SECRETS - Enhance Your Reading of Mark's Gospel Part 2

Open Bible

Last week I published a blog post looking at MarkanSandwiches and how they have helped me to make sense of Mark’s Gospel and what Mark was trying to achieve – and by extension this helped me to deepen my faith and understand scripture better.

This post I wanted to talk about another curiosity within Mark’s gospel that has had a similar effect – The Messianic Secret.

The Messianic Secret was first expounded by the theologian William Wrede. He noticed that throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus was constantly asking people not to say anything about who he was. This generally took the form of:

a) Jesus casting demons from people and then commanding them not to say anything about who he was, and
b) Jesus healing people and then asking them not to tell anyone about what he had done.

Wrede argued that Mark used this device as a cover up for the fact that Jesus never spoke enough about the fact that he was the Messiah; however I think that theologian Paula Gooder’s explanation is much better.

Gooder instead invites us to look at the one person that defies this norm – the Geresene demoniac. In the story, Jesus crosses over into the region of the Geresenes and meets a man with many demons. Jesus casts out the demons and the man says “Can I follow you?”, Jesus says no, but instead tells the man to go and tell everyone in his local village about what had happened.

All throughout the gospel we see these people being implored by Jesus not to say anything, and yet here is Jesus asking this man to do the complete opposite.

What is the difference? Well this man is not Jewish, he is a Geresene, and this makes a huge difference.

All of the people Jesus told to not to say anything, were Jewish, and the calls to demons not to say anything were in Jewish land. Why?

The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, a Messiah who would do the kinds of things that Jesus was doing (healing people, casting out demons). But along with those expectations of the messiah, there were many others, these included becoming a military force and defeating the heathen overlords of Israel (aka the Romans). But this was in fact the very opposite of Jesus’ plan, Jesus did not intend to defeat the Romans, but rather to be defeated by the Romans.

If the Jews did indeed see Jesus as the Messiah, then they would have understood Him very differently to how He understood Himself, and He would have been thrust into a warlord like status.

However the Gerasenes did not have these beliefs, there was no great expectations, no warlord like status, no misunderstandings.

We can also contrast these secret statements with the very end of the gospel, where the women at the tomb are told to "Go tell".

What has changed?

The story is complete, it is only once the whole story has been fulfilled: the death, the resurrection, that the Jewish people can see the Messiah for who he truly is, as a king who defeats death and the powers of darkness by allowing them to do their worst.

Now that people have the whole story, they are free to take this message into the world.
The next obvious question is: if Jesus did not want people to know who he was, and knew that even though he told them not to say anything, they inevitably did, then why did he heal people in the first place?

The answer is found in the first healing that occurs very early in the gospel (Mark1) – Jesus sees a man afflicted with Lepresy, and it says that Jesus was filled with compassion. Other early manuscripts have a different word in place of compassion: anger: Jesus was filled with anger.

I think that both renderings are extremely powerful: for Christ to be filled with compassion for the man, or anger at the illness. In other words, Christ had to act to heal, even if it meant people misunderstanding him.

This is the same way we should understand Christ in our lives. As someone who is filled with love and compassion for us. As someone who consistently puts our needs above his own.

May we understand the whole story of what Christ did, may we know the love of Christ in our lives, and may we too be filled with compassion.

What was your main thought when reading this? Post it in the comments below.

Image Credit
Tamara Menzi

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