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Why did Jesus want his miracles private?

Christine from North Carolina asked: Why did Jesus tell people not to let others know what He had done for them?

Christine, 

This is an excellent and important question. There are times when Jesus performed a miracle and then told people to remain quiet about it. Some people use that to wrongly try to prove that Jesus never claimed to be God.

When you take a close look at the times when Jesus did that, you'll generally see two contexts in which He tells people not to report who He is and what He has done. That happened early in His ministry and very late in His ministry.

An example from His early ministry is the healing of the leper in Matthew 8:2-4, Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16. Mark is especially helpful in providing Jesus’ attitude toward healings at the time.

Jesus had begun His ministry in Capernaum and was teaching in the synagogue where He was approached by a demon possessed man. While the demon was trying to get Him instant fame as the coming warrior-king, Jesus rebuked it and cast it out of the man. Jesus then spent the rest of the night healing the sick and casting out demons.

Early in the morning, Jesus went out of the town to pray. His disciples found Him and told Him everyone was looking for Him. Jesus said “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for” (Mark 1:38).

So, early on, Jesus did not want the word of His ministry to spread too quickly. He wanted to be able to visit various towns and preach to the people of Israel, which was the purpose of His ministry. He had come to deliver the good news, not perform miracles. He knew that if word of the miracles spread rapidly, he would be besieged by those needing healing, and would be unable to fulfill His real mission. 

In fact, what Jesus was concerned about actually happened when the leper disobeyed Him. Mark 1:45, the very last verse of the healing says this:

“But [the leper] went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.”

Jesus was unable to enter the towns He planned to visit. Instead, those who really wanted to hear Him had to come out to the countryside and find Him. 

Late in his ministry, Jesus gave similar instructions. We see that in the healing of a deaf man in Mark 7:31-37 and the healing of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:49-56. In these cases, Jesus was about to enter a time of preparing His twelve disciples for His death. These healings come shortly before Jesus took His disciples aside and asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15-20; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20-21).

This is important because Jesus was trying to get alone with His disciples to teach them the correct answer to that question and to let them know about His coming crucifixion and resurrection. However, everywhere He went, the crowds would follow and any time He did a miracle, the people would flock together and not give Him a moment’s peace.

At all the other times of Jesus’ ministry, He did not forbid, but actually encourages the spreading of the news of His miracles. Jesus used miracles to validate His message as from God and often encouraged people to talk about it.

It was in these two periods of His ministry, in particular, when he urged people to keep it quiet. When He first started His ministry, He wanted to reach as many towns as possible with the message of the kingdom without being overwhelmed by people wanting to be healed. When He was trying to get some personal time with His disciples, to prepare them for the dreadful day of His crucifixion and the fear and doubt that would overcome them until His resurrection, He did the same.

Thanks for your question, 

Stephen

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