4:26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 4:27 He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 4:28 By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 4:29 And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle 21 because the harvest has come.” 22
4:30 He also asked, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to present it? 4:31 It is like a mustard seed 23 that when sown in the ground, even though it is the smallest of all the seeds in the ground – 4:32 when it is sown, it grows up, 24 becomes the greatest of all garden plants, and grows large branches so that the wild birds 25 can nest in its shade.” 26
7:17 Now 28 when Jesus 29 had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable.
13:28 “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
1 tn Grk “And Jesus.”
2 tn Grk “sons of the wedding hall,” an idiom referring to wedding guests, or more specifically, friends of the bridegroom present at the wedding celebration (L&N 11.7).
3 sn The expression while the bridegroom is with them is an allusion to messianic times (John 3:29; Isa 54:5-6; 62:4-5; 4 Ezra 2:15, 38).
4 tn Questions prefaced with μή (mh) in Greek anticipate a negative answer. This can sometimes be indicated by using a “tag” at the end in English (here the tag is “can they?”).
5 sn The statement the bridegroom will be taken from them is a veiled allusion by Jesus to his death, which he did not make explicit until the incident at Caesarea Philippi in 8:27ff. (cf. 8:31; 9:31; 10:33).
6 tn Grk “then on that day.”
7 sn Wineskins were bags made of skin or leather, used for storing wine in NT times. As the new wine fermented and expanded, it would stretch the new wineskins. Putting new (unfermented) wine in old wineskins, which had already been stretched, would result in the bursting of the wineskins.
8 sn The meaning of the saying new wine is poured into new skins is that the presence and teaching of Jesus was something new and signaled the passing of the old. It could not be confined within the old religion of Judaism, but involved the inauguration and consummation of the kingdom of God.
9 tn Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous action(s) in the narrative.
10 sn Jesus spoke two parables to demonstrate the absurdity of the thinking of the religious leaders who maintained that he was in league with Satan and that he actually derived his power from the devil. The first parable (vv. 23-26) teaches that if Jesus cast out demons by the ruler of the demons, then in reality Satan is fighting against himself, with the result that his kingdom has come to an end. The second parable (v. 28) about tying up a strong man proves that Jesus does not need to align himself with the devil because Jesus is more powerful. Jesus defeated Satan at his temptation (1:12-13) and by his exorcisms he clearly demonstrated himself to be stronger than the devil. The passage reveals the desperate condition of the religious leaders, who in their hatred for Jesus end up attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan (a position for which they will be held accountable, 3:29-30). For an explanation of what a parable is, see the note on parables in 4:2.
11 sn The three conditional statements in vv. 24-26 express the logical result of the assumption that Jesus heals by Satan’s power, expressed by the religious leaders. The point is clear: If the leaders are correct, then Satan’s kingdom will not stand, so the suggestion makes no sense. Satan would not seek to heal.
12 sn A sower went out to sow. The background for this well-known parable, drawn from a typical scene in the Palestinian countryside, is a field through which a well worn path runs. Sowing would occur in late fall or early winter (October to December) in the rainy season, looking for sprouting in April or May and a June harvest. The use of seed as a figure for God’s giving life has OT roots (Isa 55:10-11). The point of the parable of the sower is to illustrate the various responses to the message of the kingdom of God (cf. 4:11).
13 tn Mark’s version of the parable, like Luke’s (cf. Luke 8:4-8), uses the collective singular to refer to the seed throughout, so singular pronouns have been used consistently throughout this parable in the English translation. However, the parallel account in Matt 13:1-9 begins with plural pronouns in v. 4 but then switches to the collective singular in v. 5 ff.
14 sn The rocky ground in Palestine would be a limestone base lying right under the soil.
15 tn Grk “it did not have enough depth of earth.”
16 tn Grk “it did not have root.”
17 sn Palestinian weeds like these thorns could grow up to six feet in height and have a major root system.
18 sn That is, crowded out the good plants.
19 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in the final stage of the parable.
20 tn The translation “had better listen!” captures the force of the third person imperative more effectively than the traditional “let him hear,” which sounds more like a permissive than an imperative to the modern English reader. This was Jesus’ common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:23; Luke 8:8, 14:35).
21 tn The Greek word εὐθύς (euqus, often translated “immediately” or “right away”) has not been translated here. It sometimes occurs with a weakened, inferential use (BDAG 406 s.v. 2), not contributing significantly to the flow of the narrative. For further discussion, see R. J. Decker, Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect (SBG 10), 73-77.
22 sn Because the harvest has come. This parable is found only in Mark (cf. Matt 13:24-30) and presents a complete picture of the coming of God’s kingdom: (1) sowing; (2) growth; (3) harvest. Some understand the parable as a reference to evangelism. While this is certainly involved, it does not seem to be the central idea. In contrast to the parable of the sower which emphasizes the quality of the different soils, this parable emphasizes the power of the seed to cause growth (with the clear implication that the mysterious growth of the kingdom is accomplished by God), apart from human understanding and observation.
23 sn Mustard seeds are known for their tiny size.
24 tn Mark 4:31-32 is fairly awkward in Greek. Literally the sentence reads as follows: “As a mustard seed, which when sown in the earth, being the smallest of all the seeds in the earth, and when it is sown, it grows up…” The structure has been rendered in more idiomatic English, although some of the awkward structure has been retained for rhetorical effect.
25 tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).
26 sn The point of the parable seems to be that while the kingdom of God may appear to have insignificant and unnoticeable beginnings (i.e., in the ministry of Jesus), it will someday (i.e., at the second advent) be great and quite expansive. The kingdom, however, is not to be equated with the church, but rather the church is an expression of the kingdom. Also, there is important OT background in the image of the mustard seed that grew and became a tree: Ezek 17:22-24 pictures the reemergence of the Davidic house where people can find calm and shelter. Like the mustard seed, it would start out small but grow to significant size.
27 tc Most later
28 tn Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.
29 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.