Daily Family Worship

Mark 4: Parables and Storm-Stilling

by | Feb 1, 2024


The great thing that we need in our lives is a thorough change of our sinful hearts. That is the lesson of the parable of the farmer sowing seeds in different kinds of soil, which is recorded in the first 20 verses of this chapter. This parable is of very great importance, as may be gathered from the word with which our Lord begins it: “Hearken!” – as well as by His closing words: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” We have surely heard this parable many times with our ears, but have we ever heard it in such a manner as to lay it to heart?

Herein we learn of the different kinds of reception which the preaching of the Gospel meets with from different people. And this teaches us that although we may seem to have received instruction with some benefit, yet nothing really profits us until the heart is so changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, as to bring forth the fruits of holiness which are acceptable to God, for Christ’s sake. There are some whose hearts are so hard, that the preaching of the Gospel makes no impression upon them at all. No more effect is produced than would arise from sowing seed upon a hard beaten road; they are given up entirely to Satan, and he does not allow them to think the least little bit about their souls. There are others who seem to be a little more hopeful, who may be compared to ground that is not quite so hard as the road, but still very stony. Upon them, the glad tidings of the Gospel do produce some effect. They rejoice to hear of a Savior; they go to church regularly, and seem to benefit. But alas! When a time of trial comes, it is found that their religion was all upon the surface; it had taken no root. In fact, the heart was not changed. No real good was done. And just as seed that is scattered among stones must soon wither, when it is exposed to the burning sun; so also, the religion that is thus without a foundation proves to be worth nothing in the day of trial, and in the hour of death. Again, there are others who listen to the preaching of the Word with reverent attention upon the Sabbath Day; but at other times, they allow their whole thoughts to be so engaged with worldly affairs, as to leave no opportunity for serious soul-reflection. Like seed sown among thorns, which is soon choked and bears no fruit, religious instruction can never benefit those who are absorbed in the cares and the pleasures of earth. Thus we may observe that the person who allows the seed of Divine truth to be choked by an undue attention even to lawful things will lose all benefit from the precious Gospel – just as completely as the one whose flinty heart has never received the slightest impression. No matter what the reason may be as to why we do not benefit by the Gospel, the effect will be the same: we shall perish everlastingly. Therefore, let us pray for a right understanding of the real state of our hearts, so that we may not be satisfied with a mere appearance of religion! Let us earnestly seek that new heart and right mind which can only be worked in us by the Holy Spirit. Into this new heart, the seed of Divine truth will sink deep, and bring forth the fruits of faith and love – which, in spite of all the powers of Satan and all the temptations of the world, will continue to increase in strength and power until the harvest on the Last Day! 

The parable of the seed growing up to maturity – slowly but surely – describes the growth of grace in the heart of man (verses 26-29). It is the business of ministers to sow the seed of the Gospel, and to teach and warn with all diligence; but still, it is the Lord’s work to make it prosper. This is how it is with the natural productions of the earth. The farmer can prepare the ground and sow the seed, but he has no power to make it grow; only God, by some hidden power, can cause it to take root and spring up – producing first the green leaf, and then the flower, and finally the fruit. All of this is God’s work in the growth of plants, and He works the same way in regard to the souls of mankind.

The parable in verses 30-34 describes the growth of Christianity – both as it advances in the hearts of individuals, and also as it spreads in the world. In each case, the commencement is small; but the final effect is something that is remarkable indeed. The mustard seed (which is a peculiarly little one) is chosen by our blessed Lord as an emblem of His Church. When the Kingdom of God was first set up by Him, it might well have been compared to the smallest of all seeds. But it is still growing, even now; and eventually, it will cover the whole earth! Just as the mustard seed grows into a branching herb, under which the birds find shelter – so also shall it be with the religion of Christ. It will spread from pole to pole. O what a glorious and happy time that will be! How earnestly we ought to pray, “Lord, let Your Kingdom come!”

This life on earth may very properly be compared to a voyage at sea. As we read verses 35-41, we see Jesus and His disciples in a boat in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Fear took hold of His timid followers, but there could be no real danger as long as the God of heaven and earth was with them in the storm! Similarly, our present life is like a voyage across a tempestuous sea. But since we are Christ’s disciples, He is as much with us – to protect us and bless us – as He was with His Apostles on the Sea of Galilee! There is so much to comfort us in this passage. Yes, we are constantly surrounded with difficulties. But in all times of trouble and affliction, how well would it be for us to reflect upon the love and power of Him Who can calm the winds and waves of temptation or distress, just as easily as He could say to the sea, “Peace, be still!”

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that we are permitted to pray to You quite as freely as the Apostles were on that stormy night on the Sea of Galilee. We thank You for the blessing to know that since we are united with You, we can never perish! Amen.

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