The lion of St Mark


Chapter 4: Overview

Read through this chapter and see that most of it is a discourse by Jesus (he does the talking) (4,1-34). What might be the theme of the discourse?
To this at the end of the chapter, the story of the calming of the storm has been added (4,35-41). Notice how it opens with a new beginning.

Have a first look at the discourse. Its equivalent is the third discourse of the Gospel of Matthew, Mt 13. Make a quick comparison. Where do the two discourses part company?

As background for this discourse, review our reading of 1,14-15 and note also 3,35.

We look first at how the evangelist opens the discourse, 4,1-2 and then how he closes it, 4,34-35. What is the effect of this?

What we need to do next is to see whether there is any special arrangement of this teaching in parables. We have already seen that there are such special arrangements in 2,1-3-6 and 3,20-35. Maybe we can look for something similar here.

We have been told that Jesus likes to speak in parables (3,23) and that is repeated here in this discourse (4,2.11.33). We can say that a parable is a story or image taken from real life which points towards a deeper meaning. That is made explicit in 4,26 and 4,30; it is implicit in 4,3 (see 1,15).

We have therefore three agricultural parables, one at the beginning and two at the end. Can you find any links between them?

What then forms the middle part of the series? Look closely at what is present in verses 11,13,21 and 24 but not in verses 26 and 30.

Using that as a clue, how then can we further divide the middle portion? Above all, what part of Jesus' teaching becomes the centre of this teaching on parables?

Look for the key word which runs through this discourse. In Greek it appears eleven times but (as usual) translations may not be consistent.

It is now time for my response.

The Sunday Gospel

This parable discourse is read as a Sunday Gospel in cycle A where it comes from the third discourse of the Gospel of Matthew.

However, 4,26-34 is read on the 11th Sunday of cycle B. This includes the sowing parable which is special to Mark (4,26-29) as well as a repetition of the mustard seed parable (4,30-34). This parable has a notably different context in Mark compared with Matthew (Mt 13,31-34). More on this when we come to our reading.

We are therefore ready to move on and read the first parable, Mk 4,1-9, sowing the seed.