1Jesus began teaching beside the Sea again. So many people came to listen to him that he climbed into a boat and sat in it on the water while the crowd listened from the shore. 2He illustrated his teachings using many stories.
3“Listen,” he said. “A sower went out to sow. 4Now as he was scattering the seeds, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on stony ground where there wasn't much earth. In the shallow soil the plants started growing quickly, but because the soil wasn't deep 6they were scorched when the sun came up. Since they didn't have any real roots, they soon withered. 7Other seeds fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and choked the sprouting seeds, so they produced nothing. 8Other seeds fell on good soil where they sprouted and grew. They produced a harvest of some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred times what was planted. 9If you have ears to hear, listen to what I'm saying.”
10When he was by himself, his twelve disciples and the others who were with him asked him what the illustrations meant.
11He told them, “The mystery of God's kingdom has been given to you to understand. But outsiders only have the stories, 12so that even though they see, they don't really ‘see,’ and even though they hear, they don't understand, otherwise they might turn to me and be forgiven.”
13“Don't you understand this story?” Jesus asked them. “If you can't, how are you going to understand all the other stories?
14The sower sows the word.#4:14. Word—or “message,” the Word of God that Jesus came to bring. (See also John 1:1). 15The seeds on the path where the word is sown illustrate those who hear the message, but then Satan immediately comes along and takes away the word that's been sown in them. 16Likewise the seeds on the rocky ground illustrate those who hear the word, and happily accept it right away. 17But since they have no real roots, they only last for a while until trouble or persecution comes, and then they quickly fall away. 18Those sown among the thorns illustrate those who hear the word, 19but worries of this world, the temptation of wealth, and other distractions choke the growth of the word, and it becomes unproductive. 20But the seeds sown on good soil illustrate those who hear the word, accept it, and are productive—producing thirty, sixty, and hundred times what was originally sown.
21Who puts a lamp under a bucket, or beneath a bed?” Jesus asked them. “No, you put a lamp up on a lamp-stand. 22Everything that is hidden will be revealed, and everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. 23If you have ears to hear, listen to what I'm saying! 24Pay attention to what you're hearing,” he told them, “for you will be given according to how much you want to receive, measure for measure. 25More will be given to those who already have understanding, but those who don't want to know will have what little understanding they have taken from them.
26God's kingdom is like a man sowing seed in the ground,” Jesus said. 27“He goes to bed and gets up, day after day, but the man has no knowledge of how the seeds sprout and grow. 28The earth produces a harvest by itself. First a shoot appears, then the heads of grain, and then the heads of grain ripen. 29When the grain is ripe, the farmer reaps it with a sickle, because the harvest is ready.
30What can we compare God's kingdom to? What illustration shall we use?” he asked. 31“It's like a mustard seed, the tiniest seed of all. 32But when it's sown it grows into a plant that's larger than other plants. It has branches big enough that birds can roost in its shade.”
33Jesus used many of these illustrated stories when he spoke to the people so they would understand as much as they could. 34In fact, when he spoke publicly, he only used stories; however in private he explained everything to his disciples.
35Later that day, in the evening, he said to his disciples, “Let's go across to the other side of the Sea.” 36Leaving the crowd behind, the disciples went with Jesus and got into a boat. Other boats went with them. 37Soon a terrible storm started blowing, and waves crashed against the boat, filling it with water. 38Jesus was asleep in the stern, resting his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting at him, “Teacher, don't you care that we're about to drown?”
39Jesus woke up. He told the wind to die down and told the waves, “Be quiet! Be still.” The wind stopped, and the water became completely calm. 40“Why are you so frightened?#4:40. The word used is for cowards. Haven't you learned to trust me?” he asked them.
41They were stunned and terrified.#4:41. Although the aspect of fear is usually brought out in translations, the text indicates that they had been frightened previously. Now they were amazed, in awe at what had happened, though no doubt still terrified. They asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”