Chapter 4

Jesus explains why he uses parables, and tells the parables of the sower, mustard seed and lamp under a basket. He also calms a storm that has the discples thinking that we all are going to drown.

Once again Jesus went down to the lake and continued to teach the crowd that had gathered there. So many had come to hear him that he decided to get into a boat and push out a short distance. To the people on shore he taught many spiritual truths using stories from everyday life. Here are some of his parables: (1-2)

“Once there was a man who went out into his field to plant a crop. As he scattered the seeds, some fell along the edge of the field where the ground hadn’t been plowed. It was easy for birds to fly in and snatch them off the hard ground. Other seeds fell on the thin layer of soil covering hard rock. They sprouted quickly because the soil was so thin. But when hot weather came the plants withered because their roots were shallow. Some seeds fell into thorns that grew quickly and choked the young plants so they were unable to produce grain. But other seeds fell on good soil and the plants sprouted and grew. Some produced thirty grains per plant, others sixty, some one hundred.” Jesus warned the crowd, “Whoever has ears to hear should pay attention to what I have said.” (3-9)

Later on when the crowd had left, a few remained to be with Jesus. We, the Twelve, were there as well. When asked about the parables, Jesus said, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been revealed to you, but to those on the outside (like those who had just left), my words are no more than stories. The Old Testament prophecies are being fulfilled that say, ‘They look and look but see nothing; they listen and listen but don’t understand; if they did, they would change their ways and be forgiven.’” (10-12)

Then Jesus said, “Don’t you understand the parable of the sower? If you can’t understand this simple parable, how can you understand all the others? Let me explain. The farmer sows the seed, that is, the message of the kingdom. Some of it falls on the hard ground alongside the field. The hard ground represents people who hear but immediately Satan comes and carries away what they have just heard. The seeds sown on shallow soil are people who, when they hear the message, receive it immediately with joy; but since they don’t have deep roots, they last only a short time. When trouble comes and they are persecuted for what they believe, they deny their faith and quit. The seeds that fall among the thorns are people who hear the message but worldly concerns, the seductive lure of wealth, and all their other passions come in and choke the message so that it produces nothing. But the seeds sown on good soil are those who hear and accept the message. Some produce a harvest of thirty to one, others sixty, and some even one hundred to one. (13-20)

Then Jesus asked, “Would it make sense to light a lamp and then hide it under a basket or under the bed? Of course not! Lamps belong on lamp stands. Nothing is hidden that won’t be disclosed, and nothing is kept secret that won’t be brought to light. Whoever has ears to hear should pay attention to what I have said.” 

Then Jesus added, “Pay attention to what you hear because the more carefully you listen the more you will understand. Careful listening is rewarded with greater understanding. Whoever listens carefully to my teaching will understand even more, but as for those who are not paying attention, what little they do know will be taken away. (21-25)

Jesus went on to say, “Let me tell you another story so you’ll understand what the kingdom of God is like. A farmer takes some seeds and scatters them in a field. Then, night and day, whether the farmer is asleep or awake, the seeds begin to sprout and grow although he doesn’t have the faintest idea how it all happens. It is the soil all by itself that produces the crop; first it sends up the stalk, then the head appears, and finally the head is filled with grain. As soon as the grain is ripe, the farmer takes his sickle and starts to reap because harvest time has come.” (26-29)

“How else,” pondered Jesus, “can I describe to you the kingdom of God? What kind of picture can I draw so you will see what it is like? Here’s one. The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed. It’s the smallest of all seeds, but when planted in the ground it sprouts and in time becomes the largest plant in the garden. It grows so large that birds can come and build their nests in its shade. 

Jesus used many other parables like these to teach the message to people in so far as each was able to understand. In fact, he always used parables to teach the crowds, but when he was alone with us, he explained more fully what they meant. (30-34)

That very evening Jesus said to us, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” So we left the crowds and set out in the boat in which Jesus was already sitting. (There were other boats nearby.) Suddenly a fierce storm arose and the waves began to break over into the boat and fill it with water. However, Jesus remained sound asleep in the stern with his head on a boat cushion.

We woke him up, shouting, “Master, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?”

So Jesus got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet now! Settle down!” Immediately the wind died down and a great calm settled over the lake. Then Jesus said to us, “Why were you so frightened? Are you still without faith?

We were terrified by what Jesus had just done. “Who is this man?” we asked one another. “Even the wind and the sea do whatever he tells them.” (35-41)