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Q&A: Mark 4

Questions and Answers on Mark 4

Bruce Stanley

February 19, 2023

Go!... Mark 4

Here are some brief answers to our questions from our Sunday evening service. If you would like to discuss more, please call me or email:

There were lots of questions, so feel free to follow me up if you need some more detail.

1. Still struggling to understand the second half of v 12 " otherwise they might turn and be forgiven."

Mark 4:11-12

11He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables12so that,“ ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,and ever hearing but never understanding;otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ ”

It is a very tricky nuance in this verse. These are the words of judgment given to Israel by Isaiah the prophet 1000 years earlier due to them not listening to God. I don't like to paraphrase, but one nuanced interpretation could be:

"If only they listened, they would understand, and be saved. But they won't. And so they are outsiders of the kingdom."

Jesus is speaking in parables so that those who draw near to him, who gather around to actually listen to him, CAN understand, unlike the Israelites who refused to listen and refused to draw near to God. You could almost say that Jesus speaks in parables so that those listening might draw near to him and ask "What does this mean?!" Then they will find out!

2. Can I ever sow the gospel so badly it works to damage the field?

Yes. With bad motives. Or out of a sense of obligation. Or doing it without love. Or sowing without consideration for the other person. Sowing with judgment rather than grace.

If we truly love people like Jesus does, then we will sow seeds with the heart of God, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot do that wrong! Ask yourself "Why do I share the gospel?"

What's the meaning of v24-25 in the middle of these parables?

Mark 4:24-25

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,”he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.25Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

God wants us to use the gifts we have been given, to use the opportunities we have to sow the seeds of the gospel. If you listen "big:" to the gospel, you will receive "big", but if you listen a little, you will receive little. Hear the gospel and take as much from it as you can, then act on it. It's like a snowball - it just gets bigger and bigger the more you hear. But if you don't listen, even what you know will be lost. Think of those who drift away from Church, growth groups, etc. Even what they had is fading away and it is sad days for them.

I'm not sure what is meant by "commonly", but a good Bible commentary will encourage us to read Mark looking at the big picture - using a wide-angle lens for the sections he writes. When you take all of the parables here together and look at who Jesus is talking with, and how he takes his disciples aside to give them deeper instruction (verse 10), and then you see that this is leading us to chapter 6:6-13 when he sends out the twelve to sow more seed as he does himself in chapter 5, we can see that chapter 4 is leading up to Jesus sending out his followers before he heads to Jerusalem to die. In short, it is about our relationship with Jesus, but it is more than this, and it is purposeful - pointing towards our role as followers of Jesus, not just to receive the seed, but to sow it.

Mark is very deliberate in the way he places the events and teaching of Jesus. The kingdom of God is his big focus and this is a pivotal chapter of teaching for Jesus' disciples, not just for the general public.

5. I'd love some elaboration on the difference between rocky soil and thorny soil, they feel (in practice) very similar!?


The rocky soil represents those who accept the gospel with joy, but when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they give up. You could say this is pressure that comes from outside of us (persecution, sickness).

The thorny soil represents those who accept the gospel but then the worries of life and the desires of the world take over and they stop producing fruit for God. They produce fruit only for themselves. You could say this is pressure that comes from inside of us (heart desire).

6. Isn't Jesus the sower? When there's a key player in most parables, it is God.

This is sometimes true. But many times not so:

In the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16), God owns the vineyard, but pays people to work in his vineyard.

In the parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-12), God is the landowner and he rents out his field to others as tenants.

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus is the one who gives money to his workers and goes away, expecting them to invest it while he is gone. They are the workers in this case also.

In Mark 4, Jesus is the vineyard owner. He is certainly, in his ministry, sowing gospel seeds. But when he leaves, and his disciples received the Holy Spirit, the seeds they sow are FAR greater and numerous such that thousands come to believe and put their faith in Jesus. See Acts 2 for the biggest example. We are the sowers Jesus has chosen. And this even prompts Jesus to say in John's gospel that because of this role, we will do greater things on earth than he has done in sowing seeds:

John 14:12

12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

7. What are your thoughts on walk up as an evangelism strategy? Will we do it this year? 

You could say that "walk-up evangelism" is evangelism without an existing relationship. There is a place for this I believe. At events like Granny Smith Festival we do this (except people walk up to us) and hopefully, we do this at every event we have on site. But when we do it at such events, we are still seeking to share a community, not just a gospel tract.

On its own, I have not seen walk-up evangelism be very effective in the long term in Sydney. Possibly this is because not many people do it well. Or perhaps Australians are not as responsive to it. Or perhaps the follow-up is not good. But here is the interesting fact: we have people visiting our church services EVERY week. Some have never stepped inside a church. This is, at the moment, one of the most fruitful evangelism fields (in my opinion) and worth a lot more of our time. It should also be a priority to trian in sharing the gospel with those who are choosing to walk into our communities. But walk-up is certainly not to be ignored. It is one of many approaches, and although it is not our primary focus, it is certainly one helpful focus. And for events like Granny Smith we will train for this (term 3)

Check out our training events for this year and please come!

If you'd like to train in walk-up evangelism, please speak to me - there are many on our staff team who would love to talk with you about training in this area.

8. Is there any research on what little “seeds” are helpful to our family, friends and colleagues in Australia today?

yes - the evidence is that invitations to church services and special events are actually very well received. 1 in ten will probably accept and come along to a church event if invited. In my personal experience, I have often been surprised that people do not understand that they are "allowed" to just walk into one of our services on a Sunday. Think about this - would you just walk into a service of another religion? Probably not. Why? Because it's intimidating. Because you probably also think you need to be invited. How easy is this? Just invite people - let them know they can come any time and you will sit with them in church, at an event, or at a church social activity.

9. Where we can find out what the people around us believe. Then we can share our faith from a place of understanding where they stand. Talks at St Phil's?

Great idea - thanks! This is helpful thinking as we plan our training for the rest of the year. And for more general info on this such as what the major religions believe, I highly recommend this book by John Dickson: "A spectator's guide to world religions"

10. Can it be said that Free Will is given by God to us? Can it also be said that people use Free Will to reject God?

Yes. And yes. God chooses to let us choose. However, this question cuts to the heart of what is often referred to as the Doctrine of Irresistible Grace. A helpful article (although not for the faint hearted!) can be found here: got questions

Two paragraphs in particular may be helpful:

"A common misconception about the doctrine of irresistible grace is that it implies men are forced to accept Christ and men are dragged kicking and screaming into heaven. Of course, neither of these is an accurate description of the doctrine of irresistible grace as revealed in the Bible. In fact, the heart of irresistible grace is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit whereby He takes a man dead in his trespasses and sins and gives him spiritual life so that he can recognize the unsurpassing value of God’s offer of salvation. Then, having been set free from the bondage of sin, that man willingly comes to Christ.

Another misconception concerning this doctrine is that it teaches the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted at all. Yet, again, that is not what the doctrine teaches because that is not what the Bible teaches. God’s grace can be resisted, and the Holy Spirit’s influence can be resisted even by one of the elect. However, what the doctrine does correctly recognize is that the Holy Spirit can overcome all such resistance and that He will draw the elect with an irresistible grace that makes them want to come to God and helps them to understand the gospel so they can and will believe it."

11. I know the message of today's message is not on what type of soil we are - is there anything we can do to diagnose better which soil we are?

Yes. Read God's word. Be guided by him. Are you willing to hear and respond to his word? Do you pray for forgiveness, and for change in your life? Is Jesus King and Lord over your family, work, studies, money, goals, desires? Or are you easily put off by persecution? Are you easily distracted by worldly desires?

Anyone planted in good soil will want to look after the soil well. The best way to do that is to be influenced by other "good soil" - God and his word, prayer, other Christians...

If you are following Jesus now, you are in good soil. You are what Jesus says in John's gospel, part of the vine.

I'd encourage you to read John 15:1-17 and be led by Jesus' teaching here.

Mark 4 is not here to make us doubt our faith. It is an encouragement to continue in it. If you are struggling with doubt, please reach out to our pastoral team and talk with them. We would love to talk and pray with you.

12. What role does the Holy Spirit play to lead ‘people’ to accept Jesus?

The Holy Spirit is the only one who is able to change our hearts to even hear the gospel. Without his work in our lives, we are dead in our sin. It is the Spirit who does this work and makes the change possible. Titus 3:5...

Titus 3:5

5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Withou the the work of the Spirit, we would not be able to respond to God.

13. Jesus said "whoever has ears, let them hear". Does that mean he was planting seeds for corn?

Haha! Good one. A-maize-ing. (see what I did there?)

14. Some Christians purposely make friends with non-believers so to spread the gospel to them. Sounds unethical?

It really depends on their motivation. Yes, I think that can be considered unethical. Jesus truly loved people. He truly wanted to be their friend too. Eternally. Sometimes sowing seeds can take many years of friendship and love and care. If you truly love people, you won't make friends just to share the gospel But it would certainly be the most amazing and loving thing you could do for them as a friend!

15. And now the really serious questions:

What are you doing with those jam donuts after?
If Bruce loves Jam Doughnuts so much, why did he leave the packet open so they go stale? Is it an additional layer of discouragement for him consuming them?
How can you microwave jam donuts? Doesn't that make them soggy and disgusting? Air fryers are the way to go!

I will eat one and share the others.

Leaving the packet open helps to make them crispy.

And if you microwave, go gently. Only 10 seconds or less. And must be eaten straight away. Or it will be yuk. You're welcome.

Air fryers? Not for me. We have too many kitchen appliances.

Click here to watch the questions answered during our live Q&A after the sermon at night church last Sunday.

Q & A is from 1:14:20

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