Mark 4:21-41

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 31, 2004


Jesus had been out speaking to the multitudes by sitting in a boat a little ways from the shore as they lined up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (really just a large lake).

After teaching like this to the multitudes, the disciples and Jesus went off by themselves, possibly back to Peter’s house, where the disciples asked Jesus to explain more to them about what He was teaching. The passage today continues on with His disciples.

Jesus had been teaching about the different reactions people have to the things they’ve “heard” from Him.  He spoke about a farmer sowing seed out in his field and how the seed grew differently in each different type of soil.

How are you going to respond to the things that Jesus says?

The teaching of Jesus continues along these same lines.

:21-25 Listening to Jesus

There are several phrases or themes that Jesus will speak of in this passage that will sound familiar. But I think we need to be careful about how we look at them because though Jesus uses some of the same phrases and ideas over and over again, sometimes He uses them in different ways.

For example, here’s one of my favorite funny stories. I’ve probably told this story than most of the ones I’ve told, yet I’ve used it in different ways:


David received a parrot for his birthday. This parrot was fully grown with a bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Every other word was an expletive. Those that weren’t expletives were, to say the least, rude. David tried hard to change the bird’s attitude and was constantly saying polite words, playing soft music, anything he could think of. Nothing. He yelled at the bird and it got worse. He shook the bird; it got madder and ruder. Finally, in a moment of desperation, David put the parrot in the freezer. For a few moments he heard the bird squawking and kicking and screaming expletives, then suddenly there was quiet. Frightened that he might have actually hurt the bird, he quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly stepped out onto David’s extended arm and said, “I’m sorry that I might have offended you with my language and actions and ask for your forgiveness. I will endeavor to correct my behavior.” Astounded at the bird’s change, David was about to ask what had brought this about when the parrot continued, “May I ask what the chicken did?”

I used the story …

…in a study in Isaiah 51 and in talking about difficulties in life to ask the question, “Why are you in the freezer? Is it because you’ve made a stand for Jesus, or just because you’ve been rude?”
…to illustrate a lesson from 1Chronicles 15, the lesson was about “learning from your mistakes”.
… in a study in 2Chronicles 7, the lesson was that sometimes God has to do things to get our attention.

The same story, the same illustration, but used to teach different principles.

:21 Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

This sounds familiar. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used language like this to talk about how we need to be open to sharing our faith with others.

(Mat 5:14-16 KJV) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. {15} Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. {16} Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

:22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested

Jesus has also used this “hidden/revealed” theme other places as well, such as when He talks about how things hidden like sin will one day be exposed (Mat. 10:26; Luke 12:2).

But this time it’s different, the context is different.

Luke adds something to the verse that is helpful in understanding the verse when he used it in the same context, the sower and the soils.

(Luke 8:16 KJV) No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.
Jesus is talking about His own teaching as the thing that is “hid” that will not be kept secret. His teaching is like a candle, and as a candle it will be put out where it can light up a room. His teaching is not meant to stay “hid” forever, but was intended to be understood. Those who “enter in” to the room see the light of the candle. There are things that Jesus will teach that only those who “enter in” will understand.

:24 with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you

Again, the language here is also found in some of the other gospels referring to other things.

In Matthew it’s used in the context of judging (Mat. 7:1-2) where idea is that the kind of judgment you hand out to others will come back to you. If you are critical of others, then others will be critical of you. If you are merciful to others, then others will be merciful to you.

But the context here is a little different.

:25 For he that hath, to him shall be given…

In this context, the language is used to apply to something different. Here it’s talking about what kind of effort you put into listening to Jesus, learning to “take heed” (vs. 24) to what Jesus is saying.


The more you pay attention, the more you learn

To those who put more effort into paying attention to what Jesus says, they’ll receive more from Him. Those who brush off the things that Jesus says, they’ll lose what little they already have received from Him.
There’s an ad on the radio where the speaker tells you that research shows that radio listeners only hear every fourth word of an advertisement.  Then he asks you to listen closely and goes on with his promotion.  I wonder why he doesn’t just insert three nonsense words for every serious word – “Now – la – la – la – I’m – la – la – la – going – la – la – la – to – la – la – la – sell – la – la – la – you – la – la – la – something
In school, there can be classes you take where you really don’t have to pay attention.  Did you ever fall asleep in class?  Were you able to pass the class?
Being in the school of Jesus, you have to wake up and pay attention.  If you want to get any further down the road with Jesus, you need to listen to what He says.  You need to study what He says.  You need to do what He says.

:26-29 The Seed’s power

:26 …as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

We’ve already had a parable about the “seed”. What does the seed represent? It represents the Word of God, especially when we think of the gospel and sharing the good news about Jesus with others.

:27 …the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

You don’t have to know how a seed grows to become a farmer. You just have to know how to plant a seed.


A couple of years ago, the Associated Press released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of the farmer’s labor, required 4,000,000 pounds of water, 6,800 pounds of oxygen, 5,200 pounds of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium, 75 pounds of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical. It was estimated that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man. If we were honest, we’d have to admit that the same is true in producing spiritual fruit.

:28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself

of herselfautomatos – moved by one’s own impulse; we get our word “automatic” from this word. The farmer has nothing to do with the actual causing of the seed to germinate and grow.

(Isa 61:11 KJV)  For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

It’s actually God that’s causing the growth.

:29 immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.


You have a part in the harvest

Jesus talked about the various roles we play when it comes to the harvest.
(John 4:35-38 KJV) Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. {36} And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. {37} And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. {38} I sent you  to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
Paul also talks about this:
(1 Cor 3:6-9 KJV) I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. {7} So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. {8} Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. {9} For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
In reality, for none of us it’s not all that big of a part, but it’s a part.  God does most of the work through His Word and His Spirit.
Yet God still works through people to get the process moving.  Some plant, some water, some reap.
Sometimes I feel reluctant to talk about Jesus because I feel that the whole weight of a person’s salvation depends on how I present the gospel to them.
Hey, just plant a seed. Sure we can always work on improving how we share our faith, but at least we can plant a seed while we’re learning.
Take advantage of opportunities.  Tonight’s Halloween Alternative.  The upcoming Billy Graham Crusade at the Rose Bowl.

:30-34 Growth like mustard

:31 a grain of mustard seed…is less than all the seeds

mustard seedsinapi – mustard, the name of a plant which in middle eastern countries grows from a very, very small seed and grows to be 10-12 feet tall.

:32 …becometh greater than all herbs…that the fowls of the air may lodge

herbslachanon – any pot herb, vegetables; He’s talking about the other vegetables in the garden, not all the plants on the planet.

Some have suggested that this is some sort of abnormal growth for the mustard plant, and that the birds represent evil coming to have a home in the church.

I wonder if it simply refers to the fact that just a little seed can bring an incredible result, producing a bush big enough for birds to nest in.


Sow those tiny seeds

We heard a presentation on Thursday by Dr. Henry Cloud where he told a story from his own life. He was facing having to write his doctoral thesis, something that seemed totally overwhelming to him. He couldn’t fathom being able to put together a project so huge. But he felt God speaking to him through the scripture that says, “Consider the ant”. He wasn’t sure what that was all about, but he went out and bought an ant farm. After setting it up, he watched the ants. They actually didn’t do much at all. An ant would take a grain of sand and walk it over to the side of the ant farm, then go take another grain and move it to the other side of the farm. It seemed pretty pointless. He went away for a couple of days and when he came back he was amazed. The ant farm had been transformed into tunnels, mounds, and cities. He realized that all the ants had done was to move one grain of sand at a time. When it came to writing his doctoral thesis, he realized that all he needed to do was just do one little thing at a time, a grain at a time.
Be faithful in the little things. Move that grain.  Plant seeds. Water seeds.
You don’t know what might happen as a result.
The other day I came across a note about the beginnings of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. You’ve probably heard the story how Chuck Smith was invited by a small church of 25 people to be their pastor. He left his dream church of 200 people because he felt that God wanted him to do it. What I had never seen was the original building the church first met in. It’s down in Costa Mesa, off of Newport Blvd. and 19th Street, located on “Church Street”. I took the directions I had written down and went off to see the place. It’s pretty small. Judging from the outside of the building, I bet it doesn’t hold much more than 25 people. Yet Chuck went. His goal was to have the best loved, best fed church in all of Orange County. You might say that the Jesus Movement was simply a move of God and that the people involved didn’t play much of a role, but I’m not sure. If someone didn’t go to sow seeds, a plant would never have grown.

:35-41 Stormy voyage

:36 they had sent away the multitude, they took him …in the ship

As Jesus and His disciples go out to get on a boat, the multitudes start to gather again. The disciples send the crowds away as they and Jesus get into one of the bigger boats. Smaller boats follow after them as they launch out to go across the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore.

:37 And there arose a great storm of wind

stormlailaps – a whirlwind, not just a gust of wind, but a storm breaking from black thunder clouds in furious gusts, accompanied with a heavy shower. The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by steep hills and narrow valleys which function like wind tunnels. This means that storms like this are common and can come up very quickly.

:38 Master, carest thou not that we perish?

They thought that since they were going through a storm and it looked like they were going to sink, that Jesus no longer cared for them.


Does He care for me?

Some people have a pretty goofed up idea of what it means to care for one another:
Jury doesn’t buy man’s claim of murder try to aid marriage
From 10/28/2004 / USA Today / Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.
LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — A man who said he threw a live electrical wire into his wife’s bath hoping a near-death experience would save their marriage was convicted of attempted first-degree intentional homicide Wednesday. William Dahlby said in court he was only trying to scare his wife the evening of May 9. He told jurors the wire was hooked to a “ground fault interrupter” designed to cut the electricity when the cord encountered water. His wife was not hurt. Prosecutors said Dahlby was trying to kill his wife to start a new life with another woman. Dahlby’s wife, Mary, testified Tuesday her husband drew her bath after they spent the day taking a walk and a long motorcycle ride. While she took her bath, her husband came into the bathroom and dropped the cord into the bath, she said. She jumped out of the bath, but her husband tried to push her back in the tub, Mary Dahlby said. She got free and ran out of the bathroom. Her husband, who also was convicted of intimidation of a victim, was scheduled for sentencing Dec. 10.
Sometimes we can get confused when our circumstances seem as if Jesus doesn’t care for us.
The truth that Jesus DOES care is one of the main anchors that gets us through tough times.  The other anchors are the fact that He is all powerful and that He knows everything, including our current problem.
He does care.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this …”

He’s proven His love once and for all at the cross.  We should not doubt His love.

(Heb 13:5-6 NLT)  Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never forsake you." {6} That is why we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"

:39 …and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased…

peacesiopao – literally, “be being hushed”

be stillphimoo – literally, “muzzle it and stay that way”

ceasedkopazo – to grow weary or tired; to cease from violence, cease raging

:40 Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

fearfuldeilos – timid; a cowardly fear

Why was Jesus rebuking the disciples?

Perhaps He was rebuking them because they should have had the faith to rebuke the storm. (Mat. 17:20; Luke 17:6)

But to be honest, I see no examples of the disciples rebuking natural forces like this in scripture. Paul was in many storms at sea, but I don’t know of any examples of him rebuking the storms. Instead, Paul prayed and God answered his prayers by promising to deliver his shipmates safely.

I think He was rebuking them because they lacked faith in Him.

They were wondering if He still cared about them.
But after all, He had told them to go “over” to the other side, not “under” to the other side.
The issue is not whether or not we’re going to learn to “rebuke” the storms of life, but whether or not we’re going to trust in Him to get us through the storms.

Do we realize just Who is asleep in our boat?

In the movie “Hook”, Robin Williams plays the part of a middle-aged Peter Pan who has to go back to Neverland and rescue his children from Captain Hook.  As the movie develops, there’s a showdown where the little “lost boys” aren’t sure who he is.  They just think he’s one of the enemy, a grownup, he must be a pirate.  Then the smallest boy comes up to Peter walks around Peter, studying him.  He takes Peter’s face in his hands and feels all around the face.  Then finally this look of amazement hits the child and he say, “Oh, it’s you!”  And finally the lost boys realize that they’ve got their Peter Pan back.
Jesus is not a pirate.  He’s our Savior.  He loves us like no other.

:41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

fearedphobeo – to put to flight by terrifying (to scare away); be afraid; of those struck with amazement; to reverence

exceedingly – literally, “they feared with a great fear”

They move from a cowardly fear of the storm to a trembling reverence of Jesus and His power.

obeyhupakouo – to listen, to harken; to harken to a command; to obey, be obedient to, submit to

This comes from the main word of the chapter, akouo, “to hear”.

The big issue has been what will people do when they “hear” Jesus?

In contrast with humans, the wind and the sea “hear” and “obey” Him.

Have you heard Jesus today?  Will you follow Him?