A gracEmail subscriber asks why Jesus instructed his disciples in Luke 9:21 not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah, although he already had been healing people and performing miracles.
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In this passage Jesus has just prompted the acknowledgement from his disciples that he is the Christ of God — the Anointed “Messiah” through whom the prophets David, Daniel, Jeremiah and others predicted that God would usher in his kingdom (Lk 9:18-20). But neither the disciples nor the Jews in general could then comprehend that the Messiah would be rejected and murdered, or that his glorious kingdom would first be spiritual and inward before it would become visible and apparent (Lk. 9:21-22, 26). Jewish history had shaped their thoughts in a rather different direction.
From about 600 B.C. onward, the Jews in Palestine were either exiled or occupied by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Seleucids and Romans. The Jews came to expect a Messiah who would expel these foreigners from God’s holy land and restore the Kingdom of Israel as it had existed, for example, during the glory days of King David. The intertestamental book known as the Psalms of Solomon looked for such a king-Messiah; the Qumran community reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls expected a similar role for a priest-Messiah. More than once during his three-year ministry, Jesus resisted the temptation to solicit or to accept such a military-political role (Matt. 4:8-10; John 6:14-15; 18:36).
Jesus’ command to keep his messianic identity secret was intended to prevent interference by well-meaning Jews who did not understand God’s program for Jesus as suffering Messiah. After Jesus died and rose from the dead, he commissioned these same Apostles to tell the whole world who he is and what he has done (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:44-49). The day will yet come when Jesus Christ will return in power and glory to raise the dead and judge the world. Then there will be new heavens and new earth, free of evil and emptied of all who cling to it, and God’s kingdom will remain forever.