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Secrets

August 30, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this twelfth Sunday after Trinity comes from our gospel text where Mark records, “And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

Why would Jesus say this? Call what has just happened in our text what it is – a miracle. An in-breaking of divinity into the darkness of this world so broken by sin and sin’s effects. To call it incredible and astounding is an understatement … so why would Jesus, as Mark records, charge them to tell no one? You’d think something like this would be cause for celebration, right? Why is our Lord insistent … upon secrecy?

It’s not an isolated incident either. Scattered throughout Mark’s gospel account are similar instances where Jesus does something absolutely incredible, extraordinary … supernatural … and before the people are even able to process what’s happened, Jesus charges them to tell no one. It happens with the leper in chapter one, when Jesus charges him to “say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” In chapter eight, Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida and orders him to “not even enter the village,” but rather to go home. When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, again, “He strictly charged them to tell no one about Him.”

Then, of course, we’ve got today’s text. The crowds bring a deaf and mute Gentile to Jesus, imploring Him “to lay His hand on him.” Jesus doesn’t do it publicly; He takes the man aside, sticks His fingers in the man’s ears, touching his tongue with a spittle-covered holy finger, groans, and utters His “Ephphatha.” Lo and behold, the man can speak plainly, he can hear as his ears are opened, and one of the first things he hears is the sound of Jesus charging him and those with him to tell no one about what had just happened.

Why this messianic secret? After all, these miracles and healings would no doubt bolster Jesus’s popularity and renown. It even seems a bit futile, as we’re told by Mark that, despite His clear and strict instruction, “the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” Was Jesus simply speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Well, no, Jesus wasn’t giving a nod and a wink to those who just witnessed the impossible occur. It’s not a dog-whistle or anything like that. His charge is genuine … and it is purposeful.

Allow me to explain. Jews and Gentiles were not the only ones that Jesus charged to keep quiet about who He is and what He was here to do. On several occasions in Mark’s gospel, Jesus had interactions with unclean spirits, demons who, whether in terror or derision, proclaim loudly for all to hear, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” And Jesus’s immediate response is to sharply rebuke them and order them to come out of their hosts – a command the demons cannot help but obey.

Compare and contrast that with the final time that Jesus orders the silence of those who witness a manifestation of His divinity: the transfiguration. The disciples had just seen their rabbi “transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” They’d been terrified as they saw their Lord conversing with Moses and Elijah – long since dead. They had cowered as they heard a voice out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him,” only to blink and suddenly find themselves alone with Jesus. As they headed down the mountain, we’re told that “[Jesus] charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

Taken together, these texts paint an interesting picture and inform our understanding of our text and this messianic secret. The demons want Jesus exposed as who He is … but for obviously nefarious reasons. To His disciples, in the wake of His transfiguration, Jesus specifically gives an end date to His charge for secrecy: after “the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” This messianic secret, incredulous as it may seem, was charged to ensure that Jesus would accomplish His mission, what He came here to do.

See, people back then had great misunderstandings about who Jesus was, and certainly about what the purpose of the Messiah was. Jesus didn’t come to be a great teacher. He didn’t take on human flesh to be a “magic man,” performing miracles for the amusement of unbelievers. He didn’t condescend into His creation in order to become the new King David, ousting the Romans and ushering a new Judean golden age. Jesus came … to make all things new.

We do see this in part as He does open closed ears, heal blind eyes, restore palsied limbs, loosen immobilized tongues, and liberate demoniacs … but all of those miracles, all His teachings … all point to something greater. A greater miracle that would take place not long after what happens in our text … on a hill reminiscent of a skull … outside of Jerusalem’s city walls. There, in that moment, as Jesus yielded up His spirit and breathed His last, He performed one of the greatest miracles of all: the complete removal of sins, pacifying the fully justified wrath of Almighty God against man and restoring a right relation between them. No longer a secret, even the centurion standing by proclaimed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” In His sacrificial death on Golgotha’s tree, Jesus showed the world who He was … who He is: the Messiah. And it is no longer any secret!

Of course, today people still have misunderstandings about who Jesus is and His purpose for taking on human flesh. They still see Him as only a great rabbi, guru, or life coach. People still only see His miracles as “magic tricks,” if they believe they happened or He existed at all. Unbelievers still only see Him as a revolutionary or humanitarian, pigeonholing Him into their political narrative or cause. His resurrection from the dead, the greatest miracle to date, proves them all wrong. Jesus of Nazareth was not a magic man, but the Messiah, the savior of the world, and all people need to hear this Good News that is no longer a secret! He has accomplished His task of atoning for all sin, and all people need to hear it! Zealously proclaim it: Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus is coming again! It’s no secret!

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tags: Mark 7:31-37