Mark 4 Bible Study Notes

Read Mark 4:1-20

Question: What is the meaning and lessons from the parable of the sower?

Subsequent/Linked Questions: Who is the sower?
                                                            What is the seed?
                                                            What does the path represent?
                                                            What does the rocky ground represent?
                                                            What does the thorny ground represent?
                                                            What does the good soil represent?
                                                            Who of these 4 groups receive salvation?

The sower is anybody who speaks the word of God to other people.  In this instance it is Jesus himself who has been sharing the word with people.  The seed is God’s word, the Gospel, the Bible.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says the seed is specifically “the word of the Kingdom” i.e. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).  Some people immediately reject or do not understand the Gospel.  This is represented by the path.  Satan is active in stopping these people receiving the Gospel.  Others seem to receive the Gospel with joy, but they haven’t truly believed in their heart, represented by the plants with a lack of roots on the rocky ground.  Their apparent faith does not last long.  Others hear the word, seemingly respond to it, but they love other things more than God.  These other things choke the truth of the Gospel and they fall once again into disbelief.  The good soil represents the regenerate heart, the heart made alive by the Holy Spirit.  These people believe and produce good fruit.  Only the last group of people are saved.  Faith without works is dead, vines without fruit are cut from the vine and thrown into the fire.  So, only one type of plant in this parable produces fruit in keeping with faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: Why does Jesus speak in parables?

Verses 10-12 are quite striking.  Jesus deliberately speaks in parables so that some would not understand what he was talking about.  For those who are spiritually dead, who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, the meaning of these parables will not be revealed.  The parables are actually designed to hide their true spiritual meaning from people are not regenerate.  For those who have been made alive in Christ, these parables provide lots of detail to meditate on, that we might grow in understanding of the Kingdom of God.

Question: Assuming we are fruit bearing Christians, good soil represented in the story, what does this parable teach us?

Firstly, this parable teaches us that it is the state of the heart that is absolutely crucial to how someone receives the Gospel.  Since, it is God who changes heart, we need to pray and rely on him to give us good soil to preach the Gospel to.  Secondly, the soil’s responsibility is to hear well.  Christians should be very careful when reading scripture and listening to sermons to hear well, accepting God’s word and applying it appropriately.  Thirdly, we should be warned against the cares of this world, the thorns, that might limit how much fruit we bear.  Fourthly, we shouldn’t be surprised when our efforts to share the Gospel receive different reactions, in line with the different people in this parable.  Finally, we should be filled with thanksgiving that God has chosen us to understand this parable.  We are numbered with the disciples, rather than those people who will never understand the parable of the sower.

Section 2 – The Other Parables of the Kingdom

Read Mark 4:21-34

Question: Is there a link between the parable of the sower and the parable of the lamp in verses 21-24?

At least two links.  The seed in the parable of the sower is the word.  The lamp in this parable is also representative of the word (based on Psalm 119:105).  Jesus’ point here seems to be that word that you have heard and believed, do not then hide, but share with others.  Secondly, there’s another clear reference to importance of hearing well.  Verse 9 and verse 23 are clear parallels.

Question: In what ways do we hide the light of Christ in our lives?  In what ways and places does our light shine brightest?

Barnes’ notes on verse 24 & 25 read “The meaning here seems to be, he that diligently attends to my words shall increase more and more in the knowledge of the truth; but he that neglects them and is inattentive shall become more ignorant; the few things which he had learned he will forget, and his trifling knowledge will be diminished.”

Question: How do read/hear God’s word?  What helps you listen carefully?

Question: How is the kingdom of God like a man scattering seed (verse 26-29)?

All the Christian does is scatter seed, he shares the word of God with others.  He has nothing to do with the growth of that seed, he doesn’t even understand how it grows.  In the same way, people grow spiritually in a way that Gospel ministers do not fully understand.  There is also a harvest to come, when the world ends and Christ judges the world.

Question: How is the kingdom of God like a mustard seed?

Two similarities are helpful here.  Firstly, when one person believes the good news of Christianity it can seem like a small thing – just a mustard seed, but that one person then goes on to live a lifetime of living for Jesus, having an impact on all those around them. 

Secondly, the kingdom of God, the Church began with just a small number of Jewish believers, but as the Church as grown thousands and millions of people have believed in Christ from all nations around the world, as though a tiny mustard seed has grown to a huge tree.

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