In Mark 4, after Jesus shared the parable of the sower and the seed, his disciples asked him what the parable meant. Jesus explained to them in Mark 4:11, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables…” Since they were genuinely seeking God, he was willing to share the mysteries of the kingdom with them.
This was not the case for the general public who came to hear him. He chose not to waste his time explaining the hidden meanings to them because of their spiritual state as explained in Mark 4:12. In short, the people outside of his group of disciples were in a pathetic spiritual state with hardened hearts and weren’t really interested in gaining godly knowledge.
After reassuring the disciples the secrets of the kingdom were theirs as God’s gift, he asked them two soul-searching questions in Mark 4:13, “Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” These questions only appear in this gospel. One point Jesus was making is that since they were given the capability of knowing kingdom mysteries, why couldn’t they figure this parable out? Another point he was making was that if they couldn’t figure out this simple parable with its simple message, how would they figure out more complex parables with deeper messages? He then proceeded to explain the spiritual message behind the parable.
Further down the chapter in v. 34, we find out that every time Jesus shared a parable with his audience, he explained them all later to his disciples apart from the crowd. But search the gospels and you will not find those explanations laid out to any extent like the parable of the sower and the seed was. Why not? Isn’t that a disadvantage to those of us who weren’t there?
Detailed explanations for most of the other parables aren’t there for at least two reasons: (1) Jesus already let us know that the key to knowing all parables was understanding how to interpret the sower and seed parable and then he showed us just how to do that when he gave that parable’s explanation to the disciples; (2) the disciples did not have the Holy Spirit at that time so Jesus was gracious enough to explain it all, but all saints now have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things concerning the kingdom–including the meanings of the parables (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Any time we have difficulty understanding any parable, all we have to do is seek guidance from the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. He will either give us the interpretation directly or send us to someone who can.