Matthew’s Explanation of the “Messianic Secret”

One of the big topics in the Gospel of Mark is what is known as the “Messianic Secret”. Over and over again in Mark, Jesus tells people not to tell others about who he is. This happens up until Mark 8 when Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is and Peter says he is the Christ or Messiah. It seems kind of strange for Jesus to tell others not to tell people about what they have seen until half way through the book. Some believe the reason for this is because Jesus didn’t want people to misunderstand his mission and follow him for all the wrong reasons (to receive food like when he fed the 5000 in Mark 6) (Jesus 101, p 22).

I was reading in Matthew today and it looks like Matthew actually gives an explanation as to why Jesus told people not to tell. It has to do with fulfillment of prophesy from Isaiah 42:1-4. Here is what Matthew tells us in Matthew 12:13-21,

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

God’s Chosen Servant

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16 warning them not to tell who he was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
21     In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Am I reading that right? Why haven’t I read anyone just offering Matthew’s explanation and why have so many tried so many other explanations if it is right there? Maybe this has been mentioned in commentaries dozens of times and I am just ignorant. This link seems to say the prophesy isn’t about the secret but instead points back to Jesus (in that instance) being unwilling to engage the Pharisees. I did a little more poking around and the Holman Bible Dictionary offers this as a possibility. Thoughts?

Seeking Simplicty

When we lived in Memphis we used to knock doors on Saturday mornings for the bus ministry at an apartment complex in Millington called Flag Manor. One door we knocked on a regular basis was the apartment of an older couple who had an adult son who was mentally challenged. His name was Ricky. Ricky came on the bus for a while. He didn’t understand too much of what was going on but he sure enjoyed being with everyone. One day Ricky told us he wanted to be baptized. We weren’t really sure how much Ricky understood so another minister and I sat down with Ricky and talked with him about his faith, Jesus Christ and what baptism meant. The best we could do to find out what Ricky believed was to ask him some yes/no questions. What he made clear was that “yes” he understood Jesus was the Son of God, “yes” Jesus died for his sins and third – “yes” he wanted to be baptized. How do you argue with that? So we baptized him.

I am positive Ricky will never have a doctrinal debate with someone and I am sure Ricky won’t understand why we do all the things we do. I am also positive that Ricky has a love for God and trusts God to see him through. What amazes me is that Jesus doesn’t call us to be like the teachers of the Law, who knew every intricacy of scripture but whose knowledge didn’t always translate into a closer walk with God. In Matthew 18, Jesus called his disciples to be like the little children, really…like Ricky.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

The first thing that jumps out at me is that Jesus uses the word “change”…that implies most of us aren’t there yet. Something needs adjusted in order to obey Christ on this one. I think what Jesus was getting at when he said that wasn’t about knowledge. I think it was about the heart. Jesus wasn’t condemning Bible study or growing in your faith. Jesus was warning against having a heart of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness instead having the heart of a child, one of total dependency upon God even for our daily bread. So we have our discussions, we fine tune our doctrine, and we work out all sorts of details on things from scripture and write lengthy commentaries detailing all sorts of interesting minutia…but at the end of the day God uses the simple to shame the wise. So don’t get caught up in the complex…seek the simple.

Let me conclude this post with some words of wisdom from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1,

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Frankincense and Myrrh

Tomorrow we are teaching some kids about the Magi story. In order to do that we realized we needed to do our homework, gather props, etc. I assumed I knew what frankincense and myrrh were but I was a little off. Frankincense is a resin scrapped from trees in North Africa and made into a perfume. Myrrh is also a resin that is retrieved from trees in East Africa and is also used for incense and perfumes. For some reason I thought one of the gifts was a spice of some sort but I stand corrected. Jesus got gold and two different types of perfume. There are various theories as to why these three gifts and what they represented. Some point to gold and Jesus being king, frankincense was associated with worship, and myrrh was used by the Egyptians to embalm so it could point to his death. I am really not sure if that is on target. I will have to look at Davies and Allison’s ICC commentary when I get a chance and update this post.

When Our Kids Teach Us About God

Today Jonah, our two year old, shed some light on why God doesn’t always give us the things we really want. Missy had baked some cupcakes and he really wanted one. He threw a fit trying to get one so we didn’t let him have one until he calmed down and asked nicely. Then he wanted another. He proceeded to throw another tantrum trying to get said cupcake but this time we didn’t let him have any. He was told he had to wait until lunch and if he finished all his food he could have another. He didn’t like that answer and stormed off into his room. When lunch came he said he wanted a cupcake. We told him again what he had to do to get one. He didn’t like that answer and whined through the first five minutes of lunch before he finally started eating his food. Once he finished all his food he got what he so desperately wanted.

It reminded me of my relationship with God. Sometimes there are things I really want but God makes me wait because he knows what is best for me. It was best that Jonah eat a balanced meal. It was best that Jonah learned to wait. It was also best that Jonah is learning how to ask politely for things. Imagine what kind of child he would be if we gave him everything he wanted the moment he asked or the moment he threw a tantrum. I doubt he would make it very far in life. God knows what we need and He knows when to give it. So the next time you wonder why God isn’t giving you something remember that what He does give you will be just what you need.

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.    9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:7-12

Sermon on the Mount Curriculum Now Online

I have finally finished writing our curriculum for the Sermon on the Mount series we have been teaching in our men’s and women’s Wednesday night classes. I am adding it to the Bible class archive and posting a link here. It is 12 sessions in 51 pages. I think there is a good balance in these lessons between getting into the text and making application. Feel free to use this, print this, etc free of charge!

Sermon on the Mount Curriculum

That puts the Bible class archive near 500 lessons, over 40 different series with nearly 2000 pages of free curriculum! Good job guys. If you have any lessons you want to submit that you have written please email them to me.

Does Matthew’s Structure Parallel the Torah?

Over the last few months I have been writing curriculum on the Sermon on the Mount for our men’s and women’s classes. I have heard several other people begin to study this as well in recent weeks and months and everyone who I have talked to keeps saying they are doing so because it is so relevant for our day and age. I agree. In studying the wise and foolish builders (the conclusion of the sermon) I ran across something pretty obscure but potentially very relevant in N.T. Wright’s book Matthew for Everyone. He notes that Matthew uses a similar phrase five times to section off Jesus’ teaching into five blocks and concludes each section with a phrase like “when Jesus had finished teaching…” Here are the five occurrences of that phrase (or one very similar)

  1. 7:28 – concludes the sermon on the mount
  2. 11:1 – concludes teaching his disciples
  3. 13:53 – concludes a section of parables
  4. 19:1 – concluding a chapter of parables/teachings
  5. 26:1 – concluding a section of teachings from 23-25 but also seems to serve as the close of the final section “when Jesus had finished all these words…”

What else had five sections? The Torah. Where was the Torah delivered? On a mountain. He makes a good case that Jesus is teaching with more power and authority than Moses (See Deut 18:14-21). You do see that in the sermon on the mount especially…”you have heard it said but I tell you…” Where had they heard most of that said? The Torah. I had never heard anyone make that point before but it is kind of fascinating.

Don’t Throw Your Pearls to Pigs – Matthew 7:6

What did Jesus mean when he said, ““Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”?

In Matthew 7:1 Jesus starts talking about how we judge. On the surface it seems that he is saying we shouldn’t do any judging. But that is certainly not the case because just 5 verses later he is comparing some people to wild dogs and wild pigs. The truth is we all have to be able and willing to judge from what is right and wrong. Jesus’ point in saying that we should be careful about the standards we use to judge people was about the attitude of the heart. That is really what the entire sermon is about – putting God right at the center of our lives and having our attitudes and actions line up with God’s priorities. God doesn’t want his people to be the harsh, judgmental critics of the world. If we live and judge like that we will receive the same judgment or condemnation back on ourselves.

So Jesus holds two seemingly opposite points in tension so that we will find balance in the way we view others and in the way we judge between right and wrong. On one hand he says don’t judge people (7:1). On the other hand he says we are to be discerning of people’s character (7:6). When Jesus says don’t throw your pearls to pigs or give to dogs what is sacred he is saying that we can’t just walk around covering up everything or overlooking all forms of evil. It is important that we are able to call things for what they are. It is a vivid illustration. Someone who never judges, in their mindset of never passing judgment, walks right up to a wild pig and says “Here are some pearls for you!” (a symbol of something holy and pure). The pig tramples them and their pearls into the mud. Jesus is saying to be discerning and wise in how we judge. He is not teaching that all judgments are off limits. You have to allow Jesus to make his own point and the way to do that is to hold these two things (7:1 and 7:6) in tension just as Jesus taught them in tension with one another. When we do that we will come to the balanced approach Jesus is looking for – able to tell right from wrong without developing a judgmental spirit.


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