Church of Christ
Texts to consider: Mark 1:43-44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26
On five occasions in this week’s readings, Jesus
commands silence after performing miracles. Why? Given that miracles were a
sign, why would Jesus want that sign to be inhibited in any way? Rather than deal
with them in the sequence they are recorded in Mark’s gospel, they will be
considered as part of either a public or private setting.
Mark 3:12 is the only one in the
setting of a crowd. Also, the statement is recorded only once here but seems to
have been repeated on the many occasions when Jesus cast out demons. While the
beneficiary of the exorcism was some poor soul, the focus of the record is on
the demons themselves and their response to Jesus. As Guelich puts it, “…The demons by virtue
of their supernatural knowledge recognize who Jesus is as seen by their
prostration and their statements.”
It is argued that Jesus could not tolerate the witness of an unclean spirit, so
He commanded its silence. However, Guelich makes the point that Mark does use
the demons as witnesses to the deity of Jesus, so such an argument collapses.
Guelich continues to explain the censuring of the demons “…since as supernatural beings they
recognize Jesus and Mark has placed on their lips the correct identity of Jesus
as ‘Son of God.’ We are left then with the possibility that their statement of
who Jesus is came at an inappropriate time.”
The other four events – Mark
1:43-44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26 – all take place in a private setting that in the
latter three instances Jesus ensured. Mark 1:43-44 is the only one of these
events where Jesus did not do so, and it seems reasonable to accept that it was
a private encounter.
Noteworthy too, is that in Mark
1:43-44 and 7:36, the prohibition to tell anyone what happened was ignored.
Gould points out “His spreading the story prevented
Jesus’ work in public, and forced him into retirement, and so Jesus forbade his
Guelich asserts the prohibition as “…a ‘messianic secret’ motif”.
He continues, “…the ‘secrecy command’ and its violation serves an ironic
purpose for Mark to show the drawing power of the “preaching” of those healed.”
With regard to Mark 7:36, Guelich continues, “The people disregard the command
in proportion to Jesus’ insistence on it.”
Greek words used by Mark do not help with the interpretation of these passages
as several different words are used and occasionally repeated. Instead, Guelich
makes the best argument as to why Jesus insists on secrecy, “So the evangelist
adapts the secrecy command to accent the futility of any attempt by Jesus to
keep a low profile.”
Simply put, the injunction of the beneficiaries to remain silent about their respective blessings from Jesus were a useful means that Mark uses in his narrative. Again, Guelich says, “Instead of contributing to a ‘messianic secret,’ these injunctions serve as a literary device by which Mark prepare’s [sic] for the next scene.”
more than that, the “secrecy motif” is that Jesus is only properly understood
as deity with the death, burial, and resurrection in plain view of the
 Ezra Palmer Gould, A
Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark,
International Critical Commentary (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1922), 32.