Flashback Episode — Speaking Out When Asked to Stay Silent: Mark 1:40-45

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At the start of Jesus’ public ministry, the gospel of Mark describes Jesus doing something that is very counterintuitive for someone just starting a ministry. While this isn’t the first miracle Jesus performed, something He tells the person He healed following the healing doesn’t make much sense from our perspective, especially if we were advising Jesus launching a ministry in today’s world.

Let’s read what happened, and discover what Jesus did following this healing. Our passage is from the gospel of Mark, chapter 1, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 40, Mark tells us that:

40 A man with a skin disease came to Jesus. He fell to his knees and begged Jesus, “You can heal me if you will.”

41 Jesus felt sorry for the man, so he reached out his hand and touched him and said, “I will. Be healed!” 42 Immediately the disease left the man, and he was healed.

Let’s pause briefly here because a detail about this healing is worth paying attention to. We see a man coming to Jesus who had a skin disease, and chances are this disease was incurable. However, the man states his request in an interesting way. By saying “you can heal me if you will”, the man displays a faith in Jesus’ ability to perform the miracle, but he acknowledges that he might not be worthy of receiving such a life-changing gift.

I wonder if this man had a particularly sinful past, and the skin disease was something he believed was a punishment for the things he did wrong earlier in his life. If so, the way this request is phrased also hints at a request for forgiveness.

This event in itself is amazing to think about, because this was before Jesus had gotten the reputation of being a miracle-healer. Somehow, this man had learned about Jesus before Jesus was well known, and this man knew in his heart that Jesus could heal him. However, I wonder if this man questioned whether Jesus would want to heal him.

We see Jesus’ response first feeling sorry for the man, and then touching him, which was a big deal in that era. Touch is how skin diseases like this were spread, and getting a skin disease meant that a person was not touched in any meaningful way again.

Jesus’ response was as loving as His touch. Jesus tells the man, “I will. Be healed!” This is powerful because any doubt in this man’s mind about God’s love for him was erased in this moment. If the man’s past made him doubtful about whether God loved Him, Jesus’ actions and words emphasized God’s love and forgiveness towards this man.

The man did not doubt Jesus could heal him. This man had faith. This man also needed encouragement and a reassuring message of God’s love towards him.

But what comes next is fascinating. Immediately after the man is healed, verse 43 continues by telling us:

43 Jesus told the man to go away at once, but he warned him strongly, 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. But go and show yourself to the priest. And offer the gift Moses commanded for people who are made well. This will show the people what I have done.” 45 The man left there, but he began to tell everyone that Jesus had healed him, and so he spread the news about Jesus. As a result, Jesus could not enter a town if people saw him. He stayed in places where nobody lived, but people came to him from everywhere.

When reading about this miracle, we can understand the healed man’s enthusiasm about what Jesus did for him. He tells everyone he can about Jesus.

But Jesus’ request to keep quiet about this healing does not make sense, especially when framed in today’s attention-starved world. In the 21st century, new products and ideas have a huge uphill climb in order to be known. The methods for sharing products and ideas have become endless, and the barriers for bringing a product or idea into reality are almost none. However, this has resulted in a flood of ideas into the market, and overwhelming people living today into ignoring 99% or more of what they see. In our minds, it makes no sense that Jesus would want to silence one of His best brand ambassadors.

This would be like visiting a church, having a physical miracle take place, and those present telling you to keep quiet about what happened. This makes no sense for the person who is excited to have been healed, and it makes no sense if this church wants to grow, get donations, and/or have enough to pay their bills.

I’ve heard some people say that Jesus told this man to keep quiet as a way to inspire him to share more, as though Jesus was challenging this man’s rebellious side to do more than he would have normally done. However, this doesn’t make sense in my mind with how the passage concluded. This man’s excessive sharing made Jesus so popular that He could not enter a town if someone recognized Him, and He had to stay in secluded places away from the cities and towns.

Jesus loved people, and I wonder if He told this man to keep quiet because He wanted the freedom of anonymity to be able to go to more people who needed help and who were not physically able to come to Him. This makes sense on one level. Jesus knew word would eventually spread about Him whether He liked it or not, but He wanted to slow the spread so that He could help as many people where they were at in the cities, towns, and villages.

Jesus also told the man to go to the priest, present an offering, and get the official bill of clean health. I think this also has a hint towards why Jesus wanted the man to stay quiet. Jesus says that going and showing himself to the priest “will show the people what I have done”. Who are the people Jesus is referring to? When we think about this, the first people who would learn about this would be all the priests and religious leaders, and it would spread out from there.

I wonder if Jesus had intended this miracle to be a witness and a challenge for the religious leaders. While there were some religious leaders who were already against Jesus, such as those who lived in the Nazareth synagogue we discussed in a previous episode, I wonder if this miracle was Jesus subtly reaching out with a message to the religious leaders about God stepping into history and that He was the Messiah who was prophesied about.

Regardless of what the reasons were, or even if that was all the reasons, this man chose to disobey Jesus and tell everyone about what Jesus had done for him. This is worth paying attention to as well because when God has done something for us, it is natural for us to tell someone else about it. It is actually unnatural to try to keep it a secret.

So with that in mind, has God done something in your life recently? If so, did you tell others about it?

Jesus had His reasons for asking the man He healed to keep quiet about this healing, but that doesn’t mean that this is Jesus’ message for us today. One of His last messages to His followers was to tell everyone about Him, and that means that we are called and challenged to tell others about what Jesus has done for us. While not everyone is willing to listen, we are all called to share. When we share, we should not put other people down in order to lift Jesus up. We should instead simply lift Jesus up for what He has done for us, and invite those we are sharing with to celebrate with us.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always be sure to seek God first and pay attention to the things He blesses us with. When God does something for us, let’s celebrate it and invite others into our celebration. Our joy is a powerful witness in a world where joy is fading.

Also, be sure to study the Bible for yourself and discover what God wants to tell you though the pages of His word. A pastor or podcaster can give you ideas, but discovering truth straight from the Bible has no comparison, and humbly studying the Bible helps each of us grow closer to God in a personal way.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 7: What happens when Jesus asked a man He healed to stay quiet? Discover several things we can learn about Jesus and God from this event and about what happened.

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