Mark 4:35-5:20 – Who is this man?

Discussion question:

What’s the most impressive thing you have ever seen?

Read Mark 4:35-5:20


Jesus began his ministry by preaching the gospel (Mk 1:14-15) and after a growing popularity through healing he determined that he would preach the word (Mk 1:38). He taught in parables and when confronted with a paralysed man to be healed he even turned that into a sermon more than a healing moment. His teaching and his healing were amazing. From Mark 4:1 he had been teaching a crowd in parables (later explaining the meaning to the disciples).



  • 35-41 Jesus calms the storm
    • 35-38 Don’t you care?
    • 39-41 Why are you so afraid?
  • 5:1-20 Jesus restores a demon-possessed man
    • 1-5 No one was strong enough
    • 6-13 In God’s name don’t torture me!
    • 14-17 They were afraid
    • 18-20 Go tell everyone what the Lord has done for you

35-41 Jesus calms the storm

35-38 Don’t you care?

“Let us go over to the other side.” Incidentally, there are a couple of times in Mark’s gospel where Jesus crosses over a lake and some have noted these to be major change moments in the gospel. Another observation here is that Jesus initiates the move. This may be important when it comes to applying this passage.

“…they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.” Jesus stops preaching and is suddenly treated as baggage on the journey which he initiated. ‘They took him, just as he was.” At first reading this can just seem like incidental detail. That it was a spontaneous journey. He said, let’s go, and they went. Sounds all good and fine. But you might notice that in just one page later we’ll see an account of Jesus walking on water. He will show himself to be more masterful over the lake than any of these fishermen. They’ve only been sailing most of their lives – which is just a drop in eternity!

“There were also other boats with him.” Nobody seemed to be worried about a storm brewing – there were no warnings of disaster.

“A furious squall came up…” A sudden violent localised storm. The crew were unprepared for this life threatening moment.

“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” How marvelous is this picture of our lives? Masters of our own cruise ships with Jesus in the stern doing nothing until disaster strikes and then we go running to him!

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” This is the question that we all need to seriously ask of God. Does he care? How can we know that he cares? When everything is falling in around us, what good is knowing God if he’s just going to be asleep at the back of the boat (I know where the stern is). Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” and Mark 10:45 reports Jesus’ words, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to lay down my life as a ransom for many.” The disciples will yet learn how deeply Jesus cares about their lives. God cares, and what is equally cool is that he is powerful to help.

39-40 Why are you so afraid?

“He got up, rebuked…” Before Jesus says a word to the disciples in reply, he turns to the very thing that they are most afraid of right now and deals with it.

“…it was completely calm.” Jesus can tell a storm to be quiet. Mic drop.

“Do you still have no faith?” This is a curious question. But plainly he means, why don’t you trust me? What is the link between this episode and the measure of their faith? What else were they supposed to do? Join him at the back for a nap?! Well, the words in Verse 36 are curious to me. Rather than receiving the command from Jesus to go and then ask, how shall we get there? Or what shall we need? Or some sort of collaboration with Jesus – ‘they took him along’ as if he is merely a traveler – a burden – good for teaching and healing but not for sailing. Our walk with God is for all of life. When we wake and while we sleep. The disciples were still figuring Jesus out and had not computed yet that he is the Messiah, the Son of God most high. Verse 41 makes this clear.

5:1-20 Jesus restores a demon-possessed man

1-5 No one was strong enough

“…a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” We first met someone in this condition in Mark 1:23. In that episode, they needed no introduction to Jesus either. It is clear from the gospels that people were disturbed and affected by impure spirits – not to be confused with mental health issues. This episode will illustrate this clearly by a) talking to Jesus as though they already know him and b) being cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs – that is not a mental health issue.

“This man lived in the tombs…” The description in Verses 3 to 5 of the man is extremely sad. His disturbance was known by all in the town and they had tried to contain him. He was a burden to the town as no doubt they journeyed from caring for him to trying to restrain him. Nothing on earth was helping. His anguish and hurt was real.

6-13 In God’s name don’t torture me!

“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” The voice from the man was obviously distressed at the sight of Jesus. Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out (Verse 8) and the reply was to ask what does Jesus want? What is his intention? Legion knew Jesus and his power since he pleads not to be tortured! How ironic to plead not to be tortured when Legion was torturing this man. How interesting that there is self-awareness of being on the wrong side of the Almighty God and yet no intention to repent. The supernatural world is clear on who Jesus is. We are living in a kind of parable, where the kingdom of God is described but not seen, but one day everything will be revealed and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).

“…he begged Jesus…not to send them out of the area.” There may be a good correlation between the presence of these impure spirits named Legion and the region that they inhabited being a place that farmed pigs – thousands of them! Since pigs are unclean, it is not a god-fearing region. There is something to be said here about community belief. While remnants of believers may be found everywhere, we can find places that are characteristically for or against the gospel. This man may not just be an anomaly but a benefactor of the rebellion in the area. But God is able to impart grace in any location!

14-17 They were afraid

“…dressed and in his right mind…” Can you imagine the sight for those who knew him to be overcome by an impure spirit – day and night crying out and cutting himself. Now, he may as well be sitting on a chair drinking a cup of tea from a china cup!

“…and they were afraid…the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” An extraordinary response. A further indictment against the people of that region. They were not eager to know God. They were not seeking eternal life. Their heart was in fixing things with chains and making money from pig farming. This reaction to the sight of a calm man in his right mind is incredibly damning on them. They did not want or like Jesus and what he could do! This event produced fear not faith.

18-20 Go tell everyone what the Lord has done for you

“Jesus did not let him [go with him]…” Jesus healed the man – set him free – but had different plans for him than to join him.

“Go home to your own people and tell them.” While the people asked Jesus to leave, Jesus was not willing to allow the good news to leave them. “Home” for this man was obviously not among the tombs and we don’t know exactly where his home was but Mark tells us that he began sharing his testimony in the Decapolis which means ten cities. A map can be seen at this link… 

…it shows Jesus’ possible boat landing at the place marked Gergesa. From there the man headed south to the region of the Decapolis. The people responded to his testimony in amazement (Mark 5:20)

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Compare Mark 4:37-38 and Mark 5:3-5. What do these events have in common?

Q2. In these two stories, who had a vivid awareness of the identity and capability of Jesus? What does this reveal to us?

Q3. How did the disciples treat Jesus at the beginning of the account? How does Jesus want them to change?

Q4. Two responses recorded in these stores are fear and faith. What drives both of these reactions? Ie, when fear is described, what is the basis of it?

Q5. What do these accounts teach us about Jesus?

Q6. How can we answer the disciples’ question in Verse 38? (ie, don’t you care?)


Jesus is stronger than the weather and impure spirits. He is Lord of creation and Son of the Most High God. This is the revelation of these stories. Things that are just way out of our control and bring us fear are completely in submission to Jesus. He revealed his ability to overcome our greatest fears and yet he asks us, “where is your faith?” The things that we think we have put under our control (conquering the sea and suppressing evil) are nothing compared to Jesus’ tender care and total control over every situation. He can bring a tortured man to peace. He will bring all evil into torture one day. And he has come to demonstrate his love and care for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Challenge#1 – Working hard to be in control or to hand control to Jesus.

In the storm story, the disciples assumed responsibility in getting Jesus to the other side of the lake. That seems reasonable but when you have someone as unique as Jesus in your boat, you should treat him as something more than just cargo. After all, he will demonstrate in Chapter 6 that he can walk on water! Perhaps we could treat God as God and bring our fears to him knowing that he cares.

Challenge#2 – Does God care?

In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to lay down my life to ransom many.” When the disciples ask, “Don’t you care?” – this is their answer. Far greater than any storm or horror movie is the problem of sin and death in this world. Jesus has not come to simply speak in riddles (parables) but to do something about our biggest problem.

Challenge#3 – From fear to faith.

It took a storm to wake the disciples up and ask, ‘who is this man?’ It took years of torture before Jesus came to the man in the tombs and transformed his life. It would be years before the good news of Christ would finally be spread across the Decapolis to share, not only that he made this tortured man well, but that Jesus is risen from the dead and he is Lord. This world contains suffering and testing in order that God may transform our fear into faith. Many will respond to suffering by turning Jesus away – rejecting the Son of the Most High. But we pray that we will respond in faith and reply, “Jesus, I am afraid, and yet I trust in you.”

Mark 4:21-34 – Figuratively Speaking

Discussion question:

What do you remember about the parable of the four soils?

Read Mark 4:21-34


Jesus declared in Chapter 1 that he has come to preach the word about the kingdom of God (Mk1:14-15, 38, 2:2). In Chapter 4 he used a quote from Isaiah to explain that he will be preaching many things in parables so that those who have ears to hear will hear. It is those who hear and actively participate in their personal kingdom growth who will thrive (Mark 4:1-20). The kingdom of God is generous to those who will listen.



  • 21-25 The concealed message 
  • 26-29 The Kingdom of God grows mysteriously
  • 30-35 The Kingdom of God is not to be underestimated

21-25 The concealed message 

“He said to them…” The context tells us that he is speaking with his disciples (Mk 4:10) although the closing verse makes that ambiguous (Mk 4:34). This section is not simply more sermons to the crowd but a continued lesson on teaching in parables. The parables in this section continue on from the same conversation with the disciples.

“Do you bring in a lamp…” The question in Verse 21 has an obvious answer and yet Jesus seems to be doing the very opposite with his teaching. The point of the lamp is to be seen or to light up the room that it is brought into. Bad exegesis is to guess what the lamp represents. The context tells us that the lamp is to do with the kingdom of God (Mk 4:11) which is a message kept hidden or secret to those outside but revealed to those on the inside.

“…whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and …concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” At this time, Jesus wishes the kingdom to be taught in parables but explained to the disciples. There will come a time when what is hidden will be revealed to all. It is not hidden in order to stay hidden.

“If anyone has ears to hear…” Jesus said this already in 4:9. Jesus is not intending nobody to understand. But he knows that any time a prophet has spoken, people have closed their ears. It’s the same today. Churches preach the gospel all over the world with their doors wide open (when it is safe), even broadcasting their message across the internet. The kingdom is available to anybody who has ears to hear.

“Consider carefully what you hear…” Verses 24-25 are perhaps key to the whole section of 4:9-35. Investing in the kingdom of God through careful attention will return a blessing 100 fold. It is not a ‘works-based’ religion so that the more effort you put in the more you get out – but – the kingdom of God is full of truth and grace – as we listen and carefully consider all that God offers, we receive eternal life, his spirit and assurance plus more. Being careless with the gospel can result in being suffocated by the things of this world and falling away (see the four soils parable).

“…even what they have will be taken from them.” If this life is all you live and give no careful attention to the gospel, then even what you have will be taken from you. The kingdom of God needs careful and serious consideration.

26-29 The Kingdom of God grows mysteriously

“…what the kingdom of God is like.” Helpful to be reminded of what the subject matter is.

“…though he does not know how…” The kingdom of God is compared to gardening. There is cause and effect – seed sown and plants grow – but the mechanics are a mystery. Every day the garden changes shape and matures until it is time to harvest. The gospel will spread and spread as we sow and speak the word. The mechanics are a mystery. One day the ripe grain will be harvested. This is likely a reference to the kingdom of God being fully revealed (the second coming). We needn’t be anxious about how the kingdom grows any more than we are anxious about how wheat grows.

30-35 The Kingdom of God is not to be underestimated

“…like a mustard seed…” The size of the kingdom is not to be measured by its origin. A middle-eastern man growing up in backward Nazareth, for example, is revealed to be the eternal creator of the universe – our Lord and Saviour!

“…many similar parables…” The teaching method itself is like a mustard seed. It appears simple and weak and yet it has nourished the church for thousands of years. Everything was explained to the disciples and they would go on to write the New Testament for us.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Who is Jesus speaking to in this section? Look at Verses 10, 21 and 34. Is it clear or ambiguous? Looking at Verse 34, what does Jesus do differently in public to what he does with his disciples?

Q2. Jesus repeats in Verse 23 what he said back in Verse 9. What does this tell us about Jesus’ teaching?

Q3. In the first parable, the lamp is either the message that needs to be put in clear view or it is the thing that illuminates the room to reveal what was hidden. Which of those two options seems to fit best with the context? Does Verse 23 help you to decide?

Q4. How is the kingdom of God compared to growing seed? What do we need to be concerned about?

Q5. Considering the final parable in Verses 30-32, what are some unimpressive things that bloom into the kingdom of God? That is, what can the mustard seed be compared to?


Jesus did not speak parables in order to make complex ideas easy to understand (a common fallacy) but so that the message could be offered to us to carefully understand. If we give attention to Jesus and his ministry, then the kingdom of God is opened up for us. If we close our ears and look past it, then we will miss the greatest offer ever and anything we think we have now will one day be removed. The harvest involves a sickle! Jesus was beginning with 12 odd men and from the seed planted with them comes the church of Christ and the kingdom growth.


Challenge#1 – Making the most of the bible.

The word of God is given to us for our growth and benefit. If Jesus’ challenge is for us to have ears to hear, how then are you hearing? What is your weekly bible reading plan? If it’s non-existent, then talk together about how to get started. Next, talk about the method. Some helpful things include 1) read small chunks, 2) read a whole book over time, 3) make notes and lookup cross-references, 4) don’t use google, 5) pray to begin and end, 6) use the bible text to construct your prayer, 7) note down questions and work out how you’ll solve them.

Challenge#2 – Valuing the mustard seeds

Weekly church services and weekly Growth Groups are often unimpressive. Not that they are terrible (I certainly hope not) but they are small things which contribute to gospel growth. Over time, we will consume most of the bible together, a lot of doctrine, prayer times, outreach opportunities and personal challenges and growth. Like a plant growing in the garden, it doesn’t grow before your eyes, but you will one day see fruit on the tree! Be dedicated to church and Growth Group for your own growth as well as the growth of others.

Challenge#3 – Live for the kingdom

It’s no good to be aware of the kingdom of God but invest in the kingdom of this world. Note what Jesus said in Mark 4:25. The gospel is about making your choice now: kingdom of you or kingdom of God. Is Jesus your Lord or are you keeping that title for yourself? Be careful with the kingdom of God else you lose both it and whatever you are clinging to.

Mark 4:1-20 The parable of the soils

Discussion question:

What is the biggest threat to your faith (or spiritual well-being)?

Read Mark 4:1-20


Mark’s gospel began quickly. Both John and Jesus’ preaching ministry was about repentance and belief that the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus has attracted attention from all around through his healing ministry but he has said that the reason he has come is to preach.

He has called a group of disciples to follow him and has already stirred up trouble with regard to understanding the Sabbath. One stand out event so far was the healing of a paralyzed man where Jesus declared himself able to forgive sins – like only God can!

He has declared the those who do God’s will are included in his family.



  • Ready to teach in parables (1-2)
  • The parable told (3-8)
  • The problem with parables (9-13)
  • The parable explained (14-20)

Ready to teach in parables (1-2)

“Again Jesus began to teach by the lake.” Lake Galilee is where he has preached before and has been referenced previously. Mk 1:45, 2:13, 3:7. The first reference doesn’t mention a lake but the second implies that he has preached by a lake before. He was not able to preach in the synagogues since Mark 1:45.

“The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat…” This seems like a very practical way of creating a natural staged area where he faced the whole crowd and wasn’t engulfed. The point here is that it was a practical solution.

“He taught them many things by parables…” As stories go, they begin with setting a scene before they introduce the problem. Verse 2 can be seen as the problem of this narrative. Yes, he will tell a parable and then explain the parable and we will learn a great message from the parable…but the problem in this narrative is that he teaches in parables. This is made clear by verse 2 and verses 9-13. The parable is one layer of the story but the outer layer is that the kingdom is being revealed to those who God reveals it to.

The parable told (3-8)

“Listen!” This is not an incidental word. Verse 9 ends the parable with Jesus’ challenge to hear if you can! Can we listen?

“…some fell on…” Verses 3-8 are not challenging to listen to on a literal level. He speaks easy words to understand which you can draw on paper. Jesus explains the parable later, but for now, we just observe the four stages of his story. 1) a path 2) rocky places 3) thorns and 4) good soil. Drawing them out can be very helpful. How many of the four scenarios are commendable?

The problem with parables (9-13)

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” This is the challenge from Jesus. He began with “Listen!” and ends with “Did you listen?” 

“When he was alone… the others around him…” It seems odd to describe him as alone and yet accompanied by the 12 and others. Assuming that the writer is not an idot, this means that the large crowd of verse 1 was gone and now Jesus was alone – with those who were travelling with him.

“The secret of the kingdom of God…” Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark were “Repent for the kingdom of God has come near.” Now he talks about the secret of the kingdom of God. The key word here is secret. Paul will talk about the mystery of God which has now been revealed in Jesus (Eph 1:9; Col 1:26-27; 2:2). Jesus is the mystery of the kingdom revealed. He is the word of God. He will stand right before everybody and only those who will listen will see him.

“…has been given to you. But to those on the outside…” Jesus will speak plainly to his disciples but speak in parables elsewhere. These disciples will take the mysteries and give them to the world. Even then, only those who have ears will hear.

“They may be ever seeing but never perceiving…” Isaiah 6:9-10 are referenced here. There is not a word for word quote but idea for idea. Notably the original quote says healed rather than forgiven. When Jesus came, the big idea for God’s salvation was honed in toward forgiveness rather than prosperity. The idea is that the kingdom of God has come near – but who will enter? Once you understand grace and who Jesus is truly, and embrace him, the kingdom of God makes so much sense like you can’t understand why everybody else has a difficulty seeing it! It’s not rocket science. But people are kept from believing because of the deception of wickedness (2 Thess 2:10).

“Don’t you understand this parable?” The problem of the narrative of Mark 4:1-20 is about understanding and hearing. The good soils will be those who hear and embrace the truth – the word of God. What prevents producing crops in the kingdom is closed ears.

“How can you understand any parable?” I’ve come to notice that Jesus asks rhetorical questions from time to time (eg, Mk 10:18) but we actually need to answer the question! How will we understand any parable? What is the answer to that? Isn’t it that Jesus will tell us? That the word itself will explain it? How do can we have ears to hear? We must turn them on and turn to the bible and listen. The bible will explain what the bible means. There is more to it: The Spirit, who the Son and the Father sent, will lead us into all truth. There is an act of grace in having the secrets to the kingdom of God revealed. It takes the mercy of God. But on our par, it takes turning on our brain and opening our ears and listening to the bible. Jesus explained the parable to the disciples! That is how they would understand the parable.

The parable explained (14-20)

“…like seed along the path, where the word is sown.” The combination of the seed and the path are in focus. The seed is the word of God. God speaking. The bible. Sometimes when the word of God is shared, it falls on the path.

“…as soon as they hear it…” This is how the word is sown, by sharing it to those who can hear it.

“…Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” This is both sudden and criminal. Satan steals it away. The hearer treats it as junk. Message heard and ignored or ridiculed.

“…on rocky places…at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time.” These hearers receive the word of God with joy. It pleases them. Like a lovely and comforting story. Not immediately discarded but heard with a smile on their face.

“…when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Can Christians fall away? Not if they remain! But hearers with shallow roots quickly retreat when tested or challenged. Their understanding of the gospel is shallow. Any number of arguments or alternate options can knock them off their faith. Paul celebrated the church in Colossae because they had hear the true gospel and truly understood the grace of God (Col 1:3-8).

“…seed sown among the thorns…” The challenge to the third group is the struggles and worries of this life. If group 2 are easily challenged by their faith, group 3 are overwhelmed by the distractions of this world. Finances, ambition, entertainment, idolatry, everything else comes before Jesus. Colossians 1:15ff talks about the priority of Christ for life and salvation. 

“…worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word…” Matthew 6:19-33 contains Jesus’ advice to stop worrying and seek first the kingdom of God.

“…making it unfruitful.” The first three scenarios are unacceptable outcomes. It is not good enough to be 2 because it is better than 1! All three end in the same result – the word of God produces no fruit in them.

“…hear…accept…produce a crop…” This is the lesson. Listen. Adopt. Do.

“…some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” The word of God does not stop with this one person but produces more. Both good works and more seed sown by the farmer. The Twelve listening to Jesus will produce an international church that has not and will not end until Christ returns.

Suggested questions for running this study

Q1. Verses 1 and 2 set the scene for Jesus’ sermon. What stands out in the description of this scene?

Q2. Draw the parable as explained in Verses 3-8. Which of the four scenes are commendable?

Q3. What does Jesus reveal to be the real problem here according to verses 9-13?

Q4. Talk about each type of soil where the word is planted. What are the differences between all three? And which of the four soils are fruitful?


The kingdom of God is about hearing the gospel (Jesus the mystery of God revealed). To unlock the secret of the kingdom of God we need to listen, adopt and do what it says – like it is worth listening to (not to be stolen or discarded), like it is rich in knowledge and truth (deep roots), and like it is of highest priority (not strangled by the things of this world. Jesus is offering us the keys to the kingdom. What we need to do is stop and listen – have ears to hear and do what it says!


Challenge#1 – Sharing the word to those who don’t care.

There will be many who don’t know what to do with the message of the gospel. It will be either white noise to them or they will be repulsed and hate every word of it. Our task is not to only plant where there will be fruit, but to speak the word everywhere. There is nobody on the planet that doesn’t need to hear the gospel and have a chance to listen.

Challenge#2 – Hearing the depths of the gospel.

Simply knowing that God loves you and that Jesus is awesome is not enough to sustain you in your faith. Believing that church is lovely but not knowing your bible well is not a healthy place for anybody. The word of God is written for adults to dig deep and understand as well as for children to read and grasp. But we don’t want to remain children in the faith. The knowledge of God is vast and the bible is filled with robust theology. It can handle scrutiny and can stand the test of time. Only shallow readers and mockers think that it is not worth reading and knowing or that Jesus is only 2 dimensional. Set goals to continue to grow in your knowledge of God and his word.

Challenge#3 – Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise

Knowing what the Kingdom of God is about ought to set our compass on eternal things and not the things of this earth. Read Matthew 6:19-34; or Luke 12:22-31; or Colossians 3:1-18 during the week to pray about seeking our eternal treasure and setting our minds on heavenly things and not on earthly things. Write a list of all the things that fill your mind regularly with worry and take them all to God in slow and concentrated prayer. Cast your anxiety on him and seek first the kingdom of God. Once you have ears to hear, it makes perfect sense.