Mark’s Gospel chapter 4

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Mark’s Gospel chapter 4

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Mark’s Gospel chapter 4Sowing Seeds


Historical Context for Mark’s GospelIn the year 66 C.E., there was a massive Jewish revolt against Rome.

Roman troops re-conquered Israel from the north, starting in Galilee and ending with the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

“Ancient sources suggest hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed. … It was the greatest catastrophe in the history of ancient Judaism, rivaled only by the Babylonian exile 600 years earlier.”

(Borg, 15-16)


Oral history was vulnerable in a time of such chaos and death. Therefore, scholars suggest that Mark was a “war-time gospel”, written during this terrible time, so the story of Jesus would not be lost. (Daryl Schmidt, in Borg, 16)

Matthew and Luke both write a decade or so later, after the country becomes more stable, using Mark as one of their sources, along with other compilations of Jesus’ teachings.

Is Mark succinct because he was capturing just what his traumatized community had at hand to document the life of Jesus??


Mark 1 & 2: Jesus is ‘friended’ by many, who experience both privilege and poverty as they follow a peripatetic preacher.Mark 3: He quickly gathers fans, friends, family, and plenty of


Mark 4:

He chooses a teaching style that is easily understood by those who want to understand, and mystifies those who oppose him – just as the prophets before him were misunderstood.


In Mark 4:12 “‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may

not turn again and be forgiven.’”

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6:9-10

“Go say to this people, ‘Keep

listening, but do

not comprehend; keep

looking, but do not understand

.’ Make

the mind of this people dull

, and

stop their ears

, and

shut their

eyes, so

that they may not look with their eyes

, and

listen with their

ears, and

comprehend with their minds

, and

turn and be healed



Mark 4:1f Once again Jesus began to teach beside the sea.

(Now Mark shifts to present tense; note how vivid and immediate the narration becomes.) An enormous crowd gathers around

him, so



into a boat

and sits there on the water facing the huge crowd on the shore.

(Now Mark shifts to a Greek tense indicting continuing and typical action.)

He would then teach

them many things in



(Scholars Version translation, in Borg, 36)


Vivid scene! Enormous crowd. This is a repeating scene: A crowd, Jesus in a boat for distance, teaching in parables. Jesus may well have told each of his parables many times. He was an itinerant, oral teacher – not a writer! ‘What a waste it would be to use a story like the Prodigal Son only once!”

(Borg, 37-8)

“Israeli scientists have verified that the “Bay of Parables, a natural amphitheater situated half way between Capernaum and Tabgha to the south, can transmit a human voice effortlessly to several thousand on shore.”

(Edwards, 126)


“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.

And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Van Gogh


Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”


Parables are not factual, but they are true.“They are important. They matter. They are meaningful and meaning-filled, truthful and truth-filled. … They are invitations to see something that you might not otherwise see.”

(Borg, 37)

Parables are provocative.

“People are impelled to ask themselves what the story is all about.” Mark 4:13-20 is a rare example of Jesus explaining a parable. Usually, they stand alone.


Parables have multiple meanings.Q: Is this a parable about the sower, or the soil, or the seed? A: Yes.Q: Is this a parable about God, or people?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the seed being sown? Words? Deeds? People? Resources? Grace.

A: Yes.


“Parables are confounding, knocking hearers off balance so that they must see things in a new light.” (Edwards, 127)Q:

Is God a reckless, profligate sower of seed, no matter what kind of soil it lands in??


: Yes.

Q: Is there SO

MUCH GRACE that ¾ of it can be

wasted and there is still a hundred times more of it??

A: Yes.


Q. Is God flinging

grace in my direction???

A: Absolutely yes.

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