Jesus had two main missions when He was born into this world: (1) Offer Himself up as a sacrifice for sin, and (2) teach His disciples the ordinances of the New Covenant. With only a little over three years in His ministry to accomplish these two items, one would think that He would seize any and every opportunity to make His presence known, letting people tell of His wonder and power the world over.

It’s confusing then, that on at least four different occasions (Mark 1:44-45; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30), after either performing a miracle or conversing with the Apostles, Jesus instructed those listening to “tell no one” either about what had happened or that He was the Christ. But why? Why try to hide the fact that He had come to save the world, if His goal was to reach as many people as possible? Wouldn’t He want them to tell everyone?

Unfortunately, I can’t read into the mind of Christ, and far be it from me to question our Lord on anything that He has done, as if my wisdom could supersede His. But this question is worth examining, and a few possible explanations have cropped up to answer this as best as we humans can:

Didn’t Want to Endanger His Life Prematurely

With Herod’s infanticide fresh on Jesus’ mind, as well as the recent execution of John the Baptist ], there’s little doubt that Jesus would be next on the kill list; propping Himself up as either the Messiah or as the King of the Jews would’ve done Him no favors in that department. He still had people to teach, miracles to work, and Apostles to train, and letting His fame skyrocket could have put Him in a vulnerable position.

It seems that this possibility was on Jesus’ mind as well. In John 7, Jesus’ brothers tries to get Him to go to Judea to “show Himself to the world,” right after John had noted that the Jews were “seeking to kill Him” (John 7:1). Jesus’ response? “My time is not yet at hand,” seeming to signify that He knew the trip would cost Him His life. He did eventually depart for Judea, but did so only in secret (John 7:10). Later, in John 12:23, when Jesus is conversing with His Apostles not long before His crucifixion, He remarked, “The hour has come for Me to be glorified.” Would a sudden surge in Jesus’ popularity by revealing Himself boisterously caused Him to die an early death? We can’t really know for sure, but all signs point to yes.

Didn’t Want to Brag

Was Jesus just being modest in regards to His deity? Some have speculated that Jesus commanded others to not let on about His true identity because He didn’t want to seem “un-relatable” to others, bringing up commands from Jesus such as “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first” (Matt. 20:16) as justification for their position.

This seems the weakest of the three, as it implies that Jesus went to great lengths, even risking a self-denial in the face others, simply because He wanted to appear modest. Taken with His declarations against the pharisees for their pseudo-modesty (Matt. 23:28), this explanation fails to satisfy.

Didn’t Want to be Divert Attention From the Message

A final possibility could be Jesus’ insistence that His message come first, and that anything that could possibly impede that mission would need to be reined in. In Mark 1:44-45, we see an example of this very early in Jesus’ ministry, when Jesus heals a man of his leprosy, and then commands Him to “say nothing to anyone,” but to first show himself to the priest. The former leper promptly disobeys this order, and proclaims the good news about Jesus everywhere, to such an extent that Mark records that “Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas.” 

Jesus did not want to simply be known as a “miracle-worker.” Although that was a very integral part of His ministry, being the thing that affirmed His deity to the masses, Jesus so often spoke of looking past the wondrous acts He performed and on to the meaning behind them (John 6:22-27). If He had wanted to be the Greatest Show on Earth, He certainly could have, but the fact that He had respect for His message and His work shows that His interests certainly lay where they should.

Last modified: February 10, 2019