The Parable of the Sower. 1* On another occasiona he began to teach by the sea.* A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.b 2And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, 3* “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. 7Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. 8And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” 9He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables. 10And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. 11* He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, 12so that
‘they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.’”c
13* Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?d Then how will you understand any of the parables? 14The sower sows the word. 15These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. 16And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. 17But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, 19but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. 20But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Parable of the Lamp. 21e He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?f 22For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.g 23Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” 24He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.h 25To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”i
Seed Grows of Itself. 26He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God;* it is as if a man were to scatter seedj on the land 27and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
The Mustard Seed. 30k He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. 32* But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” 33With many such parablesl he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. 34Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
The Calming of a Storm at Sea. 35* On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”m 36Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. 38Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”* The wind ceased and there was great calm. 40Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” 41* n They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
* [4:1–34] In parables (Mk 4:2): see note on Mt 13:3. The use of parables is typical of Jesus’ enigmatic method of teaching the crowds (Mk 4:2–9, 12) as compared with the interpretation of the parables he gives to his disciples (Mk 4:10–25, 33–34) to each group according to its capacity to understand (Mk 4:9–11). The key feature of the parable at hand is the sowing of the seed (Mk 4:3), representing the breakthrough of the kingdom of God into the world. The various types of soil refer to the diversity of response accorded the word of God (Mk 4:4–7). The climax of the parable is the harvest of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold, indicating the consummation of the kingdom (Mk 4:8). Thus both the present and the future action of God, from the initiation to the fulfillment of the kingdom, is presented through this and other parables (Mk 4:26–29, 30–32).
* [4:1] By the sea: the shore of the Sea of Galilee or a boat near the shore (Mk 2:13; 3:7–8) is the place where Mark depicts Jesus teaching the crowds. By contrast the mountain is the scene of Jesus at prayer (Mk 6:46) or in the process of forming his disciples (Mk 3:13; 9:2).
* [4:3–8] See note on Mt 13:3–8.
* [4:11–12] These verses are to be viewed against their background in Mk 3:6, 22 concerning the unbelief and opposition Jesus encountered in his ministry. It is against this background that the distinction in Jesus’ method becomes clear of presenting the kingdom to the disbelieving crowd in one manner and to the disciples in another. To the former it is presented in parables and the truth remains hidden; for the latter the parable is interpreted and the mystery is partially revealed because of their faith; see notes on Mt 13:11 and Mt 13:13.
* [4:13–20] See note on Mt 13:18–23.
* [4:26–29] Only Mark records the parable of the seed’s growth. Sower and harvester are the same. The emphasis is on the power of the seed to grow of itself without human intervention (Mk 4:27). Mysteriously it produces blade and ear and full grain (Mk 4:28). Thus the kingdom of God initiated by Jesus in proclaiming the word develops quietly yet powerfully until it is fully established by him at the final judgment (Mk 4:29); cf. Rev 14:15.
* [4:32] The universality of the kingdom of God is indicated here; cf. Ez 17:23; 31:6; Dn 4:17–19.
* [4:35–5:43] After the chapter on parables, Mark narrates four miracle stories: Mk 4:35–41; 5:1–20; and two joined together in Mk 5:21–43. See also notes on Mt 8:23–34 and 9:8–26.
* [4:39] Quiet! Be still!: as in the case of silencing a demon (Mk 1:25), Jesus rebukes the wind and subdues the turbulence of the sea by a mere word; see note on Mt 8:26.
* [4:41] Jesus is here depicted as exercising power over wind and sea. In the Christian community this event was seen as a sign of Jesus’ saving presence amid persecutions that threatened its existence.
a. [4:1–12] Mt 13:1–13; Lk 8:4–10.
c. [4:12] Is 6:9; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:26; Rom 11:8.
d. [4:13–20] Mt 13:18–23; Lk 8:11–15.
k. [4:30–32] Mt 13:31–32; Lk 13:18–19.
m. [4:35–40] Mt 8:18, 23–37; Lk 8:22–25.