St Mark 4:21-40

The second half of chapter 4 of St Mark's Gospel continues the discussion on the nature of the kingdom, and concludes with Jesus calming the stormy waters at seas:

21 Et dicebat illis: Numquid venit lucerna ut sub modo ponatur, aut sub lecto? nonne ut super candelabrum ponatur? 22 Non est enim aliquid absconditum, quod non manifestetur: nec factum est occultum, sed ut in palam veniat. 23 Si quis habet aures audiendi, audiat. 24 Et dicebat illis: Videte quid audiatis. In qua mensura mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis, et adjicietur vobis. 25 Qui enim habet, dabitur illi: et qui non habet, etiam quod habet auferetur ab eo.6 Et dicebat: Sic est regnum Dei, quemadmodum si homo jaciat sementem in terram, 27 et dormiat, et exsurgat nocte et die, et semen germinet, et increscat dum nescit ille. 28 Ultro enim terra fructificat, primum herbam, deinde spicam, deinde plenum frumentum in spica. 29 Et cum produxerit fructus, statim mittit falcem, quoniam adest messis.30 Et dicebat: Cui assimilabimus regnum Dei? aut cui parabolæ comparabimus illud? 31 Sicut granum sinapis, quod cum seminatum fuerit in terra, minus est omnibus seminibus, quæ sunt in terra: 32 et cum seminatum fuerit, ascendit, et fit majus omnibus oleribus, et facit ramos magnos, ita ut possint sub umbra ejus aves cæli habitare. 33 Et talibus multis parabolis loquebatur eis verbum, prout poterant audire: 34 sine parabola autem non loquebatur eis: seorsum autem discipulis suis disserebat omnia.35 Et ait illis in illa die, cum sero esset factum: Transeamus contra. 36 Et dimittentes turbam, assumunt eum ita ut erat in navi: et aliæ naves erant cum illo. 37 Et facta est procella magna venti, et fluctus mittebat in navim, ita ut impleretur navis. 38 Et erat ipse in puppi super cervical dormiens: et excitant eum, et dicunt illi: Magister, non ad te pertinet, quia perimus? 39 Et exsurgens comminatus est vento, et dixit mari: Tace, obmutesce. Et cessavit ventus: et facta est tranquillitas magna. 40 Et ait illis: Quid timidi estis? necdum habetis fidem? et timuerunt timore magno, et dicebant ad alterutrum: Quis, putas, est iste, quia et ventus et mare obediunt ei?

[21] And he said to them: Doth a candle come in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? [22] For there is nothing hid, which shall not be made manifest: neither was it made secret, but that it may come abroad. [23] If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. [24] And he said to them: Take heed what you hear. In what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you. [25] For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him. [26] And he said: So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth, [27] And should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring, and grow up whilst he knoweth not. [28] For the earth of itself bringeth forth fruit, first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear. [29] And when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. [30] And he said: To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? or to what parable shall we compare it? [31] It is as a grain of mustard seed: which when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that are in the earth: [32] And when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches, so that the birds of the air may dwell under the shadow thereof. [33] And with many such parables, he spoke to them the word, according as they were able to hear. [34] And without parable he did not speak unto them; but apart, he explained all things to his disciples. [35] And he saith to them that day, when evening was come: Let us pass over to the other side. [36] And sending away the multitude, they take him even as he was in the ship: and there were other ships with him. [37] And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that the ship was filled. [38] And he was in the hinder part of the ship, sleeping upon a pillow; and they awake him, and say to him: Master, doth it not concern thee that we perish? [39] And rising up, he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm. [40] And he said to them: Why are you fearful? have you not faith yet? And they feared exceedingly: and they said one to another: Who is this (thinkest thou) that both wind and sea obey him?

Commentary by de Lapide

Ver. 21. Doth a candle come in, i.e., is it brought into a house, to be put under a bushel or under a bed? That it should be hidden under a vessel? No! but that it should be exposed publicly, and give light to all. Christ signified by this parable that it was not His will that the mysteries of this parable and the other doctrines of the Gospel should be concealed and hidden, but that His disciples should unfold them in their time, and communicate to others who at that time were not able to receive them. It was His will that they should publish and preach them openly. This is plain from what follows.

Ver. 22. For there is nothing hid which shall not be made manifest; neither was it made secret, but that it may come abroad. This is the Greek and Latin reading. Although the doctrine of the Gospel and My deeds and words are as yet hidden and secret, I do not wish them always to remain so. At the proper time they must be openly proclaimed by you, 0 My disciples. So SS. Jerome and Bede. This is what Christ says in S. Matt. x. 27, What I say unto you in darkness, that speak ye in light, &c.

Ver. 24. And He said unto them, Take heed what ye hear. The meaning, says Euthymius, is, “Attend to the things which ye hear of Me, that ye may understand them, and commit them to memory, that when the proper time shall arrive ye may communicate them to others.” And He assigns the reason, which, as Theophylact says, is, “That none of My words may escape you.” Hear Bede, “He teaches us carefully to hear His words, in such manner that we should carefully digest them in our hearts, and be able to bring them forth for the hearing of others.”

In what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you. He means, if ye largely and copiously communicate and preach My doctrine to others, I also will copiously impart to you more understanding and greater wisdom, grace, and glory, as a recompense and reward to you. Thus fountains, the more they pour out above, the more they receive from below. Therefore, let preachers, teachers, and catechists learn from this promise of Christ, that the more pains they bestow in teaching others, the more grace and wisdom they will receive from Christ themselves, according to the words, “He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth in blessings,” i.e., abundantly, “shall reap also in blessings” (2 Cor. ix. 6), Vulg.

Ver. 25. For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him. Hath, that is, uses, and shows that he hath by using. For such a one hath indeed, but he who useth not a gift or grace hath it but in name. This is what theologians say, that he who uses his grace hath it in a second act; but he who uses it not hath it only in the first act, that is, in power and possession. The meaning therefore is, he who, by study or by imparting to others, uses learning given him by God, an increase of learning shall be given; but from him who uses not his learning, shall God take it away.

Ver. 26. And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth. This is another parable, different from that of the Sower, which precedes it. Both, however, are taken from seed, but differently applied and explained. Moreover, by the seed, as SS. Chrysostom and Bede rightly explain, both here and in S. Matt. xiii., is signified evangelical doctrine. By the field, hearers; by the harvest, the end of the world, or each one’s death, is meant.

Ver. 27. And should sleep, that is to say, the sower, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up whilst he knoweth not. Some refer the words rise night and day to the seed; meaning that the seed should germinate, it knoweth not how, that is, like a man sleeping. More obviously, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Maldonatus, and others refer the words to the sower, so that night pertains to the word sleep, day to the word rise. The meaning is, As the husbandman who has sowed is sleeping idly in the night, and is employed in various occupations during the day, and thinks not about the seed, that seed is germinating by its own innate force, and is growing up whilst the husbandman knoweth it not. So also it puts forth first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. So, too, in the same manner is the doctrine and preaching of the Gospel. They were sown by Christ and His Apostles, that is, they were preached from small beginnings. But by degrees they grew insensibly into the mature and mighty harvests of the faithful, whilst Christ was, as it were, sleeping in heaven, and permitting the Jews and unbelieving nations and tyrants to rise up against His Apostles, and persecute and kill them. It increases, I say, and propagates itself gradually, until it fills the world, when, the harvest being ripe, the corn, i.e., the elect, shall be gathered into the granary of heaven.

By this parable, then, is signified the power of the Gospel, which by degrees has pervaded the whole world, and is converting it to Christ. Tacitly, also, it is signified that preachers of the Gospel must not glory in their preaching, as though they by it were converting the world. For, as the Apostle saith, “Neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase (1 Cor. iii. 7). Christ further intimates that preachers ought not to be downcast if they see small and tardy fruits of their preaching, because God will, by the few converted by them, gradually convert many more. So S. James, by means of seven, or, as some say, by nine, whom he converted in Spain, converted the whole country.

Ver. 28. For the earth of itself bringeth forth fruit; first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear. Arabic, Because the earth alone bringeth forth fruit; . . . afterwards the ear is filled, and when the fruit is perfect, then the sickle is applied, because it is harvest. Thus, in like manner, by the preaching of the Gospel, the faith of Christ and His Church grew by various degrees of increase.
Moraliter: Expositors adapt these three expressions, blade, ear, full corn, to a threefold increment of virtues and merits. For the earth of our heart germinates, first, the blade, when it conceives good desires; secondly, the ear, when it proceeds to earnest working; thirdly, the grain, when it brings the works of virtue to full maturity and perfection. Theophylact says, “The blade is the beginning of good; the ear is when we resist temptations; the fruit is perfect work.”

Hear S. Gregory (Hom. 15, in Ezek.), “To produce the blade is to hold the first tender beginning of good. The blade arrives at perfection when virtue conceived in the mind leads to advancement in good works. The full corn fructifies in the ear when virtue makes such great progress that it has its perfect work.”

Christ here intimates that the Apostles, and those who work for the conversion of souls, ought with long-suffering to await the fruit of their labours, as husbandmen do. They ought to cherish those who are tender in the faith, and gradually lead them on to the height of virtue by teaching, admonishing, and exercising them. Let no one, therefore, says Bede, who is beheld to be of good purpose in the tenderness of his mind, be despised, because the fruit takes its rise from the blade, and becomes corn.
Symbolically: The Scholiast says the blade was in the law of nature, the ear in the law of Moses, the fruit in the Gospel.

Ver. 29. And when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he pulleth in the sickle. Greek, όταν δὲ παραδω̃ ό καρπός, that is, when indeed the fruit has brought itself forth; for fruit is here in the nominative case. The Syriac has, when it has become fat; Arabic, when it is perfect. This is a Hebraism, for in Hebrew verbs in the conjugation Hitpael have a passive, or reflex, signification, by which the agent receives the action in himself, so that the agent is the same as the recipient of the action. Wherefore some codices read, when the fruit has produced itself. Otherwise Maldonatus explains, “When the fruit, that is, the seed itself, which was the fruit of former seed, shall have brought forth, that is to say, other seed from itself.”

Ver. 33. And with many such parables He spake the word unto them, as they were able to hear it, that is, as they were worthy to hear, as Maldonatus says, from Bede and Euthymius. More simply and plainly, Theophylact and Franc. Lucas explain with such, i.e., common and easy parables, which all could understand, not with what was abstruse; so that they might take in their literal drift, and perceive that there was something heavenly and divine lying beneath the surface, although they did not comprehend each particular. Thus, by what was known of the parable they were stirred up by Christ to investigate what lay hid.

Ver. 36. As He was in the ship. The disciples took up Christ upon the deep sea, that they might cross over it with Him; Christ, I say, as He was in the ship, namely, sitting and teaching the people standing on the shore. This is plain from ver. 1, for afterwards it appears that He changed His position, sleeping in the ship. It marks the ready obedience of the disciples, and in turn Christ’s facile accommodation of Himself to their promptitude, that He might escape the tumult of the thronging multitude. The Syriac translates, when He was in he ship; the Arabic, they took Him up in the ship.

And there were other ships with Him. It happened by the counsel of God that the many persons who were carried in those ships should be spectators and witnesses of the miracle very shortly to be wrought by Christ, namely, the appeasing the tempest. 

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