Stories and a storm on the lake
Story of a farmer planting seeds1Once again, Jesus went to the lake and drew a crowd. He started to teach them. The crowd got so big that he slipped into a boat and sat there on the lake teaching, while the people listened from along the shoreline.
2Jesus taught the people a lot by using stories known as parables. He told the crowd, 3“I want you to hear this. A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4As he threw the seeds in the air to scatter them onto the field, some seeds fell on the hard-packed path that people walk on. Birds swooped down and scooped them up.
5Some seeds fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much dirt. The seeds sprang up quickly. 6But the sun scorched the plant because it didn’t have a good root system for drawing moisture. So the plant withered away and died.
7Other seeds fell into briar patches. Thorns grew up around them and choked them to death. Those seeds didn’t produce any grain. 8Some of the seed, however, fell into good dirt. Those seeds grew, sprouted, and produced 30, 60, and even 100 times more than was planted.” 9Then Jesus told the people, “If you’ve got ears, you need to be hearing what I’m saying.”
Jesus tells secrets10When Jesus was alone with his 12 disciples, they asked him why he was teaching with parables. 11Jesus told them, “You are getting in on some of the secrets about God’s kingdom. But when I talk to everyone else, I use parables. 12Here's why.
They’ll look, but they won’t see a thing.
They’ll listen hard, but they won’t get it.
If they could see and understand,
they would turn their lives around,
and find God willing to forgive them.”
Jesus explains farmer parable13Jesus asked his disciples, “Really? You don’t understand this parable? If you can’t understand this one, how are you going to understand the others? 14The farmer is spreading God’s word.
15Seeds that fall on the path represent the message that Satan quickly swoops in and snatches away. 16Seeds that land in the rocks represent the message getting a warm and joyful reception. 17But the message doesn’t survive long enough to produce healthy roots. When the storms of life blow in, the seeds blow away.
18Seeds thrown into the thorns represent the message finding a landing place. 19But the message gets choked out by all the stuff going on in life: the lying that it takes to get rich, and the obsessive greed for more and more. The message dies. 20The seeds that land on rich dirt is the message getting heard and believed. These seeds produce an incredible harvest of 30, 60 and even 100 times more than what was planted.”
Parable of light that shines on secrets21Jesus also told the story. “When you light up a lamp, you don’t cover it with a bucket or hide it under a bed do you? You set it up high on a lampstand, right? 22Well I want you to know that the light is coming and it’s going to shine on every secret hidden in the darkness. 23If you’ve got ears, you need to be hearing what I’m saying.” 24Jesus said, “Listen up and pay attention. The gauge you use to size up others is the gauge that will be used to size you up and down. The more gracious you are, the more grace you’ll get. 25If you’ve got a lot, you’re going to be given even more. And if you don’t have much, what little you do have will be taken away.”
Parable of mystery seed26Jesus said, “Here’s what God’s kingdom is like. A man plants seeds in the ground. 27Then he goes about his routine, going to bed at night and getting up in the day. The seed eventually sprouts up out of the ground and grows. The farmer has no idea how it works. 28As far as the farmer can tell, the dirt produces this crop all by itself. The stalk comes first. Then the head. Grain eventually fills in the head of each stalk. 29When the farmer sees that the grain is ripe, he goes after it with a sickle. He knows it’s time to harvest the crop.”
Parable of tiny mustard seed30Then Jesus said, “How can I help you see what God’s kingdom is like? What story can I use to help you understand? 31It’s like a tiny mustard seed that gets thrown on the ground. This is the smallest seed of all. 32But when it’s full grown, it’s taller than all of our garden plants. It pops out branches big enough for birds to find shade, and even nest.
Jesus loves to tell stories33Jesus used many stories like these to deliver his message to the people. Stories like this helped them understand what Jesus was saying. 34Jesus was so fond of using these parables that he never spoke to the people without telling them a story. When he met with his disciples privately, he made sure they understood what the parables meant.
Jesus does something about the weather35Here’s what happened after Jesus told these parables. When evening came, he told his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.” 36Jesus and the disciples left the crowd behind, and they got into the boat. Other boats followed along as part of the entourage. 37Suddenly a windstorm swooped down on the lake. High waves caused the boat to start taking on water and filling. 38Meanwhile, Jesus slept on a cushion in the back of the boat. The disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, we’re going to die. Don’t you care?” 39Jesus got up and talked to the wind and the waves. He said, “Quiet. Calm down.” The wind and the waves did as they were told, and a great hush fell upon the lake. 40Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Why are you so scared? Don’t you have any faith yet?” 41The disciples were terrified by what they had just seen. They asked each other, “Who in the world is this man? He gives orders to the wind and the water, and they actually obey him.”
The Sea of Galilee.
A parable is a story with a spiritual message embedded in it.
Jesus is referring to Isaiah 6:9-10.
See also Luke 8:18. Some Bible experts say Jesus is talking about people who accept his message and people who reject it. Those who accept it will get more spiritual insight and joy. Those who don’t will lose what little insight and joy they think they have.
In the parable of the farmer planting seeds (4:1-9), there are two categories that seem pretty close to each other. Do you see any difference between seed group number one, in which the seed falls on a path and the devil snatches it up (4:4), and seed group number three, in which the stuff of life crowds out the seed (4:7)? Both get robbed of the seed, and the devil could just as easily be involved in seed group number three as he was in group number one.
Jesus said the seeds that fall on rich soil represent people who hang on to the message about the Kingdom of God and they watch it produce “30, 60, and even 100 times more than was planted” (4:9). What kind of crop do you think Jesus was talking about?
Bible experts are left guessing what Jesus meant when he said, “If you’ve got a lot, you’re going to be given even more. And if you don’t have much, what little you do have will be taken away” (4:25). A similar quote shows up in Luke 18:18, too. Which of the following sounds like a reasonable guess for explaining what Jesus meant? Feel free to add your own guesses to the list.
- “If you understand a little bit about God’s Kingdom, you’re going to understand it even more. If you don’t get it, you could end up even more clueless.”
- “If you produce a good harvest for God, you will get more than you could imagine. If you don’t produce a harvest, you’ll end up in debt.”
- If you accept the message about God’s Kingdom, you’ll get more spiritual insight and joy. If you don’t, you’ll lose what little insight and joy you think you have.
- “Listen up. If you want to experience more of God’s Kingdom, you will get more than you could ever imagine. If you don’t want more, you’ll get less.”
Jesus talks about a light that is coming “to shine on every secret hidden in the darkness” (4:22). That could sound as though he’s talking about revealing our sins. But many Bible experts say he’s talking about revealing the Kingdom of God, which has been hidden. Do you think that works? Do you think the Kingdom of God sounds a little like a light that has been hidden under a bucket and that is going to get revealed and lifted up to shine on everything?
What do you think is the point of the little story about how a mustard seed grows (4:26-29)?
When Jesus and his disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee and a storm threatens to sink the boat, the disciples wake up Jesus—who was apparently a deep sleeper. It seems perfectly natural to worry about dying in a situation like that. Yet Jesus seems to criticize them for it. He calmed the storm, then he asked his disciples “Why are you so scared? Don’t you have any faith yet?” (4:40). Don’t you think Jesus was asking a little much of them?
LIFE APPLICATION. Mark says, “Jesus taught the people a lot by using stories… Jesus was so fond of using these parables that he never spoke to the people without telling them a story” (4:2, 34). Perhaps one of the reasons there are so many parables of Jesus preserved in the Bible is because they were easy to remember. Think about the last sermon you heard. What do you remember from it? And why do you think some preachers tell so few stories to illustrate their points?
LIFE APPLICATION. In the parable of the farmer planting seeds, Jesus describes four groups of people and how they react to the message about God’s Kingdom (4:13-20). Without identifying anyone by name, can you tell us about someone you know who fits into one of those four categories?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Jesus talks about the four different kinds of landing spots for the seed, which represents the good news about the Kingdom of God, he’s talking about different kinds of situations that either block God’s message or embrace it. What do you think are some of the main reasons people today don’t seem to be interested in matters of faith or religion?