Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PARABLE OF THE
PARABLES--PARABLES OF THE
HOW, AND OF THE
Mt 13:1-23, 31, 32;
1. And he began again to teach by the seaside: and there was gathered
unto him a great multitude--or, according to another well-supported
reading, "a mighty" or "immense multitude."
so that he entered into a ship--rather, "the ship," meaning the one
and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the
land--crowded on the seashore to listen to Him. (See on
Mt 13:1, 2.)
2. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in
his doctrine--or "teaching."
Parable of the Sower
(Mr 4:3-9, 13-20).
Mr 4:3, 14.
SEED, AND THE
3. Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow--What means
this? See on
(Mr 4:4, 15).
4. And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside--by the
side of the hard path through the field, where the soil was not broken
and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up--Not
only could the seed not get beneath the surface, but "it was trodden
and afterwards picked up and devoured by the fowls. What means this?
STONY or rather,
(Mr 4:5, 16).
5. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth--"the
rocky ground"; in Matthew
"the rocky places"; in Luke
"the rock." The thing intended is, not ground with stones in it which
would not prevent the roots striking downward, but ground where a quite
thin surface of earth covers a rock. What means this? See on
(Mr 4:7, 18, 19).
7. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it,
and it yielded no fruit--This case is that of ground not thoroughly
cleaned of the thistles, &c.; which, rising above the good seed,
"choke" or "smother" it, excluding light and air, and drawing away the
moisture and richness of the soil. Hence it "becomes unfruitful"
it grows, but its growth is checked, and it never ripens. The evil here
is neither a hard nor a shallow soil--there is softness enough,
and depth enough; but it is the existence in it of what draws
all the moisture and richness of the soil away to itself, and so
starves the plant. What now are these "thorns?" See on
(Mr 4:8, 20).
8. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit, &c.--The
goodness of this last soil consists in its qualities being precisely
the reverse of the other three soils: from its softness and tenderness,
receiving and cherishing the seed; from its depth, allowing it to take
firm root, and not quickly losing its moisture; and from its cleanness,
giving its whole vigor and sap to the plant. In such a soil the seed
"brings forth fruit," in all different degrees of profusion, according
to the measure in which the soil possesses those qualities. See on
9. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
After this parable is recorded the Evangelist says:
10. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve--probably those who followed Him most closely and were firmest in
discipleship, next to the Twelve.
asked of him the parable--The reply would seem to intimate that
this parable of the sower was of that fundamental, comprehensive, and
introductory character which we have assigned to it (see on
Reason for Teaching in Parables
(Mr 4:11, 12, 21-25).
11, 12. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the
mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them, &c.--See on
13. Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all
parables?--Probably this was said not so much in the spirit of
rebuke, as to call their attention to the exposition of it which He was
about to give, and so train them to the right apprehension of His
future parables. As in the parables which we have endeavored to explain
we shall take this parable and the Lord's own exposition of the
different parts of it together.
14. The sower soweth the word--or, as in Luke
"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God." But who
is "the sower?" This is not expressed here because if "the word of God"
be the seed, every scatterer of that precious seed must be regarded as
a sower. It is true that in the parable of the tares it is said, "He
that soweth the good seed is the Son of man," as "He that soweth the
tares is the devil"
(Mt 13:37, 38).
But these are only the great unseen parties, struggling in this world
for the possession of man. Each of these has his agents among men
themselves; and Christ's agents in the sowing of the good seed are the
preachers of the word. Thus, as in all the cases about to be
described, the sower is the same, and the seed is the same; while the
result is entirely different, the whole difference must lie in the
soils, which mean the different states of the human
heart. And so, the great general lesson held forth in this parable
of the sower is, that however faithful the preacher, and how pure
soever his message, the effect of the preaching of the word depends
upon the state of the hearer's heart. Now follow the cases. See on
15. And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but,
when they have heard, &c.--or, more fully
"When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it
not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown
in his heart." The great truth here taught is, that hearts all
unbroken and hard are no fit soil for saving truth. They apprehend
as God's means of restoring them to Himself; it penetrates not, makes
no impression, but lies loosely on the surface of the heart, till the
wicked one--afraid of losing a victim by his "believing to salvation"
--finds some frivolous subject by whose greater attractions to draw off
the attention, and straightway it is gone. Of how many hearers of the
word is this the graphic but painful history!
16. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground,
&c.--"Immediately" the seed in such a case "springs up"--all the
quicker from the shallowness of the soil--"because it has no depth of
earth." But the sun, beating on it, as quickly scorches and withers it
up, "because it has no root"
and "lacks moisture"
The great truth here taught is that hearts superficially impressed
are apt to receive the truth with readiness, and even with joy
but the heat of tribulation or persecution because of the word,
or the trials which their new profession brings upon them quickly
dries up their relish for the truth, and withers all the hasty promise
of fruit which they showed. Such disappointing issues of a faithful
and awakening ministry--alas, how frequent are they!
18. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the
19. And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and
the lusts of other things entering in--or "the pleasures of this life"
choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful--First, "The cares of
this world"--anxious, unrelaxing attention to the business of this
present life; second, "The deceitfulness of riches"--of those riches
which are the fruit of this worldly "care"; third, "The pleasures of
this life," or "the lusts of other things entering in"--the enjoyments
in themselves may be innocent, which worldly prosperity enables one to
indulge. These "choke" or "smother" the word; drawing off so
much of one's attention, absorbing so much of one's interest, and using
up so much of one's time, that only the dregs of these remain for
spiritual things, and a fagged, hurried, and heartless formalism is at
length all the religion of such persons. What a vivid picture is this
of the mournful condition of many, especially in great commercial
countries, who once promised much fruit! "They bring no fruit
indicating how much growth there may be, in the early stages of
such a case, and promise of fruit--which after all never
20. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the
word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some
sixty, and some an hundred--A heart soft and tender, stirred to its
depths on the great things of eternity, and jealously guarded from
worldly engrossments, such only is the "honest and good heart"
which "keeps," that is, "retains" the seed of the word, and bears fruit
just in proportion as it is such a heart. Such "bring forth fruit with
or continuance, "enduring to the end"; in contrast with those in whom
the word is "choked" and brings no fruit to perfection. The
"thirtyfold" is designed to express the lowest degree of
fruitfulness; the "hundredfold" the highest; and the "sixtyfold"
the intermediate degrees of fruitfulness. As a "hundredfold,"
though not unexampled
is a rare return in the natural husbandry, so the highest degrees of
spiritual fruitfulness are too seldom witnessed. The closing words of
this introductory parable seem designed to call attention to the
fundamental and universal character of it.
21. And he said unto them, Is a candle--or "lamp"
brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on
a candlestick?--"that they which enter in may see the light"
of which this is nearly a repetition.
22. For there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested,
Mt 10:26, 27;
but the connection there and here is slightly different. Here the idea
seems to be this--"I have privately expounded to you these great
truths, but only that ye may proclaim them publicly; and if ye will
not, others will. For these are not designed for secrecy. They are
imparted to be diffused abroad, and they shall be so; yea, a time is
coming when the most hidden things shall be brought to light."
23. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear--This for the
second time on the same subject (see on
24. And he saith unto them, Take heed what ye hear--In Luke
it is, "Take heed how ye hear." The one implies the other, but both
precepts are very weighty.
with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you--See on
and unto you that hear--that is, thankfully, teachably, profitably.
shall more be given.
25. For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not,
from him shall be taken even that which he hath--or "seemeth to
have," or "thinketh he hath." (See on
This "having" and "thinking he hath" are not different; for when it
hangs loosely upon him, and is not appropriated to its proper ends and
uses, it both is and is not his.
Parable of the Seed Growing We Know Not How
This beautiful parable is peculiar to Mark. Its design is to teach the
Imperceptible Growth of the word sown in the heart, from its
earliest stage of development to the ripest fruits of practical
26, 27. So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into
the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day--go about his
other ordinary occupations, leaving it to the well-known laws of
vegetation under the genial influences of heaven. This is the sense of
"the earth bringing forth fruit of herself," in
28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade,
then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear--beautiful allusion
to the succession of similar stages, though not definitely marked
periods, in the Christian life, and generally in the kingdom of God.
29. But when the fruit is brought forth--to maturity
immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come--This
charmingly points to the transition from the earthly to the heavenly
condition of the Christian and the Church.
Parable of the Mustard Seed
For the exposition of this portion, see on
Mt 13:31, 32.
33. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they
were able to hear it--Had this been said in the corresponding passage
of Matthew, we should have concluded that what that Evangelist recorded
was but a specimen of other parables spoken on the same occasion. But
says, "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in
parables"; and as Mark records only some of the parables which Matthew
gives, we are warranted to infer that the "many such parables" alluded
to here mean no more than the full complement of them which we find in
34. But without a parable spake he not unto them--See on
and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his
The time of this section is very definitely marked by our Evangelist,
and by him alone, in the opening words.
Jesus Stills a Tempest on the Sea of Galilee
35. And the same day--on which He spoke the memorable parables of
when the even was come--(See on
This must have been the earlier evening--what we should call the
afternoon--since after all that passed on the other side, when He
returned to the west side, the people were waiting for Him in great
he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side--to the
east side of the lake, to grapple with a desperate case of possession,
and set the captive free, and to give the Gadarenes an opportunity of
hearing the message of salvation, amid the wonder which that marvellous
cure was fitted to awaken and the awe which the subsequent events could
not but strike into them.
36. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as
he was in the ship--that is, without any preparation, and without so
much as leaving the vessel, out of which He had been all day teaching.
And there were also with him other little ships--with passengers,
probably, wishing to accompany Him.
37. And there arose a great storm of wind--"a tempest of wind." To
such sudden squalls the Sea of Galilee is very liable from its position,
in a deep basin, skirted on the east by lofty mountain ranges, while on
the west the hills are intersected by narrow gorges through which the
wind sweeps across the lake, and raises its waters with great rapidity
into a storm.
and the waves beat into the ship--kept beating or pitching on the ship.
so that it was now full--rather, "so that it was already filling." In
"insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves"; but this is too
strong. It should be, "so that the ship was getting covered by the
waves." So we must translate the word used in Luke
--not as in our version--"And there came down a storm on the lake, and
they were filled [with water]"--but "they were getting filled," that
is, those who sailed; meaning, of course, that their ship was so.
38. And he was in the hinder part of the ship--or stern.
asleep on a pillow--either a place in the vessel made to receive the
head, or a cushion for the head to rest on. It was evening; and after
the fatigues of a busy day of teaching under the hot sun, having nothing
to do while crossing the lake, He sinks into a deep sleep, which even
this tempest raging around and tossing the little vessel did not
and they awake him, and say unto him, Master--or "Teacher." In Luke
this is doubled--in token of their life-and-death earnestness--"Master,
carest thou not that we perish?--Unbelief and fear made them sadly
forget their place, to speak so. Matthew
has it, "Lord, save us, we perish." When those accustomed to fish upon
that deep thus spake, the danger must have been imminent. They say
nothing of what would become of Him, if they perished; nor
think, whether, if He could not perish, it was likely He would let this
happen to them; but they hardly knew what they said.
39. And he arose, and rebuked the wind--"and the raging of the water"
and said unto the sea, Peace, be still--two sublime words of command,
from a Master to His servants, the elements.
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm--The sudden hushing
of the wind would not at once have calmed the sea, whose commotion would
have settled only after a considerable time. But the word of command was
given to both elements at once.
40. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?--There is a natural
apprehension under danger; but there was unbelief in their fear. It is
worthy of notice how considerately the Lord defers this rebuke till He
had first removed the danger, in the midst of which they would not have
been in a state to listen to anything.
how is it that ye have no faith?--next to none, or none in present
exercise. In Matthew
it is, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" Faith they
had, for they applied to Christ for relief: but little, for they
were afraid, though Christ was in the ship. Faith dispels fear, but
only in proportion to its strength.
41. And they feared exceedingly--were struck with deep awe.
and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the
wind and the sea obey him?--"What is this? Israel has all along
been singing of JEHOVAH, 'Thou rulest the raging
of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them!' 'The
Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the
mighty waves of the sea!'
(Ps 89:9; 93:4).
But, lo, in this very boat of ours is One of our own flesh and blood,
who with His word of command hath done the same! Exhausted with the
fatigues of the day, He was but a moment ago in a deep sleep,
undisturbed by the howling tempest, and we had to waken Him with the
cry of our terror; but rising at our call, His majesty was felt by the
raging elements, for they were instantly
MAN IS THIS?'"