(15) The Messianic Secret
Do you remember that Jesus wouldn’t let the demons speak (Mark 1:34)? Why might it have been important for Jesus to control who was spreading his good news? Why might it be important for churches to train leaders today, rather than just accepting anyone who claims to have been called? How does this feed into denominations and traditions?
We left the story with Jesus and his followers (who have finally left their day-jobs) heading out into the countryside. What has driven them out of town? (Read Mark 1:33)
1. Read Mark 1:40-45 Jesus is telling someone not to talk about him again. Why?
a. What other types of “healing” were available to the people?
b. Luke is a physician. Asclepius is a cultic god. And Jesus is the Messiah… Where should we look for healing, and what sort of healing should we expect?
2. Read Luke 5:12-16 What does Luke add, and what does he leave out? Why might they choose these details?
3. Read Matthew 8:1-4 Matthew places the story after the Sermon on the Mount. Why might he have included Jesus’ teaching before adding stories of specific healings?
a. When might we want to include Jesus’ teaching before we talk about signs and wonders?
b. When might we want to include Jesus’ teaching before we talk about his divinity?
Jesus clearly has a base of operations somewhere – a home to return to every once in a while. Some say it was in Cana; others that it was Peter’s home. The following story seems to happen when Jesus and the disciples (still not 12 of them – do you know who is missing still?) return to stay in Capernaum.
1. Read Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 9:1-8, Luke 5:17-26. It’s a familiar story. Did anything surprise you, re-reading it in these three versions? Why are the teachers there and where did they come from?
2. What picture do you get of the crowds? What sort of events inspire this size of crowd today?
3. Jesus saw the leper and was filled with compassion and healed him. Why doesn’t he heal the paralytic as quickly?
a. Is Jesus “unwilling” to heal this time (Matthew 8:3, Mark 1:41, Luke 15:13)? Have you ever felt God was unwilling to give what you asked for? How did you respond?
b. As a lay-person watching in the crowd, would you think healing paralysis or forgiving sins was easier?
i. If you were a legalistic observer, would believing that only God forgives sins change your opinion? How would you expect God to respond if Jesus were not the Messiah?
ii. Have you ever felt God wasn’t punishing someone when he should? How do you respond?
c. Which is modern science better at, healing physical illness or healing mental illness with its accompanying guilts, sins, lack of forgiveness and self-forgiveness etc.?
4. Do you think they mended the roof afterward?
5. What Messianic “secret” does this reveal? How does this compare with demons revealing that Jesus is the Messiah or healed lepers shouting about what he has done?
In the Catholic and High Anglican churches, God allows priests and confessors to forgive sin. Read John 20:19-23m Matthew 18:18. We often gloss over these passages, but in the light of “only God has authority to forgive sins,” they’re huge. What does this tell us about the task of the church and of Jesus’ followers? Is the modern church known better for forgiveness or for condemnation?