Why did Jesus not want to be identified?

I have had the opportunity to lead the Builders Sunday Morning Small Group for three weeks studying the gospel according to Mark. This question was from a breakout group studying Mark 8:27-30.

In this scripture passage, Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah or Christ and then Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about it. The so-called messianic secret of Jesus has been a source of question for me as well over time.

Scholar Pheme Perkins asserts in the New Interpreter’s Bible that there are several possible reasons for Jesus asking the disciples to keep quiet about his identity as Messiah.

  • Timing – The proclamation of Jesus as messiah is not completely true until after resurrection. Peter’s proclamation is not yet completely realized.
  • Context – Prior to Peter’s naming of Jesus as messiah the only time that this has occurred is in the context of an exorcism or healing. This may not be the proper context to proclaim Jesus’ identity.
  • Witnesses – Previously the witnesses to Jesus identity had been demons and perhaps these are not truly witnesses to Jesus.
  • Suffering – The disciples did not seem to understand that being a savior involves suffering.

I find these to be pretty compelling reasons, but on a few of them I still have some questions. For example, if someone is witnessing to Jesus but is not a believer does this particularly matter? Or is the fact that Jesus is being proclaimed enough?

What do you think? How would you respond to this question?

You can find previous responses to questions coming from this class here:

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4 thoughts on “Why did Jesus not want to be identified?

  1. It may seem trite, but I always imagined the reason was related to the coming of the Messiah as a catalyst for a rebellion or uprising.

    Keeping the Messianic secret meant people could name Jesus for themselves and judge by the fruits of his good works instead of on the boilerplate title “Messiah”.

  2. Pingback: Did Peter know what he meant by saying, “You are the Christ?” « Thoughts of Resurrection

  3. I always understood that it was just too early. Jesus was not well enough known and his following was small enough that publicly proclaiming him would have led to a swift and uncontroversial crucifixion. Basically, Jesus knew proclaiming him would lead in short order to his death, and the work of his life was not done.

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