This will be the final post in which I consider well-known Christians—especially athletes—using their well-knownness as a “platform” to speak about Christian faith.
For evangelical Christians raised on the song, “Be a Missionary Every Day,” and who’ve been exhorted to use every opportunity to testify about Christian faith, Mark’s “Messianic Secret” comes as quite a shock.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts everyone to keep quiet about him.
After he heals a leper (Mark 1:40-45), Jesus “sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone’” (vv. 44-45).
When unclean spirits identify Jesus as the Son of God (Mark 3:7-12), he “gave them strict orders not to tell others about him” (v. 12).
Jesus raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead to the astonishment of those gathered to mourn her passing (Mark 5:35-43). Jesus, of course, “gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this” (v. 43).
Even after Peter’s great confession of faith, identifying Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus warned his disciples “not to tell anyone about him” (Mark 8:27-30).
What’s going on here? Didn’t Jesus realize he was supposed to be a missionary every day? Why isn’t he exploiting these opportunities, using the excitement he’s generating to get the word out?
As I said yesterday, Jesus was well aware of the messianic misconceptions that were up and running in his Jewish culture. He knew that the great excitement would turn to disappointment and rejection when he began talking about self-giving love, servant-hood, non-retaliation, and how his mission was to culminate with his death on a Roman cross.
Jesus wanted to avoid generating too much “momentum” while perverted messianic notions persisted. He wanted to keep his identity a secret in order help his disciples truly understand what his mission and identity were all about.
Just to make the point that throughout his ministry, Jesus was carefully attentive to his culture and its perversions. This discernment kept him from using his growing well-knownness as a “platform” for his ministry. In fact, he rejected this strategy altogether.