Once again, Jesus began to teach beside the sea, and such a large crowd gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat in it. All the people crowded along the shore,
I. CIRCUMSTANCES OCCASIONING IT. The order of Matthew and Mark preferable and explanatory. Various considerations led him to adopt this method of teaching.
1. A reasonable prudence. His enemies were busy, and scarcely suffered a single opportunity to pass without spying or planning means by which to destroy him. Out of doors he would be able to keep the crowd at a greater remove, and so hostile listeners would be under better observation.
2. Sympathy for those who were "without. In the small country cottages, where for the most part he resided, there was no accommodation for the numbers that thronged to his ministry. Stifling heat and inconvenient jostling would ill accord with the dignity of his message. Multitudes were unable to hear or see him, and he had compassion on their souls. A different class of people, too, might be reached by this new method.
3. The charm of nature. There are abundant evidences of Christ's poetic and artistic sense of nature. He would be drawn forth from the heat and squalor of the small cottage to the spaciousness, grandeur, and ever-varying phenomena of the outside world. It was his own world. He was present when the morning stars sang together" at its birth, "and without him was not anything made that was made."
II. ADVANTAGES OF THIS MODE OF TEACHING.
1. It linked the ideas of the spiritual world with the real world of every-day experience.
2. By its associating the common life of men with the Divine and eternal, the former was refined and elevated. The many were thus addressed, and a certain general benefit received by them.
3. The inner meaning of such teaching could only be discerned by the spiritual and devout, and thus his safety was secured. His enemies were baffled and kept in ignorance.
4. This teaching was attractive to all.
III. WHAT IT SUGGESTED AS TO THE SPHERE AND FUNCTION OF THE "KINGDOM OF GOD."
1. That it was coextensive with the universe.
2. That the heavenly element is to penetrate and include the earthly element in Gods world.
3. That the senses, if rightly used, are aids to the spirit. - M.
And He began again to teach by the seaside.I. The PLACE where Christ taught.
1. By the seaside. Opposed to a prevailing notion. This example at present imitated.
2. In a ship. The spread of the gospel prefigured.
II. Those who formed His AUDIENCE.
1. The general crowd.
2. The apostles and disciples.
III. The MANNER in which Christ taught.
1. He taught the multitudes in parables. Remarkable for simplicity when understood. Very apt and likely to be misunderstood.
2. He explained His parables to His disciples, but this was accompanied by reproof.
IV. THE REASON HE TAUGHT THE MULTITUDE IN PARABLES.
3. Originally, and as quoted, describes a particular moral state, in which — The Word is not understood, not felt, does not convert, is not heard. This state is ascribed to themselves, to the prophet, to God (Matthew 13:14, 15; Isaiah 6:9, 10; John 12:40). Learn: That the ungodly see and hear without understanding; that in order that a people be left in darkness, it is not necessary that the gospel be removed; that when a faithful ministry is sent to a people, it is not always for their conversion; that the means of converting are also the means of hardening.
V. THE REASON CHRIST TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES MORE DIRECTLY.
1. A knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom was a gift to them.
2. Instruction was the mode of conveying it.
1. The first and principal one I shall mention is, the carefully attending to the occasion of them. No one, for instance, can be at a loss to explain the parable of the prodigal son, who considers that our Lord had been discoursing with publicans and sinners, and that the proud and self-righteous Pharisees had taken offence at His conduct. With this key we are let into the true secret of this beautiful parable, and cannot mistake in our comment upon it. Understanding thus from the occasion of the parable what is the grand truth or duty meant to be inculcated.
2. Our attention should be steadily fixed to that object. If we suffer ourselves to be diverted from it by dwelling too minutely upon the circumstances of the parable, the end proposed by Him who spake it will be defeated, and the whole involved in obscurity. For it is much the same here as in considering a fine painting; a comprehensive view of the whole will have a happy and striking effect, but that effect will not be felt if the eye is held to detached parts of the picture without regarding the relation they bear to the rest. Were a man to spend a whole hour on the circumstances of the ring and the robe in the parable just referred to, or on the two mites in that of the good Samaritan, it is highly probable both he and his hearers by the time they got to the close of the discourse, would lose all idea of our Saviour's more immediate intent in both those instructive parables.
3. That great caution should be observed in our reasoning from the parables to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.(1) An intemperate use of figures tends to sensualise the mind and deprave the taste. Sensible objects engross the attention of mankind, and have an undue influence on their appetites and passions. They walk by sight, not by faith.(2) The misapplication of figures, whereby false ideas are given the hearer of the things they are made to stand for. It is easy to conceive how men's notions of the other world, invisible spirits, and the blessed God Himself, may in this way be perverted. A licentious imagination has given rise to tenets the most absurd and impious. To this the idolatry of the pagan world may be traced up as its proper source (Romans 1:21-28).(3) The reasoning injudiciously from types and figures, begets a kind of faith that is precarious and ineffectual. We have clear and positive proofs of the facts the gospel relates, and the important doctrines that are founded thereon. But if, instead of examining these proofs to the bottom, and reasoning with men upon them, we content ourselves with mere analogical evidence, and rest the issue of the question in debate upon fanciful and imaginary grounds, our faith will be continually wavering, and produce no substantial and abiding fruits. An enthusiast, struck with appearances, instantly yields his assent to a proposition, without considering at all the evidence. But as soon as his passions cool, and the false glare upon his imagination subsides, his faith dies away, and the fruit expected from it proves utterly abortive.
(S. Stennett, D. D.)
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