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Why did Jesus tell those whom He healed to not to tell anyone about what He did?

Today’s question has to do with the methodology of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Why did Jesus tell those whom He healed to remain quiet and not to tell anyone about what He did? Why would the Lord want us to proclaim the Gospel now but those who were made well back then to be quiet? What is going on with this methodology of the Jesus’ ministry? Although we don’t have a direct answer in Scripture, there is some solid evidence that we can look to in Scripture in order to understand the Lord’s methodology.

Before we can get a grasp on this question, let’s take a look at the cultural expectations in Israel during the ministry of Jesus. Most of the nation was looking for a political revolutionary as Messiah. This expected king would free Israel from Roman rule and establish a dynasty that looked like a lot like Solomon and David’s kingdom. Distracted by this expectation, Israel looked past the clear prophecies about the Messiah that point to salvation accomplished through the atoning death of the Christ (Is. 53, Ps. 22). Since the political and religious environment in Israel was saturated with this kind of anticipation for the Messiah, Jesus was very careful to distinguish the real work and message of the saving work of the Christ from the populous’ way of thinking.

The first thing we observe about the practice of the Lord in the matter of commanding those who were healed to remain quiet is that the Lord didn’t mean to keep people away from coming to Him to hear Him preach the gospel. In fact, Jesus desired for the people to come to Him and hear the Word of God in His preaching and teaching (Luke 4:18). So why not advertise His power to heal? Because the primary purpose of the Lord Jesus was not healing but preaching the good news of the gospel (Mark 6:34). The fame of Jesus due to His compassionate healing ministry actually served to make it difficult for the Lord and His disciples to preach the gospel because of the crowd’s frenzied focus on healing and miracles. We get this kind of flavor from Jesus in John 6:26, “…you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” The people became more interested in the immediate benefits of being healed or fed than hearing and obeying the Word of God.

Second, Jesus’ method seems to reflect a very practical purpose—the availability to move freely for ministry. For example, Mark 1:44-45 tells us about a man who was healed from leprosy and went off “proclaiming it freely” in disobeying the command to keep quiet from the Lord. This resulted in great restriction of the ministry, “Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” His suffocating popularity limited His freedom to teach the Gospel.

Finally, the approach of Jesus in commanding quiet comes back to a very personal reason for the Lord and His disciples—rest and focus. Again, the popularity of Jesus made it difficult for quality time with His disciples. Mark 9:30-31 says, “Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them…”. It is reasonable to think that Jesus would need and desire time alone with His disciples. In fact, it is often the case that the explanation of the various teachings of Jesus to the disciples happen when they were alone. This might explain the exhausted Lord on the boat or the sleepy disciples in the garden.Although this wasn’t a strictly enforced rule of Jesus (Luke 5-The demoniac in a Gentile area was told to ‘go home and tell what the Lord has done for you’), it was nonetheless an effective and practical method for doing ministry in a politically and religiously expectant environment.        

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