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What is the Messianic Secret?

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What is the Messianic Secret?
Posted on November 23, 2021  - By Rufus Simon Varghese

What is the Messianic Secret? Why did Jesus repeatedly forbid people He interacted with from telling everyone about Him?

To answer this question, we must consider the following facts:

  • Throughout the Gospels, whenever Jesus healed people or raised the dead in Jewish territory, He forbade people from spreading the news to others (Matthew 8:4, 9:30, 12:15-16; Mark 5:43).
  • When Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah, He forbade His disciples from making it known (Matthew 16:20).
  • Jesus forbade Peter, James, and John from disclosing the events on the mount of transfiguration to the rest (Matthew 17:9).

Reasons for the prohibition

At least two reasons for such a prohibition manifest themselves:

  1. This was to fulfil the Scriptures (Matthew 12:15-17) spoken by the prophet (Isaiah 42:1-4). The Servant of the LORD, upon whom the Spirit descended, would proclaim justice to the Gentiles. According to that passage, the Messiah would not be one who sought undue attention even though He was the most special person to have ever walked the earth (Matthew 12:19).
  2. During Jesus’ time, the Jews were under the authority of the Roman Empire. They expected a Messiah who would vanquish their enemies. They understood various Messianic prophecies merely in a political sense (Isaiah 11:1-2, 61:1-2, for example). Though true, it was not the whole picture. Jesus, the Spirit-filled Messiah, had to solve the problem of sin first by fulfilling the redemption plan that the Father entrusted to Him. Only after the completion of that plan would Jesus restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6-7).
    Jesus did not want the redemption plan to be disrupted. He wanted no one to misunderstand the purpose of His first advent. There were occasions where people planned to make Jesus king right after He had performed a miracle (John 6:1- 15), forcing Him to withdraw from the crowd and hide. That is why He forbade people from giving undue publicity to His works.

Only after the completion of the redemption plan would Jesus restore the kingdom to Israel

To His disciples, Jesus taught that He would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed and be raised on the third day. This was to ensure that the disciples were on the same page as Jesus about His Messianic mission. 

Approach to the Gentiles

All through the Gospels, we see Jesus performing miracles in the Gentile territory as well (Mark 5:1-20). After healing the demon-possessed man, Jesus told him to spread the word about the great works of the Lord to his family and friends. And that was because the Gentiles, although they desired independence from Rome, were not expecting a Messiah from the Jews to be their Saviour.

Besides, Jesus was not as famous among the Gentiles as He was among the Jews. The situation changed in Mark 7:31- 37, where Jesus charged them to tell no one. Within the span of a few months, His popularity had soared. People living in Tyre and Sidon had started gaining awareness of Jesus’ title—the Son of David (Matthew 15:22).

A counter-cultural application

Jesus’ decision to keep His mission a secret suggests how focused we need to be on the specific calling that God has given us. We should not let anything hinder us from pursuing God’s call for our lives—no matter how good it seems.

The desire to be well-known is one we all have, especially in the digital era we live in. Self-projection is the norm in the world. But the greatness of the tasks at hand should not mean that we run behind cheap publicity. Jesus, who was on the greatest mission ever, teaches us this truth by example. He chose to remain lowkey; perhaps something for us to watch and learn.

Rufus Simon Varghese

About Rufus Simon Varghese

Born and raised in Dubai, UAE, Rufus completed his Masters in Theology at Asian Christian Academy in Hosur, India. He has since been involved in personal outreach ministries and teaching youngsters Scripture. Currently based in Ernakulam, India, he is teaching at a Bible school as well as ministering to the Hindi-speaking immigrant working population in Kerala.



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