called the parable of  the Sower.  It might properly be designated the parable of the Soils; for the main message is suggested by the different kinds of soil upon which the sower is said to cast his seed.  [14]

                        The agricultural people to whom He spoke were familiar with the scene described, and would readily take in the simple story of the parable, however dull might be their apprehension as to its deeper spiritual meaning.  [45]

                        to sow.  The seed belongs to the sower--it is Christ's.  Luke expressly calls it "his seed" (Luke 8:5).  [31] 

                        Contemporary application:  A pastor, a preacher, is a workman hired and sent out to sow the field of God; that is, to instruct souls in the truths of the gospel.  This workman sins:  (1)  When, instead of going to the field, he absents himself from it.  (2) When he stays in the field, but does not sow.  (3)  When he changes his master's seed, and sows bad instead of good.  (4)  When he [decides] to cast it on the highway.  Is this not what they do who love to preach only before those they call people of fashion, very little disposed to profit by the Divine word?20

                        In depth:  The impact of shared environment upon Jesus' choice of subject matter for parables  [8].  The scenery round the lake doubtless suggested many of the details of the parables. 

                        (1)  The vast multitude "out of every city" (Luke 8:4);

                        (2)  from the fishing boat;

                        (3)  patches of corn fields with the trodden pathway running through them, the rocky ground protruding here and there, the thorn growing in the midst of the waving wheat, the rich soil;

                        (4)  the mustard tree;

                        (5)  the fishermen plying amidst the marvelous shoals of fish, the drag net or hauling net (Matthew 13:47-48), the casting net (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16), the bag net and basket net (Luke 5:4-9);

                        (6)  the women and children employed in picking out from the wheat the tall, green stalks, called tares [in] our version;

                        (7)  the countless flocks of birds, aquatic fowls by the lake-side, partridges and pigeons, hovering over the rich plain.



4:4                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     As he sows, some of the seed falls by the way-side, and the birds come and peck it up.

WEB:              and it happened, as he sowed, some seed fell by the road, and the birds came and devoured it.

Young’s:         and it came to pass, in the sowing, some fell by the way, and the fowls of the heaven did come and devour it;

Conte (RC):    And while he was sowing, some fell along the way, and the birds of the air came and ate it.


4:4                   And it came to pass, as he sowed.  Not while he was involved in some other farmer duty, but this one in particular.  [rw]

some fell by the wayside.  i.e., on the hard trodden road or pathway that led through or along side of the field he was sowing.  [45] 

                        The hard surface does not admit the seed:  you might as well scatter seed on a wooden table, or a pavement, or a mirror.  The seed may be of the finest quality, but for all the purposes of sowing you might as well sprinkle pebbles or shot.  It represents that hearing which manages to keep the word entirely outside.  [37] 

                        and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.  From the farmer’s standpoint, it was wastage; from the birds’ standpoint it was their daily food.  What was not worth the farmer’s effort to pick up, made the difference between surviving and dying to the birds.  [rw]



4:5                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Some falls on the rocky ground where it finds but little earth, and it shoots up quickly because it has no depth of soil;

WEB:              Others fell on the rocky ground, where it had little soil, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of soil.

Young’s:         and other fell upon the rocky ground, where it had not much earth, and immediately it sprang forth, because of not having depth of earth,

Conte (RC):    Yet truly, others fell upon stony ground, where it did not have much soil. And it rose up quickly, because it had no depth of soil.


4:5                   And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth.  [This reference and] the "stony places" mentioned by Matthew are to be explained by the "rock" in Luke (8:6).  A soil mingled with stones is not meant, for these would not certainly hinder the roots from striking deeply downward, as those roots, with the instinct which they possess, would feel and find their way, penetrating between the stones, and would so reach the moisture below.  But what is meant is ground where a thin coating covered the surface of a rock, which presented an impassable barrier, rendering it wholly impossible that the roots should penetrate beyond a certain depth.  [31]

                        and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth.  Its position--near the rock and near the surface--was favourable to quick vegetation, and but little moisture was sufficient to bring it up.  The rapid vegetation, and the equally rapid decay, described in the next verse, are the important facts in this part of the parable.  [45]       



4:6                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     but when the sun is risen, it is scorched, and through having no root it withers away.

WEB:              When the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

Young’s:         and the sun having risen, it was scorched, and because of not having root it did wither;

Conte (RC):    And when the sun was risen, it was scorched. And because it had no root, it withered away.


4:6                   But when the sun was up.  The description directs attention to the effect of the sun and this effect is not necessarily confined to a single day, which indeed, would not agree with the real facts in such a case.  [45] 

                        it was scorched.  The heat which caused the shallow-rooted plant to wither would have caused a well-rooted plant to grow all the more strongly and vigorously.  It is just true in the moral and spiritual sphere as in the physical.  The same kind of tribulations and persecutions which made the apostle Paul even more determined in his loyalty to Christ caused others to renounce their Christian profession.  [29]

                        and because it had no root, it withered away.  [It had] no depth of root that would replace the sap evaporated by the parching sun, none but the shallow roots in the soil now dry.  [45]     



4:7                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Some, again, falls among the thorns; and the thorns spring up and stifle it, so that it yields no crop.

WEB:              Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

Young’s:         and other fell toward the thorns, and the thorns did come up, and choke it, and fruit it gave not;

Conte (RC):    And some fell among thorns. And the thorns grew up and suffocated it, and it did not produce fruit.


4:7                   And some.  Not necessarily a lot.  To the extent feasible, a farmer would attempt to avoid ground that showed any serious indication of having such a potential problem.  Even so, sow enough seed and pure statistical probability makes this outcome unavoidable.  [rw]

fell among among thorns.  The reference is to seed which falls in soil where thorns have begun to sprout.  The seed takes root; it springs up with promise; but the thorns grow and choke the grain, so that it can bear no fruit.  [14]

                        Here was soil, but it was pre-occupied.  The thorns left undisturbed in rough portions of the field, or only partially subdued by the plough, being already rooted in the soil,  "grew up and choked"  the growing grain, by shading it and drawing away the moisture and richness of the soil.  [45]

                        Or:  Thorny bushes growing on the edge of the field like a hedge.  [35]

                        and the thorns grew up, and choked it.  Not intentional maliciousness, just the nature of the thorns.  Even evil and depraved individuals may not target us for their attention; we gain it simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Unlike the crop, we have the option of getting ourselves out of their way.  [rw]     

                        and it yielded no fruit [crop, NKJV].  This statement, although found only in Mark's account of the parable, is implied in the others, and is, indeed, the emphatic fact relating to this portion of the seed.  [45]



4:8                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     But some of the seed falls into good ground, and gives a return: it comes up and increases, and yields thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold."

WEB:              Others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing. Some brought forth thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times as much."

Young’s:         and other fell to the good ground, and was giving fruit, coming up and increasing, and it bare, one thirty-fold, and one sixty, and one an hundred.'

Conte (RC):    And some fell on good soil. And it brought forth fruit that grew up, and increased, and yielded: some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred."


4:8                   And other fell on good ground.  This soil was mellowed by the plough; had depth, moisture, and fertility; was cleansed of thorns, briars, and thistles, and thus was prepared to receive the good seed.  [45] 

                        and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased.  The first test of a farmer’s success was that the seed grew; the second was how much.  [rw]   

                        and brought forth, some thirty [thirtyfold, NKJV], and some sixty, and some a hundred.  Whilst the soil was all good, there were degrees of fertility that caused variety in the yield.  [45]

                        thirty [thirtyfold, NKJV].  Thirty-fold was the recognized ration in an ordinary crop, but a larger yield was not unknown.  [23]

                        a hundred.  Isaac sowed and "received in the same year an hundred-fold" (Genesis 26:12).  [8]

                        In depth:  Is there an indication of the proportion of the world that will be saved in the proportion that prosper in this parable  [24]?  Here only the last of the four sorts of ground on which the seed was sown proved faithful, but among the servants two improved their talents or pounds and only one buried them (Matthew 25:18; Luke 19:20), and of the virgins, the wise and the foolish were equal [in number] (Matthew 25:2).  So that nothing certain can be inferred from the relative proportions.



4:9                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     "Listen," He added, "every one who has ears to listen with!"

WEB:              He said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

Young’s:         And he said to them, 'He who is having ears to hear -- let him hear.'

Conte (RC):    And he said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."


4:9                   And He said unto them.  Luke's language, "When he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear let him hear," implies that on this occasion he uttered the words with peculiar emphasis.  If ever their hearing was to be used, now was the time.  If ever they were to give heed to any voice, now there was a juncture calling for their most serious attention.  [45]

                        He that hath ears to hear.  In other words, every one—all of you!  [rw]

let him hear.  [It is] frequently used by our Lord (Mark 4:23; 7:16; Matthew 11:15; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, etc).  [45]

                        He alone hears the gospel as he ought who puts it in practice.  [20]



4:10                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     When He was alone, the Twelve and the others who were about Him requested Him to explain His figurative language.

WEB:              When he was alone, those who were around him with the twelve asked him about the parables.

Young’s:         And when he was alone, those about him, with the twelve, did ask him of the simile,

Conte (RC):    And when he was alone, the twelve, who were with him, questioned him about the parable.


4:10                 And when He was alone.  In respect to the multitude whom He had been teaching.  His disciples were with Him.  [24]

                        they that were about Him with the twelve.   Here is a sign of the presence of a larger circle of near friends, who shared the intimacy of the apostles with the Lord.  [23]

                        asked of Him the parable.  The plural is the more correct form ("parables").  Matthew says more definitely:  "Why speakest thou unto them in parables?"  and Luke:  "What this parable might be?"  The answer in all three accounts is:  first, a reason why He thus taught, and, secondly, the exposition of this particular parable.  Both questions must have been asked, as is implied in the indefinite statement of this verse.  [11]

                        It is an allowable supposition that these explanations were given on some other day; but if, as is the natural impression made by the histories, they were given on the same day, and the seven parables recorded by Matthew were spoken, as seems to have been the case, on this one occasion, then the explanation of the parable of the sower was probably given when He retired during the day for rest and refreshment, and that of the tares and others after He "sent the multitude away, and went into the house" (Matthew 13:36); for in the evening of the same day He crossed over the sea (verse 33).  [45]



4:11                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     "To you," He replied, "has been entrusted the secret truth concerning the Kingdom of God; but to those others outside your number all this is spoken in figurative language;

WEB:              He said to them, "To you is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all things are done in parables,

Young’s:         and he said to them, 'To you it hath been given to know the secret of the reign of God, but to those who are without, in similes are all the things done;

Conte (RC):    And he said to them: "To you, it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to those who are outside, everything is presented in parables:


4:11                 And He said unto them.  So what we are about is not second hand; it is not even the apostles’ own summary of Jesus said.  Rather it is His direct response—His own words.  [rw]

Unto you it is given.  The disciples there present, but the same privilege is allowed to all believers.  [45]

                        to know.  Not to suspect, not to imply, but to outright know as a fact.  [rw]  

the mystery.   A "mystery" in Bible language means not something which is difficult to understand, but a truth formerly hidden and now revealed.  Thus "the mystery of the kingdom" signifies a truth concerning the Kingdom which a human mind would not have discovered, but which Jesus has declared.  [14]

                        The root idea is not of intrinsic obscurity, but of that which can only be known by divine communication, hence “revelation."  [41]

                        of the kingdom of God.  As the “mystery” spoken of is limited by this phrase, the parables that follow are to be interpreted as primarily setting forth the doctrines of this kingdom, its advancement.  [45]

                        but unto them that are without.  The natural contrast to those that were with Christ, His disciples who had addressed the question to Him.  In 1 Corinthians 5:12 and Revelation 22:15, it is the designation for unbelievers, for all that are not Christians.  [24]

                        A separation between the disciples and others had begun.  [11]

                        all these things are done in parables.  They remain what they first seem, an interesting short story of everyday farmer life.  They never become anything more—they never fulfill their intended truth bearing mission—because the listeners only pay attention to the superficial “shell” rather than seek out the inner teaching.  [rw]



4:12                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     that "'They may look and look but not see, and listen and listen but not understand, lest perchance they should return and be pardoned.'"

WEB:              that 'seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest perhaps they should turn again, and their sins should be forgiven them.'"

Young’s:         that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest they may turn, and the sins may be forgiven them.'

Conte (RC):    'so that, seeing, they may see, and not perceive; and hearing, they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they may be converted, and their sins would be forgiven them.' "


4:12                 That [So that, NKJV].  These are not to understand these things, for in them the judgment of God that was prophesied in Isaiah 6:9-10 is being accomplished.  [22]

                        Mark 4:12 reads almost as though Jesus preferred not to have the rabbis repent, but it is probable that this clause is included simply as a part of the quotation which, as a whole, describes the general situation.  Jesus seems to guard Himself against such misinterpretation in verses 21-25.  [13]

                        seeing they may see and not perceive.  [This] can evidently only take place in consequence of a determination on the part of men not to perceive or to understand.  On such men God does not force His truth, but presents the truth to them in parables, which only the sincere inquirer after truth can understand.  [24]

                        Their moral unwillingness preceded their moral inability, and the latter was a divine judgment on the former.  [11]

                        and hearing they may hear, and not understand.  If the responsibility for this were on God’s part, He would have made it inherently impossible to understand.  The fact that some could and some could not, places the responsibility solely upon the listener.  In the late twentieth century we described this disconnect between speaker and hearer as “not being on the same wave length” or “not being on the same page.”  [rw]  

lest at any time they should be converted [turn, NKJV].  i.e., to God.   Those willfully blind, God gives over to greater blindness and hardness of heart (Romans 1:28).  [45]

                        and their sins should be forgiven them.  In the original passage (Isaiah 6:10) this phrase is "be healed."  Since is viewed as a disease, and the change of form here given presents the idea that the diseased soul is healed by the pardon of his sins.  [45]



4:13                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     "Do you all miss the meaning of this parable?" He added; "how then will you understand the rest of my parables?"

WEB:              He said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How will you understand all of the parables?

Young’s:         And he saith to them, 'Have ye not known this simile? and how shall ye know all the similes?

Conte (RC):    And he said to them: "Do you not understand this parable? And so, how will you understand all the parables?


4:13                 And He said unto them.  Reminding us that the same person continues to do the speaking.  [rw]

Know ye not this parable?  [Do you not understand this parable?, NKJV].  It is hard to avoid seeing here a touch of exasperation:  “Surely this has not been that hard for you!”  But an important principle was involved, their ability to properly handle any of His parables.  [rw]

and how then will ye know all parables.  If they understood not this, they could not understand any that followed.  If they had the explanation of this, they had the key for the understanding of all others.  There is evidently here an intimation of the connection of all the parables in the idea of the kingdom of heaven, so that with the explanation of this one, all were explained.  [24]

                        To explain one was to explain all.  [17]

                        Alternate interpretation:   In this verse, which is peculiar to Mark, Jesus administers a mild rebuke to the disciples for not understanding the parable and intimates that it is easy in comparison with some others:  "Know ye not this parable?  How then will you know all the parables?"  [38] 



4:14                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     "What the sower sows is the Message.

WEB:              The farmer sows the word.

Young’s:         He who is sowing doth sow the word;

Conte (RC):    He who sows, sows the word.


4:14                 The sower.  Human expounders, unchecked by our Lord's example and authority, would no doubt have begun with something more specific and minute, such as the quantity and kind of seed, the place and mode of sowing, the significance belonging to the act of going forth etc.  But the Saviour teaches us [by His explanation] to strike at once at the essential likeness or analogy which governs and determines all the minor correspondences.  [3] 

                        soweth the word.  The seed to be sown is "the word of the kingdom" (Matthew 13:19); therefore, not merely what God has spoken in general, but pre-eminently His gospel, His gracious message by Christ, His testimony and invitations concerning the kingdom of heaven.  [31]

                        Note that the gospel is word orientated, not emotion centered.  It is not “feeling good” but “knowing—and doing—good.”  [rw]

In depth:  Jesus' parable as illustrating His own ministry  [29].  The [following] parable carries conviction as a description of life because it came out of life.  Jesus Himself was "a sower who went forth to sow."  It may well have been that even as He looked out over His audience by the lakeside He saw before Him all these kinds of hearers.  Many of the Pharisees were "wayside hearers" with minds so hardened that His new truth could not enter.  He had met again and again the impulsive followers without depth, whose allegiance was not proof against hardship or toil.  Too well He knew the disciple whose good purposes were crowded out by other interests, like the one who answered Jesus' call to discipleship by pleading to be allowed to wait until his father died (Luke 9:59); or the one who wished to postpone his discipleship for social duties (Luke 9:61).  Large multitudes heard Him; only a mere handful became His permanent disciples.



4:15                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Those who receive the seed by the way-side are those in whom the Message is sown, but, when they have heard it, Satan comes at once and carries away the Message sown in them.

WEB:              The ones by the road are the ones where the word is sown; and when they have heard, immediately Satan comes, and takes away the word which has been sown in them.

Young’s:         and these are they by the way where the word is sown: and whenever they may hear, immediately cometh the Adversary, and he taketh away the word that hath been sown in their hearts.

Conte (RC):    Now there are those who are along the way, where the word is sown. And when they have heard it, Satan quickly comes and takes away the word, which was sown in their hearts.


4:15                 And these are they by the wayside.  Only the use of the singular instead of the plural in speaking of the parties represented--and a slightly different arrangement of the matter--constitute the differences between the two reports of Matthew and Mark.  These differences, occurring as they do in almost every synoptical passage in the four gospels, show that in reporting the speeches of the Savior the apostles were not always restricted to His exact language, but were led by the Spirit to reproduce His words only to the extent necessary for a correct report of His thoughts.  [38]

                        where the word is sown.  The means of conversion is not invasion, coercion, being threatened with legal or social second class standing—the means is being convinced by the message (“word”) that a change of life is essential.  [rw]

but when they have heard.  In the imagery, Satan doesn’t become active any sooner than he has to.  If you are acting like a foolish reprobate, he has no particular reason to encourage you to become worse—you are just as likely to do that as a natural progression; but when there is the danger that you might be changed to an alternative and spiritual lifestyle, then his self-interest is challenged and he has no alternative but to intervene.  [rw]  

Satan cometh immediately and taketh away the word.  Lest, if he allow [the word] to lie longer, the heart might be softened and received it, or, as Luke says, "lest they should believe and be saved."  Satan's bitterest spite is against the word, because it is God's appointed means to save men; and he has innumerable devices and agencies to prevent its saving effect.  [45]

                        that was sown in their hearts.  Outward conformity can be coerced or pretended; what is dangerous to Satan is the inward change of convictions that will motivate you to lay aside your cherished weaknesses.  [rw]



4:16                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     In the same way those who receive the seed on the rocky places are those who, when they have heard the Message, at once accept it joyfully,

WEB:              These in the same way are those who are sown on the rocky places, who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy.

Young’s:         'And these are they, in like manner, who on the rocky ground are sown: who, whenever they may hear the word, immediately with joy do receive it,

Conte (RC):    And similarly, there are those who were sown upon stony ground. These, when they have heard the word, immediately accept it with gladness.


4:16                 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground.  Everyone is given the opportunity for the “word” in the story is spread everywhere in the farmer’s field.  It is the same “word” with all of the same potential.  What will vary is individual short and long term reaction.  [rw]

                        who when they have heard the word.  God doesn’t miraculously reach down and “plant” the word in your heart; He provides the opportunity to hear it.  [rw]

immediately receive it.  When trouble comes, desertion is as prompt as was the glad reception of the word.  Somewhat such was the earnestness of the rich young man, (Mark 10:17).  [23]

                        with gladness.   With appreciation, joy, with an understanding that they have received a great opportunity.  [rw]



4:17                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     but they have no root within them. They last for a time; then, when suffering or persecution comes because of the Message, they are immediately overthrown.

WEB:              They have no root in themselves, but are short-lived. When oppression or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they stumble.

Young’s:         and have not root in themselves, but are temporary; afterward tribulation or persecution having come because of the word, immediately they are stumbled.

Conte (RC):    But they have no root in themselves, and so they are for a limited time. And when next tribulation and persecution arises because of the word, they quickly fall away.


4:17                 And have no root in themselves.  Their religion is all mere surface work; truth has not taken hold upon their spiritual nature.  The rock is near the surface.  There has been no stirring of the heart to its depths.  Their repentance is like King Saul's, who said again and again, “I have sinned;” their obedience like that of Herod, who heard John gladly and did many things; their faith like that of Agrippa's, who was almost persuaded to be a Christian; their aspirations after heaven, like those of the young ruler, who asked the way of life, but still clung fast to the world.  [45]

                        and so endure but [only, NKJV] for a time.  They welcome the truth with impulsive joy, but when it begins to cost something to be a follower of Christ, when it means foregoing some pleasure, doing some hard duty, facing ridicule, forfeiting worldly success, their devotion wanes.  [29]

                        Afterward, when affliction [tribulation, NKJV] or persecution ariseth for the word's sake.  This easy emotional religion cannot stand the test to which it must be subjected, trials and persecutions for the sake of the word so eagerly received.  Persecution was a common ordeal for a Christian's profession in New Testament times, and afterwards in other ages of the church; but now the most common test is in temptations to commit sins, especially former besetting sins.  This is now the scorching sun that withers the piety of this surface class.  [45]

                        immediately.  The same shallowness of nature which made them susceptible to the gospel and quickly responsive, makes them susceptible to pain, suffering, hardship, and easily defeated.  [37] 

                        "Immediately" was used of their receiving the truth (verse 16) and now it shows the equal readiness of these fickle souls to abandon it.  [45]

                        they are offended [stumble, NKJV].  Spiritually, they are like a jogger who has a ten mile race in front of him, but throws in the towel at the first major obstacle he runs into.  They are committed to faith—so long as nothing becomes a major hindrance to it.  [rw]


4:18                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Others there are who receive the seed among the thorns: these are they who have heard the Message,

WEB:              Others are those who are sown among the thorns. These are those who have heard the word,

Young’s:         'And these are they who toward the thorns are sown: these are they who are hearing the word,

Conte (RC):    And there are others who are sown among thorns. These are those who hear the word,


4:18                 And these are they which are sworn among thorns.  The most inhospitable of all the environments.  [rw]

          such as hear the word.  They give a more attentive hearing to the word than the preceding classes, shown by the more enduring, though fruitless effort.  The sickly growth among the thorns continues till the harvest.  [45]



4:19                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     but worldly cares and the deceitfulness of wealth and the excessive pursuit of other objects come in and stifle the Message, and it becomes unfruitful.

WEB:              and the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Young’s:         and the anxieties of this age, and the deceitfulness of the riches, and the desires concerning the other things, entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Conte (RC):    but worldly tasks, and the deception of riches, and desires about other things enter in and suffocate the word, and it is effectively without fruit.


4:19                 cares . . . riches . . . desires for other things.  Given more briefly by Luke, “Cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life."  These terms are all broad in their import and have an extensive and varied application.  Prominent in the first is concern for the necessaries of life; in the second, the love of money; in the third, devotion to pleasure.  The poor may be most in danger from the first, the rich from the second, the pleasure-loving from the third.  Yet they are not thus specifically limited  to these classes.  [45] 

                        And the cares of this world.  All, whether rich or poor, grave or [joyful], are in danger of having the heart filled with “the cares of this world,” i.e., the anxieties of the present life.  In view of that danger Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, warned all classes not to be anxious as to what they should eat, or what they should drink, or wherewithal they should be clothed, but to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:31-35).  [45]

                        Jesus does not deny that worldly concerns exist—anyone who has family or debts recognizes that automatically-- only that they should never be permitted to drive out the priority of our relationship with God.  [rw]

and the deceitfulness of riches.  When wealth or the thought of it sets a false standard for the desires; when it obscures the distinction between good and evil in the means of gain; when it generates pride and occasions of extravagance; when it gives its possessor an influence that of right belongs over to character--then it chokes the word of truth and righteousness.  [23]

                        and the lusts of other things [desires for other things, NKJV].  In Luke, "The pleasures of life."  [23]       

            Jesus conspicuously leaves the possibilities open—what appeals to one person may not appeal to others.  Everyone is different and there are dozens if not hundreds of things--even fully innocent in their own right--that can get between us and serving God.  Humanitarianism, for example, is a noble Christian ideal, but when it becomes a substitute for living right and regular worship, then we have changed our worship to one of Idealized Mankind, instead of the maker of the human race.  [rw] 

                        entering in.  These rival concerns are not all that dangerous provided they remain outside ourselves, things we deal with one at a time as we can or must.  But when they “enter in” to our hearts and burrow into the depth of our minds, they can torment and anguish us and drive everything else out.  If you will, a kind of non-physical demon possession.  [rw]   

                        choke the word.  Not necessarily “kill” it, but deny it of the opportunity of being of any real value.  Think of a totally out of shape athlete—he may still, technically, be able to complete an athletic event, but because he has neglected the essential preparations he will never be able to win the event, perhaps not even complete it.  [rw]

                        and it becomes unfruitful.  Death is not specified, just uselessness.  In some ways that may be even worse.  The dead you can bury and remember them at their best; this way they “linger on,” becoming a probable hindrance to any family or friend who is still persevering in their original spiritual goals.  [rw]



4:20                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Those, on the other hand, who have received the seed on the good ground, are all who hear the Message and welcome it, and yield a return of thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold."

WEB:              Those which were sown on the good ground are those who hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, some thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times."

Young’s:         'And these are they who on the good ground have been sown: who do hear the word, and receive, and do bear fruit, one thirty-fold, and one sixty, and one an hundred.'

Conte (RC):    And there are those who are sown upon good soil, who hear the word and accept it; and these bear fruit: some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred."


4:20                 And these are they which are sown on good ground.  Just as all ground is not equally good for physical crops, not all ground is equally good for spiritual ones as well.  In both cases, appearances can be deceptive and there be far more potential than ever imagined in a “site” one was ready to ignore.  [rw]

such as hear the word and receive [accept, NKJV] it.   "Understand it" (Matthew) spiritually, as the first class do not; "keep it," or hold it fast, "in an honest and good heart" (Luke).  The good soil is the sincere and obedient heart which appreciates and appropriates the truth.  These hearers "bring forth fruit in patience" (Luke), recognizing that it is not sufficient to endure "for a while."  [23]

                        and bring forth [bear, NKJV] fruit.  As the different parts of the ground differed in fertility, so the truly regenerated differ in the degree of their fruit-bearing.  The range is wide and the measure is various, in their devotional spirit, their lives, and their service.  [45]

                        some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.  No one is held to an arbitrary, predetermined standard.  What they can do, they are expected to do—no more and no less.  [rw]



4:21                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     He went on to say, "Is the lamp brought in in order to be put under the bushel or under the bed? Is it not rather in order that it may be placed on the lampstand?

WEB:              He said to them, "Is the lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn't it put on a stand?

Young’s:         And he said to them, 'Doth the lamp come that under the measure it may be put, or under the couch -- not that it may be put on the lamp-stand?

Conte (RC):    And he said to them: "Would someone enter with a lamp in order to place it under a basket or under a bed? Would it not be placed upon a lampstand?


4:21                 And He said unto them.  These verses (21-25) contain lessons taught by our Saviour, each on two or more occasions of which we have the record, and doubtless on many occasions not mentioned.  That He should repeat such aphorisms, divinely framed for varied application, and also His discourses, for example the Sermon on the Mount--that He should repeat these as He taught from place to place--is what we would look for in such a case, previous to an intimation that such was the fact.  Losing sight of this most obvious and natural course on the part of Jesus, cavillers have made groundless and absurd charges of confusion on the gospel histories and harmonists have been led into many needless perplexities, trying to assign one place to what had many.  Sometimes the historians repeat the sayings of Jesus, but commonly, having recorded them in one connection, they omit them in other places, each giving them the place that best suits the design of his history.  [45]

                        is a candle [lamp, NKJV] brought.  This illustration, and that of a city set on a hill--as used in the Sermon on the Mount--teach, the one, that it is the nature of piety in His disciples to be seen, it  "cannot be hid;"  the other, that it is designed to give light to the world.  In the passage before us there is a question as to the application of the illustration.  Scott, Alexander, and other judicious expositors understand the meaning here to be that the light of His teachings was not to remain veiled in parable, but must diffuse itself abroad.  This sense is to be preferred as best harmonizing with the following verses.

                        But Bengel connects it immediately with the bringing forth fruit of the preceding verse.  In support of this view of the connection, it may be said that He had assigned His reason for speaking in parables before He began this explanation; and now, after concluding it, He follows it with lessons of personal duty.  Moreover, its application to the believer's letting his light shine, is in harmony with the previous use of this figure, in the Sermon on the Mount.  It is the design of the Saviour that those to whom He imparts the word should give forth light to others; that they should “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).  [45]

                        to be put under a bushel [basket, NKJV] or under a bed?  Men do not hide or cover anything up that it may be hidden for all times, but that in the right time and in the presence of the right persons it may be revealed, as has already been said in Matthew 10:26.  Accordingly too this secret is hidden from the people only for the time being; but the time will come when it will be revealed to all, and these are ordained to reveal it.  [22]

                        and not to be set on a candlestick?  Shouldn’t it go where it belongs?  Similarly God’s word belongs in the heart, guiding one’s behavior and values.  And being shared with others so that they may be benefited as well.   We become living light holders, allowing the light of the Divine word to be seen by others.  [rw]



4:22                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Why, there is nothing hidden except with a view to its being ultimately disclosed, nor has anything been made a secret but that it may at last come to light.

WEB:              For there is nothing hidden, except that it should be made known; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light.

Young’s:         for there is not anything hid that may not be manifested, nor was anything kept hid but that it may come to light.

Conte (RC):    For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. Neither was anything done in secret, except that it may be made public.


4:22                 For there is nothing hid . . . kept secret.  The doctrine of Jesus Christ has nothing in it which fears the light; it is itself the light which must enlighten the world.  It is the property of heretics and libertines to propagate their tenets in secret.  [20]

                                which shall not be manifested [revealed, NKJV]; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad [come to light, NKJV].  According to the first of the interpretations given, this admonition is designed to impress upon the disciples their responsibility in giving close attention to His expositions of His parabolic teachings, that they might be able to make known these hidden things to the world.  If the second interpretation be followed out, these words direct the most earnest attention of every hearer to the doctrine of the preceding verses, that it is the design of God, in giving him the light of divine truth, that it shall be diffused around him; and also imposes upon him the consequent personal duty and responsibility of making known the word of life to his fellow-men.  [45]



4:23                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Listen, every one who has ears to listen with!"

WEB:              If any man has ears to hear, let him hear."

Young’s:         If any hath ears to hear -- let him hear.'

Conte (RC):    If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."


4:23                 If any man have ears to hear.  Hence every person since every individual has the prerequisite, ears to hear with.  [rw]

let him hear.  This admonition is appropriate.  Dropping the figure of the lamp, and returning to the word which it represented, those who have ears to hear are advised to hear it.  If it was to make manifest what had hitherto been hidden, and to bring abroad what had hitherto been kept secret in the mind of God, it was becoming in every man who had ears, to use them in hearing it.  [38]



4:24                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     He also said to them, "Take care what you hear. With what measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and that with interest.

WEB:              He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and more will be given to you who hear.

Young’s:         And he said to them, 'Take heed what ye hear; in what measure ye measure, it shall be measured to you; and to you who hear it shall be added;

Conte (RC):    And he said to them: "Consider what you hear. With whatever measure you have measured out, it shall be measured back to you, and more shall be added to you.


4:24                 And He said unto them.  Identifying Jesus as the continuing Speaker.  [rw]

                        take heed.  Pay attention to since what happens next is conditional upon what you decide to do.  [rw] 

what ye hear.  In Luke (8:18), “how ye hear."  The one implies the other.  [43]

                        The complete admonition is:  Take heed both as to the matter heard and the manner in which it is received.  This caution may be applied to all hearing, but on this occasion Jesus referred specifically--we infer from the context—to what He was then teaching them.  [45]

                        with what measure ye mete [With the same measure you use, NKJV].    This is applied in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:2) to judging others and in the modified form of the sermon as spoken at another time (Luke 6:38), to liberality in giving.  Its connection in this place is with hearing, both in the clause preconnection gives us this as the meaning:  According to the measure of attention (which includes both the degree and the character of that attention) you give My teachings, shall the truth be measured out to you, or made known to you.  [45]

                        Alternative interpretation:  Our Lord's meaning is clearly this:  If you freely and plentifully communicate and preach My doctrine to others, you shall receive a corresponding reward.  Nay, you shall have a return in far more abundant measure.  "He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully  (2 Corinthians 9:6).  [39]

                        it shall be measured to you.  Roughly equivalent to Paul’s “sowing and reaping” (Galatians 6:7-8a), but in a positive application of the concept—as Paul himself proceeded to then make himself in verses 8b-10.  [rw]

                        and unto you that hear shall more be given.  There is always more to be learned; no one can arrogantly claim, “I know it all!”  [rw]



4:25                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     For those who have will have more given them; and from those who have not, even what they have will be taken away."

WEB:              For whoever has, to him will more be given, and he who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away from him."

Young’s:         for whoever may have, there shall be given to him, and whoever hath not, also that which he hath shall be taken from him.'

Conte (RC):    For whoever has, to him it shall be given. And whoever has not, from him even what he has shall be taken away."


4:25                 For he that hath.  We have here still another of our Lord's aphorisms, used by Him on several occasions and in different connections.  In Matthew 13:12, it enforces the reason for speaking to the multitude in parables; in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:29) and in that of the pounds (Luke 19:26), it assigns the reason for taking from the one who had failed in duty and giving to him that had improved what was entrusted to him.  Here it further illustrates and enforces what is taught as to hearing in the preceding case.  [45]

                        to him shall be given.  Whoever takes, keeps, and uses, what I tell him now, shall know still more hereafter.  [3]

                        and he that hath not.  The one who does not retain, cherish, and improve the truth.  The word is so taken away that it can have no saving effect on the heart; and yet this result is but the natural consequence of his failure to use aright the knowledge imparted.  [45]

                        from him shall be taken even that which he hath.  It is not just a matter of not gaining more, but one keeping what one already has.  [rw]



4:26                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Another saying of His was this: "The Kingdom of God is as if a man scattered seed over the ground:

WEB:              He said, "The Kingdom of God is as if a man should cast seed on the earth,

Young’s:         And he said, 'Thus is the reign of God: as if a man may cast the seed on the earth,

Conte (RC):    And he said: "The kingdom of God is like this: it is as if a man were to cast seed on the land.


4:26                 And He said.   This is the only parable recorded by Mark which can be found in no other part of the Bible.  [14]

                        so is the kingdom of God.  This formula, sometimes slightly modified, introduces the most of our Lord's parables, which shows that they illustrate that which pertains to this kingdom, established in the hearts of men, and as an organized body in the world.  [45]

                        as if a man should cast seed into the ground.  Having prepared his ground, fenced and properly protected it, having selected good seed and properly sown it, he can do no more for its growth.  And so it is with every spiritual sower.  [45]

                        seed.  Literally, "the seed," by which must be meant either "his seed"—the seed that he is sowing--or "the seed already in mind"--the seed that has been mentioned in the foregoing parable.  The latter sense seems to be decidedly preferable; the seed is still the word, and the present parable is an exposition of the parable of the Sower.  [23]



4:27                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     he spends days and nights, now awake, now asleep, while the seed sprouts and grows tall, he knows not how.

WEB:              and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he doesn't know how.

Young’s:         and may sleep, and may rise night and day, and the seed spring up and grow, he hath not known how;

Conte (RC):    And he sleeps and he arises, night and day. And the seed germinates and grows, though he does not know it.


4:27                 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up.  Letting alone the seed which he cannot cause to grow, he rests and labors as usual, preparing, sowing, cultivating, or gathering on other soil.  [45]

                        he knoweth not how.  To some extent he knoweth how; it is by the  process described in the next verse:  "The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear."  He may know still further that it grows by the chemical action of light, warmth, and moisture; but still there is a part of the process that he does not know.  [38]

                        In depth:  The optimistic intent of this parable of hidden growth  [24].  The position which it occupies throws some light upon its design.  The impression which the parable of the sower produced upon the hearts of the hearers, and especially of the Apostles could scarcely be otherwise than sad and discouraging, for if a sower, with all diligence and fidelity, had yet to find that so much seed should fail to bring forth fruit to perfection, therefore his labor had been in vain, he was bound to a heartless task.  But in order to prevent such an effect, and strengthen His Apostles, as well as all teachers of the Gospel, with joyful hopes, stimulate them to continued fidelity, and direct their eye to the happy result in which their labors were certain to issue, the Lord delivered this parable.



4:28                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Of itself the land produces the crop-- first the blade, then the ear; afterwards the perfect grain is seen in the ear.

WEB:              For the earth bears fruit: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

Young’s:         for of itself doth the earth bear fruit, first a blade, afterwards an ear, afterwards full corn in the ear;

Conte (RC):    For the earth bears fruit readily: first the plant, then the ear, next the full grain in the ear.


4:28                 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself.  Of its own accord, spontaneously.  It is used of the gate of Peter's prison opening of its own accord in Acts 12:10.  [8]

                        first the blade.  The process of development in the kingdom of grace is one and the same with the kingdom of nature--slow, gradual and progressive; hence in knowledge, holiness, humility, and all the graces of the Christian life there are many degrees (1 John 2:13-14; Romans 15:1; Ephesians 4:13).  Consider the picture of progressive growth in goodness which Peter supplies in his second epistle (1:5-8), where it will be observed, Faith is the root, and [love] the full corn in the ear.  [24]

                        then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear [grain in the head, NKJV].  In the first stage of growth it is not easy to distinguish with certainty between the wheat and common grass; it is when the ear is formed and filled that we know at a glance which is the fruitful and which the fruitless plant.  There is a similar ambiguity, in as far as appearance is concerned, in the earliest outgrowth of convictions from the hearing of the word.  Not that there is an uncertainty in the nature of the things:  the wheat is wheat, and the grass is grass, from the first; but an observer cannot so surely at first determine which is wheat and which is merely grass.  [31]

                        first . . .  then . . . after that.  The specification of the three stages shows that gradual growth is the point of the parable (Schanz).  [17]

                        The maturity of the Church or the individual Christian does not come at once.  [11]



4:29                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But no sooner is the crop ripe, than he sends the reapers, because the time of harvest has come."

WEB:              But when the fruit is ripe, immediately he puts forth the sickle, because the harvest has come."

Young’s:         and whenever the fruit may yield itself, immediately he doth send forth the sickle, because the harvest hath come.'

Conte (RC):    And when the fruit has been produced, immediately he sends out the sickle, because the harvest has arrived."


4:29                 But when the fruit is brought forth [when the grain ripens, NKJV].  Since the sowing was done, the farmer has, essentially, been a bystander.  Now is the time when his own role becomes active again.  [rw] 

immediately.  When the time has arrived, delay can be disastrous for the crop; either it is harvested or it rots.  Especially if the acreage is large, quick and prompt attention is required for there is minimum leeway.  [rw] 

he putteth in the sickle.  The main point here is not the acting or reaping but the agent, or the fact that now man's agency begins again, after having been suspended since the sowing.  In other words, man sows and reaps, but cannot make the seed grow or the harvest ripen.  So the word or truth of God must be diffused by human agency, and acts on human interests for good or evil; but its whole efficiency is in itself, i.e., in God who gave it and who renders it effectual to men's salvation.  [3]  

                        sickle.  The sickle is only mentioned in the New Testament here, and in Revelation 14:14-15.  For the entire parable compare 1 Peter 1:23-25. [8]

because the harvest is come.  In some cases the [imagery of the] harvest and the reaping point to the end of the world and the awards of the judgment, as  for example, in Matthew 13:39.  But in other cases, the reaping of the ripened grain is employed to represent that success in the winning of souls, which human ministers of the word may obtain and enjoy (John 4:35-36; Matthew 9:37-38).  [24]

                        The kingdom of heaven is like this in that the seed of the kingdom, which is the work of God, when sown in a community, even though the sower go away and neglect it, will spring up of itself and bear fruit and will be ready at a future day for the harvest.  This is often exemplified in the labors of the evangelist.  He preached in a community faithfully and apparently without success for a length of time and then, after a lapse of months or years, returns to the same place and with comparatively little exertion reaps an abundant harvest.  [38]



4:30                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Another saying of His was this: "How are we to picture the Kingdom of God? or by what figure of speech shall we represent it?

WEB:              He said, "How will we liken the Kingdom of God? Or with what parable will we illustrate it?

Young’s:         And he said, 'To what may we liken the reign of God, or in what simile may we compare it?

Conte (RC):    And he said: "To what should we compare the kingdom of God? Or to what parable should we compare it?


4:30                 And He said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God?  Or with what comparison shall we compare it?  Mark quotes Jesus as introducing this parable with questions implying that He had well-nigh exhausted appropriate comparisons.  The three parables just preceding are not sufficient to account for these questions, but we must suppose that a considerable number of those referred to in verse 33 had been introduced before this.  [38]

we.  Our Lord seems to conceive of His disciples as deliberating with Him in the choice of a comparison:  not that He was in doubt as to how the gospel could be illustrated but because He would have them also on the watch for the comparisons.  The world was full of them, and they, the teachers of men in higher things, must learn, as well as their Master, to find them.  [23]

the kingdom of God?  This expression is used habitually by Mark and Luke where Matthew uses the equivalent expression, “kingdom of heaven."  The latter is the more indefinite of the two, but designates precisely the same object of thought.  [38]



4:31                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     It is like a mustard-seed, which, when sown in the earth, is the smallest of all the seeds in the world;

WEB:              It's like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth,

Young’s:         As a grain of mustard, which, whenever it may be sown on the earth, is less than any of the seeds that are on the earth;

Conte (RC):    It is like a grain of mustard seed which, when it has been sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds which are in the earth.


4:31                 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth.  In Matthew 13:31, a man is represented as taking and sowing it "in his field," while Luke (13:19) says "into his garden."  [8]

                        is less [smaller, NKJV] than all the seeds that be in the earth.  i.e., of those sown by the Jews.  [11]

                        The words have often perplexed interpreters, as there are many seeds, as of poppy, or rue, that are smaller, yet difficulties of this kind are not worth making--it is sufficient to know that [it] was a proverbial expression among the Jews for something exceedingly minute.  [24]



4:32                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     yet when sown it springs up and becomes larger than all the herbs, and throws out great branches, so that the birds build under its shadow."

WEB:              yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow."

Young’s:         and whenever it may be sown, it cometh up, and doth become greater than any of the herbs, and doth make great branches, so that under its shade the fowls of the heaven are able to rest.'

Conte (RC):    And when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all the plants, and it produces great branches, so much so that the birds of the air are able to live under its shadow."


4:32                 But when it is sown, it groweth up.  The parables of the Sower and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43) had been discouraging to the disciples, and now, lest they should be tempted to lose hart and to despair, the two parables (the Mustard Seed and the Leaven) and spoken for their encouragement.  "My kingdom," the Lord would say, "shall survive these losses and surmount these hindrances."  [8]  

                        and becometh greater than all herbs.  i.e., relatively, compared with the little seed from which it springs.  [45]

                        There is no need of supposing that any other than the well-known mustard-plant is referred to.  "Of the mustard-plants which I saw on the banks of the Jordan," says Dr. Hooker in Smith's Dictionary, "one was ten feet high."  Dr. Hackett writes:  "Some days after this, as I was riding across the Plain of Akka on the way to Carmel, I perceived at some distance from the path what seemed to be a little forest or nursery of trees.  I turned aside to examine them.  On coming nearer, they proved to be an extensive field of the plant which I was so anxious to see.  It was then in blossom, full grown, in some cases, six, seven and nine feet high, with a stem or trunk an inch or more in thickness, throwing out branches on every side."  [31]    

                        and shooteth out great branches; so that the bowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.  The traveller on [Lake] Gennesaret may ride by mustard-bushes as high as his horse, and alive with flocks of bullfinches or of rock-pigeons feeding upon the seeds [writes an individual who lived as a child in Palestine in the nineteenth century].  [30]



4:33                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     With many such parables He used to speak the Message to them according to their capacity for receiving it.

WEB:              With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

Young’s:         And with many such similes he was speaking to them the word, as they were able to hear,

Conte (RC):    And with many such parables he spoke the word to them, as much as they were able to hear.


4:33                 And with many such parables.  Mark gives three as specimens selected from a much larger number.   Matthew records five others.  [45]

                        Why he omitted them we cannot affirm.  [23]

                        The many such expressions in the Gospels should put an end to the foolish assumption that each Evangelist intended to tell all he knew.  [11]

                        spake He the word unto them.  Parables were one means of speaking “the word;” which was used was determined by such factors as their maturity, insight, and perceptivity.  The wise speaker adopts language and imagery to what will fit the audience.  What works perfectly, for example, in a college lecture hall, will often, in a sermon, sound like the mutterings of a self-centered, egotistical personality who is all too sure that he is superior to all his hearers.  [rw]    

as they were able to hear it.  Jesus accommodated Himself in His teaching to the ability of the people.  He knew their ignorance and their prepossessions, and like a wise, affectionate teacher, He adapted His instructions to their capacities.  [24]

                        It is not easy to determine whether this refers simply to their physical ability and leisure to attend upon His teaching, or to their mental and moral state.  It has the latter application, the meaning is that He added such lessons by parables as they were prepared for, by their intelligent apprehension and hearty reception of those already uttered.  But it must be borne in mind, that whilst one class were receiving spiritual illumination, the others were being spiritually blinded by the same teachings.  [45]



4:34                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But except in figurative language He spoke nothing to them; while to His own disciples He expounded everything, in private.

WEB:              Without a parable he didn't speak to them; but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Young’s:         and without a simile he was not speaking to them, and by themselves, to his disciples he was expounding all.

Conte (RC):    But he did not speak to them without a parable. Yet separately, he explained all things to his disciples.


4:34                 But without a parable speak He not unto them.  That is, from the time when he took his seat on the ship (verse 1), until He dismissed the multitude in the evening and departed (verses 35-36).  [38]

                        and when they were alone.  Free of potential interruptions and those who were hostile to any teaching—in any form—that might challenge their predetermined “truths.”  [rw] 

He expounded all things to His disciples.  That they might be capable of instructing others.  [24]

                        Expounded [explained, KNJV].  The Greek word primarily means "to untie a knot;" hence to unfold, make plain or clear.  [8]       



4:35                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     The same day, in the evening, He said to them, "Let us cross to the other side."

WEB:              On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let's go over to the other side."

Young’s:         And he saith to them on that day, evening having come, 'We may pass over to the other side;'

Conte (RC):    And on that day, when evening had arrived, he said to them, "Let us cross over."


4:35                 And the same day.  Mark alone tells us that the crossing was on the same day that the parables were spoken.  Matthew and Luke record it out of its chronological order; for it must be remembered that each of the historians, in carrying out the plan of his history, considered other grounds of connection between the events than mere sequence of time.  [45]

                                when the even [evening, NKJV] was come.  With night edging upon them, the available opportunity to interact with others was over.  Hence an ideal time to cross the lake.  [rw]

                        He saith unto them, Let us pass over [cross over, NKJV] to the other side.   Repose could nowhere be more readily obtained than in the solitude of the eastern shore.  So Farrar and others.  But Canon Cook thinks repose is not intimated as the object in crossing the lake, and points to the usual course of our Lord--after teaching in one place, to pass to another to teach others.  [8]



4:36                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     So they got away from the crowd, and took Him--as He was--in the boat; and other boats accompanied Him.

WEB:              Leaving the multitude, they took him with them, even as he was, in the boat. Other small boats were also with him.

Young’s:         and having let away the multitude, they take him up as he was in the boat, and other little boats also were with him.

Conte (RC):    And dismissing the crowd, they brought him, so that he was in one boat, and other boats were with him.


4:36                 Now when they had sent away the multitude.  Part of the “art of preaching” is to know when you’ve said everything useful and when it’s time to end the teaching until some other occasion.  [rw] 

                        they took Him even as he was in the ship [boat, NKJV].  i.e., without any change of dress, perhaps without any refreshment, glad to get Him away from His incessant labours.  [33]

                        And there were also with him.  Neither they nor their occupants are mentioned afterwards; but as they must have shared the storm, they were probably witnesses to Christ's having stilled it.  [45]

                        other little ships [boats, NKJV].  This last fact, peculiar to Mark, is added to show that even seawards escape was difficult.  [17]



4:37                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But a heavy squall came on, and the waves were now dashing into the boat, so that it was fast filling.

WEB:              A big wind storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so much that the boat was already filled.

Young’s:         And there cometh a great storm of wind, and the waves were beating on the boat, so that it is now being filled,

Conte (RC):    And a great wind storm occurred, and the waves broke over the boat, so that the boat was being filled.


4:37                 And there arose a great storm of wind [windstorm, NKJV].  Such storms are frequent on all inland seas but especially there (the Sea of Galilee).  The level of the lake is 600 feet below that of the ocean yet the altitudes of the surrounding hills are very considerable.  Hence the streams that cut their way down to the lake gain extraordinary velocity, especially when the snows are melting and wear for themselves great water-courses, which serve as gigantic funnels, through which the winds rush down upon the lake and make such sudden and violent disturbances as occur scarcely anywhere else.  [23]

                        and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full [already filing, NKJV].  Even as experienced seamen as they were, this was more than they could handle.  [rw]



4:38                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But He Himself was in the stern asleep, with His head on the cushion: so they woke Him. "Rabbi," they cried, "is it nothing to you that we are drowning?"

WEB:              He himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up, and told him, "Teacher, don't you care that we are dying?"

Young’s:         and he himself was upon the stern, upon the pillow sleeping, and they wake him up, and say to him, 'Teacher, art thou not caring that we perish?'

Conte (RC):    And he was in the stern of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, does it not concern you that we are perishing?"


4:38                 And he was in the hinder part of the ship [in the stern, NKJV].  Where the helm is.  [24]

                        asleep.  How busy Jesus had been:  He had healed a demoniac (Matthew 12:22); encountered the opposition of His friends (Mark 3:20-21); of His foes (Matthew 12:24-45); and probably preached several sermons (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 11:37-12:59); and met several would-be followers (Matthew 8:19-22).  No wonder He was weary.  [8]

                        on a pillow.  As [the Greek word utilized] may mean a support or prop of any kind, some hold that no other pillow is meant than the bench or bulwark, the wooden back of the [boat] itself.  Steinmeyer prefers to think of a soft cushion, because of the Septuagint use of the word in Ezekiel 13:18.  [33]

                        Note the minuteness of Mark's description.  With a master-hand He selects those touches in the details of His picture which impart the liveliest conception of the entire scene:  "In the hinder part of the ship” and “asleep on a pillow” paint to perfection the calm repose of Jesus while the tempest was raging and the vessel was filling with water.  [38]

                        Master [Teacher, NKJV], carest thou not?  The repetition  given by Luke, “Master, Master, we perish,” shows their terror and great earnestness.  Matthew gives their saying, “Lord, save us; we perish."  We need not consider the question of reconciling these different writers, as though there were an apparent conflict; for no doubt the very words recorded by the several writers, as well as other like expressions, fell from the lips of one or other of the dozen or more disciples that were calling to their Master to awake and save them.  [45]

                        The same want of faith is still manifest in Christians in times of trial, even though not thus expressed.  [11]

                        that we.  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.  [24]

                        perish?  When those accustomed to fish upon that deep thus spake, the danger must have been imminent.  [24]



4:39                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     So He roused Himself and rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, "Silence! Be still!" The wind sank, and a perfect calm set in.

WEB:              He awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Young’s:         And having waked up, he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be stilled;' and the wind did lull, and there was a great calm:

Conte (RC):    nd rising up, he rebuked the wind, and he said to the sea: "Silence. Be stilled." And the wind ceased. And a great tranquility occurred.


4:39                 And he arose.  Probably so that He would be visible to one and all and they would gain reassurance by seeing that when He spoke—even the seas obeyed.  (Actually He far more likely shouted for all the noise of the stormy sea would surely have made anything less unhearable.)  [rw]  

           and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  All three Evangelists record that He "rebuked" the wind.  Mark alone gives His words to the storm.  [8]  

                        And the wind ceased.  Literally, “grew weary"--an expressive word for the sudden lull and resting of the raging wind.  It was not a gradual dying away of the wind, followed by a long swell of the waters, but a quick cessation, followed almost immediately by a great calm.  Attempts have, of course, been made to explain away the miracle, some calling it a coincidence and some finding in the story only a mythical representation of the power of Christ to still the tempests of the soul.  [23]

                        and there was a great calm.  Both frantically wished for and, surely, eerie when it happened in this manner:  “And they feared exceedingly” (verse 41).  [rw]



4:40                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     "Why are you so timid?" He asked; "have you still no faith?"

WEB:              He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?"

Young’s:         and he said to them, 'Why are ye so fearful? how have ye not faith?'

Conte (RC):    And he said to them: "Why are you afraid? Do you still lack faith?"


4:40                 And he said unto them.  Using the threatened disaster as a teaching opportunity.  There was a lesson they should deduce; had they?  [rw]

                        Why are ye so fearful?  Some of them, as fishermen, had doubtless been on the lake in severe storms, although perhaps not in so wild a one as this.  [8]

                        How is it that ye have no faith?  Neither had they literally "no faith" in Jesus, for, if it had been wanting altogether, they would not have called to Him for help.  Their faith was "little" (Matthew 8:26) or, according to Luke, "where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25).  [8]



4:41                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Then they were filled with terror, and began to say to one another, "Who is this, then? For even wind and sea obey Him."

WEB:              They were greatly afraid, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Young’s:         and they feared a great fear, and said one to another, 'Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea do obey him?'

Conte (RC):    And they were struck with a great fear. And they said to one another, "Who do you think this is, that both wind and sea obey him?"


4:41                 And they feared exceedingly.  They escaped the fear of the sea to face the fear of a question—who in the world could possibly have done what they had just seen done?  [rw]

                        and said one to another.  Some understand this as the  language of the crew or boatmen, and not of the disciples, who could scarcely have inquired, after all that they had witnessed, who or what he was.  But although such an expression on the part of others seems to be preserved by Matthew (8:27), the words in Mark are naturally those of the disciples and can easily be explained, not as expressing any ignorance or doubt as to the person of their Master, but unfeigned astonishment at this new proof of His control, not only over demons and diseases, but also over winds and waves, which they had seen, like human slaves, obey Him at a word.  Thus understood, the last of this verse suggests the reason of Mark's adding this particular miraculously performance, namely, for the purpose of presenting in a new light Christ's dominion over every form of evil, as well natural as moral.  [3]

                        What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?  In the view of the disciples this miracle far exceeded all others they had seen performed.  Often had Jesus healed the sick in their presence; but the power, thus limited in its sphere to the human frame, did not seem to be startling.  Being possessed with demons was by them regarded in some sense as being afflicted with a disease; and some of their fellow-citizens claimed, and it may be had, the power to cast out unclean spirits. 

          But who save God could command the storm?   Their Psalms, which they had read and sung, taught them, “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea than the mighty waves of the sea.  He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still"  (Psalm xciii, 4; cvii, 25, 29).  Since this is God's prerogative, "What man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" is an exclamation--as Trench remarks--which can find its answer only in the other exclamation of the Psalmist, “O Lord God of hosts, who is like unto thee?  Thou rules the raging of the sea:  when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them" (Psalms lxxxix, 8, 9).  [45]