Why didn’t Jesus openly say he was the Messiah? (PART 2)
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Description: Many Jews longed for their Messiah. His arrival would have been mind-blowing - and dangerous. Jesus could not have his mission derailed.
Part 1 ended with Jesus ordering his disciples not to tell anyone he was the Messiah. Supposing he hadn’t.
Many Jews longed for their promised Messiah. News that he’d arrived would have been mind-blowing, especially in such tough times. Israel was conquered territory. The Romans were in charge. Zealots were about (these were freedom fighters who wanted the Romans to be driven out). In this climate, it’s not difficult to understand why many Jews yearned for an anointed religious leader; someone to rescue them and herald in a new Jewish state.
People would have been galvanised into hailing Jesus as king, but such acclaim – especially coupled with massive crowds – would certainly have sparked Roman reprisals. These would have targetted Jesus’ mission – with unknowable consequences. And the crowds would have been massive. Luke 12:1 begins, ‘Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another…’
Had there been any premature announcements, Jesus' ministry would have been seriously derailed. He had to follow his own timetable. John 7.6 shows Jesus’ concern for timing, ‘My time is not yet here.’ Jesus had things to do – and he’d said what these things were while in Nazareth when he read from Isaiah (Luke 4.18-19). ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Beyond the miracles
Performing miracles was hugely instrumental in promoting the good news. They fed speculation about Jesus’ identity and drew thousands to him. However, their primary purpose wasn't simply to affirm him as a gifted healer. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, they testified to Jesus’ Messiahship. Matthew 13:54 tells us that people were amazed and asked where Jesus could have come by his wisdom and powers. Amazed they may have been, but amazement isn’t belief. Some couldn’t see beyond the miracles. Jesus wanted his preaching to reveal truths about the Kingdom of God – to make people ponder his teaching and parables so that they came to see the truth for themselves (though he gave deeper understanding to his close disciples as they needed to be prepared for what was to happen).
In a very real sense, Jesus did declare himself as Messiah. It was people who failed to identify him – and, sadly, some people still make the same mistake. There are many references to Jesus being open without being explicit. For example, Mark 2.1-12 tells of a paralysed man who was lowered through a roof because the house in which Jesus was preaching couldn’t hold all who wanted to hear. When Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven, some watching teachers of the law considered this blasphemy for, ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (Mark 2.7). But Jesus wasn’t blaspheming and, to prove his Godly authority, he told the man to get up and go home – which he did in full view – this time leaving the teachers as well as everyone else amazed.
Spreading the message
Other instances of Jesus spreading his Messianic message include the times he sent out the ‘Twelve’ (Luke 9.1-6) and ‘Seventy Two’ (Luke 10.1-24) in his name to spread the gospel, heal, and expel demons. Neither journey was ever intended to be secret; quite the opposite.
Clearly Jesus had a mission and nothing and no one was going to stop him. It’s hardly surprising that he didn’t invite problems from the Romans, though he was in no way scared of confrontation. His many clashes with religious leaders testify to that. Mark 1.38 confirms Jesus’ priority. When his disciples wanted him to stay with the crowd that had gathered, he said, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’
Ultimately, of course, complete revelation and fuller understanding had to wait for the cross and his resurrection when indeed: the hour had ‘come for the Son of Man to be glorified’ (John 12:23).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.