Any and every subject that relates to the Christ is of chief interest to the disciple of Christ. Christ’s followers of all ages, those who earnestly seek salvation, carefully observe all that is written concerning the revelation of the Servant of God. And, the above subject has often been the consideration of Christians.
That Christ forbade someone to speak of His work, and to spread His fame abroad is a fact. However, this cannot be His purpose and command in every sense of the word. If we consider that He came to reveal Himself to us and that He did so with a glorious accompaniment of signs and wonders we must come to a qualifying explanation of this subject, Christ forbidding to spread His fame. This requires a study of the passages in which this is expressed and a conclusion upon the basis of a conception of the revelation of Jesus Christ as is given in the Scriptures.
First of all your careful consideration of the data is necessary for an appreciation of the problem and for certainty of arriving at a correct conclusion.
Inwe read these words of Jesus, “See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” This is His word to the leper whom He healed, by putting forth His hand and touching him. This is also found in and in . However, this is not exactly the same as His other commands to tell no one. Although He tells the leper to speak about it to no one, in this case there is very likely the reason that it was more in harmony with obedience to the law of Moses, that he should first fulfill it before publishing his recovery.
Other passages we wish to call your attention to have more direct significance. Inwe read what Jesus commanded the unclean spirit which had cried out “what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God.” Then we read, “And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” The word for “hold thy peace” was probably originally as Souter explains of slang usage and is “be quiet!” This shows that there was intense feeling in Jesus’ command for silence. This incident reminds of the almost similar occurence to the apostle Paul in Philippi when an evil spirit gave testimony through a damsel that “these men are servants of the most high God”; about which Paul was greatly troubled and finally commanded the evil spirit to come out of her.
Concerning Christ’s command we can conclude that He forbade the evil spirit to spread His fame, but we
cannot conclude without any other qualification, that
Jesus forbade one to speak of Himself to anyone. Here we can only limit it to the demons. They alone were forbidden to speak of Him as the Son of God. It was not according to His good pleasure that devils should be His messengers. It was not pleasing to Paul either that known evil spirits should bear testimony to them. Therefore the stern rebuke, “Be quiet!” And, for further consideration turn towhere Jesus orders the one out of whom he had cast out many devils in the country of the Gadarenes, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath compassion on thee.” This should cause us to consider that although it was not Christ’s desire to have demons publish His works and Name, nevertheless it was His desire upon occasion to have it known what the Lord had accomplished through Him.
In another connection Jesus also gave a command about Himself. We find inthat Jesus had an argument with the Pharisees about the sabbath. They had reprimanded Him for allowing His disciples to do that which was unlawful. In conclusion the Lord had silenced them with the most significant words, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” Thereupon He entered one of their synagogues and behold a man with a withered hand was there and they asked Him whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath days. In verses 11, 12 of chapter 12 you may read His answer. In verses 13 and 14 you read that Jesus performs the miracle and that the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him how they might destroy Him. Jesus withdrew Himself and the multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Significantly we read that He also charged them that they should not make Him known, verse 16. This is data for our consideration of the question, how must we understand Jesus forbidding to spread His fame?
This much is clear from this passage and context that Jesus was well known at this time. He was known to the Pharisees. He openly spoke of Himself as the Son of Man. He proved His power and authority before their face. He was also known of the multitudes. They followed Him. From this it is evident that it would be foolishness to understand the words of Jesus in verse 16 to mean that Jesus did not desire anyone to know Him as the Son of God or Son of Man or to think of Him as the Christ. His previous revelation of Himself already contained that definite purpose. He could not mean that anyone who wished to contend that Jesus of Nazareth was a man mighty in word and deed and likely the revelation of God, the Christ, that he should keep silence. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus did not forbid the first disciple to testify that He was the Messiah. We read inthat Philip told Nathaneal that. Recall too, that John introduced Him to the people as the Lamb of God.
Concerning this passage inI think we may say that Jesus did not wish the multitudes to publish His whereabouts, because He knew the Pharisees sought to destroy Him. The context brings us to that conclusion. He knew their intention and He also knew it was not yet His hour. Therefore He withdrew and also warned this multitude which seemed to be a believing following against giving His whereabouts away. The expression Jesus uses also indicates this. It is not a command forbidding to speak about Him, but a command not to make Him known, or as the word shows, visible or manifest. Clearly it was His intention to warn the multitude upon whom He performed miracles of the danger He was in.
So far forth we have easily concluded the apparent reason why Jesus gave an instruction concerning Himself. There remain several passages which refer more directly to our subject, in which Jesus seems to be concerned with His fame, which are more difficult.
In, , and we read of the raising of the daughter of Jairus. In Matthew we read that the fame hereof went abroad into all the land. In Mark and Luke we read that Jesus gave those intimate disciples and the parents who witnessed the miracle the charge that no man should know it.
If we compare this miracle with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which was performed with the deliberate intention that all might know that the Father sent Him, we cannot say that it was Jesus’ policy to remain in secret, or to keep His power from being manifest to all. We can only conclude that He had a particular reason to command not to tell any one of His raising the daughter of Jairus. That particular reason is somehow connected with His method of controlling the manifestation of Himself so that it would coincide with His hour and so that it would be above all a perfect manifestation of Himself as the true Christ. Edersheim in connection with another miracle we already mentioned comments about Jesus’ attitude in keeping His work secret as follows: “Rather do we once more gather how the God-Man shrank from the fame connected with miracles which as we have seen were rather of inward and outward necessity than of choice in His Mission.” Vol. I, p. 496. To do otherwise than He did would have been to make Himself known as the Jews desired Him to be and that would be as a Jewish Messiah and not as the Christ of the Scriptures.
The same explanation can be given of the miracles found in, , and . But in all these the same results took place. Instead of keeping quiet, they proclaimed it so much the more. Although we may say that Jesus knew that this would take place, we cannot judge Him to desire that the opposite of what He commanded take place.
All the above passages relate to Christ forbidding to spread His fame with definite words to that effect. These are all in connection with His miracles. It is especially at the time of such manifestation of glory that the command is deemed necessary by Christ. We can also consider that some of His actions were a clear indication that He refused to spread His fame. Recall His action after His mighty miracle of the feeding of the five thousand as recorded in John 6. In verse 15 we read, “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain himself alone.”
In conclusion I would like to make the following observation:
- That at no time was it Christ’s purpose to hide His identity, to keep secret that He was the Messiah. At no time did He deny it and whenever confronted with the question He gave sufficient and definite answer. This is contrary to the theory of secret Messiahship as held Wrede, The Messianic Secret In The Gospels, and R. H. Lightfoot, History And Interpretation of the Gospels, as referred to and criticized in N. B. Stonehouse’s book, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ.
- Positively it can be maintained that it was His desire and purpose to reveal Himself as the Christ of God. So the forerunner had to prepare the way for Him; had to introduce Him as the Lamb of God; and so He came to His own. It was His purpose in the parables, to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. In the miracles it was His purpose to show Himself as the one sent from God.
- This purpose to reveal Himself required a definite method or mode of revelation because of those to whom He revealed Himself. It had to be a revelation in the flesh. It could not be through angels or otherwise. The mode of revelation had to be according to fallen humanity also. Because of sinful man, care had to be shown by the Christ that He revealed Himself perfectly as the true Christ. No false impressions might be left.
- This method that Christ chose was perfectly adapted to reach His purpose with respect to belief and unbelief. His parables and miracles for those who believed were means to give them power to receive Him. Even believers, however, had to be led from unbelief to faith. Because of their unbelief some things upon occasions had to be withheld from them. Compare His transfiguration before three disciples with the command to tell no one until after the resurrection. His parables and miracles were at the same time a savor of death unto death, given to give unbelievers the correct conception of the Christ and to guard against them having an excuse, or seeing in Him an object of false hope, .