Near misses add up

In all of my years driving professionally the one safety training topic that still resonates in my mind is that of “near misses.’

OSHA defines near misses as episodes where no property was damaged and no personal injury occurred in spite of the fact that, given a slight shift of time or location, damage or injury would most likely have occurred. Near misses can also be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free occurrences or potential collisions.

“Most people think of “near misses” as harrowing close calls that could have been a lot worse—when a firefighter escapes a burning building moments before it collapses, or when a tornado miraculously veers away from a town in its path. Events like these are rare narrow escapes that leave us shaken and looking for lessons.”

“But there’s another class of near misses, ones that are much more common and pernicious. These are the often unremarked small failures that permeate day-to-day business but cause no immediate harm. People are hardwired to misinterpret or ignore the warnings embedded in these failures, and so they often go unexamined or, perversely, are seen as signs that systems are resilient and things are going well.

Yet these seemingly innocuous events are often harbingers; if conditions shift slightly, or if luck does not intervene, a crisis erupts.”

Our lives are filled with “seemingly innocuous events” on another level as well. The radio program that comes on talking about a savior when we thought we set the channel for a comedy show. The new hire at work that enjoys talking about some guy named Jesus! The car accident that sends you to the hospital where the local chaplain visits and reads to you from the Bible.

I can go on but I think you get the point. These supposed innocuous events are harbingers on a spiritual level to those without Christ. They might possibly be the catalyst for bringing them, as they did us, to repentant faith in Jesus!

These things are near misses only in the sense of how close a person comes to the “light of the glorious gospel” and then moves on ignoring the truth it contains as if they have no significance. They go unexamined and are incorrectly seen as weird abnormalities.

Be careful, near misses add up and the inevitable consequences for ignoring them can prove fatal.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3)

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:5).

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

Isn’t it time to pay attention to those near misses?

GHOST ON THE SEA

Mark 6: 45-52

BRIEF INTRO: As the crowds are disbursed and the disciples are sent off in the boat, the twelve still did not get the rest they needed (v.31)! Ironically, these men are tired and hungry from their mission, in much need of rest, but the multitudes kept encroaching; kept invading their space if you will, and so rather than rest and food for themselves, they are kept busy feeding well over 15-20 thousand people (when you add the women and children).

Verse 45 is the 16th “immediately” that I counted in Mark’s writing. This reminds us of how “fast paced” his account is.

Why does Jesus make the disciples get into a boat and leave (immediately)? Why does Jesus go into the mountain to pray rather than joining them? Why do these people keep following after Jesus? Do the disciples comprehend who Jesus truly is? Let’s jump into it and see if we can find the answers.

45 And immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself *dismissed the crowd. 46 And after saying goodbye to them, He left for the mountain to pray.

FOCUS ONE: Crowds disbursed

In Mark’s fast paced accounting of events, he gives us little explanation, actually he gives none, as to why Jesus sends His disciples away so quickly. Some assume that it is because He is compassionate and understands that they still have not received ANY rest since He sent them out. Others, lookin over the other gospels think a bit differently: “But John says that after He had done the miracle, the people wanted to take Him and make Him a king, John 6 verses 14 and 15. They were ready to start a revolt, a revolution.You have to understand that the Kingdom at this point, as we look at it here, the Kingdom at this point is all in one little boat. This is not very impressive. This Kingdom is not at all impressive. It is a poor Kingdom by any human estimate. A wooden boat in the middle of a storm, and the vice regents and future rulers and proclaimers of this King and His Kingdom can’t control the boat.


This is a very dangerous moment for the Kingdom. Nazareth has rejected Him. Galilee has rejected Him. Herod wants to kill Him. The Pharisees and scribes want to kill Him. The leaders in Jerusalem want to kill Him.

And now, even those who are His apostles, first generation of gospel preachers, the ones who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, these men are in a dire situation. Their rescue is essential and so is their complete devotion to Him. Future hope for gospel preaching depends on their survival and it depends on their faith.” Sure, Jesus is compassionate, BUT there is more at stake here than these men eating and resting, as important as that is.

MacArthur writes: “They (the multitudes) were sure of His amazing, miraculous power. They knew now that He would not only heal their bodies, deliver them from disease, raise their dead, but He would be the source of permanent food supply. And so, they were ready to make Him a king. They were certainly ready to have Him overthrow Herod and all the other petty Herodians who had pieces of Israel over which they ruled under the allowances of Rome. They were ready to take on Rome itself with Jesus as their leader. This was the crowd’s response to the massive nature of this miracle and what it demonstrated about His power to provide for them.”

Jesus, knowing that these men could easily be influenced by the crowds and perhaps get swept away with the excitement that filled the air, quickly sends them away from the multitudes to the other side of the sea.

Jesus then goes to the mountain to pray (often goes here). Jesus is very busy and normally does not get alone time; but he makes time! Jesus knows the will of the people and He knows the susceptibility of the twelve men He chose to the electricity in the air of a long awaited “messiah,” king. He knows the future kingdom work rests organically in these men, so He prays!

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 Seeing them [a]straining at the oars—for the wind was against them—at about the [b]fourth watch of the night, He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

FOCUS TWO: Disciples in fear
The twelve are in the boat for several hours, many of them spent straining at the oars in rough waters. Mark says that it was evening when they were in the boat and about “the fourth watch” Jesus came to them. How long is it between “evening” and the 4th watch? Approximately six hours!

Imagine that. Jesus sees them “straining at the oars” (v. 48) and yet does not go to them for several hours? And then we read that He walks on the water to them “intending to pass by.” Those two facts together tell me that these men, especially Peter, were about to have their faith in Christ tested!

Why pass by?

  1. 1. God does not always deliver from trials but uses them to produce (endurance, humility, dependence, how to ask for help).
  2. 2. Test of faith (how do we act when God does not answer immediately (bitterness, anger, impatient)?

These men were terrorized at what they saw. You would think that after all they had seen being accomplished by Jesus, and all they had done recently by His power, they would instantly recognize and appreciate Jesus walking on the water to get to them. Instead, they were in great fear thinking it was a ghost and they were astonished that He stopped the wind!

That statement makes sense only in light of what we read later in verse 52, which we’ll talk about in our next focus!

49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought that it was a ghost, and they cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were [a]terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they [b]had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but [c]their hearts were hardened.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus is divine

Can I say it? These men are slow to gain wisdom or insight as to who Jesus is and what He can do! BUT, I am too and so are you. We most likely would have reacted the same way if we were in that boat.

Mark reveals that these men were:

  1. Afraid (terrorized in the greek)
  2. And ignorant
  3. And tired

“So when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost and screamed.” These are grown men who probably have been doing a lot of yelling up to now anyway. But this is the shrieking scream of someone who is just in panic. They thought He was a ghost. The Greek word is phantasma, phantom, fantasy. Popular belief at the time was that spirits of the night brought disaster. That was hanging around in the superstitions of that time and that place. Maybe all of a sudden it was true in their experience.”

“For they all saw Him and were terrified,” tarassō that word means to throw into panic. They were literally thrown into panic. There was no – there was no way to process what they saw, a person walking on water. Well, the Lord didn’t let their shaking terror last very long – I love this. ‘He spoke with them and said ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.’” Easy for you to say, right” (Macarthur).

So we see Jesus as:

  1. Encouraging
  2. He did not rebuke them
  3. And He gave them hope

This was a miracle that again reveals His deity:

  1. Power
  2. Authority
  3. Sovereignty

And all that He did was get into the boat and it stopped!

“The OT provides an important background for understanding Jesus’ action of walking on the water. Jesus is acting with divine power (2:7), because it is God alone who walks on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8), who makes His way through the sea and His path through mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16). The OT also makes sense of the otherwise puzzling note that Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples. The language is similar to that used of God’s revelation of His glory to Moses (Exodus 33:17-34:8). . . For Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples, therefore, means that He desired to reveal His glory to them” (Exegetical guide to the Greek New Testament, pg. 116).

But they missed it. Their hearts were hardened (v. 52).

The Synoptics show us that the disciples understood only by degrees. Therefore their statements must not be interpreted as if they had a “post resurrection” understanding of Him. They always seem to come around to the same point over and over again, each time at a deeper level of understanding. But always with a mixture of apprehension! They haven’t arrived yet, AND neither have we!

That night they went from fear to faith. That night they went from confusion to confession. That night they went from wondering to worshiping!

FEEDING 5000

Mark 6:30-44

BRIEF INTRO: Imagine for a moment, if you can, being apart of the multitude the day that Jesus fed them with only five loafs of bread and two fish! See yourself sitting on the green grass with fifty or one hundred other people anticipating what was going to happen. Maybe you could see Jesus, maybe not, in either case you hear the murmuring of the crowds and it is getting increasingly louder.

It’s not a sound of fear, but one of joy! Soon, in the near surroundings, you can see the disciples going from group to group with something in their hands. You are not sure what it is but you sure are hoping it’s something to eat, after all, you’ve spent part of the day tracking down Jesus and His disciples after you saw them leave in a boat.

You have been with Jesus all day, listening to His teaching, it’s now late and too dangerous to try to go back home. Your belly rumbles with hunger. What could they be doing going from group to group?

That is where these people are at in Mark’s account. And we are about to jump into it and learn just how significant this story was for them and us today!

30 “The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.

33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

FOCUS ONE: The concern of Christ vs. the presumptions of the crowds

Here we find the disciples returning from a very successful mission (6:13; Luke 9:6). The backstory about Herod and John the Baptist was “sandwiched “ between their being sent out and their return. Now they are back and report all that had happened to Jesus. They had healed many, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom repeatedly, and traveled many miles. They needed rest and Jesus recognized they that. So, he directs them to go away on a retreat, so to speak, to get some much needed rest. Jesus sends them to an unnamed place most likely near Bethsaida.

But, unlike Jesus and the concern that He showed for these faithful servants, the people chased after them, unconcerned, most likely not even entertaining the thought that they needed a rest, and caught up with, in fact, got to the other side ahead of them!

“While Jesus was showing concern for the disciples, the common people were not. They did not care how tired Jesus or the disciples were. Their minds were filled with what they wanted to get or see rather than what they could do for others. What should they have done at this point? Instead of just presuming that Jesus and the disciples were always ready for serving them, they could have asked. Even better, they could have used their eyes and seen the weary expressions and came up to Jesus and said, “I have noticed that you and your disciples are busy from before dawn until after dusk every day preaching to us, healing us, and serving us. You must all be very tired.” How can we serve you?

I am challenged with this aspect of the story. I shutter at the thought of how many times I have and most likely still do, presume upon the humble, obedient, and compassionate service of my church Elders and Deacons.

Another aspect of the story that needs to be highlighted is the evidence of how Christ discipled these men and why. Please take notice that when the apostles met with Jesus they were not talking about what Jesus had been doing or teaching, but what “they” had “done and taught.” “This is yet another passage that gives us a lot of insight into how Jesus trained the disciples. They were not just bystanders observing Jesus’ ministry. They were part of it. They participated in it.”

Participation comes in many forms: “Sometimes their participation was in deeper small group discussion after Jesus’ miracles/teachings. Sometimes their participation was in preparing something like the place for the Last Supper or later in this passage finding some food. Sometimes it was asking Jesus more questions. And here we see they were also going around teaching the Word. As effective as Jesus was, He was still just one person. He could teach big crowds, but He was still limited to one place at a time. To make a bigger impact that would stretch to the ends of the earth Jesus had to train others.”

12 “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father”. (John 14:12).

Ironically they have no time to eat, but are used by Christ in feeding 5000 plus other people!

34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 And when it was already late, His disciples came up to Him and said, “[b]This place is secluded and it is already late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves [c]something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they *said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred [d]denarii on bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 But He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.”

FOCUS TWO: The confusion of the disciples vs. the plan of Christ

Can you see the irony in this? After all they had just done and witnessed, they could not grasp the scope of Christ’s divine power to provide for these people!

“The disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could eat. Jesus told the disciples to give them something to eat. Why? It was certainly an interesting request and the disciples responded like you might expect them too, which was to ask if they should buy food for everyone.” Could it be that Jesus was giving them an opportunity to show their faith by making a suggestion such as, “Jesus, we can’t feed all of these people…but you can. In fact, we learn from John 6:5-7 that Jesus was doing it to test them. He often tried to get them to think beyond the physical realities of what they could see and touch. Most of the time, however, this was a struggle for them.

They scan the landscape at come up with only five loafs and two fish, which should be no surprise to us that in Christ’s hands it abundantly supplied the need! Where did they get the loafs and fish from? John 6:1-14 – A parallel account mentions the boy who gave the loaves and fish. I often wonder if he was the only one that brought a snack with him that day. Were others being selfish and deceptive by keeping what they had to themselves? These accounts do not speak to that question, but I wonder how I, how we, would have acted in that situation!

39 “And He ordered them all to recline by groups on the green grass. 40 They reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He gave them to the disciples again and again to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied; 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. 44 There were five thousand [a]men who ate the loaves.”

FOCUS THREE: The compassion of Jesus satisfies a compelling need

Why separate into hundreds and fifties? “Jesus commanded them to sit down all in groups. As we see in 1 Corinthians 14:40, God is a God of order. Nothing generates chaos like free food. Jesus didn’t want a stampede or trampled people so He wisely made people sit down. If they wanted to receive the benefit from His miracle they had to do it on His terms. This is just like salvation. He offers it freely, but we have to accept it on His terms, not on our own.”

Jesus takes the food into His hands, looks up toward heaven, not towards the crowds, which expresses where are needs are met, and blesses the food. I am amazed at this next sentence: “He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples.”

I wonder how this actually transpired. Did the food keep on appearing in His hands? Did He keep producing it in His hands and incessantly pass it out or fill up the returning baskets? It is interesting and exciting o think about!

In this we should see an example of prayer for blessing the meals He so graciously supplies us. I believe 1 Timothy 4:5 helps us understand this better. By means of the word of God and prayer “nothing” that God created and has given to us for good should be rejected or taken for granted, but are supposed to be received with gratitude! Such gratitude is expressed in our following the example of Jesus and acknowledging God’s goodness in meeting our needs.


Many ponder why 12 baskets were left over? It is observed that those twelve baskets equal one for each disciple. It doesn’t appear rational to create or surmise some other reason for the left overs. Jesus did not forget about these men, these servants. He knows they were tired and hungry before this situation unfolded and He knows they are even more so now. He meets their needs!

Friends, we can always trust Jesus to meet our needs, temporal and eternal! GOSPEL

TRUTH FROM THE PAST

“ Prayer that affects one’s ministry must give tone to ones life. The praying which gives color and bent to character is no pleasant, hurried pastime. It must enter as strongly into the heart and life as Christ’s ’strong crying and tears’ did; must draw out of the soul into an agony of desire as Paul’s did; must be of an in-wrought fire and force like the ’effectual fervent prayer’ of James; must be of that quality which, when put into the golden censer and incensed before God, works mighty spiritual throes and revolutions.

Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our mother’s apron strings; neither is it a little decent quarter of a minute’s grace said over an hour’s dinner, But it is a most serious work of our most serious years.

E.M Bounds

A STRATEGIC DAY

Mark 6:14-30

BRIEF INTRO:

So far in our study of chapter six, we have witnessed Jesus being rejected in His hometown mainly because He was too familiar! He then “summoned” the twelve and sent them out in pairs, with authority over the unclean spirits (vv. 7-13). It appears from Luke and Mark’s accounts (Luke 9:6) that their ministry was very productive and successful. So much, so that news of it reached the highest levels of government (v.14).

In the following sixteen verses, we will learn how King Herod and the people reacted to what these men were doing and how all of it affected Herod as this news was brought to his attention.

14 And King Herod heard about it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard about it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

FOCUS ONE: “And King Herod heard of it” (v. 14).

This is Herod Antipas, who was named to the throne of Herod the Great after his father died around 4 B.C. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. Two of his other brothers, Philip and Archelaus, ruled different areas as Herod the Great divided His dominion into three regions.

What did he hear? It seems clear that Herod “heard” about two things:

  1. The powerful ministry of the twelve
  2. Who the people thought Jesus was

With all that was accomplished through the twelve (casting out demons, healings, and their authoritative preaching and teaching), it is no wonder that word about them spread rapidly among the people. Keep in mind that they did all of this, all of it, in Jesus’ name!

There were various opinions as to who Jesus was:

1. John the Baptist risen from the dead

2. Elijah

3. A prophet like one of the prophets of old (v. 15)

Observe the sad fact that His countrymen could not OR would not believe anything significant concerning Him, BUT others were willing to accept anything rather than the truth (v.15).

But when Herod heard of it, his conscience kicked into gear, and fear began to arise because of what he had done to John the Baptist on account of his wife, Herodias.

Herod had divorced his first wife and then taken his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias was Antipas’ niece, making this union all the more incestuous and messy. This even caused a war with his first wife’s father.

17 For Herod himself had sent men and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias held a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death, and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he had been protecting him. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; and yet he [a]used to enjoy listening to him.

FOCUS TWO: Herod’s backstory (vv. 17-20)

This back story is not only about Herod; Mark fills in on what happened to John the Baptist after his arrest (v.17). We begin to witness the pangs of a guilty conscience in verse sixteen. The fact that “He kept saying” heightens his guilty sense of beheading John the Baptist.

So, what led up to John’s death? John confronted the king regarding his incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias, Herod’s niece, the daughter of his half-brother Aristobulus, who was married to his half-brother Philip. Herod had divorced his wife to marry Herodias, who had divorced Philip. Such a thing was unlawful.

The mosaic law prohibited a man from marrying his brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). Except when the brother died without leaving any children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Mark 12:19).

Because John was brave enough and bold enough to call Herod out on this, Herodias wanted John put to death (v. 19) but could not do so. This longstanding grudge eventually leads to John’s demise.

She could not have John killed at that time because Herod was “afraid” of John (v. 20)! Herod was afraid of John because he knew that he was “a righteous and holy man,” so he kept him safe from Herodias! He would often listen to John gladly. Herod’s interactions with John often left him with great internal conflict, “a moral struggle between his lust for Herodias and the prodding of his guilty conscience.”

21 An opportune day came when Herod, on his birthday, held a banquet for his nobles and military commanders, and the leading people of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and [a]his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And although the king was very sorry, because of his oaths and [b]his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about this, they came and carried away his body, and laid it in a tomb.

FOCUS THREE: Herod’s foolish oath (vv. 21-29)

“A strategic day,” these words lead off this next section of Mark’s account. Strategic for whom? Certainly not for John, who dies on this day. Not for Herod, struggling with such a great fear of this “holy and righteous man.” Only for one person is this a strategic day, Herodias (vv.19, 24).

This particular day is Herod’s birthday. A day in which there would be much celebration, feasting, and entertainment for the king. A banquet was held in honor of Herod with many Lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee present.

At some point in the celebration, the daughter of Herodias dances before them. Keep in mind that the attendees all appear to be male. “The Greek verb (ὀρχέομαι) {or-kheh’-om-ahee} to dance, has connotations of arousing, satisfying sexual interest.” The dance “pleased Herod and his dinner guests (v. 22).

I wonder if Herodias had something to do with her daughter dancing before these men rather than a simple coincidence! We are not told the specifics of how and what led to her entry, only that she “came in and danced.” I can see her entrance as a planned event that precipitates her mother’s murderous intentions (v.22).

Because Herod is “pleased” at the dancing, he makes a foolish oath to Herodias’s daughter playing right into her wicked, scheming hands. Sadly, we witness Herod act on impulse rather than logic.

The moment of great anticipation arrives for Herodias (v.24). Without any hesitation, she sends her daughter back out asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter! Her daughter shares with her the oath Herod has made.

Herod had unwittingly placed himself in a precarious situation. Herod was sorry for his foolishness, but he could not get out of his oath or look foolish in front of his dinner guests who witnessed it, So he did not refuse her!

One has to wonder what Herodias did; how she reacted when John’s head was brought to her on a platter. She finally has her greatest desire! Herod sent the executioner to the cell, and John was beheaded in prison (v. 27).

John’s disciples heard about what transpired, so they claimed John’s body and buried him in a tomb (v. 29). They couldn’t fathom the body of their beloved teacher being neglected.

We learn a lot from this backstory. We see topics of adultery, conscience, guilt, murder, oath making and keeping, truth, boldness, and law. Themes of law and order. Righteousness and unrighteousness, the fear of man versus fear of God, etc. BUT we also learn some essential things about Herod and John!

What do we learn about Herod?

  1. Herod was a king who couldn’t control himself (vv.17,22)
  2. Herod was a protector that couldn’t watch over the righteous (v.26)
  3. Herod was a guilt-ridden man who couldn’t identify his savior (v. 16)

What do we learn about John the Baptist?

  1. John was a prophet that stood for righteousness (v. 17)
  2. John was a bold messenger (v. 18)
  3. John was beheaded at the command of Herod (v. 27)

In this historical account, we see the depth and horror of the total depravity of man vividly. The corruption that floods the hearts of sinners is on display, and we witness its utter corruption and ruin.

AND we also learn something more about Jesus:

Matthew 14:1-13

13 “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself;.”

Jesus was a compassionate man! He felt the pain that we feel at injustice and wickedness. He loved others as we do. He cared for others as we do. He needed time alone as we do.

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).


Such amazing grace, such an amazing savior! GOSPEL

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

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.”

WHEN DOUBT ARISES

Photo by Shubham Sharma on Pexels.com

Mark 4: 35-41

BRIEF INTRO: After so long a period of teaching, confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, and the multitude’s relentless desire to be near Him, Jesus, say’s to the disciples, “Let us go over to the other side,” most likely the east side of the Sea of Galilee. At this time, a “fierce gale of wind arose” (v. 37), which brought with it a challenge to the disciples and an opportunity for Jesus! Jesus, presumably exhausted, falls asleep in the stern (very back) of the boat. 

35 On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” 36 After dismissing the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37 And a fierce gale of wind *developed, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling with water. 38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS ONE: The circumstances

After expressing to the disciples that He desired to cross over the sea, Mark tells us that the disciples began sending away the multitude listening to His teaching, “they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat” (v. 36). In other words, there didn’t have to be any lengthy preparation for the trip. Jesus was already sitting in the boat, and that is how it appears He remained as they set out. 

Mark also tells us that “other boats were with Him” (vs. 36). So, some people had their boats here as well, and rather than leave Jesus as the vast majority of people had to do, they wanted to remain with Him and so followed them in their boats.

A severe storm arises, and the waves overtake the boat; it is “filling up” (v 37). This storm was sudden and dangerous. It shouldn’t be hard for us to understand the disciple’s fear and panic amid such circumstances. Most of us have faced less prevailing circumstances and “freaked out” over them! Like us, these men were human and struggled with fear over the uncertain and ever-changing events of their day. Also, we can add another element to their fear of the waves and subsequent doubt with Jesus’ concern for them. That element would be their (lack of understanding) of exactly who Jesus is.

These men had already witnessed many miracles that the Lord had accomplished. They had listened to and had explained to them many of His teachings (vv.10,34). They should have had a strong faith in Him by now. Worrying shouldn’t be a part of their thinking anymore, considering all they heard and saw. BUT they still feared. Why? 

Simply put: “it’s in our blood.” It’s human nature to fear what we can’t control. But thankfully, for those who are “in Christ,” we don’t have to live any longer as slaves of fear. Even though our un-redeemed flesh is corrupted and seeks to hold us in fear, we have an advocate and Helper, The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 1:13).

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS TWO: The challenge

They doubt he cares for them as the waves rise higher and the boat rocks steeper. They were in a perilous situation, and the only One that could help them was sleeping! Jesus must have been exhausted if the rocking and reeling of the boat did not awaken Him. The “cushion” that He would have been laying on is said to be a sailor’s leather rowing cushion which would have been used to give some comfort to the sailor as he rowed across the sea. 

It seems to be a bit ironic that they would express belief in Him as the One who could save them, but at the same time doubt His concern for them (v. 38)! I guess we’re all like that at times. But that does pose an interesting question for us to muse over: If Jesus is powerful enough to save us from our worst of fears (condemnation and separation from Him forever), why would we doubt His constant love and concern for us from that day forward?

Thankfully, like then, like now, Jesus is in control, and He demonstrates His power over nature by “rebuking the the wind,” AND IT OBEYS! “The wind died down,” and the sea became perfectly calm! Nature is under His control and is instantly placed in subjection to His will. 

40 And He said to them, “Why are you [a]afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

FOCUS THREE: The rebuke

Jesus “ordered” or commanded the wind to “hush and be still,” But He rebukes them for little faith, “How is it that you have no faith” (v. 40)? He asks, “why are you so timid?” He first points out their fearfulness during the crisis and then questions their lack of faith in Him. “It still has not dawned on them that God’s authority and power were present in Jesus.”

They are afraid when His sovereignty and deity are exercised over the events of the storm, showing not only his care for them but His power to protect them. “In stilling, the storm Jesus assumed the authority exercised only by God in the Old Testament” (Ps. 89:8-9; 104:5-9; 106; 8-9). The “who is this” statement in verse 41 indicates that they still did not fully understand its significance.”

Application:

We learn various things about Jesus and the disciples by studying these verses. We learn that:

1. Jesus is patient.

2. In His humanness, He suffered from physical exhaustion and needed rest.

3. Even though it appears that Jesus is not concerned for our well-being, He most certainly is!

4. He is God and exercises divine power and authority.

5. He expects His children to trust in Him always!

6. He expects us cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6).

The disciples:

1. The disciples were slow learners

2. Fearful

3. Lacked consistent faith

4. Doubted the care and concern of Jesus for them

Mark leaves us with the pressing question these men were forced to ask: “who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him” (v. 41).

We are more like these men than we care to admit. Let us resolve this day to walk by faith and not by sight, to take God at His word, ALWAYS remembering that He has authority over all things, all circumstances, and is a “friend that sticks closer than a brother!

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!