Secret, Secret, I’ve Got A Secret (ATP)
“In the Bible when Jesus performed miracles he often told people not to tell anyone. What can we learn about this and how can we apply it to our lives as Christians and what we do?”
This is one of those real curiosity questions, often called the “Messianic secret” that doesn’t have many great answers, scripturally speaking. As I studied it out I found two things. One, scholars have no real consensus on why specifically Jesus said these things and two, a lot of people have their own ideas about it.
As I searched for an answer I saw the question really has a few different kinds of occurrences. He spoke it to the lepers who were healed, He spoke it to demons, He spoke it to others who were healed from various things, and He spoke it to His disciples. Now while the answers I give will be more in the realm of speculation and not for each occurrence, I believe that they can at least be considered in the running for any good answer. Though there are quite a few times that Jesus said this, I am going to focus on just a few scriptures.
Let me start by saying that at least one plausible idea is that Jesus was trying to keep from being swarmed by people thus hindering His ability to move about. When the news that One carrying the power to heal is having success and is traveling around, you are going to see huge crowds. We have to remember Jesus did specific things, in specific times, to accomplish specific tasks. He didn’t just wander the hillsides with no purpose. He went, purposefully. He didn’t always intend on doing certain things, but as He went He was moved with compassion on people. It seems to me that many of the healings took place from this stand point. It wasn’t what He intended yet, because of His love, He did it anyway. What a loving God!
In Mark 1:42-44 we see speaking of the lepers, “Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” Now, this may be hard to understand but Jesus, though He saved the world, wasn’t here just for that purpose. He said in Matthew 15:24, that He came for “the lost house of Israel.” Though He became the savior for all, His purpose was the Israelites, He was their promised messiah. Though He opened the door for all of mankind, they had no promised messiah nor knew they needed one. When He healed the lepers He commanded them to go right to the priest. First of all, they were not allowed to mingle with others until they were pronounced clean. So Jesus, not a law breaker, instructed them to do as they were commanded. He didn’t say “never tell” He said “go to the priest first.” He also told them to offer a sacrifice according to the law. Jesus was fulfilling the law here.
Another account found in Mark 7:31-37, we see Jesus heal a deaf, mute man. The Bible says that “they” brought the man to Him. Specifically who they is I’m not sure but I think it shows us something. Jesus didn’t seek this man out, He was brought. In verse 33 it says, “Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself…” I think it’s a curiosity that at times Jesus did things openly, and at others in secret. For whatever reason here, Jesus did not want this miracle broadcast. In His compassion, He healed the man. In His Spirit led wisdom, He did it in secret.
We have to remember that all God wanted to accomplish through Jesus was not done while He was here. He said in John 16:12, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Jesus did not come to do all the work, He came as a way for the work to begin. This is why He said “you will do greater works.” God never desired to just do everything but always desired that humans would partake in His labor.
In closing I want to leave you with another thought. John 20:29 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” Jesus always put a premium on teaching and believing, even more than healing or miracles. He sums up faith (which is most important to God) in this above scripture. Believe because He said and not because He did. There are many reasons why Jesus could have said to keep silent, though I am not aware of specific scriptures that tell us. I believe this is one of those things we can really only guess at though we can do so fairly well through our understanding of why God does anything. This we know, Jesus always followed the Heavenly Father by His Spirit and He has called us to do the same. As far as what we can take away from the Messianic secret; trust God and do good (Psalm 37:3). Do everything for the glory of God and in due time He will do the exalting (1 Peter 5:6)!