On our way back from a Young Life meeting my son asked a question about something he heard that evening. In Mark 1 Jesus heals a man with leprosy, but tells him to keep it quiet. Why does he do this? Why does he keep telling people to keep their mouths closed?
In Mark 1 the man doesn’t listen. He can’t help it and shares openly about Jesus. This makes it so Jesus can’t move about town anymore, and he had to go out to “desolate” places. He’s like a celebrity that leaves Los Angeles after being harassed by the paparazzi.
In the next chapter his following continues to grow. Jesus is teaching and the house he’s in is so crowded that a group of friends destroy the roof to reach Jesus. In chapter three he’s headed out to sea as crowds follow. In verse nine it says his disciples prepare a boat for Jesus “lest [the crowds] crush him.” He had gained quite a following with his authoritative teachings and especially his miraculous healings. Yet he still tells people to stay quiet, even after he brings a girl back from the dead at the end of chapter five. He does wondrous things and says to keep a lid on it.
So why would Jesus, who came to do these things tell people to stay quiet or tell no one? Why is he often withdrawing from the crowds? Why not keep all eyes on him at all times to see everything he does? Even in Mark 6 it seems like he may be trying to play things down a little. We read about Jesus walking on water, and there is this line in verse 48, “He meant to pass them by.” The words jumped out to me and upon further research it may not be what I thought at first. It could be that meaning to “pass them by” echoes the Old Testament where God passes by someone like Moses. So Jesus may not have intended to be unseen but this wording expresses an intent to reveal. But it could still continue this tension of revealing his power yet keeping things hidden. Again why?
Why didn’t Jesus fly around and write in big letters in the clouds, “I’m the Son of God”? Couldn’t he at least encourage, rather than discourage, people from sharing about him?
It seems the answer, or at least the one I told my son, comes back to the fact that Jesus isn’t winging it. Jesus didn’t make things up as he went along, rather he is following a plan that has been around since before the world was made. And part of that plan necessitated a bit of quiet. Even with Jesus trying to limit talk, the crowds were already mobilized. Word was spreading and spreading fast. But things needed to progress as Jesus intended, building up and coming to a peak just when he enters Jerusalem ready to be the true passover lamb.
We may have a time table that suits our desires, but God has a plan that cannot be rushed. In the moment it may be difficult and may leave us with some confusion. But we need to trust the one who was willing, according to his plans, to go to the cross for us.