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Image of page from the 7th century Book of Durrow, from The Gospel of Mark, Trinity College Dublin
|Book||Gospel of Mark|
|Bible part||New Testament|
|Order in the Bible part||2|
|Gospel of Mark|
Mark 4 is the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It tells the Parable of the Sower, with its explanation, and the parable of The Mustard Seed. Both of these parables are paralleled in Matthew and Luke, but this chapter also has a parable unique to Mark, the Seed Growing Secretly.
The New King James Version organises this chapter as follows:
- Mark 4:1-9 = The Parable of the Sower
- Mark 4:10-12 = The Purpose of Parables
- Mark 4:13-20 = The Parable of the Sower Explained
- Mark 4:21-25 = Light Under a Basket
- Mark 4:26-29 = The Parable of the Growing Seed
- Mark 4:30-32 = The Parable of the Mustard Seed
- Mark 4:33-34 = Jesus' Use of Parables
- Mark 4:35-41 = Wind and Wave Obey Jesus
Jesus goes to the lake (the Sea of Galilee), stands on a boat, and speaks to "a great multitude" (Mark 4:1). The Pulpit Commentary notes that "the greek adjective, according to the most approved reading, is πλεῖστος, pleistos, the superlative of πολὺς, polus, and should be rendered 'a very great' multitude. The room and the little courtyard no longer sufficed for the multitudes that came to him."
The first parable Mark relates is the Parable of the Sower, with Jesus speaking of himself as a sower or farmer and his seed as his word. Much of the seed comes to no account but "still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times." (4:8) His disciples (students) do not understand why he is teaching in parables or even what the meaning of the parables are. Mark flashes forward to later, after the crowds have left and Jesus tells them "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (4:11-12), with Jesus quoting Isaiah 6:9-10. Early Christians used this passage from Isaiah "...to explain the lack of a positive response to Jesus and his followers from their fellow Jews." (Miller 21) He rebukes them for not understanding him, and explains his meaning, and that those who accept his word, i.e. his teaching are the ones who will produce the large "crop". This is also found in Luke 8:4-15 and Matthew 13:1-23. It is also saying 9 of the Gospel of Thomas.
Jesus then speaks of a lamp on a stand, that one does not put it under concealment but allows to shine. He says, "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear," (4:22-23) the last sentence being, judging from all available texts, a favorite saying of Jesus. This is also in Luke 11:33 and perhaps in Matthew 10:26-27. "'Consider carefully what you hear,' he continued. 'With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.'" (4:24-25) The Scholars Version translates these verses like such: "...The standard you apply will be the standard applied to you, and then some. In fact, to those who have, more will be given, and from those who don't have, even what they do have will be taken away!" Mark 4:25 also occurs in the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:29, Luke 19:26) and Matt 13:12, Luke 8:18, Thomas 41. Mark 4:24 also occurs in Matt 7:2 and Luke 6:38.
There is then the parable of the Growing Seed and the Parable of the Mustard Seed, each showing analogies with nature and small beginnings yielding much more in the end. They are both explanations of the nature of the kingdom of God. In the Seed Growing Secretly Jesus used the metaphor of a man planting a seed and then paying it no mind until "As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." (29) This is partially in Thomas 21 The mustard seed, says Jesus, is like the kingdom of God because it starts out as the smallest seed and yet "...becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." (32) This is in Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 13:18-19. It is also saying 20 of Thomas.
From here to the end of chapter 5 are accounts of great miracles. These miracles raise the stakes over miracles which have been reported before. Mark probably intends to demonstrate the greatness of Jesus' authority (εξουσíα, exousia). The calming of the sea  demonstrates Jesus' authority over nature. Jesus has authority over not only men but even an untamable man, delivering the demoniac from not merely one demon but a whole army of demons (see Mark 5). At the climax of these miracle accounts, Jesus does not merely heal the sick, but he raises the dead girl, all of which sets the reader up for a greater contrast when Jesus is rejected in his home town of Nazareth (6:1-6) in Mark 6 (see France for an extended discussion).
Rebuking the wind and waves
The chapter ends with an account of Jesus's calming of the storm at sea. He is sleeping while crossing the lake in a boat with his disciples. Mark notes that they left a large crowd, that they took Him "just as He was", and that other boats were with Him. A storm comes up and they frantically wake him:
- He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, `Peace! Be still!`. Then the wind ceased and there was a dead calm...And they were filled with great awe and said to one another `Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?` (Mark 4:39-41, NRSV)
- Pulpit Commentary on Mark 4, accessed 6 June 2017
- Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller editor, 1992, translation note to Mark 4:35-41: "...Mark calls this lake the sea, using a word (thalassa) that most Greek writers reserve for the much larger Mediterranean (Luke uses the more proper term for a lake, limne, in Luke 5:1; 8:22-23, 33. ..."
- Buls, H. H., Buls' Notes on Mark 4:35-41, accessed 15 November 2017
- BibleGateway.com: Mark 4:39
- France, R. T., The Gospel of Mark: a Commentary on the Greek Text; The New International Greek Testament Commentary, Eerdmans (c) 2002, ISBN 0-8028-2446-3; pages 220, 226, 241
- Mark 4 NIV
- Miller, Robert J.-Editor, The Complete Gospels, Polebridge Press, 1994 ISBN 0-06-065587-9
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| Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of Mark