The Gospel of Mark #6 – Study Questions
Mark 4:1-34 (CGS#6)
INTRODUCTION: Chapter four in Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus teaching a large crowd by the Sea of Galilee. Mark just says, “the sea,” and assumes the reader understands the location. What is Jesus teaching? A parable. What is a parable? It is a story that utilizes common or understood imagery to make a point and shake the listener out of complacency. One scholar explains, “Parables usually engage listeners, create reflection, and promote action. They are pointed and clinching arguments for a too often slow-minded or recalcitrant audience. They seek to goad people into the action the gospel deserves and the kingdom demands. The parables compel us—for Christ’s sake, literally—to do something! Parables do not seek the “mild morality” about which Kierkegaard lamented but radical cross-bearing, God-imitating response worthy of the name “conversion.” So Jesus’ teaching here in Mark four goes right along with what we have come to understand about the nature of discipleship, that is, to follow Jesus is a whole-life and costly endeavor. Here’s how the parables of Mark 4:1-34 make that point.
The parable of the sower – Saving faith, like the seed that falls on good soil, produces fruit in the life of the believer. Or, as James would later put it, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” 
The parable of the lamp – No one turns on a lamp to just to throw a blanket over it black out the light. Neither do the children of God who are to radiate the love of God act in a way that blacks it out.
The parable of the seed growing – A freshly planted field of corn doesn’t look like much, but in due time, it will yield quite the harvest. So it is with the kingdom of God. At times the faithful work of the believer may not look like much, but in God’s time and according to God’s will, it gives way to a full harvest.
The parable of the mustard seed – Faith can seem small and insignificant, especially in the face of the troubles and pain of this age. However, faith when rooted in God, will give way to something significant.
These parables and others in the Gospels can be difficult to understand at first reading. Why? Well, because many of the images don’t always resonate with us as modern readers. But, when we take time to work through them and realize that Jesus’ intention is to use them not just to bring clarity but move us towards whole-hearted following and obedience. Remember, belief and obedience are often thought of as separate concepts in our modern moment. But the Bible never teaches that. Instead, it teaches that right belief in God results in obedience to God. Each of these four parables get at that truth in their own way. Or, another way of saying it is that faithfulness is not an accidental characteristic.
GETTING STARTED – As a group, take time to answer this question. What was a time or an experience in your life where you accidentally did something correctly? Have you had more accidental or intentional success in your life?
IN THE WORD – Let’s dig back into the passage(s). It is important to strengthen our muscles in reading God’s Word. On Sunday, we walked through the passage in the sermon. Hopefully, that helped you to see the landmarks of the passage with fresh eyes. Now, with your group, go back through it and see what God is saying to you specifically.
First, before you read the passage, take a moment to ask God’s Spirit to quiet your mind and heart and to illuminate the text to you. Second, read the passage aloud to the group. Then, follow the simple method below. (O.P.A)
Observe: Make 8-10 observations from the passage. Pay close attention to observe and note repeated words and phrases, names, places, and themes.
Principles: From your list of observations, what patterns or big ideas do you see emerging? Can you distill it down into 2-4 big idea truths?
Apply: Moving from your list of principles, it is time to apply God’s Word. Remember, we believe that God’s Word is living and active and that it can change the way we live Monday- Friday. What is one tangible way to apply a truth from your list above?
Note: Another way to approach your time together is to talk through the following questions. 
- Do you agree with the idea that belief and obedience cannot be separated? What informs your answer? Where do you find support in the Scriptures for your answer?
- We see in Jesus’ example and in the example of the Apostles that perseverance and resiliency are important traits of a disciple. What does perseverance and resiliency look like in your spiritual life? Think about both small and big examples.
- What types of heart do you see in the people around you? How can you see yourself in their situation? Or when was a time in your life when you were in a similar position?
- What does this parable tell you about the work of God in people’s lives?
- How does this encourage you to persevere with sharing the gospel?
 Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, Second Edition. (2018), 9.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jas 2:17.
 Questions 3-5 are adapted from: Jason Meyer, Mark for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2022).