Mark 4: The Sower & Other Parables

Why do illustrations help people understand? How might they be a hindrance?

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Mark 4:1–3 Again, Jesus taught by the seashore. A large crowd gathered, so many that he boarded a boat, sat down, and from there taught the people who stood on the shore. He taught them with illustrations, saying, “Listen! A farmer went to sow his seeds in the field.”
King James
Mark 4:1–3 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

How well do you think people understood his illustration about the sower? Why?

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Mark 4:3–9 “Listen! A farmer went to sow his seeds in the field. As he scattered the seeds, some fell on the road, where they were eaten by the birds. Some fell on rocky ground, where the soil had little depth. The plants sprang up but had shallow roots, so they soon wilted under the scorching sun. Some seeds fell among thorny weeds that grew more quickly and choked out the tender plants, preventing growth of the grain. Other seeds fell on fertile soil and became healthy plants, producing thirty, sixty, or a hundred times the amount of seed sown. If you have ears, pay attention to what I am saying.”
4:12 “With open eyes, they choose to see nothing. They hear with their ears but do not want to understand so they will not be forced to turn to me and be healed.”
King James
Mark 4:3–9 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Why did the disciples ask Jesus what the sower illustration meant?

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Mark 4:10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve and other followers, he was asked what the illustration meant.
King James
Mark 4:10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

Why were the disciples given understanding, when others weren’t?

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Mark 4:11–12 Jesus said, “I have given you insights into the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have only the stories. With open eyes, they choose to see nothing. They hear with their ears but do not want to understand so they will not be forced to turn to me and be healed.”
King James
Mark 4:11–12 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

What does understanding the sower illustration have to do with understanding others?

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Mark 4:13 “If you do not understand this illustration, you will not understand any other.”
King James
Mark 4:13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

How is sharing God’s word like sowing seed?

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Mark 4:14–20 “The farmer is a person who takes God’s word to others. The seeds that fell on the road are people who hear the Kingdom message but do not understand. Satan comes to take away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seeds that fell on rocky ground are those who hear the message and eagerly accept it, but their roots are shallow. As soon as the message causes them to experience trouble or persecution, they forsake their faith. The seeds that fell among thorny weeds are the people who allow the worries of this life and the enticement of wealth and the desire for other things to choke the message, so no fruit is produced. The seeds that fell on fertile soil are the people who hear, understand, and act on God’s word, yielding thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown.”
King James
Mark 4:14–20 The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Why didn’t the Jews ever put a lamp under a basket?

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Mark 4:21 Jesus said, “Is a lighted lamp ever put under a basket or couch? No, it is always placed where its light will shine.
King James
Mark 4:21 And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

How comforting or discomforting is it to know that everything will be revealed? Why?

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Mark 4:22 “Everything hidden will one day be revealed, and all secrets will be brought to light.”
King James
Mark 4:22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

What can we do to better listen and understand?

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Mark 4:23–25 “He who has ears, let him hear. Believe me, the measure you give will be the measure you get. Even more knowledge will be given to those who listen carefully. But those who are not listening will lose what little understanding they have.”
King James
Mark 4:23–25 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

What are the dangers of not listening?

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Mark 4:24–25 “Believe me, the measure you give will be the measure you get. Even more knowledge will be given to those who listen carefully. But those who are not listening will lose what little understanding they have.”
King James
Mark 4:24–25 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

What makes God’s Kingdom like the farmer when he sows seed? If the disciples later asked Jesus to explain, what do you think he would have said?

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Mark 4:26–29 “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who sows seeds in his field. All the time, whether he sleeps at night or works in the day, the seeds sprout and grow, but he does not understand how that happens. Without the farmer’s help, the earth produces the stalk and leaves. Then the full head of grain forms and ripens. When the grain is ready, he wields his sickle because harvest time has come.”
King James
Mark 4:26–29 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

What makes God’s Kingdom like a mustard seed?

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Mark 4:30–32 Jesus also said, “To what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or what story can we use for illustration? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a farmer planted in his field. Although it is the tiniest of all seeds, it became the largest plant in the field, so large that birds can perch in its branches and enjoy its shade.”
King James
Mark 4:30–32 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

How did Jesus’ illustrations help people’s understanding? What was their effect if they didn’t want to understand?

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Mark 4:33–34 With many such illustrations, Jesus taught the people as much as they could understand. No one heard him speak without some kind of story. In private, he explained everything to his followers.
King James
Mark 4:33–34 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

When Jesus asked to take a boat to the other side of the lake, did he know a storm was coming? Why?

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Mark 4:35–37 That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.”
They dismissed the crowd and took him in their boat. Other boats followed.
A violent wind struck the lake, so the boat was nearly swamped by large waves crashing over the side.
King James
Mark 4:35–37 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

When large waves were crashing over the side of the boat, where were the boats that had followed? What happened to those people?

Author’s Thoughts
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Mark 4:36–37 They dismissed the crowd and took him in their boat. Other boats followed. A violent wind struck the lake, so the boat was nearly swamped by large waves crashing over the side.
King James
Mark 4:36–37 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

In the midst of a violent storm, how could Jesus be sleeping?

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Mark 4:38 Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat, his head resting on a cushion.
His disciples woke him, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”
King James
Mark 4:38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

How real were the disciples’ fears that they were about to die?

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Mark 4:38 Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat, his head resting on a cushion.
His disciples woke him, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”
King James
Mark 4:38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

What do you think would have happened if Jesus had not calmed the storm?

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Mark 4:39 Standing, Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace, be still.”
Suddenly, the wind died and the waters became calm.
King James
Mark 4:39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Anybody can speak to a storm and then see the winds continue to rage. What was different about Jesus’ words that the waters calmed?

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Mark 4:39 Standing, Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace, be still.”
Suddenly, the wind died and the waters became calm.
King James
Mark 4:39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

What was the weakness in the disciples’ faith? In what ways do you think their faith was affected by this experience?

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Mark 4:40–41 “Why are you so afraid? You have such weak faith.”
The disciples looked at one another with amazement. “What sort of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
King James
Mark 4:40–41 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?