Contrary to what is commonly understood, Jesus spoke to people in parables so they would NOT understand. Let’s read it in Jesus’ own words and also let him explain why he did that.
The Parable of the Sower
Mark 4:1-20 On another occasion Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2) He taught them many things by parables and in his teaching said: 3) Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4) As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. 5) Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. 6) But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7) Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so they did not bear grain. 8. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop multiplying thirty, sixty or even a hundred times.
9) Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10) When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11) He told them , “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12) so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding: 0therwise they might turn and be forgiven.
13) Then Jesus said to them: “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14) The farmer sows the word. 15) Some people are like the seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16) Others, like the seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive and at once receive it with great joy. 17) But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18) Still others, like seed sown among thorns hear the word, 19) but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things come in a choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20) Others, like seed on good soil, hear the word, accept it and and produce crop-thirty, sixty or even a hundred times that was sown.
Notice, Jesus spoke to everyone ( his disciples and close followers and the large crowds that heard him from the shoreline) using parables but he only explained what the parables meant to his disciples and close followers and when in private..when he was alone with them. (see verse 10)
Would everybody who heard the parables understand them? No. According to verse 9) only those with “hears to hear” would understand.
How can that be? Verse 11) shows this is so because the parable revelation is a secret…..the secret of the kingdom of God, which was only given to the very close followers of Jesus. If you are not a close follower you will not understand these things.
Do you need to personally try to interpret the parable of the sower, yourself?
No. Jesus himself, personally explains in verses 13 to 20, every symbol in the parable.
In a nutshell, Jesus is explaining that there are basically 4 groups of people who hear His word and each group responds differently to what they hear. (Notice He never refers to people who have never heard the word) only to people who hear it. The first group hears the word but it really means nothing to them….everything spoken kind of, goes over their head. Their minds are not at all attuned to God so as soon as the word is heard, it’s forgotten. The second group hear the word, immediately grasp what a tremendous blessing it is to the whole world but as soon as a “little heat” -symbolized by the sun and persecution comes, they just as quickly fade away. They are not prepared to face any suffering.
The third group represent those who hear the word, again recognize what a tremendous blessing this truth is, but because they are so wrapped up in one or more of the cares of this world (symbolized by thorns as explained by Jesus), the word gets choked.
The final group receive the word and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit stay connected to Jesus and produce fruit or a yield that Jesus can use in the growth of His Kingdom.