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Studying Mark's Gospel: Growth and the Kingdom

  • Thomas Klock Harvest Ministries
  • 2007 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Studying Mark's Gospel: Growth and the Kingdom

Lesson 6: Growth and the Kingdom (Mark 4:26-41)

 

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW

 

Mark 4 is a sampling of the parables of Jesus, and is the only place where Mark records them. These parables are all interlinked to refer to truths about the growth of the Kingdom, but also have implications and applications for our own personal lives. In our prior study, we examined the meaning of the terms parable and mystery and how these concepts were a part of understanding the Kingdom of God. The primary focus Mark led us to last time was the parable of the soils. This parable told us much about the impact of the Gospel on various lives, depending on how receptive they are to its message. Jesus told the people to listen to these things if they had ears to hear, to hear with perception; yet He had to explain this parable even to His closest followers. We also examined how these things specifically impact our own lives when we examine God’s Word, and that we must proactively prepare our own heart’s soil so that we become people who will bear fruit for the Kingdom.

 

This week we conclude this brief look at the parables of Jesus. We will at once see that the theme of the soils and the seed is continued on, and again there is more than one way to interpret it. This week we will also do something different. We will examine Mark 4:26-41 for the first three days of study, and spend the following two days focusing on how these things relate to our own personal growth in Christ.

 

DAY ONE:  Patience and Spiritual Growth

Please carefully read Mark 4:26-29 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What is the next parable that Jesus related (v. 26, 27)?


2.  Verse 27 is an awkward phrase in Greek at least to us, but probably not to Mark’s readers of the day. The nlt translates this phrase as “he went on with other activities.” Others say that it means whether he rises up and checks to see if there has been any change, he can’t do anything to make that growth occur, but it occurs mysteriously and eventually.[i] What will happen to the planted seed in good time (v. 28)?

 

3.  What will the farmer’s reaction be to this (v. 29)?

 

4.  “The earth yields crops by itself.” This comes from the Greek word automate; autos meaning self, and memaa meaning to desire eagerly. It is where we get our word automatic. This is an automatic process of the seed germinating and growing, and while we may sit and stare at a plant to watch it grow and bear fruit, or even water and feed the soil, we don’t make it grow. This is helpful for us to remember when we share the Gospel, planting seeds in others’ hearts. We must be patient and let God do His work in bringing the person to Christ. John Phillips well said it: “Ultimately all life comes from God. The most zealous believer can no more convert a soul than he could create a star. Life, especially spiritual life, remains a mystery.”[ii]

 

Someone once defined successful witnessing as sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God! How does James 5:7-8 address this? 

 

Scripture Memory:  This week we will be memorizing Mark 4:40. Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.

 

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Mark 4:40 (nkjv)

 

DAY TWO:  Instructions in Spiritual Growth

 

Please carefully read Mark 4:30-34 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What picture did Jesus next paint for them about the Kingdom (v. 30, 31)?


2.  What unique features of this growth symbolize the spread of the Kingdom (v. 32)?


NOTES: The question in verse 31 occurs only here in the New Testament. The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the people of Galilee. It would take well over 700 of them to weigh one gram! The type of mustard plant Jesus referred to has been known to reach 10–12 feet tall, and birds are attracted to it because of both its shade and its seeds.[iii] The term used for the birds nesting in its shade literally means pitching their tents in its shade.[iv]

 

3.  Sometimes the image of birds in the Scriptures is a picture of evil, so some interpret this parable as representing an overgrown, apostate church that would develop, but there isn’t really a need to consider this possibility, as this isn’t the emphasis but rather the contrast between the beginning and the end.[v] While the birds may not symbolize anything at all, another theory is that they symbolize Gentiles partaking in the Kingdom of God.[vi] What are some ways that the following passages support the idea that God had a plan for the Gentiles all along?

 

Genesis 12:2-3

2 Samuel 22:50; Psalms 18:49

Psalms 117

Isaiah 11:10-12; Isaiah 49:6

Amos 9:11-12; Malachi 1:11

 

4.  How did Mark conclude his sampling of Jesus’ parables (v. 33, 34)?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

But He said to them, “Why are you so __________________? How is it that you ______________ no faith?” Mark 4:40 (nkjv)

 

DAY THREE:  Faith Tested and Confronted

 

Please carefully read Mark 4:35-41 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  We need to remember that the events of our past three lessons all took place in the same day! In view of that, what did Jesus want to do at the end of the day, and how did they follow His wishes (v. 35, 36)?

 

NOTE: “They took Him along in the boat as He was” means that they took Him without previous preparation; remember also from the context (Mark 4:1) that Jesus was already in a boat teaching. That other boats went along, probably holding His closest followers, is only mentioned here in Mark, and this incident is the only time we read of Jesus actually sleeping.[vii]

 

2.  What unexpected thing, at least for Jesus’ followers, happened as they crossed the Sea of Galilee (v. 37)?

 

3.  Sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee can happen easily due to its location and climate. This one though was a whopper. Both Mark and Luke use the word lailaps to describe this, meaning cyclonic or hurricane force winds; in describing the same incident, Matthew used the word seismos, which is a violent upheaval like an earthquake (we get our words seismic and seismograph from it). This picture of the storm in Mark is most vivid in Greek, as it seems to personify the sea storm as though it were a raging monster! What was the contrast between the disciples and Jesus to this in their reactions (v. 38)?


4.  What did Jesus do about the storm raging on the sea and also in His disciples’ hearts (v. 39, 40)? 

 

NOTE: When Mark recorded, “‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (v. 39), he meant that Jesus told the sea to be silent, be hushed, and be muzzled like a wild beast; the verb tense of be still indicates Jesus told it to be muzzled and stay that way. Ceased means the sea sank to rest as if exhausted, worn out by the labor of its beating. 

 

5.  How did they react to this (v. 41)? Also compare how Matthew (Matthew 8:26) and Luke (Luke 8:25) record this. What is the obvious answer to this rhetorical question?

 

NOTE: Feared exceedingly literally means they had mega fear; they feared a great fear. When Jesus asked them why they so fearful, He used a word meaning timid and cowardly fear; they just couldn’t seem to comprehend this yet.[viii]

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

But He said to them, “Why are you so __________________? How is it that you ______________ no ___________________?” Mark 4:40 (nkjv)

 

DAY FOUR: Sidelight: Growing up in Christ

 

Last week we discussed preparing the soil of our hearts so that we can bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. We will continue that thought today, but with a few other twists we see based on this week’s passage.

 

1.  When our heart’s soil is prepared and ready, we must receive that seed of God’s Word and let it go to work. Sure, we need to do our part by watering and cultivating the garden of our hearts, but remember we saw that the growth of that seed is from God alone, an “automatic” process carried on by His power and work in us. What are some further ways we need to tend our heart’s garden to assist in our spiritual growth according to the following passages?

 

Romans 12:1-2

Ephesians 2:8-10

Philippians 2:12-16

 

2.  Although Mark 4:29 certainly reflects the last days or our gathering to go home with the Lord, just as certainly it reflects our own growth in Christ to the point that we are able to bear fruit for Him, at which time He reaps it and uses it to glorify Himself. We must understand that our purpose on this earth is not just self-fulfillment, but to glorify Christ and bear fruit that reflects His great work in us. What are some ways that the following passages speak about this and what we must always remember in this life?

 

John 12:24-26

1 Corinthians 3:9-16

Ephesians 4:1-16

 

3.  Growing to full maturity as a plant that bears fruit for the Kingdom takes time, and God doesn’t expect us to be perfect or to bear fruit that we can’t. Perhaps He made you a grape vine when you wanted to be a grapefruit tree. You feel envy at those big pieces of fruit you see growing on the other tree, and all you can produce are those little grapes! Yet if God wants “spiritual grapes” from you, that is His purpose for you. You weren’t meant to be nor expected to be what you can’t be. We must bear the fruit that God has called us to and leave His work in others to His concern. Rather, what should our attitude be as described by the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:7-21?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

But He said to _____________, “Why are you so __________________? How is it that you ______________ no ___________________?” Mark 4:40 (nkjv)

 

DAY FIVE:  Sidelight:  Growing through Difficulty

 

That night on the Sea of Galilee was one of the major tests of faith that Jesus allowed His men to experience to that point, and it speaks volumes to us as well. First we must remember that Mark wrote to Roman believers who were beginning to experience persecution and difficulties because of their faith in Christ.[ix] This account would give them hope that through every storm, Jesus is there, and at work even when they don’t understand or are afraid. 

 

1.  It is always for our best when God brings or allows us to experience trials and tests of our faith, for they allow us to practice the truths He teaches, or learn by failing to do so.[x] How do the following passages address our spiritual growth through times of difficulty? List several of the benefits of these things that you discover.

 

Psalms 119:67-75

James 1:2-18

1 Peter 1:3-9

 

2.  None of us wants the rebuke of the Lord for our lack of faithfulness and failure, but the disciples sure got it! Let’s consider the mistakes they made so that we can avoid a failure of faith like they experienced.

 

First, Jesus commanded them to go to the other side of the sea; essentially this was also a promise that they were going to make it. As Warren Wiersbe well put it, God’s commands are His enablements, and even facing a rough road doesn’t mean we won’t make it, for He has assured us that we will.[xi] What comfort does Isaiah 41:9-13, Isaiah 43:1-2 give us when we face life’s storms and trials?

 

Secondly, they missed the fact that it was Jesus with them in the boat; the same Jesus who that day had touched and healed others, whose great teachings they had heard. They didn’t understand yet that Jesus was in control of each situation they would face with Him. What comfort can you gain about how He will never abandon us in any situation we come across (Isaiah 46:4; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6)?

 

Third, the other fact they missed was that Jesus’ sleeping through this all didn’t mean He didn’t care (was concerned about and interested in) the fact that they were “perishing” (being completely destroyed). Certainly the situation was about as difficult as it could have been, but simple trust in His Father and confidence in His Word was all the assurance Jesus needed to allow Him to rest in the peace of God.[xii] How can we too have His peace during the storms of life (Psalms 4:8; Isaiah 26:3-4; John 14:27, John 16:33; Philippians 4:6-7)?

 

Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day.

 

Mark 4:40:

 

DAY SIX: Following Christ

 

1.  Jesus’ parables spoke to the everyday life of His hearers, as they still do to us in many ways. The question though isn’t about Jesus telling us a story, but what fruit does it produce in our hearts, whether we’re truly hearing with perception what He is telling us in them. It all depends on whether the hearer sees in it a mere story for entertainment or spiritual truths reflecting the nature of God and the Kingdom Jesus came to proclaim.[xiii] You are encouraged to dig into the parables more in Matthew and Luke; Luke especially has some of the all-time favorites not recorded elsewhere, as the ones he selected focus on people, relating well to us.[xiv]

 

What were some of the important things you learned that tie in with your own life through Mark’s brief sample of Jesus’ parables? Record your thoughts here and don’t be shy to share them with your group members so all can benefit.

 

2.  What ministered to you about your spiritual growth in Christ through the things we examined this week? How will it lead you to approach your walk and relationship with God toward bearing fruit for His Kingdom? Please share specific thoughts about that here and with your group as well.

 

3.  The incident with the storm and the disciples’ fearful reaction no doubt speaks to all of us. Part of life in this sin-sick world means we will face difficulty, and this is magnified all the more for the child of God trying to swim upstream, against the flow. It is fascinating that the same storm that led these experienced fishermen to panic rocked Jesus peacefully to sleep! It isn’t surprising that they responded in shock and awe to Jesus’ ability to calm the sea, for to the Jews the one who ruled the winds and sea was God Himself![xv] Their reaction to this situation in fear and confusion though doesn’t surprise us as failing human beings either. They felt that God had ignored their need, or worse, didn’t care what happened to them (seen in Jesus’ sleeping through it all). Yet He did care, and would teach them to trust and grow in faith as a result.  How did the things we examined this week about trials and growing through them speak to you about a situation you have faced, or perhaps are facing right now? What are some of the great truths you gleaned that can help you as you face life’s storms?

When the storm swept over Galilee’s dark lake all faces gathered blackness, and all hearts dreaded shipwreck. When all creature help was useless, the slumbering Saviour arose, and with a word, transformed the riot of the tempest into the deep quiet of a calm; then were the little vessels at rest as well as that which carried the Lord. Jesus is the star of the sea; and though there be sorrow upon the sea, when Jesus is on it there is joy too. May our hearts make Jesus their anchor, their rudder, their lighthouse, their life-boat, and their harbour. His Church is the Admiral’s flagship, let us attend her movements, and cheer her officers with our presence. He himself is the great attraction; let us follow ever in his wake, mark his signals, steer by his chart, and never fear while he is within hail. Not one ship in the convoy shall suffer wreck; the great Commodore will steer every barque in safety to the desired haven. By faith we will slip our cable for another day’s cruise, and sail forth with Jesus into a sea of tribulation. Winds and waves will not spare us, but they all obey him; and, therefore, whatever squalls may occur without, faith shall feel a blessed calm within. He is ever in the centre of the weather-beaten company: let us rejoice in him. His vessel has reached the haven, and so shall ours.[xvi]

Scripture Memory:  Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory.  Do so now, and keep on reviewing it do you will be ready to share it with others in your group time.

 

Mark 4:40:



[i] Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek word/phrase translations are based on the following: A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997); James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, Electronic Edition (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship; in Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996); M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002); Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997); and Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Electronic Edition (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1992, 1993, 2000). 

 

[ii] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004), p. 104.

 

[iii] John D. Grossmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Wheaton: Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 121.

 

[iv] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997).

 

[v] James A. Brooks, Mark.  In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary, Vol. 23 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), p. 85, 86.

 

[vi] Walter W. Wessell, Mark. In Frank E. Gaebelein ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1984), p. 653.

 

[vii] Walter W. Wessell, Mark, p. 655.

 

[viii]  John D. Grossmick, Mark, p. 122.

 

[ix]  James A. Brooks, Mark, p. 88.

 

[x] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books/SP Publications, Inc., 1989), p. 124.

 

[xi] Much of this information is based on Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 124, 125.

 

[xii] R.C.H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1946, 2001), p. 199.

 

[xiii] J.W. Drane, Introducing the New Testament (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2000), p. 138.

 

[xiv] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Rev. Ed. (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1970, 1990), p. 103.

 

[xv] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 146.

 

[xvi] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, New Updated Version (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), p. 516.

 

© 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2005-2006. www.Harvest.org