The Parable of the Sower
4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.1 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
A Lamp Under a Basket
21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The Parable of the Seed Growing
26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Jesus Calms a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon
5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.1 2 And when Jesus2 had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed3 man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus4 to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus's Daughter
21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing5 what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus6 saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
I sometimes hear people say that they received Jesus as Savior but did not make Him Lord. The assumption is that we can somehow separate the Savior from the Lord—that we can have faith without repentance, blessings without commands, and the forgiveness of sins without the pursuit of holiness.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel. We cannot receive what Jesus offers and at the same time resist what He commands. God calls us to give up our resistance to the lordship of Christ and receive His salvation. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Submit yourself to Christ as Lord and you will find that He is a mighty Savior.
When I was around five years old, my father took me to a junkyard outside Edinburgh. The place was filled with scrap cars and trucks, and it was a marvelous place for a child with a vivid imagination to play.
Dad used to go there to get spare parts that he needed for our car. The system was simple: You could strip pieces that you needed off the cars, and then pay for them at the gate as you left. The problem was that some people were in the habit of throwing parts over the perimeter fence, walking past the gate without paying, and then picking up the stuff in the wasteland outside.
So the owners cleared a “no go” area inside the perimeter and brought in guard dogs leashed to a railing. As long as you did not go close to the fence, you were perfectly safe.
One day when my father was working on a wrecked car, I found a truck and climbed up into the cab. I was lost in an imaginary world of truck driving, when suddenly one of the dogs broke free from its chain and came bounding toward me.
I don’t think that I have ever been more terrified in my life. I screamed as any small child would. My father rushed over, grabbed a stick, and after a struggle, overpowered the dog. My father saved me by subduing the dog. If he had not been able to subdue the dog, he would not have been able to save his boy.
Christ is able to save us from our enemies because He is sovereign over them and is able to subdue them. It is the fact that He is Lord that qualifies Him to act as our Savior. That is why Scripture says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
So what are the enemies that we need saving from?
The Dogs of Human Darkness
Our world is filled with what we sometimes call “natural disasters”: earthquakes, mud slides, volcanoes, storms, fires, and floods.
We are also plagued by human evil—school shootings, gang murders, acts of terror, human trafficking—the list goes on and on. Every time another atrocity happens, we ask, “How could we have stopped it, and how can we make sure it never happens again?”
For all the wonders of medical science, for which we are profoundly grateful, we still face the blight of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. And death remains the last enemy of us all.
Which brings us to what the Bible describes as our last enemy—death. Anyone who has been near it with a loved one knows what a terrible enemy it is.
Our news is dominated by these four dimensions of darkness: natural disasters, human evil, illness, and death. For all the joys of this life, we find ourselves asking, “Who shall deliver us? Who has the authority to subdue the destructive powers that bring such darkness?”
Lord over Natural Disasters
Mark records four stories that illustrate the sovereignty of Jesus over the dogs of human darkness. Each story shows us that Jesus is Lord, and for this reason we can trust Him as Savior.
It all began one evening when the disciples found themselves caught in a storm as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. Storms of this sort were not unusual, and the disciples would have seen a few in their time. They knew how to handle a boat, but on this occasion they were absolutely terrified. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).
This was a life-threatening natural disaster, and the disciples must have been astonished at what happened next: Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (4:39).
Think of the possibilities! If Jesus can subdue a storm, what about a volcano, a mudslide, a tornado, or a hurricane? If He is sovereign over nature, surely He can save us from its destructive power.
Lord over the Demons
When Jesus and His disciples reached the other side of the lake, they were immediately confronted by a man who was out of his mind. He lived among the tombs, and night and day he would cry out and cut himself with stones (5:5).
This man was clearly public enemy number one, and when the local authorities threw him in jail, he “wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him” (5:4). So the whole community lived in fear. Every night they would hear this man crying out on the hills. It couldn’t have been easy to sleep.
It is clear from Scripture that evil spirits (or demons) were behind these great outbreaks of violence (5:8, 13). This is not the case with every violent or self-destructive person, but it was the case with this man. Jesus described the devil as a thief who comes “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), and where stealing, killing, and destroying are most rampant, there his activity is most directly to be discerned.
When Jesus came to this community, He commanded the evil spirits to leave the man and enter a herd of pigs. As soon as the people in the town heard, they came out to see what had happened, and they found the man who had been possessed by the demons “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).
Think of the possibilities! If Christ can pacify the man who brought terror to a community, what about the deranged gunman or the suicide bomber? If Jesus is sovereign over the demons, surely He can deliver us from their destructive power.
Lord over Disease
When Jesus returned to the other side of the lake, a large crowd was waiting. Among them was a woman who had been subject to “a discharge of blood for twelve years” (5:24–25). She had spent all that she had in consulting various doctors, but in spite of their efforts, her condition was no better.
This woman felt that if she could just reach Jesus, she would be healed. When she managed to touch Him, she was immediately aware of a change in her body: “the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (5:29).
Think of the possibilities! If Jesus can cure a chronic and disabling illness, what about cancer, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease? If Jesus is sovereign over disease, surely He can deliver us from its destructive power.
Lord over Death
Then Jesus came to a home where there had been a great tragedy. A twelve-year-old girl had died, and the wake was already in process.
Jesus sent the mourners out of the house. Only the girl’s father and mother, along with Peter, James, and John, remained. Jesus took the girl’s hands and said, “Talitha cumi!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”). To the absolute amazement of everyone in the room, “the girl got up and began walking” (5:41-42).
Think of the possibilities! If Jesus can raise a twelve-year-old-girl from the dead, what about our loved ones? If Jesus is sovereign over death, surely He can deliver us from its destructive power.
Why Doesn’t He Do It?
Jesus is sovereign over all the dimensions of human darkness. He is able to subdue disaster, demons, disease, and even death. As Lord over these enemies of the human race, He is able to save us from their destructive power.
So why doesn’t He do it?
Mark gives us the answer. When Jesus delivered the demon-possessed man, “they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region” (5:17). You would think that when Jesus had delivered the town from public enemy number one, the people would ask Him to stay. But they asked Him to leave.
So Jesus left. But if the one who is able to subdue the dog leaves the junkyard, what will happen to the boy?
Reigning and Waiting
We live in a Christ-rejecting world: “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
The rejection of Jesus led to the cross, which was the ultimate expression of our world’s contempt for God. With mocking, spitting, and nailing, we said to Jesus, “Go away.”
But this is not the end of the Bible story. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. When He ascended into heaven, the Father said to Him, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Hebrews 1:13).
Jesus is reigning, but He is also waiting. The reigning and waiting are not in conflict. “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25–26).
So we continue to live in a dangerous world that suffers under the curse of disasters, demons, disease, and death. But those who belong to the kingdom of Jesus Christ wait for the day when He will put all these enemies under His feet. When that day comes, demons will be consigned to the lake of fire, disasters and disease will be a distant memory, and death will be no more.
- What qualifies Jesus to be your Savior? Is there anyone else who qualifies?
- The Bible talks about 4 of our greatest enemies. What are they? Which of these enemies are you most concerned about right now? Why?
- How does it feel when you think about Jesus being Lord over that enemy? Why?
- In your own words, why doesn’t Jesus defeat all our enemies now?
- How do ordinary people come to experience Jesus’ saving power?