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God’s Word for You

Mark 1:43-45 driving Jesus away

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, September 11, 2021

43 Then Jesus gave him a stern warning and immediately sent him away. 44 He told him, “See that you do not say anything to anyone. Instead go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the sacrifices for your cleansing that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

One person might say that Jesus disobeyed the Law of Moses by healing the man on the Sabbath, but Jesus is incapable of disobedience. His obedience was perfect. He obeyed both the letter and the spirit of the law and he taught the true spirit of the law, which cuts so much deeper than we think the letter cuts. For example, the letter of the law permits divorce, but Jesus showed that the letter of the Sixth Commandment teaches something more: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery’ (Matthew 5:31-32). In the matter of this cleansed leper, there was no reason to go around the law. He was healed. He should go and show himself to the priests so that they could see that he was clean.

Jesus warned the man not to tell anyone how he became clean. This warning “not to tell” is sometimes called the Messianic secret, but the term is not used universally today. There are several times in Matthew, Luke and especially Mark where Jesus commands someone not to tell about something. The content of the message varies. It might be the person’s own confession of faith (Mark 8:29-30), or that Jesus had raised someone from the dead (Luke 8:55-56), or that they had seen a certain miracle like the Transfiguration (Mark 9:9). Sometimes Jesus put a “sunset” on their silence, a time after which they could talk about it: “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9). But at the same time, Jesus instructed some people to proclaim what they had seen him do, such as the formerly demon-possessed man in the Gerasenes: “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). And of course, Jesus did not accept the praise of demons and always silenced them. “He gave them strict orders not to tell who he was” (Mark 3:12).

It’s clear, then, that each case is not the same. Therefore, Jesus did not necessarily have one overriding reason for all of these warnings. Sometimes the Lord may have been concerned that those who were healed were still infants his their faith, and they needed more instruction before they themselves began to instruct. This was probably the case for the blind men from Jericho (Matthew 9:30). This, I think, also fits the context of the man who had been deaf and hardly able to speak in the Decapolis. Jesus commanded both that man and the people who witnessed the healing “not to tell anyone” (Mark 7:36). To this we have the amazing additional note: “The more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.” We can be certain that Jesus was not trying to use reverse psychology.

I propose that two things should be kept in mind regarding the so-called Messianic secret:

1, In some cases it is possible and even likely that Jesus had in mind the time of his crucifixion, and he did not want to arouse the anger of the Jewish leadership against him too soon. He had teaching to do first, and the time of his sacrifice was his to choose. Except for the men in Jericho, the secret is last commanded after the Transfiguration (Mark 9:9) and Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8:29-30). These things happened in the final year of his ministry.

2, Each instance of the secret should be looked at in its own context, because, as we have seen, some of the warnings relate more to the one being warned. Jesus did not want men and women who were still infants in their faith to try to rush to the “front lines” of evangelism, or else their faith might be challenged in such a way that they might fall. “Dear son, if you want to serve God, prepare your heart for temptation, hold fast, and do not let yourself be lured or frightened away from it” (Ecclesiasticus 2:1-2). The weakness of our flesh and Old Adam are heavy weights that drag our faith under water like the demon who tried to drown the little boy (Mark 9:22). So the Holy Spirit encourages us: “Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14, 31:24).

In the case before us, the leper of Galilee, a likely reason for the secret may be that Jesus did not want news of the miracle to reach the priests in Jerusalem before the man arrived to be pronounced clean. The Lord certainly did not mind other miracles being made known. He himself used them as evidence of his divinity (“at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves,” John 14:11). But when he healed people, especially in Jerusalem, he was sometimes challenged or even attacked by the Jewish leaders, the priests, the Scribes, and the Pharisees. He had no trouble defending himself, but the man had to go to Jerusalem by himself, without Jesus to set things straight. It would be best if the news didn’t get there first.

45 But after the man left, he began to proclaim it widely. He spread the word so much that Jesus was no longer able to enter a town openly but stayed outside in deserted places. Yet people kept coming to him from all directions.

How often do we do the opposite of what God commands? Mostly we act like this former leper; we think that we know better than God does. This man spoke so much, doing just what Jesus commanded him and warned him not to do, that Jesus couldn’t even go into towns and villages anymore. He had to stay out in the lonely places, driven away by this man’s enthusiasm.

Did the healed man ever get to Jerusalem to show himself to the priests? We assume that he did. Jesus could not be there in person, but his Spirit went with the man as the Spirit remains with us (Ephesians 3:16).

We do not have any command not to tell about Jesus. Quite the reverse. Our telling should begin at home with those who are dearest to us. Share your faith with your spouse and your children, your parents and your friends. Be delighted to pray together when you sit down to a meal. It is a great, wonderful thing to know the true doctrine of Christ crucified for our sins, but it is also a lifelong path to walk in that doctrine and not stray from it. It is a strange but common sin for people to think that they know better than God does what God’s will is. We see that with our own misguided intentions, we can actually drive the Lord out “into the deserted places” because we don’t leave room for him and his true word in our lives. This is a disastrous sin, the very heart of every heresy when someone picks and chooses one truth they think is the most important, and then they shove God out of the way and become the missionary of this “new religion.” We pray that God would keep us safe in his word, that he would reveal himself more and more in his holy word, because his word, the Bible, is his message for us. The Bible does not merely contain God’s word, it is God’s word, entirely and completely, delivered to us by Moses and the prophets, and the Apostles and evangelists. It should be the goal of our lifetime to learn it and be faithful to it. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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