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Mark 4b

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Mark 4:21-25… And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Commentary

In the previous parable Jesus himself was the Word – the seed sown upon the soils – for he is the kingdom of God. His message is parallel to the seed scattered by the farmer. Some take to the soil while others don’t. So it is when God’s Word goes out. In the analogy above, however, Jesus likens himself to a lamp – an oil burning light or a candle of sorts. Now a lamp is crafted so as to give light, so it makes no sense to hide the lamp and keep its light from shining. That’s why Jesus asks the rhetorical question in v. 21, “Is a lamp brought in to be under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” The obvious answer is “no.” But the message isn’t about lamps, per se, it’s about the message of Jesus Christ and his relation to the kingdom of God. Just like a lamp was designed to give light and to illuminate a room, the message of Jesus was meant to do the same. Jesus was saying that it would be just as preposterous to keep his message of good news hidden as it would be to hide a lamp under a bed or behind a bush.

Verse 22 says, “For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” The meaning here is that the secret Kingdom of God was being revealed in the person of Jesus Christ whose mission to many was a true mystery. He was casting out demons, forgiving sins, and healing the sick. Now he was speaking in riddles, but it was these very riddles, or parables, that were actually manifesting the truth of God. Everything from the past had been hidden, and just like a lamp belongs on a stand to give light to a room, so too was the unveiled message of Jesus to go out to the world through those who heard and witnessed his message. It was no longer a secret, for it was designed to “come to light.” Jesus’ mission was that of a sower of seeds. He came scattering those seeds (the message of good news), and in time those seeds that produced a crop will be harvested. This “secret” or “mystery” was being made manifest in Jesus Christ for all to see. God’s sovereign authority was being made manifest to all.

In v. 23 Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” A better translation that captures the meaning here would be, “You folks had better listen to what I’m saying!” And rightly so. For if Jesus would reject the scribes and Pharisees the way he did after their rejection of him then there would be no alternative treatment for anyone else who would witness Christ’s deeds and hear his words and yet reject him. His words were a revelation of the kingdom of God.

Food for Thought

Mark 4:24-25 says, “Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Let us heed this warning that exhorts us to be accountable with what we’ve been taught from the Bible – from the mouth of Jesus Christ and his holy apostles and prophets. If we shun and/or fail to obey the Word we’ve been taught, then we will not only lose what we’ve heard, but we’ll also never receive anymore. God’s people must never take for granted the instruction they receive from the Bible. We must soak in its truths so that we’ll be capable of absorbing more and more as we grow in our walk with Christ. After all, standing still as a Christian and doing nothing with what we know is completely unbecoming a true believer in Christ. If we fail to walk with Christ daily, we’ll fall. If we fail to grow in Christ daily we will shrivel up and die spiritually. Listen up! Do not keep that which you know about Jesus Christ to yourself. It’s a message designed to be passed on and revealed to all.

Mark 4:26-29… Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like one who scatters seed on the ground. 27 He goes to sleep and rises up night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, and he doesn’t know how. 28 By itself the earth produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, he sends the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Commentary

            All Scripture (the words of the Bible) are important because they represent the words of God Himself. Now in Mark 4, through the use of parables, Jesus is speaking specifically about the kingdom of God – a theological phenomenon worth looking at with great interest.

            Once again, Jesus uses a parable concerning the kingdom of God that highlights an agricultural norm: sowing seeds in a field. The first parable dealt with the various soils the seeds fell upon. Some were eaten by birds, others took root and quickly withered, and others took root and produced a huge crop. Then Jesus warned that his words must be heeded; his life’s mission must be disseminated to all. Failing to do so would mean forfeiture of ever receiving more.

            Now Jesus will elaborate on how the seeds actually grow after being sown; he will reveal how people actually come to know Christ and grow in their knowledge of him. He’s answering the question, “Who or what actually produces the harvest?” What he reveals is that it isn’t the skill, determination, and/or diligence of the one who sows the seed. In other words, “How do people become believers in Christ after hearing the message of Truth?” This little parable tells us exactly how, and it has nothing to do with those who evangelize. It has everything, however, to do with God who causes the message of Christ to take root in some hearers but not all.

            Just like a farmer who sows seed upon the soil, evangelists (all Christians) teach and preach about who Jesus Christ is and what he accomplished on the cross. Metaphorically speaking, Christians are farmers who sow. Literal farmers sow the seeds on the ground and wait for the ground to produce a crop. They sow the seed, wait for it to take root, then they begin to observe the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. Only then do they harvest the crop they planted. Likewise, Christians tell others about Jesus Christ (sow the seeds). Over time they observe the person or persons they spoke to, but just like the farmer they can do nothing to bring the seeds to life except water it. For Christians this is about living out the life they preached to the unbeliever. But Christians, just like farmers, cannot make anyone into a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. They do, however, like the farmer, have the privilege of taking part in the harvest – of sometimes seeing some of their seeds come to fruition and sharing in that joy.

Food for Thought

The simple meaning of this parable is that sowing, or disseminating, the Word of God is the responsibility of all believers in Jesus Christ. But after we share the Truth of Christ our responsibilities cease. The parable illustrates that after sowing the sower had no additional responsibility, and so it is with those who tell others about Christ. Jesus emphasizes in the story that there is life within the seeds, and it causes it to take root, grow, then produce heads of grain. Growth occurs for the farmer whether he’s awake or asleep. So it is with evangelistic Christians. The believer in Christ may participate in the harvest, but he/she doesn’t produce the harvest. That’s entirely God’s doing. The encouragement from Jesus’ teaching here is that those who spread the Word of God can only do so much. They must be completely dependant on the power of God to produce the fruit. This “kingdom” parable teaches us that though we may preach God’s Word, its fruitfulness will be the result of the Word itself, not us as agents. The Apostle Paul says as much: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6).

Mark 4:30-34… Jesus said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Commentary

            As seen in the parable of the seeds sown upon the various soils it is apparent that the devil is actively working against God’s people and their evangelistic efforts. With this in mind, what will become of God’s Kingdom? After all, Satan is out there stealing the Word from many who hear the Word taught to them. He’s blinding them and overpowering them. Jesus’ words in his parables reveal that Satan’s activity is one that God Himself allows. He isn’t thwarting the plan of God, but his activity must be understood by those who sow the Word.

            Jesus now compares the kingdom of God with a mustard seed, which he says is the “smallest of all the seeds on the earth.” Skeptics have used this passage as an opportunity to show how ignorant Jesus was in saying this because there are clearly other seeds on the planet that are smaller than the mustard seed. But what today is mistaken for a mustard seed is actually a small shell surrounding a multitude of tiny seeds. Now, to be sure, Jesus was using this as a popular idiom of the day, for the width and weight of the mustard seed was known to be the smallest of things measured. Jesus, in comparing the kingdom of God with the mustard seed, was emphasizing how small and insignificant the seed was. But after being planted the seed would grow into a tremendously large tree. In fact, in one year a mustard seed has been known to grow as tall as 30+ feet in height. Though it begins very small, in a short time it becomes very large – large enough “so that the birds of the air can makes nests in its shade” (v. 32).

            This is exactly what the kingdom of God is like. Jesus Christ’s kingdom very much began insignificantly. He himself was born to peasants and grew up in a despised area of Palestine, namely, Nazareth of Galilee. By the time his ministry was complete and he lay dead in a tomb, his eleven disciples cowered together in a small room worrying about their own lives. But they were quickly transformed when Christ was resurrected and showed himself to them. Fifty days later there were 120 who were gathered together to pray between Christ’s ascension into heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. In Acts 2, the day the church age began, the church increased in size to 3,000 people. By Acts 4:4, a short time later, the size was somewhere around 5,000 people. At the close of the Book of Acts the gospel message had reached a large part of the world and was still spreading like wildfire. Its humble beginnings, like the mustard seed, produced an uncountable number of converts that continues to this day. So it is with the comparison of the mustard seed and the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Food for Thought

            Jesus’ purpose in sharing this parable was to encourage those who were glued to his every word that God’s kingdom on earth, though seemingly insignificant, would eventually  grow into a kingdom that would change the world forever – a kingdom where many from all over the world would rest in peace just like the birds of the air rested in the branches of the mustard tree. All of this will occur, according to Jesus, despite Satan’s best efforts to oppose. So the sharing of Word of God is ever so powerful. Don’t ever underestimate the power of simply preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. It has the potential to absolutely transform lives.

4:21 He also said to them, “A lamp isn’t brought to be put under a basket or under a bed, is it? Isn’t it to be placed on a lamp stand? 4:22 For nothing is hidden except to be revealed, and nothing concealed except to be brought to light. 4:23 If anyone has ears to hear, he had better listen!” 4:24 And he said to them, “Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you. 4:25 For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

Applications:

  • HBC members are lamps specifically designed to be out on a lamp stand so that all can see and enjoy their light.
  • God did not make us to be islands or to be hidden from others. People are to know us, like us, understand us, and be challenged by us. They are also to be offended by us and hate us. This is what they did to the prophets and to Christ. Jesus said in John 7:7 that the world hates him (so it will hate us) because he “testifies that what it does is evil.”
  • What was once hidden (Christ and God’s kingdom) has been revealed. It is not for us to keep the kingdom of God within us hidden from sight. It cries out to be revealed. We must let our neighbors know us; speak to passer’s-by about Christ; give to missions; pray for our church; etc. All of these are about sowing seeds.
  • Verse 24: “Continuously watch out concerning what you hear. With the measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and it will be added to you. For whoever has more will be given to him. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be lifted from him.” In other words, the more you do with what you hear at this church the more God will give to you. Conversely, the less you do with what is fed to you here, the less will be revealed to you here. The immediate application is that if you don’t take God’s Word seriously enough to spread its seeds to others, the less opportunities you’ll have to not only learn it but also give it away.
  • What is worth hearing should be rightly heard, obeyed, and passed on. We must strive to keep that which we hear carefully guarded.
  • Matthew 7:2 and Luke 6:38 speak of this “measure.” Matthew speaks of it in terms of judging. The way we judge will be the way we’re judged. Luke speaks of it in terms of giving money. The way we give will be the way we are given.
  • We must dwell on what we hear. Take the sermon home and talk about it, meditate on it, and pray about applying it. The measure in which you do so will be the measure in which you are blessed by it. It’s God’s Word. It can’t help but to bless you upon meditating and praying over it.
  • Conclusion: He who takes the truth of God’s Word and uses it will be given more enlightenment. But those who refuse to do anything with God’s teaching will lose even what little understand he already has. This is why it’s so difficult for me to listen to folks who gripe about things at HBC whom I know are not diligent in Bible study and prayer. They broadcast their opinions based upon their lack of understand instead of an opinion based upon a true knowledge and application of Scripture.
  • God has given us His Word to be broadcasted to everyone we meet – in word and in deed. Those who dwell on it want to do nothing more, and to them God keeps giving more and more. To those who don’t want to meditate, pray, and learn more about Christ, God takes away that which they already have.

4:26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 4:27 He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 4:28 By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 4:29 And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.”

Applications

  • This parable is all about WHO is responsible for giving life to the seed. It is the believer’s responsibility to spread the Word, but that’s all. Salvation comes from the Lord ultimately. It is He Who gives life. Some of our efforts fall upon soil that is beaten down, rocky, or thorny. Those who respond to the gospel call from our mouths are God’s elect children – the ones related to the rich soil that produces a huge crop.
  • This shows the progression of God’s kingdom. It starts out slow with the preaching of the gospel, but God causes the proclamation of that gospel to germinate. The Kingdom is a now and not yet phenomenon. It is a past, present, and yet future.
  • When we tell others about Christ that’s all we can do. It doesn’t matter how well we do it, just that we do it. The power is in the seed itself – in the gospel itself. By the time it comes to life God’s people bring it into the storehouse (the church) and enjoy the benefits of another believer coming to life. Many are called, but few are chosen.
  • The progression of the seed coming to life is reminiscent of a new believer. He hears the Word, then he comes to life spiritually. We can’t leave him there, for we have to care for him so that he can grow in Christ and be a fully mature Christian. This is what our small groups are for. Our men’s group, women’s groups, and our prayer groups.

4:30 He also asked, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to present it? 4:31 It is like a mustard seed, that when placed on the ground is the smallest of all the seeds scattered on the ground. 4:32 But when it takes root, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all garden plants, and grows large branches so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.”

Applications

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4:33 So34 with many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear. 4:34 He did not speak to them without a parable. But privately he explained everything to his own disciples.

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