The Messianic Secret

Very frequently Jesus tells those he has healed to keep the news to themselves.  Just as frequently, his admonition is ignored. How are we to understand this aspect of the Gospel?

There are several possible explanations for what scholars have come to call “the Messianic secret.”

First, we need to remember that most of the people of that time expected the Messiah to be a powerful military or political figure who would restore Israel’s freedom from foreign occupation. Obviously, Jesus was not that kind of Messiah; so he cautions those who have been healed so that people will pay attention to his words rather than his deeds.

Second, Jesus tells us that his mission is to proclaim that the kingdom of God is near, is among us. In other words, it is about God’s kingdom, not about him.

Third, it could be a form of rhetorical irony. The Good News simply could not be contained. It bursts forth, and nothing will still it.

All of these are possibilities and need to be considered. However, there is a fourth explanation that is particular to St. Mark’s Gospel. Without being disrespectful let me say that in St. Mark’s Gospel no one, including the apostles, seems to get Jesus’ message and mission. So this story of the deaf man with a speech impediment might just be a figure that represents all of the people who encounter Jesus. They don’t hear. They don’t preach the message. When Jesus declares, “Be open,” perhaps he is speaking to all those who are reading the Gospel. “Be open to God’s Word.” “Listen.”

In St. Mark’s Gospel, it is only the Roman centurion who stands beneath the cross of Jesus who recognizes who Jesus really is. Could anything be more ironic?

Each day we hear God’s word? Do we really listen? Are we truly open to the Good News? Or does it go in one ear and out the other!

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administration


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