Dead Poets Society & Mark 4

I wonder if any of you are familiar with the 1989 film starring Robin Williams, called Dead Poets Society?

Dead Poets Society begins in 1959 at an elite boys preparatory school, called Welton Academy located in New England. Todd Anderson, a shy senior student is assigned to be Neil Perry’s roommate. (Neil was a popular student under enormous pressure from his parents to attend Yale Law school like his brother). Todd Anderson quickly becomes a part of Neil Perry’s group of five friends.

On the first day of class, the boys become enthralled by the odd teaching methods of their new English teacher, Mr. John Keating, who was quite different from the traditional teachers they were accustomed to at Welton. . Mr. Keating was a Welton alumnus himself and he encouraged his students to “gather ye rosebuds and carpe diem” and make their lives extraordinary. One of Keating’s bizarre lessons included ripping out the introductory chapter of their textbooks, Understanding Poetry, because Mr. Keating believed the chapter was excrement! Mr. Keating also has the boys stand on top of their desk to teach them about perspective, and he employs various methods to teach them to think for themselves and even create poetry.

On one such teaching occasion, Mr. Keating brings the students out into a courtyard. He instructs three students to begin walking around the courtyard, and soon the three students are all walking uniformly around the courtyard. All of the students begin to clap in unison until Mr. Keating stops them. Mr. Keating uses this to explain the definition of conformity.

You can watch the short clip here! 

“All right. Now, I didn’t bring them up here to ridicule them. I brought them up here to illustrate the point of conformity: the difficulty in maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others. Now, those of you — I see the look in your eyes like, “I would’ve walked differently.” Well, ask yourselves why you were clapping. Now, we all have a great need for acceptance. But you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, “That’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the Difference.” Mr. Keating

Mark chapter 4 presents us with a similar learning opportunity from a teacher with unique teaching methods.

We know from previous chapters that Jesus made a viral name for himself. The Pharisees and the scribes totally reject Jesus’ authority, and they, along with the Herodians, are plotting to assassinate him. In our last chapter, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees, and they made an astounding remark that Jesus was only able to do his work due to the prince of demons! Recall that when Jesus heard this, he responded to their claims with a parable.

This is how we were first introduced to parables; when Jesus used one to speak to his adversaries. Now in this chapter, Jesus will use parables to teach the apostles and the large crowds of people who are following him everywhere.

If you’re unsure of what a parable is, then I want you to think back to your childhood. Remember all those fables that were read to you at bedtime or while you were at school? Maybe about The Boy who Cried Wolf and no one believed him when there was actual danger? Or perhaps the story about The Tortoise and the Hare which teaches us that diligence and patience can be more valuable than raw talent?

Parables are quite similar to fables (though they do not primarily consist of animal characters like fables!). A parable, for the purpose of this study, should be understood as the frame that supports a window.


If you have ever been asked to look out of a window and describe what you see, I would wager that you did not describe the color of the wood frame that holds the window in place, or the glass panel of the window itself, or even the window sill. You will likely describe the view you see through the window like grass, or trees, or the sky.

Jesus uses parables just like we use windows; as a way to view through and into the truth about God and the truth about life in the Kingdom of God. So when Jesus tells a parable, imagine his story as the window. You have to look through the characters, setting, and morals of the parable and get to the picture Jesus is painting for you. 

Jesus chooses to use parables with both his followers and adversaries because Jesus wants people to know the cost of following him. It takes time to critically think about the truths that Jesus present to us. So Jesus employs Mr. Keating’s strategies. Rather than shooting us straight, Jesus gives us something to chew on for a little while. Often, we make the mistake of giving up on the Bible when we don’t understand parts of it, but this is just an invitation to get to know Jesus and the God of the bible better. It’s Jesus way of inviting us up onto his desk, and seeing the world from his perspective.

It’s like putting together a puzzle. The first thing you do after you dump out all the puzzle pieces is look at the picture on the puzzle box and view the whole picture. Then you begin to slowly and patiently assemble the puzzle pieces together until the full picture is in view.

assemble challenge combine creativity

Photo by Pixabay on

That is what we are doing when we read Mark Chapter Four. Jesus himself tells the crowds, “Consider carefully what you hear” and “whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus is asking us to put our thinking caps on, listen to his words, and carefully piece together what he means. We are very privileged that his own disciples did not always understand what he was saying either. On some occasions, his disciples ask him in private what the parables mean, and Mark graciously records Jesus explanations to the parables.

The one parable in this chapter that Jesus explains to us involves seeds being sown by a Farmer. It’s a story about how some seeds grow and reproduce and some seeds don’t grow at all.

man planting plant

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on

When you read the chapter for yourself, one question I’d like you to keep in the back of your mind is this:

You are reading and studying God’s word. Jesus is the farmer spreading the seeds, and if you are still reading this, then he is throwing seeds to you! Take a look at your life and ask yourself where you think Jesus’ seeds/truth are falling in your own life? Do you believe in Jesus but have lots of worries and anxiety in your life? Do you have too much going on? Or do you think you’re in a good spot, the seeds are growing, and you can feel growth in your heart? That’s the whole purpose of Jesus parables. Let’s consider his words together, and then do some self-reflection. What do these parables mean for us today?

There are two roads in Mark’s gospel

belief or unbelief.

They are beginning to diverge.

Which road will you take?




I don’t think there are many that need explaining in this chapter. Two might be Parable & Kingdom of God. Remember if you have a question, you can always comment on the post or shoot me an email!


Remember when you’re reading parables to view the story as the window. What is Jesus trying to show us by using these parables?


The last part of Chapter four narrates a story we’ve yet to talk about. Jesus and his apostles take a boat ride across the sea of Galilee, and things get stormy. The apostles are scared to death, and run to Jesus who was in the hull of the boat sleeping to do something. Read Chapter Four to learn what Jesus does…

The Parable of the Sower

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.[a] 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

A Lamp Under a Basket

21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

The Parable of the Seed Growing

26 And he 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.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

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.

Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark Chapter 4 Study Guide Free Download

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