According to Mark 4:1-41

4  Again he began teaching beside the sea, and a very large crowd gathered near him. So he went aboard a boat and sat in it away from the shore, but the whole crowd was next to the sea, along the shore.+  And he began to teach them many things with illustrations,+ and while he was teaching, he said to them:+  “Listen. Look! The sower went out to sow.+  As he was sowing, some seeds fell alongside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.+  Others fell on rocky ground where there was not much soil, and they immediately sprang up because the soil was not deep.+  But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them, and they yielded no fruit.+  But others fell on the fine soil, and growing up and increasing, they began to yield fruit, and they were bearing 30, 60, and 100 times more.”+  Then he added: “Let the one who has ears to listen, listen.”+ 10  Now when he was alone, those around him with the Twelve began questioning him about the illustrations.+ 11  He said to them: “To you the sacred secret+ of the Kingdom of God has been given, but to those outside all things are in illustrations,+ 12  so that, though looking, they may look and still not see, and though hearing, they may hear and still not get the sense of it; nor will they ever turn back and receive forgiveness.”+ 13  Further, he said to them: “You do not know* this illustration, so how will you understand all the other illustrations? 14  “The sower sows the word.+ 15  These, then, are the ones alongside the road where the word is sown; but as soon as they have heard it, Satan comes+ and takes away the word that was sown in them.+ 16  Likewise, these are the ones sown on rocky ground; as soon as they have heard the word, they accept it with joy.+ 17  Yet they have no root in themselves, but they continue for a time; then as soon as tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, they are stumbled. 18  There are still others that are sown among the thorns. These are the ones who have heard the word,+ 19  but the anxieties+ of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches*+ and the desires+ for everything else make inroads and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20  Finally, the ones that were sown on the fine soil are those who listen to the word and favorably receive it and bear fruit—30, 60, and 100 times more.”+ 21  He also said to them: “A lamp is not brought out to be put under a basket or under a bed, is it? Is it not brought out to be put on a lampstand?+ 22  For there is nothing hidden that will not be exposed; nothing is carefully concealed that will not come out in the open.+ 23  Whoever has ears to listen, let him listen.”+ 24  He further said to them: “Pay attention to what you are hearing.+ With the measure that you are measuring out, you will have it measured out to you, yes, you will have more added to you. 25  For whoever has will have more given to him,+ but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”+ 26  So he went on to say: “In this way the Kingdom of God is just as when a man casts seeds on the ground. 27  He sleeps at night and rises up by day, and the seeds sprout and grow tall—just how, he does not know. 28  On its own the ground bears fruit gradually, first the stalk, then the head, finally the full grain in the head. 29  But as soon as the crop permits it, he thrusts in the sickle, because the harvesttime has come.” 30  And he went on to say: “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or with what illustration can we explain it? 31  It is like a mustard grain, which at the time it was sown in the ground was the tiniest of all the seeds on the earth.+ 32  But when it has been sown, it grows and becomes greater than all other vegetable plants and produces great branches, so that the birds of heaven are able to find lodging under its shadow.” 33  With many illustrations+ of that sort he spoke the word to them, to the extent that they were able to listen. 34  Indeed, without an illustration he would not speak to them, but he would explain all things privately to his disciples.+ 35  And on that day, when evening had fallen, he said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.”+ 36  So after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him.+ 37  Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept crashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped.+ 38  But he was in the stern, sleeping on the pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” 39  With that he got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!”+ And the wind abated, and a great calm set in.+ 40  So he said to them: “Why are you so afraid?* Do you not yet have any faith?” 41  But they felt an unusual fear, and they said to one another: “Who really is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him.”+


Or “understand.”
Or “the seductiveness (deceptive pleasure) of being wealthy.”
Or “fainthearted.”

Study Notes

on the beach: Along the shore of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, there is a spot that forms a natural amphitheater. The good acoustic properties of this location would have allowed a large crowd to hear Jesus speak to them from a boat.

away from the shore: See study note on Mt 13:2.

illustrations: Or “parables.” The Greek word pa·ra·bo·leʹ, which literally means “a placing beside (together),” may be in the form of a parable, a proverb, or an illustration. Jesus often explains a thing by ‘placing it beside,’ or comparing it with, another similar thing. (Mr 4:30) His illustrations were short and usually fictitious narratives from which a moral or spiritual truth could be drawn.

illustrations: See study note on Mt 13:3.

Look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.

rocky ground: Not referring to spots where rocks were scattered in the soil but to bedrock or a shelf of rock where there was little soil. The parallel account at Lu 8:6 says that some seed fell “on the rock.” Such terrain would prevent seeds from sinking their roots deep enough to find needed moisture.

on rocky ground: See study note on Mt 13:5.

among the thorns: Jesus is evidently referring, not to full-grown thornbushes, but to weeds that had not been cleaned out of the plowed soil. These would grow and choke out the newly planted seeds.

among the thorns: See study note on Mt 13:7.

Let the one who has ears to listen, listen: Before telling the illustration of the sower, Jesus said: “Listen.” (Mr 4:3) He concludes the illustration with this exhortation, emphasizing how important it is for his followers to heed his counsel carefully. Similar exhortations can be found at Mt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mr 4:23; Lu 8:8; 14:35; Re 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9.

system of things: The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. Here the term is connected with the anxieties and problems that characterize life in the present system of things.​—See Glossary.

system of things: See study note on Mt 13:22.

a lamp: In Bible times, a common household lamp was a small earthenware vessel filled with olive oil.

a basket: Used for measuring dry commodities, such as grain. The type of “basket” (Greek, moʹdi·os) mentioned here had a capacity of about 9 L (or 8 dry qt).

A lamp: See study note on Mt 5:15.

a basket: See study note on Mt 5:15.

With the measure that you are measuring out: The context of verses 23 to 25 indicates that if the disciples measure out little interest and attention, they cannot expect to get much from Jesus’ teaching. But if they give him their fullest measure of attention, he will respond by giving them information and enlightenment beyond their expectations. Thus they will be enriched and better able to impart understanding to others. In his generosity, Jesus will favor them with more than they expected.

In this way the Kingdom of God is just as when a man casts seeds: Mark is the only Gospel writer to record the illustration found in verses 26 to 29.

the tiniest of all the seeds: The mustard seed was used in ancient Jewish writings as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size. Although there are smaller seeds known today, it was evidently the tiniest of seeds gathered and sown by Galilean farmers in Jesus’ day.

mustard grain: See study note on Mt 13:31.

the tiniest of all the seeds: See study note on Mt 13:32.

mustard grain: Several kinds of mustard plants are found growing wild in Israel. Black mustard (Brassica nigra) is the variety commonly cultivated. The relatively small seed, 1-1.6 mm (0.039 to 0.063 in.) in diameter and weighing 1 mg (0.000035 oz) produces a treelike plant. Some varieties of the mustard plant attain a height of up to 4.5 m (15 ft).

listen: Or “understand.” The Greek word for “listen” can convey the meanings “to pay attention by listening” and “to understand (comprehend).”​—Compare study notes on Ac 9:7; 22:9.

they did not hear the voice: Or “they did not understand the voice.” At Ac 9:3-9, Luke describes Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. These two accounts taken together give the full picture of what happened. As explained in the study note on Ac 9:7, the men accompanying Paul heard “the sound of a voice” but apparently did not understand the words spoken. Thus, they did not hear the voice the way Paul did. This is in agreement with how the Greek word for “hear” is used at Ac 22:7, where Paul explains that he “heard a voice,” that is, he heard and understood the words. By contrast, those traveling with Paul did not understand the message being conveyed to Paul, perhaps because the voice was muffled or distorted in some way. It is apparently in this sense that “they did not hear the voice.”​—Compare Mr 4:33; 1Co 14:2, where the same Greek word for “hear” could be rendered “to listen” or “to understand.”

hearing . . . the sound of a voice: At Ac 22:6-11, Paul himself describes his experience on the road to Damascus. That account taken together with this account gives the full picture of what happened. The Greek words used in both accounts are the same, but the grammar is different. The Greek term pho·neʹ could be rendered both “sound” and “voice.” Here it is in the genitive case and is therefore rendered “the sound of a voice.” (At Ac 22:9, the same Greek word is in the accusative case and is rendered “voice.”) So the men accompanying Paul heard the sound of a voice but apparently could not hear and understand the words spoken. So they did not hear the voice the way Paul did.​—Ac 26:14; see study note on Ac 22:9.

the other shore: See study note on Mt 8:18.

the other side: That is, the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

a great violent windstorm: This expression renders three Greek words that could literally be translated “a great hurricane of wind.” (See study note on Mt 8:24.) Mark was not present, so his vivid description of the windstorm and the other details mentioned in this account may indicate that he obtained the information from Peter.​—Regarding Peter’s influence on Mark’s Gospel, see “Introduction to Mark.”

great storm: Such storms are common on the Sea of Galilee. Its surface is about 210 m (700 ft) below sea level, and the air temperature is warmer on the sea than in the surrounding plateaus and mountains. Those conditions result in atmospheric disturbances and strong winds that can quickly whip up waves.

the pillow: Or “the cushion.” This is the only place where this word appears in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The use of the definite article in Greek may suggest that the pillow was part of the boat’s equipment. It may have been a sack of sand kept as ballast beneath the stern deck, a leather-covered seat for the helmsman, or a fleece or cushion on which an oarsman could sit.


Domestic Lampstand
Domestic Lampstand

This domestic lampstand (1) is an artist’s concept based on first-century artifacts found in Ephesus and Italy. A lampstand of this kind was likely used in a wealthy household. In poorer homes, a lamp was hung from the ceiling, placed in a niche in the wall (2), or put on a stand made of earthenware or wood.

Remains of a Galilean Fishing Boat
Remains of a Galilean Fishing Boat

A 1985/1986 drought caused the water level in the Sea of Galilee to fall, exposing part of the hull of an ancient boat that was buried in the mud. The remains of the boat are 8.2 m (27 ft) long and 2.3 m (7.5 ft) wide and have a maximum height of 1.3 m (4.3 ft). Archaeologists say that the boat was built sometime between the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. This video animation reconstructs the boat, which is now displayed in a museum in Israel, showing what it may have looked like as it traversed the waters some 2,000 years ago.

First-Century Fishing Boat
First-Century Fishing Boat

This rendering is based on the remains of a first-century fishing boat found buried in mud near the shores of the Sea of Galilee and on a mosaic discovered in a first-century home in the seaside town of Migdal. This kind of boat may have been rigged with a mast and sail(s) and may have had a crew of five​—four oarsmen and one helmsman, who stood on a small deck at the stern. The boat was approximately 8 m (26.5 ft) long and at midpoint was about 2.5 m (8 ft) wide and 1.25 m (4 ft) deep. It seems that it could carry 13 or more men.

Jesus Calms the Storm
Jesus Calms the Storm

A fierce windstorm batters the boat, and the disciples get soaked as they cross the Sea of Galilee. The men are terrified that they will drown, and they cry for help. Jesus, who is sleeping, wakes up and commands the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” Immediately, the storm abated, and “a great calm set in.” (Mr 4:35-41) This miracle indicates that when Jesus rules the earth, he and his Father will never allow severe weather to harm subjects of God’s Kingdom. (Re 21:4) Mark is not present on this occasion, but he still records the event in the action-packed and fast-moving style of writing that is characteristic of his Gospel. The vivid description and the details mentioned in this account may indicate that he obtained the information from someone who was onboard, possibly Peter.