“My friends, I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to give people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening, and neglect the truths of this Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to leave out the main cardinal doctrines of the Word of God, and preach a religion which is all a mist and a haze, without any definite truths whatever.
I take it that man does not preach Christ and him crucified, who can get through a sermon without mentioning Christ’s name once; nor does that man preach Christ and him crucified, who leaves out the Holy Spirit’s work, who never says a word about the Holy Ghost, so that indeed the hearers might say, “We do not so much as know whether there be a Holy Ghost.” And I have my own private opinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism.
I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.
I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor.
The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that. We preach Christ and him crucified in a different fashion, and to all gainsayers we reply, “We have not so learned Christ.” ~ Charles. H. Spurgeon
BRIEF INTRO: We have noticed beginning in chapter four (4:1) that Jesus was teaching by the sea. After He finished His teaching using parables, He wanted to cross over the sea to go to the other side, into the region of the Gerasenes (4:35; 5:1). There He was met by a man “with an unclean spirit” who lived in the tombs (5:2). Jesus commanded the spirits to leave the man and gave His permission for them to enter the swine. The herd, about two thousand, ran into the sea and drowned!
We witness Jesus getting into the boat and “crossing over again “to the other side (5:21). It is there where one of the synagogue officials approaches Jesus. In the events leading up to this meeting, we find two fascinating and seemingly “hopeless” situations that Jesus proved His Lordship over! First is the deadly storm (4:35-41). Second, the man possessed by the “Legion” (many unclean spirits). He now moves into what I will term another set of seemingly hopeless situations: a diseased woman and a dead girl! We will witness in each of these situations, yet, again, the complete authority and power Jesus has over all the things and all the scenarios of our daily and temporary lives!
21 When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and He [a]stayed by the seashore. 22 And one of the synagogue [b]officials, named Jairus, *came, and upon seeing Him, *fell at His feet 23 and *pleaded with Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will [c]get well and live.” 24 And He went off with him, and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.
FOCUS ONE: Jairus boldly approaches Jesus
Directly after Jesus touches the shore, a man breaks through the crowds that have gathered and falls at Jesus’ feet. His name is Jairus, and he is a “synagogue official” (v. 22). As a synagogue official, Jairus would be some form of an attendant in the synagogue. That role entailed bringing out the Torah scrolls for the service, leading the synagogue in prayers, and returning the scrolls afterward. Historically speaking, “after the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70, worship could no longer take place in the temple, making the synagogue the central place of worship.”
He approaches Jesus in reverence and humility, NOT demanding or proclaiming entitlement, evidenced by his tone and demeanor (fell at His feet, pleading earnestly). This man exhibits great faith in Jesus to heal his daughter in what, humanly speaking, is a hopeless scenario to find himself in. She is only twelve years old and is at “deaths door” (v. 23). His faith in Jesus to heal her is impressive and instructive for us, even today. “Come and lay your hands on her so she can get well and live.”
Jairus is a bold man of faith. He was not afraid to approach Jesus, the only one that could help him in his hour of need. He must have heard of what Jesus was doing on the other side of the sea and so had no doubts that He was able to heal his daughter.
“So, Jesus went with him.” Everybody in that crowd wanted to witness a miracle. To see with their own eyes the Undoing of the impossible! With that many people pressing against Him as they walked, it must have been burdensome to move. At that moment, a woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years reached through the compacted crowd and touched Jesus’ robe.
I will focus on her story in my next focus point. But for now, I want you to put yourself in Jairus’ place. His daughter is close to death, and time is quickly running out. Jesus, his only hope, is now “side-tracked” by this woman who has an issue. Time is of the essence and Jesus, rather than continuing to his house, turns around inquiring as to who touched Him, which then leads to more precious time being lost as Jesus engages the woman.
Jesus, with great compassion, always seems to be ready to inconvenience Himself to help people in need. Are we prepared to do the same?
Jairus, like us, must have felt great apprehension in his soul when Jesus stopped to engage this woman. The fear of losing his daughter must have escalated as time appeared to be quickly passing by and hopes of healing were diminishing. And then, to have people come and tell you that your daughter has died while you were en route must have been deeply grievous to his soul.
BUT, Jesus knowing what was said, tells Jairus, “don’t be afraid, only believe” (v. 36).
We must remember, and this is VERY important to the story, that Jesus, by touching a dead person and being associated with blood, in their view, would Himself take on the uncleanness related to both of them (Leviticus 15:19-27; Numbers 19:11). BUT, rather than making Jesus unclean, the woman was instantly healed, and Jairus’s daughter was brought back to life!
25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but instead had become worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His [a]cloak. 28 For she had been saying to herself, “If I just touch His garments, I will [b]get well.” 29 And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power from Him had gone out, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” 32 And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has [c]made you well; go in peace and be cured of your disease.”
FOCUS TWO: The woman sneaks up in the crowd and touches Jesus’ garments
As I meditated on this text, seeking to understand why Mark would include this story sandwiched between Jairus approaching Jesus and then going to Jairus’s home, I tried to put myself in his position. Sometimes it is helpful to do that when we are trying to figure out the plotline within our text. Now we have, most likely in Jairus’s view, an unwanted delay in Jesus healing his daughter by this woman that sneaks up to Jesus in the crowd.
Jairus, now with Jesus, is walking home to his beloved dying daughter. This woman “interferes” with his expectations, and that subsequent time lost results in the death of his little twelve-year-old daughter. When they began walking, there was hope; she was only in the process of dying. Now, after this woman engages Jesus, his daughter is dead! He is weighed down with grief. This woman has been dealing with her ever-growing hopeless situation for twelve years. She tried every new thing she could. New doctors with new treatments and spent all her wealth but found no healing. Luke, the physician, tells us that nothing helped because her condition was incurable (Luke 8:43). It sounds like God had a plan in allowing her to suffer for so long. He would manifest His authority and power through her, under such circumstances for His all-wise and holy purposes! That’s how old Jairus’ daughter is (vv. 25,42).
Her faith was so great that she believed that she only needed to touch His garment and that she would be healed. Such faith was exhibited with Paul (Acts 19:12), the difference being Paul was not God; the Lord granted any power in Him to magnify His name and His gospel!
Jesus, wanting to draw the woman out of the crowd, asks, “who touched me?” He wanted her to have faith, not fear; praise, not trembling. She does come forward and tells Jesus everything (v.33). Jesus then makes this statement crucial for us to hear: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed from your affliction” (v. 34).
From his sentence, we draw out three statements
Your faith has made you well
Go in peace
Be healed of your affliction
First, notice that her faith made her well, not touching His clothes. Second, Jesus was not angry at her for touching Him, and He granted her peace. And third, He heals her of her affliction.
*”The verb save (s’oz’o) in verse 28 can refer to deliverance from physical danger and affliction or deliverance from eternal judgment. It’s used in 10:26, where ‘being saved’ is par to inheriting eternal life and 10:17,30 “entering the kingdom of God (10:23-25). The primary meaning in this passage (5:23,28,34), however, relates to deliverance from physical difficulty since ‘being saved’ is par to ‘being healed from affliction’ (5:34). YET, even in his passage, (save) seems to point beyond mere physical healing from a particular affliction to a greater sense of wholeness and well-being, since the woman’s deliverance allows her to ‘live in peace.” So there seems to be a strong suggestion that her faith also led to spiritual salvation!
We now begin to see the bottom piece of bread in this sandwich! Mark began with Jairus (bread), then entered the woman (meat), and now we have our next piece of bread (Jairus’ home) to complete the sandwich.
35 While He was still speaking, people *came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why bother the Teacher further?” 36 But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, *said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid, only [a]believe.” 37 And He allowed no one to accompany Him except Peter, [b]James, and John the brother of [c]James. 38 They *came to the house of the synagogue official, and He *saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And after entering, He *said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child has not died, but is asleep.” 40 And they began laughing at Him. But putting them all outside, He *took along the child’s father and mother and His companions, and *entered the room where the child was in bed. 41 And taking the child by the hand, He *said to her, “Talitha, kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were utterly astonished. 43 And He gave them strict orders that no one was to know about this, and He told them to have something given her to eat.
FOCUS THREE: The little girl arises
While Jesus was speaking to the woman, news came of Jairus’s daughter’s death. How distressing for him to hear, how discouraging for him as he may have counted in his mind the precious minutes being lost as Jesus engaged the woman. BUT, Jesus encourages him to continue having faith in Him, even though his situation appears pointless now that his daughter has died.
Imagine the scene as they walk up to his house, hearing the mourners’ loud lament. They saw so many people weeping and wailing at the girl’s death. Imagine standing there as Jesus tells them all not to cry. The child did not die but is sleeping! Would you have laughed at Him too!
Jesus takes Peter, James, John, and the child’s parents into the room where the twelve-year-old girl lies. He speaks while holding her hand, and she arises!
What similarities and differences do these accounts share?
Both are in a hopeless situation (vv. 23, 25-26)
Both seek Jesus for healing (vv. 22, 27)
Both expressed fear (vv. 36,33)
Both exhibit faith (vv. 23, 28)
Both receive what they sought (vv. 34, 42)
Not in common:
Jairus is a male; the woman is, well, a woman (vv. 22, 25)
He is a synagogue official, she is a woman with a hemorrhage (vv. 22, 25)
Jairus boldly approaches Jesus, the woman sneaks up in a crowd (vv. 22, 27)
He exhibits fear and concern, she exhibits embarrassment and shame (23,36,27,33)
She endured much at the hands of others; Jairus is pleading for someone else (vv. 26, 23)
Jairus’s daughter dies and then is brought back to life; the woman remains alive (vv. 35, 34)
What do we learn from these things? We realize that they both needed Jesus, the king of the kingdom, the promised Messiah, Emmanuel, to heal their hopeless situation. And in so doing, Christ put on display His deity, authority, and power over all things natural or unnatural!
Jairus had many “why” questions, just like us, and he was able to get the answers, at least to some degree” through this experience. I think the story of the woman with the blood issue was placed in the middle because Jesus wanted Jairus to grow in his faith in Him. His circumstances did just that?
“But we may never know the answers to our why questions this side of heaven. Will you be willing to trust God during that most difficult moment?”
This account of Mark should encourage us to trust Jesus even when we have to wait longer than we would like.
*Exegetical guide to the Greek NT, Joel f. Williams, pg. 96
Samuel told Saul the instructions that the Lord gave him to. He was very clear in his communication of the the message. BUT Saul did not obey the commands given him. God was grieved because Saul had followed his own inclinations rather than God’s clear instructions.
If we’re honest we can relate to this. We know what the Lord requires of us, we do our best to obey, and sometimes we even adjust things a bit because we somehow believe that it will be ok, even better than we were instructed (vv. 13-15)!
“But God’s principles for holy living call us to obey His instructions, to make a clean break with the past, and to refuse to compromise. Saul exhibited none of these qualities. He chose to spare king Agag and the finest animals instead of destroying everything as God had commanded (15:8-9). He even built a monument to himself rather than pay tribute to God for the miraculous victory (vv. 1-2). When confronted by Samuel, Saul tried to justify his actions (v.15), but making excuses has never paved the way to a new life.”
We must accept responsibility for our actions if we desire to grow. If we obey God’s principles for our lives we won’t be placed in the position of trying to justify ourselves for our disobedience.
5 They came to the other side of the sea, into the region of the Gerasenes.
BRIEF INTRO: The region named in this account of Mark as Gerasene, *” is also known under three other names: Gergesenes, Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28), and Gerasenes. This was a small town located on the lakes eastern shore. Most of its inhabitants were gentiles.”
Here is one instance of Christ “binding the strong man” (3:27).
2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one was able to bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces; and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and cutting himself with stones.
FOCUS ONE: The possessed man
1. This person was in a miserable condition:
2. Possessed by an “unclean spirit.”
3. He was outraged.
4. Led by this spirit to relocate to the “tombs,” among dead people! According to Jewish belief, contact with the dead or graves rendered one “unclean.” (Leviticus 11:24-31; Numbers 9:6-10).
5. The spirit’s (legion) have complete control over him, exhibiting immense strength (chains and shackles broken); no one could bind him humanly speaking, But Christ is not only human; He is also divine!
6. He constantly cut himself with stones.
7. In such a condition, he was a horror to himself and others and very dangerous to those around him.
8. He normally would cast his rage upon others, but not with Jesus! With Him, he or, I should say, the demons possessing him, runs up to Jesus and bows before Him (exhibits a reverence, an understanding of who this man is)!
“The devil is a cruel taskmaster. This wretched creature was night and day in the mountains and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones. What is a man, when reason is dethroned and Satan enthroned” (Matthew Henry)?
6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”
FOCUS TWO: The Son of the Most High God
He is the “Lord” (Master), “Jesus” (Savior), “Christ” (Anointed one)! (Cr. Luke 6:46; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 1:9).
He saves from sin (Matthew 1:21), wrath (Romans 5:9), all our enemies, including Satan (Luke 1:69-71), all uncleanness (Ezekiel 37:23), and much, much more!
He came to seek and save the lost, call sinners to repentance, gives life, and do the will of the Father (John 6:38).
His Nature is good, righteous, holy, just, all-powerful, all-wise, and as such, even though He came to earth as a man, through the incarnation (Matthew 1:18-25), He transcends all human limitations. He has all perfection, is without sin, and is divine (Psalm 110:1).
5. Unlike the “unclean spirit,” Christ saves us from death and brings life!
Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had already been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged Him earnestly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now there was a large herd of pigs feeding [b]nearby on the mountain. 12 And the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us into the pigs so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
FOCUS THREE: The structure of the narrative
As you can see in the image I posted above, the gospels have a structure to them, 1 “every text has a structure. This structure will reveal an emphasis,” and that emphasis is what we must glean from as we study the Bible and in this case, the gospel of Mark.
The structure of a “narrative,” which we are studying in this post, always has three avenues of approach (Characters, Literary devices, and the plot). The third is what we are focused on in our study, although we witness a contrast and comparison between the unclean spirit in the man and Jesus, as I tried to flesh out in each previous focus.
In these verses, we can establish the “setting” in the country of the Gerasenes, on the east side of the sea where Jesus previously was ministering. There is a mad man possessed by an unclean spirit that has complete control over him. This man dwells among the tombs, unable to be bound by anyone, and upon seeing Jesus, he immediately runs to meet up with him as Jesus gets out of the boat.
The “plot” thickens as the two meet. We now feel the conflict as it begins to unfold! What is the conflict? The demon does not want to be bothered by “Jesus, the Most High God.” He does not want to leave the man, be “tormented,” or be sent “out of the country” (v. 10).
As the conflict elevates, we see Jesus conversing with the unclean spirit (v. 9,13), leading us to the story’s “climax. “There will be a point of no return in the narrative, and in our particular case, that point is when the “legion” entreats Christ to enter the swine (v. 12).
Jesus gives the “legion” permission to go into the swine (v. 13). It is at this juncture that they:
1. Leave the man.
2. Enter and kill the swine.
There is no returning from that! Christ allowing it is the “resolution” of the account of Mark about this man. By allowing the spirits to enter the swine He:
1. Removed the spirits from the man.
2. Bound the strong man.
3. Gave a visible testimony to His deity (v.15).
4. And gave an opportunity for the people to believe in Him.
Sadly, they do not believe in Him but request that He depart from their region. It is sad when people have so much light, evidence, and experience with Jesus and yet reject Him. It is grievous to witness such hardened hearts and calloused minds toward Christ Jesus.
Their rejection in this story leads to a new “setting.”
20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis [a]what great things Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.
FOCUS FOUR: The application
We shouldn’t be surprised to face opposition when we follow Christ. We should expect it! Does Satan want us to follow Christ? NO. Does He want us to be victorious in our walk of faith? NO. He will do whatever he can to mislead, confuse, torment, and discredit us. So we have to be alert to the danger, utilizing the whole armor of God consistently, recognizing that our enemy, “the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
We cannot win the battle against Satan and his forces in our own strength. We have to rely on the Lord for strength because He is more potent than Satan. He is strong, much stronger than we are. We must be diligent at seeking the Lord daily for wisdom, faith, and strength to walk through each day, with His help, “avoiding temptation and fleeing evil.”
What other applications can you pull out of these scriptures?
• *The Bible knowledge commentary, pg. 122 • 1 Simeon Trust handout on “principles of exposition.”
Each of us has friends, family members, and loved ones that seem to do all that they can to avoid the message of the gospel. They want to be “free” of His message for varied reasons that they deem to be legitimate. Some, sadly, will use extreme measures to discredit the gospel message, others, the tactic of avoidance!
“ The religious leaders went to a lot of trouble to be free of Jesus’ message. They spent time and energy trying to discredit Him in front of the crowds. Then they plotted His murder. When they caught Him, they tried to come up with witnesses and then had to convince Rome that Jesus was worthy of the death penalty. Once Jesus was dead, the leaders feared He would come back to life, either in fact or through rumor, so they got permission to seal and guard the tomb.
Finally, they had to come up with a story to explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Obviously the easier path would have been to accept Jesus’ message and make the appropriate changes in their lives and beliefs. We must make sure we don’t become so hardened that we, like the Jewish leaders, go to great lengths to avoid accepting the life saving message of the gospel.”
Sing, soul of mine, this day of days, The Lord is risen. Toward the sun rising set thy face, The Lord is risen. Behold, He give them strength and grace; For darkness, lights or morning, praise; For sin, His holiness; for conflict, peace.
Arise, O soul, this Easter Day! Forget the tomb of yesterday For thou from bondage art set free; Thou sharpest in His victory And life eternal is for thee Because the Lord is risen!
The disciples are still included with others following Jesus (v. 10). But these parables appear only to be explained to the disciples (v. 34). Why does Mark place them here? Most likely because they reinforce His message of the kingdom. One parable or teaching builds upon another and then another until His listeners have the whole instruction He aims to give them.
The first reveals how the kingdom’s message goes forth (sowing) and how people (soils) will receive it. These next few that we will discuss today explain the necessity for a proper response to them.
21 And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a [a]basket, or under a bed, is it? Is it not brought to be put on the lamp stand? 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, [b]let him hear.”
FOCUS ONE: Let the light shine
These following parables are still a part of Jesus’ teaching to His disciples and “His followers” (v. 10). But later (v. 34), we find that He only explains them to “his own disciples.” it seems logical that this would be the meaning of verse 23: “If any has ears to hear, let him hear.”
“1In this parable Jesus pointed out the self-evident fact that a lamp, a lighted wick in a shallow clay bowl full of oil, was not meant to be lit and then hidden under a measuring bowl (as was done at bedtime) or a bed (lit. Dining couch). Rather, it was to be placed on its stand where it would give light.”
Then adding another self-evident fact to His teaching, Jesus explains how nothing is hidden that will not be revealed. During the night, whatever is hidden or concealed is meant to be brought out into the open (light) for use during the day. A lamp’s purpose was not to be hidden but to light up the space where it is located. How does that add value to our thinking on how a lamp can be used?
2 Parables are meant to convey spiritual truth. So what is the truth that He was teaching? “The purpose of a lamp is to be put on a lamp stand and not under a bowl or bed, so the present hiddeness of Jesus will not always be —-hidden things are meant to be brought out into the open (v.22)-and God intends that one day Jesus will be manifested in all His glory. But who Jesus really is, is now hidden.”
His teaching was not intended to be kept secret or for a small circle of followers. After Jesus ascends, it would be the disciple’s responsibility to proclaim these truths to others, continuing the work of Jesus so that others would hear and understand His message so that they might be saved!
It is therefore vital for us to be careful hearers of His word.
24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. [a]By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
FOCUS TWO: Open your ears
Just like the previous teaching began with “and He was saying to them,” so too does this one and the next (v. 26). I am not sure much could be said about that observation other than that statement seems to group them in a trilogy of teaching on the kingdom.
The “carefulness” in which we listen is now highlighted. This listening involves a level of spiritual perception that, when heeded, will bring a greater understanding of more truth. The more a person listens to and appropriates it, the more truth about Himself will be revealed.
This warning is as much for us today as it was for them. So LISTEN to what is being said here. 3″ The more one appropriates the truth now, the more one will receive in the future. Whoever does not lay hold of the word now, even the little spiritual perception he has will be taken from him.”
It appears that the “standard of measure we use,” is about the way we value and utilize the truth that has been given!
26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up daily, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 Now when the crop permits, he immediately [a]puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
FOCUS THREE: The mystery of kingdom growth
Let me briefly summarize what we just read in our text. We have a man acting in faith, casting seed into the soil. His purpose for planting seeds rests in the hope that the seeds will grow and produce a bountiful crop. He doesn’t know how, but eventually, it happens; ultimately, he has a harvest.
The farmer cannot explain how it happens. Seeds are planted and are dependent on something outside of the farmer who planted it. Winds and rain beat against the soil. Sunshine and clouds pass over the crops, and yet, even though he sleeps, it springs up and grows and eventually produces a crop. What joy he experiences because harvest time has come!
After he sows the seed, he does nothing toward its growth. His focus is now on other things, and slowly, over time, it gradually grows! “First the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.”
This parable is about how the kingdom grows! It explains how spiritual growth is accomplished in the seed planted in the “good ground” or soil (v. 20). It grows gradually. God carries on His work after the gospel seed is planted in an individual’s heart. Sometimes it seems more slowly than others, BUT ultimately, only until He decides to reap the harvest of that soul and saves that person!
I like how Matthew Henry sums it up: “From the fruit of the gospel taking place and working in the soul, Christ gathers in a harvest. When those that receive the gospel aright have finished their course, the harvest comes, when they shall be gathered as wheat into God’s barn” (Matthew 13:30).
30 And He was saying, “How shall we [a]picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is the smallest of all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants, and forms large branches, with the result that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.”
33 And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to [b]understand it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.
FOCUS FOUR: Kingdom growth
This last parable answers the question: “How shall we “picture” the kingdom of God?” In this parable, Jesus again uses something so natural and normal to the listener’s everyday life to explain how God’s kingdom emerges.
1. Like a mustard seed
The mustard seed may not be the smallest seed known to humanity, but it was the smallest of all the seeds in the fields that day. But, once it had grown, it would become the largest of all garden plants (12-15 feet in height)! The contrast in this particular parable is between the seemingly insignificant beginning of this seed being planted and what it eventually becomes to the seemingly insignificant beginning of the gospel seed planted in humanity’s hearts (soil) and what it ultimately becomes!
The birds of the air nesting in its branches may simply be indicating the surprising size of the results, the incorporation of the Gentiles into God’s kingdom, OR it represents the sphere of salvation, which would grow so large that it would provide shelter, protection, and benefit to the people. These are a few possibilities I gleaned from various commentaries.
Jesus spoke with many other parables not recorded here. It makes me wonder how many He told that we do not have a record of. Like His signs and wonders that John spoke about, I wonder if “the world itself would not be able to contain them” if they were all written down (John 21:25)!
He explained the parables only to His disciples (privately) we read in verse 34. Don’t just read that statement in passing. It’s important. I believe it marks a shift in Jesus’ teaching method and purpose. This statement stems from a situation that recently happened to Him after He healed the man with the withered hand on the sabbath (v. 1-6). Because of that rejection and the state of the hardened hearts that blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, Jesus would no longer speak openly and clearly to all around Him.
“3This method of teaching left unbelievers with riddles, and kept them from being forced to believe the or disbelieve Him-they could make no decision to follow Him since they did not understand what He taught.”
MY summation of all the kingdom parables:
Whether it’s Jesus, His disciples, or those that come after them spreading the seeds of the gospel, a large amount of the time it will NOT be heeded as it falls on the hardened, conscience seared hearts of rebellious sinners, who are more interested in this life than the one to come.
But God assures us that there is good soil, hearts He has prepared for His gospel, and they will receive it rightly and be saved. They will slowly but surely produce fruit that is evidence of that fact.
Our responsibility as Christians is to proclaim the gospel, and spread the seeds so others can hear and believe (Romans 10). We are not prejudiced on where we spread the seeds, but we are to give to all freely. The results are up to God, not us. We can do nothing to affect true salvation growth in the hearer; only God can. So we can sleep easy at night knowing that we were faithful in sowing, and so we trust Him to be faithful in reaping.
His kingdom WILL grow, perhaps not as quickly as we would like to see, but it grows. The result will be fantastic to behold!
Being ridiculed can be very hurtful, especially if we are ridiculed for things that are completely beyond our control. The idea of being mocked or maliciously taunted illicit thoughts of fear, embarrassment, and anger within our hearts and minds. In these verses we learn that Jephthah faced such sin against himself. Even though he apparently possessed considerable courage and natural leadership ability, he was rejected by his half brothers because his mother was a prostitute.
This was something that Jephthah could not control; he had no say in the matter. This situation was a direct result of his fathers sinful choices. We learn rather quickly, as Jephthah had, that sin is NEVER a solitary issue! Its consequences are far reaching.
Like Jephthah, we may have been taunted by others because of our family background or for other problems beyond our control. We need to forgive those people, release the pain and grudges, and let go so that we can put those events behind us. Then we can move on to the tasks to which God has called us.
BRIEF INTRO: I am not sure how much time has elapsed until Jesus arrives by the sea, but that is where we now find Him as we begin chapter four. Jesus is now teaching by the sea, “and such a very great multitude gathered to Him” (v.1). The crowd was tremendous, so much so that Jesus needed to get into a boat to give Himself some space and, conveniently, a platform to preach from.
I do not think that we need to apply some sort of reason or meaning behind Jesus sitting to teach other than what would be the most obvious. I have learned in my study that sitting was the normal or “typical” rabbinic position when teaching. But we can also understand that the boat was likely moving back and forth in the water.
So, with His disciples by His side and the vast crowd gathered around Him, Jesus, sitting in a boat, begins to “teach them in parables” (v. 2).
4 Again, He began to teach by the sea. Such a huge crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat on the sea and sat down, and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. 2, And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
FOCUS ONE: Why parables?
This is not the first time that Jesus spoke in parables (3:23). But in all the instances that He does, He has a particular reason for doing so! We find ourselves with two questions to ask and answer before we dig into the teaching itself:
What is a parable?
Why does Jesus incorporate them into His teaching at times?
A parable is a rhetorical device used to explain the truth. It is a manner of teaching that is meant to stimulate a person’s thinking, make important points, and move the listener toward a rational, reasonable response.
So it should make sense then that Jesus uses parables to draw people to the truth. But why then do we read in verse eleven that there are some people (outsiders) that are NOT meant to understand His teaching?
From other places in scripture, we know that His parables were not always clear; the disciples had trouble at times understanding their meanings, such as we read in Mark 7:17 and our current text. But, we also read (vv.11-12) that there will be those that will not understand them. People who will not have ears to hear or eyes to see (v. 12).
So, before we seek to understand the parable itself, we must first come to grips with their purpose in the teaching of Christ. “*So Jesus taught in parables (at least on some occasions) so that His enemies might not be able to comprehend the full significance of His words and bring false accusations or charges against Him. He knew that in some cases understanding would result in more sin and not in accepting the truth.”
Our context is about Jesus beginning to unfold “the mystery of the Kingdom.” The “mystery” is revealed in greater detail to those who believe but is hidden to those who do not believe, reject Christ, and reject His gospel. A mystery, in this sense, is simply something that was previously hidden but has now been revealed. I believe the sense is that of continual willful rejection, not ignorance.
So, as He begins to teach using this parable, we must recognize these two distinct groups within the crowd. Those who have ears to hear (people who listen, understand, and have faith) and those who do not!
3 “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.” 9 And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, [a]let him hear.”
FOCUS TWO: The parable employed
We notice that Jesus emphasized the importance of paying careful attention to what He is saying twice. He says “listen to this” in v. 3 and “He who has ears to hear” in v. 9. It is not wise to take the words of the Lord superficially. In this case, the importance is that all the other parables coming next can only be understood rightly if the people grasp the truth of this first one. “Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables” (v. 13)?
Before we can correctly comprehend and apply this parable, we need to figure out from within the context what the main point is.
The sower and sowing—are not the main point. He only uses one short sentence: “The sower went out to sow” (v.3). That does not mean that the sower is unimportant. Christ Himself sowed the seeds of the gospel of the kingdom, then His disciples, and now those who have come to faith through them!
The seed — is not the main point of the parable either. We read of the seed being scattered, scattered in various places upon different soil. BUT THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE SOILS.
The soils are the main point!
Someone goes out and sows the seeds on various soil types (beside the road, rocky ground, among the thorns, on good soil), and those soils, all but one, prove to be “fruitless.” There is only one soil mentioned in this parable that the seed grew in and produced fruit! And that is the last one that was mentioned.
14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 And in a similar way these are the ones sown with seed on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately they [a]fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown with seed among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the [b]world, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter and choke the word, and it [c]becomes unfruitful. 20 And those are the ones sown with seed on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.”
FOCUS THREE: The parable explained
In verses 3-8, Jesus sought to teach the crowds of people by employing imagery that would be relatively normal in their rural life in Palestine. In our following verses, 14-20, Jesus explains the parable to His disciples and others who are around Him (v. 10). It is evident that the twelve did not understand the meaning of the teaching, and so, with much patience, He explained His words to them so they could grasp hold of the truth He shared. Truth relating to the “kingdom.” This parable is about How the kingdom grows, so it is vital to understand this one or the others will make no sense (v. 13)!
The sower is not identified, but the context indicates that He most likely represents Jesus and/or those who will sow (herald) the kingdom’s message (gospel).
The seed is the word (the gospel) as we see in other places: 1:15, 45; 2:2; 6:12).
The soils represent different people’s reception of the word. The parable teaches them and us that in our faithful witnessing for Christ, we will come across various types of “hearers” in whom the seed has been sown. It is also made clear in His explanation that there will be many people who give a negative response to the seed sown.
Those pesky birds (v. 4)! They represent Satan, who actively seeks, at all costs, to “immediately” take away any coherence of the word given. In effect, these people have no response to what was sown. Read verse 15 over again so that you don’t miss the unveiling of what they represent.
Then there are the “rocky ground” hearers. This group is said to have no depth of soil; no firm roots. In other words, they receive the word in a “shallow” manner. There is no real depth to their understanding or profession. Since their “roots” are shallow and not firm, they last only a short while. Like the seeds landing on rocky places would suffer trials (sun scorching them), these types of hearers of the word are only for a short while because when troubles come or persecution, they quickly fall away (v.17).
The third type of soil (hearer) is said to be like the seed among thorns. These people “hear,” BUT are preoccupied with the things of this world. Their desires for other things, things they give priority to, eventually “choke” out the word that was heard. Sadly, Jesus says of them,” and it (word) becomes unfruitful (v. 19).
But lest we despair and lose hope, He gives us the encouragement we need to persevere in spreading the gospel seed! Any farmer rejoices at having “good soil” to plant in. Such soil produces crops! Often many fold more than he could wish for. So it is with the good soil that receives the gospel seed!
Please recognize that this is the only type of hearer that truly benefits from the gospel. The only ones that are genuinely regenerated! The other three soils are representative of those who flat out reject the gospel, those that are shallow-minded and so hear it, understand it, but turn away from it. None of those people were ever adopted into the family of God. The only ones who will be justified in Christ and adopted into the family of God are those that “hear the word” AND “accept it.” Such people WILL bear fruit in keeping with their repentance (v. 20)!
This is how the kingdom grows.
Be encouraged, dear Christian. We have been told, straight out from the Lord, that many people will not listen to what we have to say, or they may express some superficial sense of belief that, in the end, will reveal itself for what it truly is. Even so, our encouragement comes from the fact that there are people out there who will listen, accept it, and be born again by God’s grace!
So don’t lose heart; don’t give up. Keep on sowing!
*The Bible Expositors Commentary on spreading the gospel seed!
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
What? Are you kidding me? We are to find joy in troubles because “our endurance” has a chance to grow? I am not kidding, rather, the Bible is not joking regarding a Christian attitude in the face of severe trials! I get it, these words appear to be a contradiction in terms, but I assure you they are not. Troubles are for complaining, problems are for whining, and heartache is for crying, at least we think so. But God seems to have a radically different view on these things!
James writes to “Jewish believers scattered abroad” (v.1). He wants them to not only face their trials and tribulations but GROW through them as well. “For many of these early believers, their faith created a whole new series of troubles. Instead of complaining, crying, or giving up, James challenged the believers to have joy because their faith would have a chance to grow and deepen during the difficult times.”
Think about it for a moment. How is your walk of faith when everything is going great! I understand, we prefer it that way, but how does immense blessing help you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Does prosperity and plenty put you on your knees in sincere, deep prayer? Do they drive you into the Bible consistently, or do you become lazy or relaxed in those things? “Most often it’s troubles that bring us back to God. God loves us enough to allow us the opportunity of going through various hardships in order to “conform us more into the image of His Son.” When our faith is tested we have a chance to grow.”
“He wants us to be fully developed, perfect and complete, needing nothing” (1:4). If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know that “everything about the Christian faith turns what we consider to be ‘normal’ upside down.’”