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Mark 3:20-4:34 – Jesus Teaches in Parables

Summary

Jesus tells a number of parables that describe his ministry, the growth of the word, and the reign of God.

Analysis

A charge against Jesus, accusing him of being in league with the ruler of demons, inaugurates this section of teaching in parables (3:20-27). Jesus' parables use images of forgiveness (3:28-30), doing God's will (3:31-35), sowing seed (4:1-12), seed growing in various soils (4:13-20), light (4:21-23), hearing (4:24-25), seed growing by itself (4:26-29), and a mustard seed (4:30-32). This cluster of passages concludes with the statement that Jesus "did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples" (4:34). This is the only collection of parable-teaching in the Gospel of Mark.

Mark 3:20-4:34

20and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— 30for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

The True Kindred of Jesus

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters* are outside, asking for you.’ 33And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

The Parable of the Sower

4Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. 2He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ 9And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

The Purpose of the Parables

10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret* of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12in order that
“they may indeed look, but not perceive,
   and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”

13 And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14The sower sows the word. 15These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.* 18And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’

A Lamp under a Bushel Basket

21 He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ 24And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’

The Use of Parables

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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10 February 2011

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