1. Again Jesus went back to teaching by the lake, and a huge crowd gathered around Him. So once again He got into an offshore boat in order to sit in it on the water, and everyone either stood or sat along the lakeside on the shore.
2. And He taught them many things that day in His signature story-telling style, using illustrations and comparisons, and in His teaching He said,
3. "Listen to this! One day a sower went out to plant seeds in his fields.
4. And as he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and the birds came and ate it right up.
5. Some other of the same kind of seed fell in the gravel, where there wasn't much soil...and it just sprang right up, but didn't put down roots because it had no depth capability;
6. So in the heat of the sun it was scorched, and because it had not taken root, it withered away just as quickly as it had come up.
7. Other of the same kind of seed fell among the weeds, and the thistles grew and pressed together and suffocated the life right out of it, and it became utterly useless.
8. And still other seed of the same kind fell into good, healthy soil, and produced grain, growing up and increasing, yielding up to thirty times as much in some spots...and sixty times as much in other areas...and even a hundred times as much as had been sown in some places."
9. And He said to them, "If you have an ear to hear what I'm saying, then hear it...consider it...comprehend it!"
10. As soon as He was alone with the Twelve after the session had ended, they began to ask Him about the illustration.
11. And He said to them "You've been given insight into the mysteries of God's Kingdom...a revelation of its inner workings...an understanding of its day-to-day operation. But those who can't see it yet are intrigued by My stories, but that's all they are to them at this point...stories...illustrations without introspection...metaphors without meaning.
12. These are the ones spoken of in the Scriptures...they indeed look and look, but they do not see and perceive...they hear the words over and over again, but do not grasp and comprehend them. But as soon as they open their hearts to the light, they will turn to Me and be forgiven of their willful rejection of the truth."
13. Then He said to them, "Surely you understand this story...I mean, if you don't get this one, how are you going to understand any of them? The whole truth is incrementally revealed in prophetic pictures...sort of like a puzzle put together piece by piece. Do I really need to spell it out for you?
14. All right, then...the sower sows the Word.
15. The ones along the roadside are those who have the Word sown in their hearts, but when they hear it only with their intellect, the Adversary comes immediately and steals the message that was sown in them.
16. And in the same way, the ones sown on the gravelly ground are those who, when they hear the Word, are at once sort of infatuated with it, and have an emotional response to it;
17. But they have no real root in themselves...no sense of covenant relationship to the Word...and so they endure for a little while, but when trouble or persecution arises on account of the Word, they immediately become resentful and basically fall apart.
18. And the ones sown among the thorny weeds are others who hear the Word with some real comprehension;
19. But the daily cares and anxieties of the world just sort of wear them out, and so they get distracted by the illusions of the age, looking for pleasure and false glamour elsewhere, being deceived by the empty promises of riches...and so, without even noticing it, the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and strangle the Word, and it becomes fruitless in their lives.
20. And, finally, those sown on the good, well-prepared soil are the ones who hear the Word and openly receive it, accepting the personal responsibility for their own soil-maintenance. They welcome it and have a mature relationship to it, and so they bear fruit...for some it's thirty times as much as was sown...for others it's sixty times as much...and for still others who fully embrace these concepts, it's even a hundred times as much!"
21. Then He went on to say, "Look...does anyone bring a lamp home and then put it under a basket, or hide it under the bed? Of course not! The lamp's purpose is to be put up high somewhere...like on a lampstand where everyone can benefit from its light.
22. The mysteries of the Kingdom are hidden temporarily...they must be sought first as a revelation or a new birth. But the bottom line is this...there is no hidden spiritual truth that won't eventually be revealed...every part of the truth is meant to be known, either now or later.
23. So again I say...If you have a spiritual ear to hear, then listen deeply, and perceive and comprehend these things."
24. Then He added, "You really need to pay attention to everything you are hearing. Guard the gate, because the ear is a major gate to the understanding...the measure of thought and study you give to the truth you hear will be the measure of Kingdom-life you manifest. That's why I say 'if you have an ear' (singular)...not 'if you have ears' (plural). It's not just what you hear, but how you hear it that determines the reality that is ultimately created in your life.
25. Let Me put it this way...to him who has will more be given...and from him who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. Hear this only with your spiritual ear, and you will understand it."
26. Then He said, "Here's something else you should know about how the Kingdom of God works...think of it as being like a man who scatters seed upon the ground,
27. And then he releases it...he doesn't sit there in the field, looking at the spot where he planted the seed, waiting and worrying about how and when it's going to produce something. In fact, in a way he forgets about it...continuing to sleep and rise night and day, while the seed just naturally does what it was destined to do...it grows! And the man doesn't try to overthink the laws of nature...he just embraces the mysterious wonder of it.
28. Meanwhile, the earth produces by itself...living and thriving alone on the original word that created it in the first place. And the miracle of the seed is then manifested through a process...first a simple, inedible blade of grass appears...then a bud with only the promise of grain comes...then the full, mature grain eventually ripens, and is then ready to be harvested.
29. Then and only then the man returns...still not fully understanding how it all worked, but recognizing a potential harvest when he sees it. And then he eagerly puts in the sickle and reaps what he sowed.
30. Now, let's see...what other picture of the Kingdom can I paint for you? What other story can I tell you that will make you see it from another perspective?
31. How about this? It's like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth;
32. Yet after it is sown, defying all natural logic, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all garden herbs, and puts out huge branches...so big that even eagles come and nest in it!"
33. And with many other such stories or word-pictures Jesus spoke the Word to them, as they were able to really 'hear' it...or as was fitting to their experience or maturity level.
34. In fact, He basically explained everything like this to them in story form...but privately to His disciples He interpreted the meaning of each story or illustration, making sure that they didn't overlook the deep profundity housed in the elemental simplicity of each of them.
35. On that same day when evening had come, He said to them, "All right...that's enough story-telling for one day. Let's go over to the other side of the lake now."
36. And leaving the throng, the disciples piled into the boat in which He was sitting, and, along with some other boats, they all launched out into the deep.
37. But when they got out into the middle of the sea-like lake, a furious storm of hurricane proportions unexpectedly arose, and the waves started beating into the boat so violently that it filled up with water in just a few minutes.
38. Meanwhile, Jesus had disappeared from their company into the stern of the boat, and had fallen into a deep sleep there on a leather cot. The frantic men found Him and woke Him up, saying, "Master! Does it even matter to You in the least that we're all about to die?!"
39. And, giving no response to their indicting question, He calmly stood up and ordered the wind to settle down, and said to the sea, "All right...hush now! Be still!" And immediately the wind ceased its raging, and there was a great calm...an entirely different scene, with clear, peaceful skies, and a lake that looked as if it was made of glass.
40. Then He turned around and looked at His astonished staff, and said to them, "Why are you so fragile and fearful? You're not strangers to the sea or to storms...how is it possible that you sometimes seem to have no faith at all?"
41. And this just took their awe of Him to a whole other level. Stunned, they stood there in the quiet peacefulness, and could think of nothing to say to Him in their defense. But as He went back to finish His nap they looked at one another and said, "Who is this? What kind of Man gives orders to the wind and the water...the storm and the sea...and gets them to obey Him?"