Mark 4 Continued

26.  And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,

Christ begins another parable.  Notice again that the Kingdom of God is the subject, not the church.  The Kingdom of God is synonymous with the Government of God, and speaks of the time when God will rule the earth.  This is another parable that is meant to teach us about the way things will be in that time.

This parable starts off again with a man scattering seed on the ground.  We should not confuse this parable with the previous one, however.  Just because, in that parable, the sower was one who taught the message of the kingdom and the seed was the word of the kingdom, this does not mean that that is what these things stand for in this parable.  To just assume that this is so is to invite confusion.

27.  “And should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.

This speaks of how the Kingdom, as it comes into the earth, will grow miraculously.  None will be sure how exactly this is accomplished by God, but all will see the results as His government spreads and takes control of more and more of the earth.

28.  “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.

This sets forth how the Kingdom will come in.  First it comes in by itself.  This has the idea of automatically.  It does not mean that it does not have a cause, but rather that its cause is not from us.  This is an important truth to understand about the Kingdom that is not grasped by the post-millenialists.  The Kingdom is not something that we will bring in, but rather is something that can only be accomplished by God!

Next, He reveals that it does not come in all at once, as some seem to think it does.  Its entrance is here likened to growing grain.  First comes the blade stage.  At this stage the grain is hardly recognizable as what it is, and one could mistake it for some other plant.  The same was true of the kingdom immediately after Christ’s resurrection.  Though His triumph over death ushered in the Kingdom, no one could yet recognize it for what it was.  For forty days it was hidden in the hearts of His followers who had seen Him after He had risen.

Second comes the head stage of the grain.  Now the grain can be recognized as what it is, but it is not yet ripe and ready to provide its crop.  The same was true in the Kingdom in the time from the miracle on Pentecost through Paul’s trip to Rome at the end of the book of Acts.  The Kingdom was now openly manifested through all the miraculous works of the apostles, yet it was not yet ripe for its takeover of the earth.  God was still calling out a special company of believers to serve as rulers in His Kingdom, and the actual takeover of the earth had to wait until that purpose was accomplished.

The full grain in the head is when the head has finally developed into grain.  The grain may not be ready for harvest yet, but it is there, and every day it improves in quality.  This is the yet future time when God will swiftly take control of the entire earth through His government.  The people who are destined to rule will be raised from the dead, and the people of the earth will become subject to the mighty power of God.  Once the Kingdom is at last present in all the earth it begins its great work of transforming what was once the wicked world in which we live into a world in which righteousness will reign forever.

29.  “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The grain finally ripens.  This is when God completes His Kingdom work and is ready to test His crop.  Now the people on the earth have learned of all the wonder and glory of God, and it yet remains to see whether or not they will follow Him with their whole hearts now that they truly know Him, or whether they will revolt as Satan himself did in spite of his intimate knowledge of God.

The sickle is put in at the harvest, dividing the wheat from the chaff.  This occurs in what we call the Great Tribulation, when all the people on the earth are tested to see if their hearts are right before God or not.  Once all the rebels are purged away, the earth is ready for Christ’s return at last.

30.  Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God?  Or with what parable shall we picture it?

This verse reminds me of Genesis 1:26a, where God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  Christ seems here to be doing much the same thing.  He seems to be talking to Himself in the plural, and yet we realize that what is happening here could be described as Christ’s side of a conversation between Himself and the other two members of the Trinity.  He asks them to what they should liken the kingdom of God, and with what parable they should picture it.  Of course, He knew the answer, and He gives it in the next verse.  Yet this verse emphasizes for us the fact that these words were not just Christ’s alone, but also those of Him Who sent Him, to Whom He appeals to here, and those of the Spirit Which was His as well.

31.  “It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth;

This parable again describes the Kingdom of God, as Christ said above, and not the church or anything else we might imagine.  The Kingdom here is described as a mustard seed.  The mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds that was planted at that time.  If you held one in your hand, it would appear to be little more than a speck.

32.  “But when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”

This mustard seed grows unnaturally large, greater than all herbs, so that birds of the air nest in its branches.  This is not how a mustard seed usually grows at all, but rather usually forms a very modest-sized plant.  It would certainly not be bigger than any other plant, as this seed becomes!  In the same way, the Kingdom of God will become greater than all governments that have ever been before it, far exceeding the expectations that men have for it based on their experience with the governments of men.  The birds of the air come and nest in the shade produced by this huge, unnatural mustard tree.  The birds of the air symbolize kings and nations, who, when the Kingdom grows in its supernatural manner, find it to be a great place of protection for all who put their trust in it.

33.  And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.

“Them” here is again the people, not the group of closer disciples that He gave the explanation of the parable of the sower to in verses 13-23.  It seems that verses 10-23 were sort of a parenthesis in His teaching to the crowd at the sea, placed there so that the explanation of the parable of the sower would be right there with the parable itself.

34.  But without a parable He did not speak to them.  And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.

This message proves that the “them” in verse 33 to whom He spoke these two later parables meant the people, not the group of followers He spoke to in verses 13-23.  From now on the Lord’s message to the people was hidden in parables.  The message was not hidden for the disciples, however, in whom He confided all.

35.  On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”

On the same day that He taught these things to the people, He commanded His disciples that they should cross over to the other side of the sea.  He was in charge, and He had a plan from God that He was following in everywhere He went, every move He made, and every thing He said.

36.  Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.

They leave the multitude, carrying Christ over the sea in the same boat from which He had taught the people earlier in the chapter.  They are not alone in crossing the sea, however, for we read that there were other little boats that were with Him also.

37.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.

A storm arises due to a great wind, and the waves beat into the boat and start to fill it.  This is the incident of the storm at sea that is also recorded in Luke 8:22-25.  Note, however, that this is not the same incident as that recorded in Matthew 8:23-27, for that took place long before this particular day on which Christ told the parable of the sower, which in Matthew doesn’t take place until chapter 12.  In Matthew, the storm was caused by an earthquake, not a windstorm.  Also, in Matthew they were in a decked boat, whereas here they were in an open boat that the waves were filling.  These two events, although similar, are not the same.  It is likely that both incidents may have been caused by the power of Satan, and have been attempts to destroy the Lord and bring an end to His teaching.

38.  But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.  And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

The Lord was unconcerned by these events, so much so that He was actually sleeping through them!  Perhaps He was worn out from a long day of teaching.  His head was not on a pillow, as the New King James has here.  This was actually a wooden seat with a leather seat cover that He was using for a pillow.  The disciples were serving Him here by handling the boat for Him.  Unlike Him, they are troubled by the storm, however, and they wake Him.  No doubt they were in distress because of the severity of the storm and fatigued by their desperate efforts to battle it, and these things caused them to accuse the Lord, as if He did not care that they were in such difficulty.  Of course, they were exaggerating, as they were not perishing yet, and yet they clearly believed because of the violence of the storm that they were in serious danger of being slain.

39.  Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!”  And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

The wind and sea, probably at Satan’s instigation, were not acting as they should, and so they earn a rebuke from the Lord.  At His command, the wind ceases and there is a great calm.  This great miracle of our Lord’s was the most positive proof of the power of Jesus Christ as Creator to bend nature to His will.

40.  But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?”

Having rebuked the storm, He now turns to and rebukes the disciples.  These men, for all the miracles they had seen, and even though they had seen Him calm a storm before as we saw in Matthew 8, still lacked faith, and the Lord rebuked them for this.

Notice that in this instance He rebuked the wind and the sea first and then the disciples, whereas in the Matthew account He rebuked the disciples first and then the sea.  No doubt in this case the storm was even greater and more terrible, reflecting perhaps the growing wrath of Satan at his inability to stop the Lord’s ministry (or else that he was now getting practice at causing storms!) and so the Lord had to deal with the storm first and then His disciples.  In the earlier storm in Matthew, however, the danger was less, and so He could rebuke the disciples first before the sea.

41.  And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

They are in great fear (or great reverence) of Him because of this.  Who, they wondered, could make even the wind and the sea obey Him?  Of course, no man could, but only the One Who was God Himself!