Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Messianic Secret

"And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ." - Luke 4:41 ESV

"And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him." - Mark 8:27-30 ESV

Have you ever wondered, why does Jesus silence the Demons? Why do the synoptic gospels have Jesus telling certain people not to tell anyone that He is the Christ?

First off, it is not proper for the demons to preach the gospel. Satan, who is a continual enemy of the truth, ought not to be heard, not even when he speaks the truth. He didn't need their testimony, nor did he choose to be made known by them. The time was not right for such a declaration of Christ's identity to be made and they were not the proper persons to make it. If Jesus had allowed demonic testimony the Scribes and Pharisees would have found out and said that he was in league with demons.

Jesus wanted to show the people by word and deed the kind of Messiah he was. People had false notions of the Messiah and needed to be taught futther before Jesus identified himself explicitly to the public. He was not going to be the anticipated popular notion of what the Messiah would do and be. The Jews had the false concepts of the Messiah by looking for an exclusivley national and political leader. They expected a victorious king who would free them from Roman opression and inauguarte the Kingdom of God. Jesus didn't want to precipitate a revolution against Rome. He knew the crucial time table that His father had set before him and did not want to die prematurely, before he had finished his ministry. Jesus came first to defeat Satan, sin, and death. The demons were attempting to frustrate that attempt.

He also did not want to draw the crowds simply for the sake of miracles. his teaching ministry to become hindered or become second place to his healing miracles. He also was so popular that he couldn't even have a day off. Everywhere he went he had large crowds following him.

Here is a great example of how the above works. Compare the resurrection of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5, with the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11.

"And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat." - Mark 5:37-43 ESV

Notice also in this same chapter of Mark Jesus tells the Demoniac who he healed, to go and tell everyone. Not hiding anything now is he?

"Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him." - John 11:40-45 ESV

Why the differences between the way Jesus does resurrection? Because the resurrection of Jairus' daughter happens rather earily on in Jesus ministry. The resurrection of Lazarus happens a week before his death.
Notice the results of openly resurecting Lazarus, instead of keeping it quiet in the case of Jairus' daughter

In verse 43 of John 11 many Jews believed in Him
In verses 46 to 53 of John 11 the Council plots to put Jesus to death
In verse 54 of John 11 Jesus is no longer able to go out into the public.
In verse 57 of John 11 there is a warrant out for Jesus arrest.
In verse 9 of John 12 a large crowd seeks to see Jesus and Lazarus
In verses 10 and 11 of chapter 12 the Council plots to have Lazarus put to death also.
In verses 12 through 19 the large crowd greets Jesus in the Triumphant entry, and proclaim him Messiah. However, as can be shown from the parallel accounts, they still were thinking in political and military terms.

So you can see from the results of just ONE public resurrection, that it set into motion the entire sequence of events that lead to Jesus death. Jesus knew this. That is why it was kept quiet before, but when "his time had come", all was revealed.

Another thing to consider is that discrepancies are proof or their originality, not otherwise. These men were not guilty of collusion. They didn't get together and make sure their stories were correct. These accounts have the smell and taste of realism. The lack of attempts to cover up apparent discrepancies indicates that fabrication was not the intention. In fact, although there is no evidence of collusion, closer examination of apparent discrepancies can often help shed light on unexplained aspects of the other gospels. For example, why did the fishermen leave their nets so readily when Jesus called them? John's account reveals that this was not their first encounter with Jesus.

Differences in memory account very well for the variations in narrative detail. Most people would have a hard time accurately remembering casual conversations. But, even today we can quite easily remember large portions of poetry or drama learned many years ago. There was obviously some collections of various sayings of Jesus which could be used as an aide to memory. The gospel writers could have compiled their own accounts, augmenting and amending the narrative in accordance with their own personal recollections.

Variations in narrative detail also prove that there was no edited control of the text early on by the Church. This is what happened with the Qur'an. Islamic leaders got together, edited the text, and destroyed all variants. Now they can never be sure what was originally written by Mohammad, because they don't know how far these leaders went in their editing process. The New Testament spread so far so fast that no one would have the chance to edit every manuscript in every church across the entire Roman Empire.

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