The Messianic Secret

What is with the “messianic secret” theme we read within the Gospel of Mark?

While Jesus exercises great power and authority, He repeatedly gives orders to conceal this power. Jesus prohibited the demons from making His divine connection known (1.24-25, 34; 3.11-12). He prohibited His disciples from spreading the claim that He is the Christ (8.29-30), and from reporting the revelation of His divine glory (9.9). He commands those who witnessed or received His power of healing to tell no one (1.44; 5.43; 7.36; 826). Examples abound, as do theories. So why did Jesus want to keep it secret?

In antiquity, claims to Messiahship came and went, and they were corrupt and misleading. The most common kind was a Messiahship equivalent to a warmongering, geo-political leader. But this is not the Messiah God had in mind (Ps. 22; Is. 50.4-9). God’s Messiah had to endure the passion. There is no other way to understand it.

Jesus’ reluctance to have reports of His miracles and identity spread prematurely is found in Mark’s conviction that Jesus’ Messiahship cannot be understood apart from His passion. The Centurion’s proclamation at Jesus’ death removes any doubt concerning the nature of His mission, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15.39). Thus, our discipleship cannot be properly lived out until all misunderstandings of Jesus are stripped away. 

The religious world today, much like in antiquity, perverts the true nature of our Messiah. So it is that Mark’s Gospel, and his “messianic secret” theme, is a powerful device that challenge’s its reader to rid themselves of any misunderstandings of their Lord. We would do well to closely read the true message of our Savior.