Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore.
He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed.
As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.
Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.
But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.
Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.
Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders,
so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’ ”
Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?
The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others.
The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.
The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.
But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word,
but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.
And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.
For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.
Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given —and you will receive even more.
To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.
The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.
And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it?
It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds,
but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand.
In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.