And Jesus charged them to tell no one (Matthew 7:36).
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known (Luke 12:2).
Jesus told his disciples and those he healed not to tell anyone about the miracles he had performed. Although word spread, this was not Jesus’ desire.
Yet, Jesus also declared that there would be no secrets in the long run. In fact, Daniel said that God “reveals the profound and hidden things” (Daniel 2:22). Is this a contradiction?
Greg Lanier wrote that “commands to silence [...] are pieces of a broader puzzle of Jesus’ revealing and concealing. In fact, each comes directly after a significant self-revelatory scene. [...] The commands to silence appear to play different roles based on audience, particularly ‘outsiders’ (who aren’t part of Jesus’ close circle of followers) and ‘insiders’ (who are).”
God has always taught particular truths at the proper times according to his will and his plan (1 Corinthians 4:5). In Mark 1, when Jesus rebuked demons, bystanders wanted to tell everyone about his wonder-working, healing power, but he “didn’t yet want that message to be made known, or he didn’t want demons to be the ones revealing it — or perhaps both.”
His power was already revealed to a small audience, but he did not wish for news to spread throughout surrounding communities — not yet. He might also have been “attempting to prolong his ability to travel due to ever-growing crowds,” which thronged around him.
“Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak’” (Mark 7:36-37).
Recall how he tried to escape the crowds so he could find peace after his cousin John had been beheaded (Matthew 14:13).
Jesus also kept His identity hidden “so that He would not encourage these incomplete expectations and bring upon Himself the wrath of the Roman government before the appointed time.”
Jesus always handled truth with great care. He healed because healing was needed. He also concealed his true identity for a time out of necessity. Again, timing matters. Jesus was practical.
Hidden from Doubters
Lanier also suggests that Jesus wanted to keep secrets from insiders — the Jews — because they had “failed to grasp what he ha[d] revealed to them. It’s not Jesus who [was] concealing truth, but their own hearts.”
The disciples, men who walked with Jesus every day for three years, could not see him clearly because they doubted.
After the women found the empty tomb, they “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” because the men would not understand and, thus, ridicule them (Mark 16:8).
The truth is sometimes proclaimed directly but is not heard correctly. Jesus told his disciples he would be killed, but Peter resisted the truth.
He said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” to which Jesus responded “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Zechariah’s situation symbolizes the spiritual reality here: He was struck dumb and deaf when he questioned the angel regarding news that Elizabeth would become pregnant with a son in her old age.
He heard truth directly through the Lord’s angelic messenger and chose not to believe it. Unbelieving ears do not hear truth clearly and, thus, cannot speak it effectively.
Fewer but Deeper
Another possible reason for Jesus keeping secrets or speaking in riddles was that “He feared that people would only focus on His miracles, and overlook His real reason for coming into the world — to save us from our sins.”
Jesus did not come to earth to heal physical sickness or restore peace; he came to teach, he came to die, and he came to defeat death so that men and women could be restored to their Father in Heaven. The people wanted miracles and blessings, but when those dried up, followers faded away.
Numbers were less important to Jesus than the hearts of his followers. In Acts 5:34-39, Gamaliel the Pharisee described two false Messiahs who had amassed crowds of devotees. Their uprisings were quashed, and the leaders were forgotten.
They and their names were lost to history at their death. Jesus’ following dwindled the more intense and challenging his message became. John 6 recounts how Jesus fed the people, then revealed Kingdom truths, and his listeners found them unacceptable.
They abandoned him, and by the time of his resurrection, the few remaining believers were in hiding. But, as Christians know, he also rose from the dead and no other name across the earth has ever been more famous or influential.
The disciples and all of Israel were expecting a different kind of Savior, the sword-wielding kind. Jesus’ fame spread because of the true message: That he came to save sinners. Those whom he fed or healed expected an earthly kind of deliverance.
“Most of the nation was looking for a Messiah who would be a political revolutionary. They were looking for a king who would come in and release the nation from Roman domination. The demand for the release of Barabbas, a political zealot, instead of Christ (Matthew 27:15–23) shows that most of Israel wanted a political savior.”
They were not entirely wrong, but prophesy had foretold of both a ruler and a servant who would suffer. “We, too, struggle with incomprehension. We, like the crowds, may be attracted to the wonder-working Jesus and ignore his call to suffer. We, like the disciples, may want a ‘Christ’ of our own design but not the dying one on the cross. We, too, may feel the inward pinch to “‘say nothing to anyone’” about the Son of God.”
The truth about Jesus has often been clear but inconvenient. After all, life was not easy for the disciples during Jesus’ time and it is certainly hard for many Christians today.
Jesus is no liar, and he did not condone deception, which takes the form of lying or withholding truth. He taught the disciples to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” (Matthew 6:4).
Why should a disciple of Jesus give charity in secret? Philanthropists often gain fame by giving away money, believing what they have is theirs by right and they have the right to give or withhold their wealth.
These people are not stewarding wealth for the Lord, forgetting that all things belong to God. We are commanded to relieve poverty and sickness by the Holy Spirit’s leading in order to please the Father.
Recipients should be guided to direct their gratitude and worship to the Lord, not to those who obey him. The easiest way to do this is to keep one’s generosity anonymous and to use each gift as a chance to praise Christ.
Jesus’ miracles were acts of kindness designed to glorify God, not to garner him personal fame.
False Messiahs craved attention and gathered worshipers who idolized them; they did not come to save sinners or to proclaim the good news or to make the name of the Father famous.
Personal acts of kindness please God when fame is deflected, and Jesus gets the spotlight.
On the other hand, Jesus directs “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Believers are commanded to let Christ be made obvious.
Charitable giving could easily become a transaction — goods for glory — Jesus is the offering. In order for his light to be manifest, “self” has to be laid aside. He goes before the people.
There is no reason to hide the light of Jesus and, in fact, Christians are commanded to go into all the world and share the truth.
As to who will believe it, that is a detail for God to look after according to his will and timing, which are mysteries, not secrets. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). No one. But we can trust him in spite of the mystery.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.