Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Messianic Secret Motif (Mark’s Gospel) and Its Application for Us

“Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ Jesus said. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

~Mark 14:61b-62 (NIV).

The gospel of Mark carries the Messianic Secret Motif. In other words, Jesus is found to be actively trying to withhold his identity as the Son of God for the appropriate time; and this above seems the appropriate time.

Time and again as Mark tells the story that is Jesus, hitting the ground running from prophesy to fulfilment—ministering, healing and teaching—he retains this mode of Jesus’ to keep the secret safe throughout. Jesus is “heard” in the text of Mark telling people to ‘be quiet’ whenever they utter he’s the Son of God or Messiah.

It didn’t serve his Divine purpose to be revealed too early—he still had much to do. And besides, he already had the Jewish rulers’ heckles up, without any notion of claiming absolute Divinity. Possibly the purpose Caiaphas (the high priest) had in asking the question above was not really about determining whether Jesus was the Son of God or not; he seems to be just wanting to get rid of him, and a cause of blasphemy was a pretty suitable reason. Enough for a punishment that would see Jesus no longer the problem he’d been to them.

In the three-fold structure of Mark, Jesus is shown to gradually unfold the secret:

è first it is a secret (1:1 – 8:26);

è in 8:27 to 10:52 Jesus uses a method to teach the disciples about discipleship, linking the Messianic teaching with suffering, and in effect revealing the secret to them no less than three times (and they still don’t seem to get it);

è by the time Jesus’ mission reaches Jerusalem in 11:1 the secret is now found no longer relevant as he allows a prophesy to be fulfilled in the Triumphal Entry sequence.

But, is there a more diffusive objective for us in this secret objective of Jesus’? I believe there is.

Jesus is deliberately and intentionally controlling the release of God’s power through him, using it wisely, each time for the appointed reason. He has no purpose of boasting. His destiny was too important to shatter in some little empty bragging—and there were plenty of times he could have bragged if he’d wanted to.

For us too, if we’re saved in Jesus, we have this indwelt power of the Holy Spirit guiding and equipping us; but it is little good if we’re shot down before our missions are accomplished.

This has applications for:

è Evangelism: don’t preach people away from the gospel too early. Keeping the secret as long as possible is an awesome gospel power that attracts people to God in love, never repelling them in fear (which is what the ‘Bible basher’ often does). (This doesn’t affect street-preaching, however, for all people should hear the gospel preached. The type of evangelism I speak of here is the one-on-one “forcing” evangelism which never serves God’s purposes. People should first be inquisitive to go one-on-one with them.)

è Ministry: do your deeds of good and have them sprinkled with secrecy—don’t seek humankind’s blessing, but God’s. This is God’s will for us (see, for instance, Matthew 6:1).

è Discipleship: follow Jesus wholeheartedly—and deeply personally—without being distracted at every turn by what the world demands. Your growth is your business; between you and God. Hold it sacred to you.

è Fellowship: celebrate faith with others and enjoy with each other what it is to live this “secret” life that exudes hope and light for others who may not know God.

è Worship: thank God for this model of servant leadership and of wisdom and humble grace.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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