4:1 And again he began to teach by the sea side. And there is gathered unto him a very great multitude, so that he entered into a boat, and sat in the sea2; and all the multitude were by the sea on the land. THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) A. INTRODUCTION. Matthew 13:1-3; Mark 4:1,2; Luke 8:4
And again he began again to teach by the sea side. By the Sea of
So that he entered into a boat, and sat in the sea. That the
multitudes might be better able to see and hear him.
4:2 And he taught
them many things in parables1, and said unto them in his
And he taught them many things in parables. While Jesus had used
parables before, this appears to be first occasion when he strung them
together in a discourse. "Parable" comes from the Greek "paraballo",
which means, "I place beside" in order to compare. It is the
placing of a narrative describing an ordinary event in natural life beside
an implied spiritual narrative for the purpose of illustrating the
4:3 Hearken: Behold,
the sower went forth to sow1:
4.3 THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) B.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER. Matthew
Behold, the sower went forth to sow. Orientals live in cities and
towns. Isolated farmhouses are practically unknown. A farmer may therefore
live several miles from his field, in which case he literally "goes
forth" to it.
4:4 and it came to pass, as he sowed, some
[seed] fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it1.
Some [seed] fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it.
Palestine is an unfenced land, and the roads or paths lead through the
fields. They are usually trodden hard by centuries of use. Grain falling on
them could not take root. Its fate was either to be crushed by some foot, or
to be carried off by some bird.
4:5 And other fell
on the rocky [ground], where it had not much earth1; and
straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth:
And other fell on the rocky [ground], where it had not much earth.
These seed fell upon a ledge of rock covered with a very thin coating of
soil. Its roots were prevented by the rock from striking down to the
moisture, and so under the blazing Syrian sun it died ere it had well begun
4:7 And other fell
among the thorns1, and the thorns grew up, and choked it,
and it yielded no fruit.
And other fell among the thorns. Palestine abounds in thorns.
Celsius describes sixteen varieties of thorny plants. Porter tells us that
in the Plain of Gennesaret thistles grow so tall and rank that a horse
cannot push through them.
4:8 And others fell into the good ground,
and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and
sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.
And others fell into the good ground, . . . and brought forth,
thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. Thirty-fold is a good
crop in Palestine, but it has been asserted that a hundred-fold has been
reaped in the Plain of Esdraelon even in recent years. These four several
conditions of soil may be readily found lying close to each other in the
Plain of Gennesaret. A sowing like this described may have been enacted
before the eyes of the people even while Jesus was speaking.
4:9 And he said,
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear1.
And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. A saying often
used by Jesus (Matthew
14:35). He intended it to prevent the people from regarding the parable
as merely a beautiful description. It warned them of a meaning beneath the
surface, and incited them to seek for it.
4:10 And when he
was alone1, they that were about
him with the twelve asked of him the parables2.
And when he was alone. That is, after he had finished speaking all
the parables. The explanation of the parable is put next to the parable to
aid us in understanding it.
They that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parables.
Their questions (Matthew
8:9) show that as yet parables were unusual.
4:11 And he said unto them, Unto
you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without,
all things are done in parables1:
Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that
are without, all things are done in parables. Jesus adapted his lessons
to the condition of his pupils; hence his disciples might know what the
multitude must not yet know (1 Corinthians
2:6-11). Jesus already drew a line of demarcation between disciples and
unbelievers; which line became more marked and visible after the church was
organized at Pentecost. The word "mystery" in current language
means that which is not understood; but as used in the Scriptures it means
that which is not understood because it has not been revealed, but which is
plain as soon as revealed. Bible mysteries are not unraveled by science, but
are unfolded by revelation (Colossians
1:26; 1 Timothy
4:12 that seeing
they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand1;
lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them.
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear,
and not understand. The people saw Christ's miracles, but not in their
true light; they heard his words, but not in their true meaning. Jesus could
thus teach without hindrance, but, unfortunately for the believing, they
were hearing without obtaining any blessing.
4:13 And he saith unto them, Know ye not
this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables?
Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables?
This is a concession rather than a reproof. Parables could not be understood
without a key; but a few examples of parables explained would furnish such a
4:15 And these are
they by the way side, where the word is sown1; and
when they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the word which
hath been sown in them2.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown. The
four soils are four hearts into which truth is sown. The first heart,
represented by the wayside, is one which is too hardened for the Word to
make any impression. It represents several classes of people, as: (1) Those
whose hearts have been made insensible by the routine of meaningless rites
and lifeless formalities. (2) Those who had deadened their sensibilities by
perversity and indifference. (3) Those whose hearts were hardened by the
constant march and countermarch of evil thoughts.
And when they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the
word which hath been sown in them. God's word lies on the surface of
such hearts, and Satan can use any insignificant or innocent passing
thoughts as a bird to carry out of their minds anything which they may have
heard. The preacher's voice has scarcely died away until some idle criticism
of him or some careless bit of gossip about a neighbor causes them to forget
4:16 And these in
like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky [places]1,
who, when they have heard the word, straightway receive it with joy;
And these in like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky [places],
etc. This shallow rock-covered soil represents those who are deficient in
tenacity of purpose. Those who receive the word, but whose impulsive,
shallow nature does not retain it, and whose enthusiasm was as short-lived
as it was vigorous.
4:17 and they have no root in themselves,
but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or
persecution ariseth because of the word2, straightway they
Then, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word,
straightway they stumble. Any opposition, slight or severe, makes
them partial or total apostates. As sunlight strengthens the healthy plant,
but withers the sickly, ill-rooted one, so tribulation establishes real
faith, but destroys its counterfeit.
4:18 And others
are they that are sown among the thorns1; these are they
that have heard the word,
And others are they that are sown among the thorns, etc. This third
class represents those who begin well, but afterwards permit worldly cares
to gain the mastery. These today outnumber all other classes, and perhaps
they have always been so.
4:20 And those are
they that were sown upon the good ground1; such as hear
the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a
And those are they that were sown upon the good ground, etc.
Christianity requires three things: a sower, good seed or a pure gospel, and
an honest hearer. All hearers are not equal in faithfulness. But we are not
to take it that the diversity is limited to the three rates or proportions
specified. Of the four hearts indicated, the first one hears, but heeds
4:4); the second one heeds, but is checked by external influence (Mark
4:5,6); the third heeds, but is choked by internal influences (Mark
4:7); the fourth heeds and holds fast until the harvest (Mark
4:8). Gallio exemplifies the first (Acts
18:17). Peter and Mark for a time exemplified the second (Mark
15:37-39). The rich ruler and Demas represent the third (Matthew
19:22; 2 Timothy
4:10), as does also Judas Iscariot. Cornelius and the Bereans (Acts
17:11) show us examples of the fourth.
4:21 And he said unto them, Is
the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed1,
[and] not to be put on the stand?
Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed,
[and] not to be put on the stand? For notes on a similar passage,
4:22 For there is
nothing hid, save that it should be manifested1; neither
was [anything] made secret, but that it should come to light2.
For there is nothing hid, save that it should be manifested. This
passage is often taken to indicate the exposure of all things on the day of
judgment. While all things shall be revealed at the judgment, this passage
does not refer to that fact. Jesus did not come to put his light under a
4:21; that is, to hide his teaching. All inner instruction and private
information was but temporary. Our Lord's design was to reveal, not conceal.
Neither was [anything] made secret, but that it should come to light.
What was now concealed was only to keep back that in the end it might be
more fully known. Jesus covered his light as one might shelter a candle with
his hand until the flame has fully caught hold of the wick.
4:23 If any man
hath ears to hear, let him hear1.
If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. See Mark
4:24 And he said unto them, Take
heed what ye hear1: with what
measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you; and more shall be given unto you2.
Take heed what ye hear, etc. Most of this passage has been
explained previously; see Mark
With what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you; and more shall
be given unto you. It warns us as to what we hear--things carnal or
spiritual--and how we hear them, whether carefully or carelessly. As we
measure attention unto the Lord, he measures back knowledge to us.
4:25 For he that
hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away
even that which he hath1.
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him
shall be taken away even that which he hath. To understand this saying,
we must remember that it was the teaching of Jesus which was under
discussion. In the beginning of his ministry Jesus taught plainly, and all
his hearers had equal opportunity to know his doctrine and believe in him.
But from now on his teaching would be largely veiled in parables. These
parables would enrich their knowledge and understanding of the believers,
and their efforts to understand the parables would withdraw their minds from
the truths which they had already learned, so that they would either forget
them or profit by them. If we improve our opportunities, they bring us to
other and higher ones; but if we neglect them, even the initial
opportunities are taken away.
4:26 And he said, So
is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth1;
THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) C. PARABLE OF
THE SEED GROWING ITSELF. Mark
So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth.
In the kingdom of grace, as well as in the kingdom of nature, we are
laborers together with God. As preachers, teachers, or friends we sow the
seed of the kingdom and God brings it to perfection (1 Corinthians
4:27 and should sleep and rise night and
day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth
And the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. The
seed here spoken of, being wheat or barley, needed no cultivation, and hence
the planter let it alone, and did not know how it grew at all.
4:28 The earth beareth fruit of herself; first
the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear1.
First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
Truth, spoken, lies hidden in the human breast, and we do not see its
earliest stages of its development, but as it proceeds toward perfection, it
becomes step by step more visible.
4:29 But when the
fruit is ripe, straightway he putteth forth the sickle1,
because the harvest is come.
But when the fruit is ripe, straightway he putteth forth the sickle,
because the harvest is come. In both fields the sower has little to
do with the field between the time of sowing and reaping. In the spiritual
field, however, it is well to keep sowing until the grain shows signs of
4:30 And he said, How shall we liken the
kingdom of God? or in what parable shall we set it forth?
THE FIRST GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Beside the Sea of Galilee.) PARABLES OF
THE MUSTARD SEED AND LEAVEN. Matthew
How shall we liken the kingdom of God? or in what parable shall we set
it forth? These questions are intended to emphasize the superior
excellence of the kingdom. The "we" is a rhetorical plural (see
4:31 It is like a grain of mustard seed,
which, when it is sown upon the earth, though it be less than all the seeds that
are upon the earth,
It is like a grain of mustard seed, . . . less than all the seeds that
are upon the earth. That is, the smallest of all the seeds that are sown
in a garden.
4:32 yet when it
is sown, groweth up, and becometh greater than all the herbs1,
and putteth out great branches; so that the birds of the heaven can lodge under
the shadow thereof.
Yet when it is sown, groweth up, and becometh greater than all the
herbs. In Palestine it attains the height of ten feet. This parable sets
forth the smallness of the beginning of the kingdom, and the magnitude of
4:33 And with many such parables spake he
the word unto them, as they were able to hear it1;
As they were able to hear it. That is, as they had leisure or
opportunity to listen.
4:34 and without a
parable spake he not unto them1: but privately to his own
disciples he expounded all things.
And without a parable spake he not unto them. That is, he used
nothing but parables on that occasion, for both before and after this he
taught without parables.
4:35 And on that day, when even was come,
he saith unto them, Let us go over unto the other side.
JESUS STILLS THE STORM. (Sea of Galilee; same day as the last section.) Matthew
Let us go over to the other side. Wearied with a day of strenuous
toil, Jesus sought rest from the multitude by passing to the thinly settled
on the east side of Galilee.
4:36 And leaving
the multitude, they take him with them, even as he was1,
in the boat. And other boats were with him2.
And leaving the multitude, they take him with them, even as he was,
in the boat. The disciples took Jesus without any preparation for
the journey. The crowd, doubtless, made it inconvenient to go ashore to get
And other boats were with him. The owners of these boats had
probably been using them to get near to Jesus as he preached. They are
probably mentioned to show that a large number witnessed the miracle when
Jesus stilled the tempest.
4:37 And there
ariseth a great storm of wind1, and the waves beat into
the boat, insomuch that the boat was now filling.
And there ariseth a great storm of wind. These storms come with
great suddenness. See McGarvey's "Lands of the Bible", p. 519.
4:38 And he
himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion1: and they
awake him, and say unto him, Teacher, carest thou not
that we perish2?
And he himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. The cushion
was the seat-cover, which, as Smith remarks, was probably
"a sheepskin with the fleece, which, when rolled up, served as a
The stern was the most commodious place for passengers. The tossing ship
has been accepted in all ages as a type of the church in seasons of peril.
Teacher, carest thou not that we perish? See also Matthew
8:25 agitation of the disciples.
4:39 And he awoke,
and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still1.
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm2.
And he awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be
still. In addressing the winds and waves Jesus personified them to give
emphasis to his authority over them.
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. The calm showed
the perfection of the miracle, for the waves of such a lake continue to roll
long after the winds have ceased.
4:40 And he said unto them, Why are ye
fearful? have ye not yet faith?
And he said unto them, Why are ye fearful? have ye not yet faith?
They had little faith or they would not have been so frightened; but they
had some faith, else they would not have appealed to Jesus.
4:41 And they feared exceedingly, and said
one to another, Who then is this, that even the wind
and the sea obey him1?
Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Jesus'
complete lordship over the realm of nature made his disciples very certain
of his divinity.