Mark 4 introduces us to Jesus' favorite teaching method: Parables.
A parable, sometimes described as "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning," uses familiar, ordinary, everyday objects and experiences to reveal a deeper spiritual truth. Many of Jesus' parables are organic devices, using lessons drawn from nature. Not only was this approach simple enough for His original audience to understand, but the universal, timeless aspects of the elements in His parables allow others of different cultures, places, and eras to likewise participate in the discovery.
We begin Mark 4 with the story of a farmer. Agriculture (the sowing of seeds) is one of the most ancient trades of humanity, and something that every culture can relate to. Jesus says that the seed represents the Word of God, and the sower is an evangelist spreading the message. Because we can understand what Jesus says about the receptivity of the path, the rocky soil, the thorns, and the good earth when it comes to seeds, we can appreciate that these same options are available to us spiritually when it comes to us accepting the gospel into our lives.
Jesus continues to use such natural elements in His parables when he relates how all secrets will be disclosed (by drawing a comparison with a light), the mystery of faith (with an analogy to the mystery of life), and the growth of the Church (through describing the growth of a tree).
Jesus, this One who effortlessly uses such organic parables of nature, also demonstrates His mastery over that same nature through the calming of a storm at sea. "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (vs. 41)