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Jesus Sows Seeds by the Sea Shore (Mark 4:1-9)

Analysis and Commentary

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Jesus Teaches by the Sea

Jesus Teaches by the Sea

    1 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. 2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
    3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
    7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. 9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
    Compare: Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-15

Jesus and the Parable of the Seeds

Jesus’ popularity has continued to grow. By this point, the crowds that gather to hear him speak are so large that he has to get into a boat on the water to address them. Jesus would have been considered a very good public speaker for his time in order to keep drawing such large groups to hear him, regardless of the actual content of his presentations.

In this instance, his presentation comes in the form of a parable. Jesus today is well known for teaching in parables, but we must keep in mind that this is the first example we have of him explaining his basic message in such a form. Earlier examples of his teaching were rather simple and straightforward — for example Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

It is true that Jesus used a parable in chapter 2, but that was in the context of answering a question from the Pharisees, not explaining his own religious message. Here in the above verses, we have the first time that the two come together. At least, that is what appears to be the case — arguably, we aren’t getting anything of the sort, which puts an interesting twist on this passage. That, however, will be addressed later when Jesus explains the meaning of his parable.

For now, what we should remember are the four fates that await seeds which are sown:

1. Some fall off to the side and are taken away by birds.
2. Some fall onto stony ground, grow quickly, but then die just as quickly when things turn bad.
3. Some fall among thorns and grow a bit, but then are choked off by the vines.
4. Some fall onto fertile ground and deliver a massive return to the sower of the seeds.

The first three situations result in failure; only the last results in a return — and one far more massive than anyone might expect, especially given the first three situations. At a bare minimum, the message here is not to give in to despair when things are going wrong because eventually you may have the opportunity for great achievement.

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