Mark 4:1-5

Mark 4:1 (KJB)
And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

After Jesus had spoken in the house, He then departed out of the house and went outside by the sea side. At this point there was a great multitude of people who were following Him to hear His teachings and this chapter brings parables which are teachings of the Kingdom designed for the unsaved. Since Jesus had great multitudes on the sea shore waiting for Him, it would have been impossible for Him to stay on the sea shore. He had planned to teach this crowd and now the only way that He would be able to reach them is that He had to launch out in a boat and face the crowd. The normal routine for a speaker was to sit down while the multitude stood to listen to the speaker. (Luke 8:4 KJV) And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: This crowd was immense, in fact there were many from surrounding towns who came out to listen, so the crowd was not just limited to the people of Capernaum.

Mark 4:2 (KJB)
And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

Jesus then began to address the crowd but instead of using a direct approach in teaching, He uses parables to teach this crowd. Since the crowd would have been familiar with the agrarian culture, Jesus begins to tell parables which are taken from that life. A parable is something which is placed beside something, in other words, it is a method of comparison. The parables of Jesus came to be known as earthly stories with heavenly meanings. These parables were not just random stories but they were the teachings of the doctrine of Jesus. In other words, there would be nothing in the parables which would contradict the straightforward teachings of Jesus. All of the teachings of Jesus, whether plain or in parables, represented His doctrine which was the soul saving Gospel. (2 John 1:9 KJV) Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

Mark 4:3 (KJB)
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

Jesus begins by the word hearken which means “listen” but this word means “listen with understanding.“ Since there were many people here, Jesus begins the parable by speaking generically about a sower who had gone forth to sow seed. It does not matter what type of seed for the purpose of the parable. Since many were farmers or vineyard growers, they would have been familiar with the sowing of seeds.

Mark 4:4 (KJB)
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

There were paths which separated the different fields and these paths would have hardened soil because of all the traffic which they endured. The dirt would be packed down making it seem like it was a tempered brick. So as the sower was sowing the seed on the soil, some of those seeds would have fallen on the paths and because they were so hard, the seed would not fall into the ground but stayed on top and would be easy prey for the birds. When they spotted the seeds on the path, they would swoop down and eat them. The word “devour” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “consume.” To consume something causes it to disappear. So the seeds would have completely disappeared after the birds had consumed them.

Mark 4:5 (KJB)
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

Then some of the seeds had fallen on places of stone. This does not indicate that the field was filled with stones because before it can be readied for planting, it has to be cleared of anything which could cause a hand plow to get stuck. What is in view here is the soil which looks like the other soil, but the difference is that underneath is a plate of rock which has only a small layer of soil on top giving the appearance that it is fine for planting. The shallowness of the soil on top of the rock was enough for the plants to sprout immediately. This would be in contrast to those plants where the seed fell on ground which was deeper and would take a little longer to sprout.