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Mark  ◦   Chapter 4

1On another day, when Jesus was teaching at the lakeshore, the crowd grew so large that he got into a boat, pushed back from shore and spoke to the people who gathered at the water's edge.2He used a variety of parables to teach them. He said,3"Consider the meaning of this: A farmer went out to plant seed.4He scattered his seed broadly. Some fell on the road and the birds gobbled up the seed immediately.5Some of the seed fell in gravel without much soil. Though it sprouted quickly, because the soil was shallow, it didn't penetrate deeply into the soil,6so when the sun came up, the young sprouts couldn't take the heat and withered because they had no root.7Other seed fell among thorns and weeds which grew up and choked the good plants before they could mature and bear fruit.8But some of the seed reached good soil, where it took root, grew up, and produced an abundant harvest, multiplying up to a hundred times what was planted."

9Jesus looked at them and said, "Those whose minds are open to truth, let them understand the meaning."

10Later, when he was alone, the Twelve Ambassadors and others devoted to his cause asked him about his parables.11He told them, "The truth about God's kingdom of love, which to many seems mysterious, has been revealed to you, because your hearts are open to the truth, but those whose hearts are not open to truth, I speak in parables, so even12 'though they see with their eyes, their minds do not comprehend; and though they hear with their ears, they do not understand the meaning. If they did understand, then they would turn to me in trust, and I would heal them!' "

13So Jesus said to them: "Don't you understand that this illustration demonstrates that God's kingdom operates upon natural law — design protocols for life? If you don't understand this, you will misunderstand all my illustrations.14The farmer plants the words of truth into the hearts of people.15Some people have hearts that are hard and callous, like a road, and they don't respond to the truth when it is presented. They hear the truth, but they don't consider it seriously: Satan distracts them with some temptation or problem, and the truth is forgotten.16Other people have hearts like gravel–shifting and unstable: they respond with excitement to every new idea, but nothing takes root.17And since the truth doesn't take root in their hearts, they only stay involved briefly. As soon as the truth requires some sacrifice or actual work on their part, they quit and move on to their next emotional fix.18There are other people, who have minds like soil filled with weeds and thorns. They hear the truth,19but the thorns of worry and fear, or the weeds of seeking healing of heart in fame, fortune, or other earthly desires choke out truth and love, and make their hearts desolate.20But there are those whose hearts are like fertile soil. They hear the truth, comprehend it, love it, embrace it, nurture it, choose it, and build on it; and it heals, transforms and renews them, causing them to produce fruits of righteousness even more than a hundred times what was planted in them."

21Then Jesus asked them, "Do you bring in a lantern only to cover it with a bucket or put it under a bed so its light won't be seen? Or do you instead hang it from the ceiling, or put it on a stand, so that its light will penetrate widely?22What has been hidden by Satan's lies is meant to be revealed, and whatever is concealed by misunderstanding, confusion or ignorance is intended to be brought out into the open for all to see and understand.23Those whose minds are open to truth, let them understand the meaning.24Pay attention and understand the way God's kingdom works: Behavior has consequences. The standard you use to judge others reveals the actual condition of your own heart, thus your condemnation of others is really condemnation of yourself.25Whoever accepts and holds God's love and truth in their heart will receive more; but whoever refuses God's love and truth, whatever had been poured out upon them will be eventually taken back."

26He continued with another example: "God's kingdom of love operates upon natural law — law built right into nature — and therefore it is like this: A person spreads seed on the ground.27Once the seed is spread, regardless of what the person does — watches it or sleeps — the seed sprouts and grows, even though the person cannot explain how.28Without help from any human, the soil produces grain, and it develops naturally in a predictable course: first a stalk, then a head, and then full kernels in the head.29And when the grain is ripe, then it is cut, for harvest time has come."

30Jesus told them another example: "What is God's kingdom of love like? What illustration should I use to help you understand it?31It starts out small, like a mustard seed, planted in the soil of the heart.32But when it takes root and grows, it becomes the largest of all the plants in the garden of the heart, with such big branches of love that everyone — like birds of the air — can perch in its shade and find sanctuary and rest."

33Jesus taught them with many illustrations, stories, metaphors and parables, endeavoring to help them understand the true nature of God's kingdom of love.34He didn't speak to the general public without using illustrations and parables. But when he was with his disciples in private, he explained everything to them.

35Later that day, shortly after sunset, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's cross the lake."36So they left the crowds, climbed in a boat, and headed across the lake, and other boats followed them.37A fierce storm blew up, and the waves were so high they crashed into the boat nearly sinking it.38Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern. The disciples — some of whom were fishermen and were quite experienced with boating — were terrified and woke Jesus, crying out to him: "Master, we're drowning! Don't you care what happens to us?"

39Jesus calmly stood up and instructed the wind and the waves to calm down: "Stop blowing and be still!" And the wind immediately stopped blowing and it was completely calm, and the water was tranquil.

40He spoke gently to his disciples and asked, "Why are you so frightened? Do you still have difficulty trusting me?"

41They were stunned with awe and asked each other, "Who is he? He has power over the wind and sea!"