Mark 4:1-34 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Why do you think Jesus taught in parables?

By teaching in parables, Jesus could conceal the knowledge of sacred things from those who were uninterested or who would abuse such things. At the same time, parables, by illustrating spiritual realities, would help those who were interested in the truth to better understand it. Thus, parables have both a revealing and concealing effect.

2. Briefly describe the various types of people represented by the seed sown on the different types of ground. See Mark 4:14-20 (printed below)

The farmer sows the word. (15) These are the people along the pathway where the word is sown: as soon as they have heard the word, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. (16) Others are like seed sown on rocky ground: when they have heard the word, they immediately receive it with joy; (17) but they have no root in themselves. They endure for a while; but then, when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, they immediately fall away. (18) Still others are like seed sown among the thorns: these are people who have heard the word; (19) but the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the intense desires for other things come in and choke the word, and so it becomes unfruitful. (20) But others are like seed sown upon the good soil: they hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit—thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. (Mark 4:14-20)

The seed sown along the pathway represents those people who, upon hearing, have the Word immediately snatched away by Satan. The seed sown on rocky ground represents those people who receive the Word, but fall away as soon as hardships arise. The seed sown among thorns represents those people who hear the Word, but allow the cares and interests of the world to distract them from bearing fruit. The seed sown in the good soil represents those people who accept the Word and bear spiritual fruit.

3. In the parable of the seed sown on the different types of ground (see Mark 4:14-20 printed above under question #2), how many of these different groups of people are true Christians?

In light of the fact that Scripture insists that true Christians bear at least some amount of spiritual fruit (note John 15:1-8), we must conclude that only the fourth category are true Christians, those who bore fruit. The third category is composed of nominal “Christians” who have no living relationship with Christ.

4. In the parable of the seeds (see Mark 4:14-20 printed above under question #2) is Jesus teaching that three fourths of the seed sown is unproductive?

Not necessarily. No proportions are actually given as to how much of the seed is productive. It is not the purpose of the parable to answer the question, Are many or few saved?

5. What do you think Jesus means when He says in Mark 4:25, “To the one who has, to him shall more be given; but the one who does not have, from him shall be taken away even that which he has?”

People like the disciples, who have spiritual life, accepting Jesus and His word, will receive an ever greater measure of spiritual understanding, grace and fellowship with God. But men like the Pharisees, who had no spiritual life and who rejected Jesus, will eventually lose the spiritual opportunities, privileges, and access to God that were presently made available to them.