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1-2 Jesus went out again to teach by the Sea of Galilee. When the crowd became unmanageable, He climbed aboard a boat and sat down to teach the people listening on the shore by telling them parables. One of His teachings went like this:

Jesus: Listen! A farmer went out and sowed his seed. As he scattered it, one seed fell along the hardened path, and a bird flapped down and snapped it up. One seed fell onto rocky places where the soil was thin, so it sprang up quickly. But when the hot sun scorched the fragile stems and leaves, the seedling withered because its roots didn’t go deep in the soil. One of the seeds fell among the weeds and thorns, which crowded the seedling out of producing a crop. And the rest of the seeds fell in good, rich soil. When they sprouted, the plants grew and produced a crop 30, 60, even 100 times larger than expected for every seed that the farmer had sown.

All who have ears to hear, let them listen.

10 When they were alone, the twelve and others close to Him asked why He always taught in parables instead of explaining His teachings clearly.

Jesus: 11 God has let you in on the inside story regarding the workings of the Kingdom—the hidden meanings. But the crowds—I teach them in parables 12 as the prophet Isaiah predicted,

    So that when they look, they see and yet do not understand.
        When they hear, they listen and yet do not comprehend.
    Otherwise, they might really turn and be forgiven.[a]

This makes the disciples scratch their heads. Why would He want to hide the truth from some people? His teachings are hard enough without putting them into parables.

13 Do you mean to say that you didn’t understand My parable of the sower? That was the key parable. If you don’t see what I was trying to teach there, how will you be able to understand any of the others?

14 The seed the farmer is sowing is the good news, God’s word. 15 Some people are the seed thrown onto the path, and the tempter snaps up the word before it can even take root. 16 Others are the seed thrown among the rocks. Those people hear the word and receive it immediately with joy and enthusiasm; 17 but without deep roots, doubt, trouble, or persecution instantly withers their faith. 18 Still others are the seed tossed among weeds and brambles. The word has reached them, 19 but the things of this life—the worries, the drive for more and more, the desire for other things—those things cluster around close and choke the life of God out of them until they cannot produce. 20 But those last seeds—those sown into good soil? Those people hear the word, accept it, meditate on it, act on it, and bear fruit—a crop 30, 60, or 100 times larger than the farmer dropped to earth.

Jesus’ teaching often includes parables: stories that explain the truth about the Kingdom with examples from everyday life. Considering that most of His listeners know about farming, it’s no wonder most of Jesus’ parables are based on agricultural realities.

Parables like this force Jesus’ listeners to think about the kingdom of God differently. He challenges their ideas, and He also knows they are unlikely to forget it. When they see farmers broadcasting their seeds, they will remember this parable and ponder the mysteries of the Kingdom. It never seems to bother Him that people are confused by His teaching. He doesn’t expect them to understand everything; He wants them to wrestle with His teachings so His words will sit in their hearts and germinate—much like the seed sitting in good soil that eventually grows to bear fruit.

Jesus: 21 When you bring a lamp into the house, do you put it under a box or stuff it under your bed? Or do you set it on top of a table or chest? 22 Those things that are hidden are meant to be revealed, and what is concealed is meant to be brought out where its light can shine.

23 All who have ears to hear, let them listen.

24 So consider carefully the things you’re hearing. If you put it to use, you’ll be given more to wrestle with—much more. 25 Those who have listened will receive more, but those who don’t hear will forget even the little they’ve failed to understand.

26 Here is what the kingdom of God is like: a man who throws seeds onto the earth. 27 Day and night, as he works and as he sleeps, the seeds sprout and climb out into the light, even though he doesn’t understand how it works. 28 It’s as though the soil itself produced the grain somehow—from a sprouted stalk to ripened fruit. 29 But however it happens, when he sees that the grain has grown and ripened, he gets his sickle and begins to cut it because the harvest has come.

30 What else is the kingdom of God like? What earthly thing can we compare it to? 31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the tiniest seed you can sow. 32 But after that seed is planted, it grows into the largest plant in the garden, a plant so big that birds can build their nests in the shade of its branches.

33 Jesus spoke many parables like these to the people who followed Him. 34 This was the only way He taught them, although when He was alone with His chosen few, He interpreted all the stories so the disciples truly understood.

35 The same evening, Jesus suggested they cross over to the other side of the lake. 36 With Jesus already in the boat, they left the crowd behind and set sail along with a few other boats that followed. 37 As they sailed, a storm formed. The winds whipped up huge waves that broke over the bow, filling the boat with so much water that even the experienced sailors among them were sure they were going to sink.

38 Jesus was back in the stern of the boat, sound asleep on a cushion, when the disciples shook Him awake.

Disciples (shouting over the storm): Jesus, Master, don’t You care that we’re going to die?

39 He got up, shouted words into the wind, and commanded the waves.

Jesus: That’s enough! Be still!

And immediately the wind died down to nothing, the waves stopped.

Jesus: 40 How can you be so afraid? After all you’ve seen, where is your faith?

41 The disciples were still afraid, slowly coming to grips with what they had seen.

Disciples (to one another): Who is this Jesus? How can it be that He has power over even the wind and the waves?