Mark 4: Jesus Teaches with Parables

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 41–42

The word parable comes from a Greek word that means “to set alongside” or, in other words, to set one thing next to something else in order to compare them. Jesus told parables, or stories, of things the people were very familiar with that could be compared to a spiritual truth. The introduction to Matthew 13 (p. 22) explains why Jesus used parables and gives some ideas for interpreting their meanings.

Understanding the Scriptures

Mark 4

Sower (vv. 3, 14)Someone who plants seeds (to sow means “to plant”) 
Way side (v. 4)Hard ground that has been walked on (such as a path or road) 
Fowls (vv. 4, 32)Birds 
Deceitfulness (v. 19)Misleading, lying 
Lusts of (v. 19)Longing for bodily or evil desires 
Bushel (v. 21)Large basket 
Abroad (v. 22)Known 
What measure ye mete (v. 24)The way you measure, or judge, the things you are given 
Measured (v. 24)Given 
Sickle (v. 29)Curved knife to cut stalks of grain 
Expounded (v. 34)Explained the meaning of 
Hinder (v. 38)Rear, back part 
Rebuked (v. 39)Commanded to stop 
man sowing


Studying the Scriptures

Do both activity A and B as you study Mark 4.

Activity A iconMeet the Press

  1. 1.

    Imagine you have been assigned to speak about the Church to a group of newspaper reporters. Tell which parable from Mark 4 you could use to answer each of the following questions:

    • What is the future of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

    • Why does the Church send out so many missionaries?

    • How do you explain the remarkable growth of the Church, considering that it is fairly new compared to most world religions and started quite small in the frontier United States?

  2. 2.

    Tell which parable seems to apply to the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley: “The Church is growing in a marvelous and wonderful way. … It is spreading over the Earth in a miraculous manner” (in Steve Fidel, “Members Living Abroad Outnumber LDS in U.S.,” Deseret News, 26–27 Feb. 1996, A2).

Activity B iconAnswers to Important Questions

There are four questions asked in Mark 4:35–41. The disciples asked the first and the fourth questions; Jesus asked the second and third. No answers were given for any of the questions, but by carefully reading the story and by analyzing what we know about Jesus and His disciples we can think about possible answers.

  1. 1.

    Write the first question and the answer you think Jesus would give.

  2. 2.

    Write the second and third questions and answer them as if you were the disciples.

  3. 3.

    Write your own answer to the fourth question.

  4. 4.

    What message could this experience have for someone today?

Christ calming the sea