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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Mark

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4.1–34 : Teaching the mystery of the kingdom of God in parables

(Mt 13; Lk 8.4–18; 13.18–21 ).

2 :

In parables, in extended metaphors or analogies.

3–8 :

Parable of the sower and the seeds. Despite all the obstacles, there is an absolutely amazing and unprecedented bumper crop (normal good yield was 7 to 1).

10 :

The rest of the teaching is directed to the twelve ( 3.16–19 ) and other members of the movement.

11–12 :

The secret of the kingdom of God, to them is disclosed the “mystery” or hidden plan of God (cf. Dan 2.28 ) for the fulfillment of history in the kingdom of God now being proclaimed and manifested. Since outsiders do not understand this “mystery” or “plan,” the parables are opaque to them, just as Isaiah's contemporaries did not understand his prophecies (Isa 6.9–10 ).

13–20 :

Explains the parable of the sower allegorically, with each principal symbol of the analogy standing for some aspect of the listeners' experiences of the effects of Jesus' preaching of the kingdom—and corresponding to later episodes in Mark.

15 :

The struggle with Satan continues, as illustrated in Peter's misunderstanding in 8.29–33 .

16–17 :

Cf. 9.42–48; 13.19,24; 14.27,29 .

18–19 :

The lure of wealth, cf. 10.17–22,25 .

21–23 :

These sayings repeat and reinforce the message of 4.3–10,20 ; the kingdom, hidden now, will come to light.

24–25 :

These sayings make most sense as a warning not to accept any cynical “realistic” advice that the established power‐relations will inevitably continue.

26–29 :

The kingdom of God will surely come to full fruition, just as the seed inevitably sprouts, grows, and produces a harvest (cf. Joel 3.13 ).

30–32 :

The climax of the process by which the kingdom of God is growing is like the tiniest seed producing a large bush that provides homes for the birds. Note the modest metaphor, in contrast with the imperial metaphor of the cedar tree in Ezek 17; 31; Dan 4 .

4.35–8.21 : Continuing the prophetic renewal of Israel (and other peoples) despite opposition and the disciples' misunderstanding.

This section is organized around two sequences of Moses‐and Elijah‐like sea crossings, exorcisms, healings, and wilderness feedings.

4.35–41 : First sea crossing

(Mt 8.18,23–27; Lk 8.22–25 ). Emphasis falls on the disciples' lack of faith and their great awe … “that even the wind and the sea obey him.” Control of the sea is a divine characteristic (see Ps 89.9; cf. Ps 89.25 ).

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