Generally speaking, what’s your response to achieving something noteworthy? You run a marathon, graduate college, get a new job, find a spouse, have a kid, receive a promotion, retire, whatever it might be – when we do something worth celebrating, we like to let people know.
And because we live in an age where everyone carries a megaphone in their pocket, it’s easier than ever to go public with any form of news or announcement. Share it, spread the word, tap into the algorithm, release the dopamine.
And even if we don’t like or use social media, we’re not immune to accomplishments breeding a desire for recognition. We redirect conversations to share the things that we’ve learned or done. It can be like an itch that needs scratching.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, celebrations are meant to be a joint project. Why then does Jesus seemingly always oppose our intuition when he does something impressive? Why doesn’t he go public? There are many examples of when he hushes miracle witnesses, but here are three:
- Mark 1:43-44 – Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone…”
- Luke 8:56 – Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
- Matthew 9:29-30 – Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”
After taking away people’s most significant ailments, Jesus would ask (even command) them to not share the news. Not to go public. Curious right? Why not allow at least one selfie with the miracle worker?
It’s worth noting that the Apostle John doesn’t include these interactions in his Gospel account, likely because he is much more upfront with his agenda (John 1:29). He’s much quicker to lay his cards on the table than Matthew, Mark, and Luke in pinpointing what Jesus is about and why he came to earth in the first place.
However, John’s gospel is not without parallels to Jesus concealing impressive achievements. The most prominent example is in John 6 when Jesus miraculously feeds thousands on a hillside. The crowd instantly wants to make him king. Their thought process is practically jumping off the page: “This guy can really do something about our problems! Hurry, start the campaign – get this guy into a position of power so we can finally do something!!”
But Jesus won’t have any of it. He withdraws from the masses. He won’t be crowned on their terms. They are looking for a particular type of king, but the Messiah has other plans in mind. On his pathway to the crown and the throne, he will operate on a different playing field.
But even here, Jesus begins to show his playbook when he quiets the crowd with a disconcerting invitation: you have to eat my body and drink my blood (John 6:55-56). Without missing a beat, the same people who wanted to put a crown on his head, now want him in a straight jacket.
But Jesus stands by what he says. He doubles down on this invitation at a dinner party a bit later in the story. The night before he dies, in fact. It’s the eve of his death and he tells his friends to eat bread and drink wine for this is his body and his blood, given for you.
Here is where we’re given the reason for the prior shushing of all the miracles. Jesus is essentially saying “I am going public on terms that don’t impress people but confound them. I am being crowned in weakness, not strength. By death, not life. With a broken body, and shed blood. And all of this is for you.” His prior privateness reveals the inauguration of a kingdom decidedly not of “be impressive and know all of this information to change the world!” but instead a kingdom wrapped up around Jesus’s self-denial, humility, and one-way love shown most fully at the cross.
Here is what he is ultimately crowned under, namely, the banner of die-in-your-place grace. The first time in the gospel of Mark where he doesn’t tell someone to hide a miracle is when he saves a man from a demon and a herd of pigs hurl themselves off a cliff as a result (Mark 5:13). We can conclude he doesn’t hush the witnesses on this one because this is the story Jesus came to tell — one of substitutionary healing, at the death of another. The surprise is Jesus identifying with the lowly pigs in their rushing off the hill.
The most public act Jesus ever accomplished was his death on the cross. He broadcasted himself as the Messiah through a public execution. It’s the type of thing we don’t like to have details about. And yet, it’s exactly what we all didn’t know we needed. This is why there is no longer any shyness about miracles after the cross, but instead a “tell the world!” posture towards the miracle of the cross. The parable of the necessity of the death of the Son has given way to the clarity of the gospel itself. But we’re the ones who put it on display. We glory in the act of another, and not in our own.