April 2, 2023
Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service
The Reading of the Word
We continue our series in the Gospel of Mark, and we come now to the last portion of this section of parables, as we hear from Mark 4:26-34.
Please listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this morning:
26 And he [that is, Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]
Let’s pray …
Prayer of Illumination
Lord, we plead before you this morning,
to give us understanding according to your word.
Let our prayer come before you now,
and deliver us according to your promises.
Our lips this morning have poured out your praise,
because you teach us your statutes.
Our tongues have sung of your word,
because we know that all your commandments are right.
And so, as we attend now to your word,
grant us understanding and be at work in our hearts,
for Jesus’s sake. Amen
[Based on Psalm 119:169-172]
Our text this morning is about the Kingdom of God. We have two parables, both about seeds, but both describing the Kingdom of God and its growth. [Edwards, 142]
And as we consider these parables, we’re going to ask two questions.
First, we’ll ask: What do these parables teach us about the work of the Kingdom of God in our lives?
Second, we’ll ask: What do these parables teach us about the work of the Kingdom of God during Holy Week? Holy Week is the period from Palm Sunday (which we recognize today) to Easter Sunday. It’s when we consider the events from Christ’s entering Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, to his death, and then his resurrection.
So first, we’ll ask what these parables have to teach us about the work of God’s kingdom in our lives. And second, we’ll ask what it has to teach us about Holy Week.
The Kingdom in Our Lives
First, then: What do these parables teach us about the work of God’s kingdom in our lives?
And I think we can see here at least four things about the means of grace that God uses in our lives. We can see that the means – the instruments – God uses in our lives to increase his Kingdom are often small, incomprehensible, organic, and high-yielding.
So they are often: small, incomprehensible, organic, and high-yielding.
What do I mean by that?
Well, first, the means that God uses for growing his kingdom in our lives and in this world are often small. And that comes out in both parables. And by small I don’t just mean in physical size, but in perceived significance.
Jesus begins in verse twenty-six saying: “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.”
Commentator James Edwards writes: “A more banal comparison could not be imagined.” He goes on: “The kingdom of God should be likened to something grand and glorious: to shimmering mountain peaks, crimson sunsets, the opulence of potentates, the lusty glory of a gladiator. But Jesus likens it to seeds. The paradox of the gospel – indeed, the scandal of the Incarnation – is disguised in such commonplaces. […] The routines of planting and harvesting are mundane clues to the nature and plan of God.” [Edwards, 142]
God uses small, seemingly insignificant things, as the means by which he grows his kingdom. Things that are like seeds.
And that theme is repeated in the second parable. In verses thirty and thirty-one he says: “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth.”
Now, as some people like to point out, the mustard seed is not, technically, the tiniest type of seed on earth. But Jesus’s point isn’t a technical one, but a proverbial one, and the mustard seed “stood for something proverbially small in Palestine.” [Edwards, 144]
Jesus’s first point with these parables is that the means God uses to grow his kingdom often appear to us to be small and insignificant. And upon reflection, we must realize that that is true.
Consider the Bible. When Saint Augustine, one of the greatest Christian theologians in history – when he first read the Bible, before his conversion, he was utterly unimpressed by it. He wrote later that at the time, when he “studied the Bible and compared it with Cicero’s dignified prose [the Bible] seemed to [him] unworthy” [Confessions III,5,9]
One theologian explains that Augustine’s disappointment “was not only because the Latin style of the translation of the [Bible he used] was inadequate but also because to him [the Bible’s] content itself did not seem satisfying.” [Benedict]
And Augustine is certainly not the only one to have that experience. Many who pick up the Bible are struck to find themselves immersed not in what seem to be deep metaphysical reflections, but in stories about events in ancient time and obscure places. The content of the Bible often seems to be of little significance to people, on an initial reading.
Or consider our sacraments. We had a baptism this morning … which to human eyes looks like a small and insignificant thing. A few words are spoken. A little water is poured on the head. And we’re supposed to think something of cosmic significance is happening there? In a few minutes we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We’ll each eat a small piece of bread and drink a tiny cup of wine. And we’re supposed to believe that something so powerful that it can impact our souls is occurring? It’s no wonder there have always been impulses to add further ceremony or mystery or elaborate introspection around the sacraments. In themselves they seem so small and insignificant.
Or consider our worship. From a human perspective, we’re just a group of people, gathered in a room, spending most of our time here singing songs and listening to a long talk. Are we really supposed to believe that these mundane tasks, repeated once a week, are of cosmic significance?
Or think about prayer: Spending a period of time, talking to someone you can’t see and who doesn’t seem to answer back? Is there anything that could seem less significant when it comes to affecting change in the world or in other people’s lives? No wonder we can’t get many people to come to prayer meeting!
Or think about the church as a body – as a community and an institution. We’re an odd group. We’re a community made up of people, many of whom would not gravitate towards one another in other settings … we’re heavily dependent on volunteers, completely dependent on donations … our membership requirements admit all believers, rather than singling out the strong and powerful … our whole leadership structure (especially as Presbyterians) is wildly inefficient … are we really supposed to believe that this institution, this community will be God’s agent of bringing his kingdom to bear in this world?
The same could be said for our evangelistic efforts – our feeble attempts to share our faith with non-Christians around us. Are we really supposed to believe that our awkward conversations with others about Jesus can affect eternity?
Or consider our covenant children. They may be cute. But they’re not especially impressive. Are we really to believe that our investing in them here, both in our homes and in our church life – that that sort of work will shape world history?
If we look around, we need to recognize that the things we are dealing with as Christians – the things our Christian lives are made of – look small and insignificant – they look mundane and banal. And claiming that they are the chief agents by which God will grow his kingdom – by which the Kingdom of Heaven will come to bear on our lives and on this world – can seem kind of laughable.
We often want something bigger. We want something stronger. Which is why, rather than gravitating to the ordinary means of grace God has given to us, we so often find ourselves more attracted to human-made spiritual displays of strength, or social activism, or political involvement, or a new self-help approach, or a new school of thinking, or a strong and charismatic leader, or something else as the real means by which Christ will establish and strengthen his kingdom. But while some of those things may have their place in the Christian life, they are not the primary means Jesus has said he will use to grow his kingdom. It’s not by things that seem big and strong and solid to our eyes. He says it will be by ordinary means that are more like seeds – even the smallest of seeds.
As the Apostle Paul puts it: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:26-29]
And so the first thing we see here is that the means God uses to grow his kingdom are often small and insignificant in our human perception.
The second thing we see is that the means of God’s growing his kingdom are often incomprehensible to us. And what I mean by that is that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to us how those small things God has given us, will actually grow his kingdom in our hearts and in this world.
We see this in verse twenty-six and twenty-seven. Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.”
If you stop … and step back … and think about it … seeds are weird. Like … if they weren’t real, then seeds would fit well in a science fiction novel. We’re so used to it that we miss it, but it’s kind of strange. You take a little thing that looks like a small, smooth pebble, or a fleck of bark, and you throw it on the ground outside, and give it a little time, and it will come to life and make more food for you. That’s weird. Even when we acknowledge that grain itself is food, it’s almost stranger to think that we live in a world where, to get more food, you just bury certain kinds of food and it’ll turn into more food, mostly on its own.
And even if we know all the biology and the organic chemistry behind this, if we step back, it should still fill us with wonder. And the same should be true for Jesus’s original audience, who didn’t have access to the biology and chemistry behind it all. Seeds, buried, turn into plants that grow us food. We may know that it happens – just as Jesus’s original audience did. But it’s an odd thing to wrap our minds around. On its surface it doesn’t make sense. It is, in a sense, beyond our full grasping. It’s a mystery. And that is the dynamic Jesus is bringing out in verse twenty-seven: the seed sprouts and grows, but we know not how.
And Jesus says that the same dynamic, of knowing that one thing leads to another, without really understanding how, is also true when it comes to the means of grace – the instruments God uses to grow his kingdom.
We know that if we plant a seed, it may yield a harvest or a tree. We know that it works. But most of us today, and everyone in the ancient world – we don’t really comprehend how it works. And in the same way, Jesus tells us that the means of grace that he has ordained can yield a spiritual harvest that escapes our understanding. And it can do that even if we don’t comprehend how it works.
When people talk to me, and ask about how to grow spiritually, I’m always happy to talk with them about the details of their struggles and where specifically they may need to grow, and what it might look like to address those specific areas in their lives. And those discussions are important. But at the same time, it’s not uncommon to see a very real level of disappointment in people’s eyes when they realize that while there may be beneficial ways to discuss their specific struggles and situations, I don’t have a secret silver bullet for spiritual growth. At the end of the day, the means of spiritual growth will usually boil down to the ordinary means of grace: reading or listening to the Bible, trying to pray, participating in corporate worship, forming deeper relationships within the Body of Christ.
And I think one of the reasons that disappoints us, is because we can’t wrap our heads around how such things will actually lead to real spiritual growth. And when we don’t understand it, we struggle to believe it.
We’d prefer something where we can see and understand each step of the process – something more mechanical. With a machine, we better understand how our input leads to one step after another within the machine until it produces the results we want at the end. And seeing that – understanding that – can reassure us. But God doesn’t really give us that with the means of grace. It’s more like farming. We’re told to scatter the seeds in our lives. But how the seeds become the growth and the fruit we long for is a mystery. But God tells us that such means will produce the harvest and growth we long for. And we don’t even have to understand the process for it to work, any more than an ancient farmer needed to understand organic chemistry in order to sow seed and reap a harvest.
And so, often, our call is not to understand each part of the process, but to trust God’s promise that the means of grace he’s given us will lead to the spiritual fruit and growth that we need if we receive them in faith. Because like seeds, despite our incomprehension, they will bear fruit.
That’s the second thing we see about the means God has ordained to grow his kingdom.
The third thing we see about the means of God’s kingdom work is that they are organic.
And I need to explain what I mean by that, because people use that word to mean different things.
I’m not using that word here to speak to their unity and diversity as some theologians have. I’m also not using it to refer to whether or not it employs pesticides as the USDA does. Rather, what I mean by “organic” here is that they seem to have a living power within themselves.
We see this in verse twenty-eight. After the seeds are scattered, Jesus says: “The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” In other words, it’s not by the strength of the farmer that the seed grows. There’s not a crank he turns to give it the power to grow. Rather, the earth – the combination of the seed, the soil, the sun, the water – “the earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”
There is a living force derived from the earth, the seed, and the sun, that leads to its growth. And that living force doesn’t come from us or through our efforts. Rather, God gives that power of life and growth through other means, outside of us.
And so it is with God’s means of grace – the things he uses to grow his kingdom.
One way to think about it is that while we are called to apply ourselves to the means of grace that God has given us, when it comes to God’s kingdom, it is not true that “you get out of it what you put into it” – not at all.
Another way to think about it is that the means by which God grows his kingdom in our heart and in this world are not mechanical. A man-powered machine – something that we turn a crank on or power by our own efforts in some way – a mechanical tool – manipulates and directs the energy we put into it … but in terms of power, you get out of it roughly what you put into it. You turn a wheel at a hand mill and the hand mill transfers the energy you put into it, but it doesn’t increase it. You peddle a bike and the bike directs the energy you put into it, but it doesn’t add to the energy. But planting and harvesting are different. You don’t turn a crank or a peddle to make the seed sprout and grow. The seed doesn’t just convert the energy you put into it. Rather, with a seed, it draws its power from another source – ultimately from the sun – so that by the sun’s generous dispensation, the plant has in itself a life energy that is independent of us for its strength and growth.
Jesus tells us that that is what the kingdom of God is like. And, indeed, that is a truth that the Church has affirmed for centuries.
One of the major controversies that Saint Augustine dealt with when he became not just a Christian, but later a bishop, was that some people wanted to claim that the power of the sacraments depended on the holiness and the spiritual strength of the one performing them. In other words, they wanted to treat the sacraments more like a manual machine – dependent on the human operator for their power or strength. But Augustine insisted that that was not the case: the sacraments had power in a believer’s life not because of the power in the one administering them or the power in the one receiving them, but rather the power came from God himself, by the Holy Spirit. When the sacraments were performed, the believers involved got more out of them than they put into them. That was God’s merciful provision in the gospel.
And the other means of grace are the same. We should diligently engage with them: the Scriptures, the sacraments, prayer, worship, Christian fellowship. We should also be diligent in all the ways God has called us to do his kingdom work: in being the Church, in evangelizing the nations, in discipling our covenant children. We are called to be diligent in all these things.
But it is essential that we know that we do not get out of these means of grace or these callings what we put into them. In each case, when growth occurs, it is not by our strength, but by God’s. The means God has ordained seem to produce by themselves “first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”
This truth comes out in the second parable of the mustard seed, as well. The plant that grew from the mustard seed, as one commentator points out, was kind of an aggressive one. It wasn’t really a tree but a bush. And actually, he explains, it was the sort of bush that “threatened to take over whatever area its seed […] took root in.” Reflecting on the nature of the mustard bush, he writes: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that Jesus deliberately likens the rule of God to a weed.” [Witherington, 172]
We can sometimes overly-worry about the Kingdom of God – as if it is an orchid, and it will not grow in the world unless it receives constant attention from us. But the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, is not like an orchid. It’s like a hearty weed. It has the power and the ambition to spread in the world even without our assistance.
And so the third thing we see here is that the means of God’s kingdom growing in our lives and in this world are not mechanical, but organic: by God’s dispensation, they have a living power that he gives to them so that they are not dependent on our strength to be effective.
Fourth, the means of God’s kingdom growth are high-yielding. God brings unexpectedly high yields from what appear to be small and insignificant inputs. And this is true both of how the kingdom of God grows in our own lives, and also how it grows in the world.
First, it’s true in our own lives. We may see more of an emphasis on this in verse twenty-nine. Earlier in this chapter, Jesus used the image of sowing seed in a field to discuss how individuals responded to the Word of God. And now, in some ways, the first parable here seems to focus on how the seed grows in the lives of those who are good soil. [Horne, 93] And in verse twenty-nine Jesus says: “But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The means of grace, sown in our lives, will yield a harvest of fruitfulness. Jesus does not spell out what that fruit is, but it would seem to be the fruit of the Kingdom in our own lives: love for God and love for neighbor; sincere faith, and hope, and love; spiritual maturity; and, of course, eternal life. That is a tremendous harvest to receive, but it is the harvest that the seeds of the Kingdom will produce in those who receive the means of grace while embracing Christ by faith.
And so, if you are frustrated with your own spiritual growth, Jesus here is calling on you to sow the means of grace in your life: Scripture, prayer, the sacraments, worship, Christian fellowship. And though it may take time, if received by faith, these means will produce a harvest beyond what you can imagine. They are the primary means by which God grows his kingdom in our personal lives.
But also, they are the primary means by which Christ grows his kingdom in our corporate lives – how he grows his kingdom in this world.
And in some ways, that may be especially emphasized in the second parable. At the end of it, in verses thirty-one and thirty-two Jesus says of the mustard seed: “when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
From the small seed of the means the Lord has provided, the Kingdom of God will grow into something that will expand out, grow in scope, and invite others in –the birds who take refuge within it. [Edwards, 145; Leithart, 18]
By the humble means of grace, God will grow his Church. And with the Church’s humble growth, the Lord will bring others into his kingdom, who will find a home there, just like the birds find a home in the mustard bush. As we reach out to others with the gospel, doing the work of evangelism, as we raise our children in the faith, doing the work of covenant nurture, God is growing his kingdom in the world, making a home for people within his family.
But even as that happens, it’s worth noting that even when God’s kingdom grows into something of importance and size in this world … it still may not look very glorious. Elsewhere God describes kingdoms as being like cedar trees. [Ezekiel 17; Daniel 4] Cedar trees are large, and majestic. Which makes it striking that when he describes his own kingdom here, he compares it to a mustard bush. It doesn’t look so grand, perhaps. Yet by his grace, God says that it’s the mustard bush of his kingdom that will welcome in outsiders (the birds), and in which they will find a home.
And so, fourth, we see that God brings unexpectedly high kingdom-yields from what appear to be small and insignificant inputs.
Taken together, the means by which God grows his kingdom in our lives, and in the world today, are often small, incomprehensible, organic, and high-yielding.
That’s what these parables teach us about the work of the Kingdom of God in our lives.
The Kingdom in Holy Week
And that is significant for our Christian lives and our Christian walk.
But, I would argue, especially as we consider this text on Palm Sunday, that these parables don’t just teach us about the work of God’s kingdom in our lives, but they also have something to teach us about the work of the Kingdom of God during Holy Week.
Because in Holy Week – in the stretch of redemptive history from when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through his death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday – we also see that the means by which God establishes his kingdom, are through things that appear to us small, incomprehensible, organic, and high-yielding.
First, the events of Holy Week remind us that God has established his kingdom in this world through Christ by means that appear at first to be small and of little significance.
On Palm Sunday the people cheered for Jesus as they anticipated that he would grasp the reins of power in a great act of strength, by means that seemed big and bold. But when it became obvious that Jesus would go to his death, those who cheered him scattered. After all, they reasoned, how could anything of significance come from something so weak, and so unremarkable, as a Jew being executed by the Romans in their time and place?
And that’s a question that people still struggle with today.
In a 2008 debate against the scientist and Christian John Lennox, the atheist scientist Richard Dawkins listed all the reasons why he thought that the Christian beliefs of Lennox were ridiculous. But at the end of the list – at the climax of the list, really – Dawkins highlighted this – he said:
“In particular, [John Lennox] believes that the Creator of the universe, the God who devised the laws of physics, the laws of mathematics, the physical constants – who devised the parsecs of space, billions of light-years of space, billions of years of time – that this paradigm of physical science, this genius of mathematics, couldn’t think of a better way to rid the world of sin than to come to this little spec of cosmic dust and have himself tortured and executed so that he could forgive […]. That,” Dawkins proclaimed, “is profoundly unscientific. Not only is it unscientific, it doesn’t do justice to the grandeur of the universe. It’s petty, and small-minded. And that’s the God John Lennox believes in.” [6:43-8:22]
In the first century and in the twenty-first century, a man being executed on a hillside was a small and pathetic thing. And yet, in Holy Week we remember that it was by that seemingly small and pathetic thing that God would establish his kingdom.
Second, it was an incomprehensible thing. We struggle, often, with making the connections between Jesus’s suffering and death on one hand, and our salvation on the other.
There are, to be sure, answers to those questions – just as there are biological answers to how seeds grow into plants. Christ went to the cross on behalf of his people. There he took our sins upon himself. He received the penalty that we deserve for our sin and rebellion against God, so that if we trust in him, we would be saved. He could serve as our substitute because he was fully man. He could endure our punishment because he was fully God. And so by his wounds we are healed. By his death we are forgiven.
We can know those things. But we can’t really wrap our minds around it all. Technical questions may linger about how Christ achieved what he achieved. Big-picture questions remain about why he would do this for people like us. In the end, while there is much we can know about it, we cannot wrap our minds fully around the work of Christ for us in his death.
And yet, it is in his death that Christ has established his kingdom. It is by his death that he has brought us into his kingdom. It is through his death that we continue to grow in his kingdom. And it is because of his death that he continues to draw people into his kingdom.
That is, in many ways, incomprehensible to us. But it’s still true. By his death, Jesus has accomplished our redemption and established his kingdom.
Third, it is, in a sense, organic. In Holy Week, Jesus establishes that the power of life in his kingdom will always come from him, and not from us.
In first-century Jerusalem the Zealots thought that they could establish the Kingdom of God by their own power through political revolution. The Pharisees thought that they could establish the Kingdom of God by their own power through religious observance and good works. [Edwards, 144] We can often be the same. But in Holy Week, in his death and resurrection, Jesus established, once and for all, that he would be the power and the source of all life in his kingdom, and we would not be the power behind his kingdom.
His kingdom would contain the power of life because Jesus himself is at the center of it. We could be grafted in and receive life from him, but we ourselves would never be the true source of that life.
In Holy Week we see that the organic life-giving foundation of God’s Kingdom is Christ himself.
Fourth and finally, the events of Holy Week have led, and will lead, to a great harvest beyond what we can imagine.
Christ went to the cross, and he died for his people.
And three days later we begin to see the harvest of his death.
It began with the resurrection of Jesus himself, in which he conquered the power of sin, and death, and hell. It continued as Christ ascended to heaven, to reign on high until the day when he would return.
But as the Apostle Paul reminds us, the resurrection of Jesus was only the firstfruits of the harvest. [1 Corinthians 15:23]
Because in the death and resurrection of Christ, God has established his Church; he has given new life to all who trust in him, he has grown his family here on earth; he has transformed hearts, lives, families, communities, and even whole societies. That is what he has done, and is doing, but the harvest of Christ’s death and resurrection will not stop there.
Because by his death and resurrection Jesus says he will make all things new. He will defeat all of his enemies. He will raise all of his people – all who have placed their trust in him – he will raise them from the dead that they might dwell with him, in his presence, in a new heaven and a new earth, forever. That is the ultimate yield of Christ’s death and resurrection.
And that harvest is the source of our Christian hope.
It is why we celebrate the death of Jesus this week: because we know the harvest it will yield.
It is why we worship Christ our King: because we know what he has accomplished on our behalf.
And we know that he continues to be at work.
As James Edwards puts it: “The faith that Jesus requires of disciples is to sleep and rise in humble confidence that God has invaded this troubled world not with a crusade but with a seed, an imperceptible ‘fifth column’ that will grow into a fruitful harvest.” [Edwards, 144]
And so, brothers and sisters, let us trust in the seed that was sown, in Christ’s death, in his resurrection, and in his means of grace. For we know that by them, our Lord will bring about a harvest of eternal life.
This sermon draws on material from:
Augustine, The Confessions. Translated by Maria Boulding. Second Edition. The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2012.
Bayer, Hans. Introduction and notes to Mark in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.
Benedict XVI. “General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 9 January, 2008: Saint Augustine of Hippo (1)” https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20080109.html (It was Philip Kosloski’s 8/28/22 article “Why St. Augustine thought the Bible was boring” that made me aware of this address: https://aleteia.org/2022/08/28/why-st-augustine-thought-the-bible-was-boring/)
Dawkins, Richard, and John Lennox. “Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox – Has Science Buried God? Debate” October 21, 2008. Fixed Point Foundation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVEuQg_Mglw
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.
Horne, Mark. The Victory According to Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003.
Leithart, Peter J. The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes: Volume Two, Jesus as Israel. Monroe, LA: Athanasius Press, 2018.
Witherington, Ben III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001.
Wright, N.T. Mark for Everyone. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
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