Did Jesus Want to Remain Unknown?

June 8, 2010 at 10:12 am | Posted in Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | Leave a comment

Hey Pastor Glenn,

            I am reading through Luke these days and have a question I was wondering if you could answer.  In Luke 4, Luke talks about Jesus in Galilee, how he was healing everyone around and freeing many from demonic possession.  When the demons would claim he was God, why did Jesus not want them telling others who he was?  Why did he want to remain unknown?

Thanks, _________

Dear________

            I appreciate your questions and your sharp observation.  I am encouraged when young people are spending time in God’s Word.  The short answer is that Jesus didn’t want to be known as “Messiah” or “Son of God” by the Jews, because they would misunderstand him.

            Interestingly, this question used to come up often in my university New Testament Survey classes.  We would look at all the times Jesus told people not to say anything about who he was or what he’d done for them.  The prime example would be the healed leper in Mark 1:40-45; in this incident, Jesus gave him “a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone.’”  Unfortunately, he didn’t listen very well, and the result was that “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly.”  In contrast, there were a few times that Jesus asked people to go and tell what had happened.  The best example is the man with a “legion” of demons in Mark 5:1-20.  This man was healed and he begged Jesus to let him come along with him and his disciples.  Jesus did not let him; instead he said, “Go home and tell how much the Lord has done for you.”

            There is not a contradiction or inconsistency in Jesus.  The difference between these two stories is in location.  Every time Jesus asked someone not to tell who he was, he was in Jewish territory.  The Jews had a misunderstanding of what the Messiah would come to do.  They were looking for a political leader,  and Jesus didn’t want them to have that misunderstanding about him.  He came to die for sins, not to lead a political freedom campaign against Rome.  When the people began to believe he was the Messiah, strange things happened.  In John 6, after he fed 5,000 of them, the people planned to “make him king by force!”  That was not the divine plan!  Every time Jesus permitted someone to tell about him, he was in a non-Jewish area.  The demoniac in Mark lived in Decapolis – a Greek name meaning “ten cities.”   Since they had no conceptions about what the Messiah would come to do, Jesus didn’t have the same concern.

            Specifically, looking at the words of demons, the same reason would apply.  In fact, you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t quiet the legion of demons in Decapolis, rather he had a conversation with them!  But there is another issue at work as well.  The Jewish people understood demon possession in an experiential way: they saw it and believed it to be real.  They knew the source of demonic activity.  Satan is a liar and the father of lies, and even when he tells the truth, he does it to ultimately deceive.  So Jesus wouldn’t want the people to hear what demons had to say about him.  The same thing happened with Paul and Silas in Acts 16.

            I hope this helps.  Stay in the Word!

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