Jesus summons the twelve

Mark 6:7-13

BRIEF INTRO:

I can’t help but think how helpful the kingdom parables (4:1-34) will be to the apostles as they get sent out two by two to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach repentance to the lost.

After Jesus leaves His hometown which suffered a lack of belief in Him (see previous study), He went around the local villages and was teaching (v. 6). We should notice that Mark uses a “sandwich pattern” in his writing. He places the backstory of Herod (14-29) between (the twelve being sent out v. 7, and the twelve returning v. 30) The reason for that will become more obvious as our study unfolds!

There appears to be a methodology in Christ’s preparation of the twelve for ministry that has been unfolding up to this point in Marks writing:

  1. He called (1:16-20; 2:14)
  2. He appoints (3:14)
  3. He teaches (Mark 1-6)
  4. He summoned (6:7)
  5. He sends them out (6:12)

That is a model for effective ministry that wise mentors incorporate in their discipleship program of future gospel ministers (Calling, teaching, ordaining, and sending).

7 And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;

FOCUS ONE: Christ summoned the twelve

“And He summoned the twelve.” With those words Christ ushers in the beginning of a new setting in Marks account!

He sends them out by two’s for various reasons: comfort for one another in strange places, to strengthen and encourage one another in difficult circumstances, and most likely because it would meet the “legal” requirement for an authentic testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15).

He gives them authority over unclean spirits. What type authority? His divine authority OR “right” and “power” to exercise demons (1:26). This power would authenticate their preaching and mission (that it is of God) with those they come into contact with.

Christ actually commissions them to attack the devil in his own territory! To bind the strong man (3:27). Some people believe that this power and authority is given to Christians today, if they just exercise enough faith. I personally do not believe in that vain of thought. I think the words of Jude 9 are instructive here:

“Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, BUT said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”

“Rather than personally cursing such a powerful angel as Satan, Michael deferred to the ultimate, sovereign power of God following the example of the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3:2. This is the supreme illustration of how Christians are to deal with Satan and demons. Believers are not to address them, but rather to seek the Lord’s intervening power against them” (John MacArthur).

8 and He instructed them that they were to take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no [a]bag, no money in their belt— 9 but [b]to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not wear two [c]tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you [d]leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust [e]off the soles of your feet as a testimony against them.”

FOCUS TWO: Christ instructs the twelve

In Christ’s instructions to these men we observe several things:
A. They are to take nothing except a staff (walking stick), sandals, and one tunic (opposite in Luke 22:35-37), Why? Worse times, worse people?
B. Their provisions are so minimal that it highlights the urgency of the task.
C. And these instructions highlight their need for sole dependence upon God’s divine provision!

No bread, no bag, no money? That goes against all of our human instincts. We need these things to survive. The urgency of their mission dictated haste and their need to depend solely on God to provide food and shelter through the hospitality of Jewish households.

This is different in another account in Luke where Jesus prepares His disciples for the “opposition” that will follow His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 22:35-38).

He told them to stay in one house until they would leave that town. He did not want them to be seeking “better” accommodations. “*They were not to impose on the hospitality of many stranger or to peruse more attractive offers, rather they were to stay in one place and make it there “base of operations.”

If in their search for a place to stay, in the territory of Herod Antipas, they are not received, they are told to shake the dust from the soils of their feet as a testimony against them (this symbolizes a decision to discontinue all association with those who have refused God’s message and are headed for His judgment).

They had received what they might give,
Had learned what they might teach,
And are now sent forth (Matthew Henry).

They had to deny themselves 7-9
And fulfill their responsibility. 10-11
Their success v.13

They went out! These three words may not appear on their face to be all that important but I assure you that they are for several reasons:

  1. They went out amid much fear and uncertainty.
  2. They went out with a message that they only previously heard the Lord teach. Now, it is their message to herald!
  3. They went out with previously unknown “authority” and “power.”
  4. They went out in obedience to their Lord!
  5. They went out and Christ showed Himself faithful!

Christ instructed, the disciples obeyed. It seems simple, but we fail at it miserably. We have the responsibility of being “witnesses” for Christ; we’ve been instructed as well (Matthew 28:18-20). How are we doing? How are you doing, dear Christian?

12 And they went out and [a]preached that people are to repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

FOCUS THREE: Their message

“They preached that men should repent.” That is the same message that we are to be heralds’ of today!

20 “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was beneficial, and teaching you publicly and [a]from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).

Take notice that it is NOT one without the other, rather they are two sides of the same gospel coin, if you will. Some people argue that repentance is “only” a change of mind, a change in our thinking towards God and sin. Repentance surely does involve a change of mind, but it is just such a change that fosters a change of will and therefore a change of direction as well (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

They not only proclaimed the “good news” but by the power of God cast out demons and anointed the sick and many people were being healed!

In our next study we will observe how the successful ministry of the apostles stands in stark contrast to Herod’s guilty conscience and fearfulness.

• The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 260

TO FAMILIAR

Mark 6:1-6

BRIEF INTRO:

Ever heard the expression: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” That phrase’s meaning is plain: The more extensive knowledge or association that we have of someone or something typically leads to a loss of respect for them. That is what we witness in our following study. Jesus was simply “to familiar” to those in His hometown that they could not OR would not believe Him to be anyone OR anything remotely more special than themselves. Matthew 13:54-58 shares a similar account.

This familiarity also tends to lead to boredom with a person or thing because we have too much experience with them and know what to expect.

This study may not be full of profound doctrine or theology, per se, but it does provide two essential things for us today:

  1. It reveals the unbelief in those closest to Jesus and why.
  2. It gives us a warning to check our hearts, so we don’t make the same mistake.

Jesus went out from there and *came into [a]His hometown; and His disciples *followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and [b]the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man learn these things, and what is this wisdom that has been given to Him, and such [c]miracles as these performed by His hands? 3 Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of [d]James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are His sisters not here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

FOCUS ONE: To familiar in his hometown, so they won’t listen to his wisdom

Jesus was consistent! His custom was to teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Matthew 4:23). Jesus was compassionate towards the people and wanted them to come out of the darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He humbled Himself, even to the point of death; death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11). And how much more compassionate might He be in His hometown among His friends and family?

We are told that they recognized positive characteristics in Him (wisdom, miracle-working power). *”They acknowledged the two great proofs of the divine original of His gospel – the divine wisdom and the divine power, and yet, though they could not deny the premises, they (would not) admit the conclusion.”

As astonishing as these things were, they would certainly not make them think of Jesus any differently, especially as divine. “Is not this the carpenter. . .” They saw Him as a peer who did menial labor as they did, so they were not impressed with His humility.

Even though they were astonished (ἐξεπλήσσοντο), they weren’t moved to belief! That Greek word I have above comes out of two words: ek (out of) and plesso’ (to strike). This is a powerful word 1 “often meaning to drive one out of his senses by a sudden shock.”

They were amazed at His wisdom, BUT because of their familiarity with Him and His family, took offense at Him rather than placing their faith in Him!

Jesus went out from there and *came into [a]His hometown; and His disciples *followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and [b]the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man learn these things, and what is this wisdom that has been given to Him, and such [c]miracles as these performed by His hands? 3 Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of [d]James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are His sisters not here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

FOCUS TWO: To familiar in His synagogue so they won’t submit to his authority and power

They knew His family. And even though they were astonished at His teaching, “they were offended at His person and for that reason would not believe”
Often that is the case with us in our culture today. I witnessed this phenomenon in one or two local churches I was a member in back in the day. Some people seemed to have a hard time benefiting from the speaker (lay speaker in these cases) simply because they knew him and his history and therefore struggled with submitting to His teachings.

What I am referring to is nowhere near the issue taking place in this account of Mark, but it stems from the same rotten fruit: familiarity!

These questions then became derogatory: “Is not this the carpenter” (common laborer). “The son of Mary” (A man was not described as his mother’s son in Jewish usage even if she was a widow, except by insult. CR Judges 11:1-2; John 8:41). “His brothers and sisters” were well known—people of similar circumstances.

So, since the hometown folk could not explain Jesus, His teaching, and his power to do miracles, it led them to take offense at Him, someone not unlike them (in their thinking).

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not dishonored except in [a]his hometown and among his own relatives, and in his own household.” 5 And He could not do any [b]miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He was amazed at their unbelief.

And He was going around the villages, teaching.

FOCUS THREE: To familiar with his relatives, so won’t look to Him for compassion

It is so sad reading those verses. Jesus was disrespected and given no honor in all places in His hometown. We can’t even begin to fathom the childhood of Jesus. Did He get into trouble? Did He have a bad attitude? Was He lazy and withdrawn with His face in an iPhone all day disobeying His parents? Obviously not!

Far from that picture, we would believe Jesus to be obedient, helpful, a hard worker, joyful! The townspeople would have noticed such character as he grew up. They should know that He was different than the other children in many ways. So, it is striking that they would have so much trouble now!

Jesus “wondered” at their unbelief. This word is a different Greek word than what Mark used in verse two. This word is ( θαυμάζω,v {thou-mad’-zo} it means:
1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel 2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration.” It is not as strong a word as what was used to describe the people in verse two.

“There was no limitation of His power, but His purpose was to perform miracles in the presence of faith. Only a few here had faith to come to Him for healing.” it is sad to read that because of their persistent unbelief, “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hand on a few sick people and healed them” (v. 5).

“So far as is known, He never returned to Nazareth.”

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR US:

  1. 1. Are we so familiar with our bible that we don’t spend much time with it?
  2. 2. Are we too familiar with our churches that we don’t attend regularly?
  3. 3. Are we so familiar with our brothers and sisters in Christ that we would rather avoid them?
  4. 4. Are we too familiar with the gospel that we no longer experience wonder at it?

• Matthew Henry
• Word Studies in the NT

It’s just a nickname

Spurgeon quote on Calvinism

“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

Half way obedience is not obedience

Extended reading: 1 Samuel 15:1-23

Devotional reading: vv. 10-15

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.

Adapted from the Every Mans Bible

THE GERASENE DEMONIAC

Mark 5:1-20

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

  1. He is the “Lord” (Master), “Jesus” (Savior), “Christ” (Anointed one)! (Cr. Luke 6:46; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 1:9).
  2. 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!
  3. He came to seek and save the lost, call sinners to repentance, gives life, and do the will of the Father (John 6:38).
  4. 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. 1. Leave the man.
  2. 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. 1. Removed the spirits from the man.
  2. 2. Bound the strong man.
  3. 3. Gave a visible testimony to His deity (v.15).
  4. 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

  1. 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).
  2. 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.”
  3. What other applications can you pull out of these scriptures?

• *The Bible knowledge commentary, pg. 122
• 1 Simeon Trust handout on “principles of exposition.”

GOSPEL AVOIDANCE

Extended reading: Matthew 27:62-28:15

Devotional reading: Verses 12-15

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.”

Adapted from the Every-mans Bible

EASTER

                                       

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!

Author unknown

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

Mark 4:21-34

BRIEF INTRO

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!

1 The NT Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 120

2 The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol 8, pg. 652

2. MacArthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1466

WHEN RIDICULE HURTS

Extended reading: Judges 11:1-11

Devotional reading: vv.1-3

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.

Adapter from Every man’s Bible

PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND SOILS

Mark 4: 1-20

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:

  1. What is a parable?
  2. 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!