I received this great question via text today: “Why in Mark 3:11 does Jesus not want the impure spirits to tell people who he is?”
Common sense would tell us that Jesus would want as many people as possible to know who he is and what he was doing, so why the hush hush? Did Jesus have some kind of secret?
Not exactly. There are two primary reasons why Jesus told both demons and those who he healed to keep things quiet.
First, Jesus knew that if word spread of his healing miracles, people would flock from all over Israel and neighboring nations to catch a glimpse of him. Something absolutely essential to keep in mind is that Jesus never entered a city with the primary purpose of healing. He entered cities with the primary purpose of preaching. Jesus had great compassion and would always take the time to graciously heal, but that was never his central mission. We learn this in Mark 1. After Jesus heals a leper, he commands the man to “say nothing to anyone.” The former leper just couldn’t keep it to himself, and in verse 45 he “went out and began to talk freely about it. . .” Scripture then says that Jesus was not able to openly enter towns because he was being swamped with folks, so he had to stay in the outskirts. The point of application for all of us is to remember that Jesus is not first and foremost a source for getting what we want. Yes, Jesus loves to heal and we should ask in faith for his healing, but only in the context of our complete surrender to him with our lives. The eternal healing of Jesus is more important than the temporary healing.
Second, and probably more important, is that Jesus knew what the people would want to do if his Messianic nature was made public too quickly. As we see from his humble birth in a manger, Jesus’ understanding of what the Messiah would look like was much different than what the public wanted; they were wanting thrones and elegant garments and a mighty sword. Jesus, on the hand, understood his role as Messiah to be one of death on a cross. In order for Jesus to convey the true nature of his Messiahship, there would need to be time for people to gradually put the pieces together. Too much too quick can be a bad thing, especially when it is being spread by demons who ultimately want to hurt the name of God. Jesus did, in fact, say he was the fulfillment of Scripture more than once, but he always relayed the news according to his time and circumstance. This is a great thing to keep in mind with new believers. We can not expect those who are new in Christ to be wrestling with certain things such as the tension between Sovereignty and free will, they are not ready for that yet. Time will bring maturity and increased ability to understand.
In 1901, William Wrede presented a poor theological argument called the “Messianic Secret.” When we speak of the “secret” ambition of Christ, we don’t mean what Wrede was suggesting (which I won’t bore you with the details, I just needed to put that disclaimer out there). Probably the way most church goers understand this issue is through the old song by Michael W. Smith called “Secret Ambition.” In case you aren’t familiar with it, here it is for your enjoyment. This was when MWS was a rocker!