Hidden And Revealed In Luke – Acts

Before and After

In my previous post I outlined why, according to Isaiah 53:3, the hiding of the face had to become an important step in the Messianic program and a prominent feature in the “Messianic Servant” image. We might therefore expect this concept to be present in the New Testament as well: Messiah, hidden in heaven from the beginning, comes to earth, but continues to remain hidden, only to be revealed at the appointed time. Therefore, if Jesus was the Messiah and had to fulfill the messianic program of Isaiah 53, it was necessary that he hide his face, His messianic status needed to be concealed during his life and his ministry. We can therefore suggest, that the messiahship of Jesus was understood, not only by Himself but also by those describing his life and his ministry, in terms of a Messiah “hidden and revealed”—a Messiah whose messiahship is hidden till the appointed time, and only revealed afterwards.  Do we find proof to this concept in the New Testament?

Since Luke is the only author that describes both the earthly life of Jesus and the ministry of his disciples after his crucifixion and resurrection, it is Luke’s writings that provide us with a unique opportunity to follow the development of this “before and after” theme. While writing about Jesus’ earthly life, Luke continually depicts him concealing his messiahship (and calling himself Son of Man, instead of Messiah), while in Acts the secret of Jesus’ messiahship yields to public proclamation and there we see the relentless efforts of his disciples to tell everyone about his messiahship!

 

He Charged Him to Tell No One

Let us start with the very first case in Luke where we see Jesus prohibiting the disclosure of his messiahship. It follows on immediately after the well-known episode of the rejection of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth, in chapter 4. We see that, unlike the people in Nazareth, there were some who had recognized him as Messiah—these were the demons, but he always forbad them to proclaim him. Thus, the demoniac of Capernaum occurs in Luke 4:33, when the Messiah is hailed and Jesus rebuts it: Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying: “Let us alone! What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying: “Be quiet, and come out of him!”[1] In the description of 4:40, this demonic confession of the Messiah is again formulated, and here Jesus forbids the demons to proclaim his messiahship: And he, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that he was the Christ. [2]

In the same way, sick people also become the objects of the corresponding veto. We find Jesus’ prohibition both in the story of the leper and in the raising of the Jairus’ daughter. After cleansing the leper, he charged him to tell no one[3]; after raising the daughter of the ruler of synagogue, He charged them to tell no one what had happened.[4] We see, that “Jesus is manifestly troubled that the broadcasting of his miracles will compel him to lift the veil”.[5]

However, the story of the Gentile demoniac from the country of Gadarenes reveals an exception. In this case, Jesus’ command to the man who is healed is sharply different from what he had commanded to his fellow Jews in the same situations: Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.[6] It is important to note that this case provides the only exception in the whole Gospel: in all other cases, Jesus diligently avoids messianic titles and resists firmly, the broadcasting of his miracles. We see Jesus avoiding the title of Messiah even while talking to his disciples. When he asks them: “But who do you say I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ (Messiah – JB) of God.” Instead of confirming the revelation, as happened in Matthew, he strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things…”[7] Even here and now, he is still very careful not to say: The Christ (Messiah) must suffer many things, as one might expect him to say after Peter’s confession.

Proclaimed on the Housetops

Thus, we see that in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus continuously forbids his countrymen to speak of his messianic dignity and of his miracles, whilst at the same time He allows these things to be told to the Gentiles. But when we open the second volume of the same author—the book of Acts—the contrast is quite drastic. No words can better describe this abrupt change in the atmosphere from the Gospel to Acts than the verse of Luke himself: What you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.[8] Here, in Acts, nothing is hidden anymore, and the messianic dignity of Jesus is proclaimed loudly and publicly: As against hidden, concealed, only in the ear revealed secret of the messianic dignity of Jesus in the Gospel, there is an open proclamation of his Messiahship in the book of Acts. In his first three public speeches—in chapters 2, 3, 4 of Acts—Peter is proclaiming loudly, almost literally on the housetops, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah: Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made the Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ.[9] Let all the house of Israel know assuredly! All of a sudden, the secret, esoteric knowledge of the Gospel becomes a widely broadcasted message in Acts. Somewhere between the Gospel and the book of Acts, the secret of Jesus’ messiahship became revealed.

In this sense, Jesus’ crucifixion is undoubtedly the cardinal point of the story, the appointed time for the Hidden Messiah to be revealed. If we move backward from this point, we see Jesus concealing his messiahship; if we move forward, we hear his disciples proclaiming his messiahship loudly and tirelessly. That’s why we have, in the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel, the story of Emmaus. A great writer, Luke wants us to reflect back over the whole Gospel in the light shed from this chapter—and also to see the book of Acts in the light of this chapter. Next time, we will analyze together this wonderful story in order to better understand this abrupt transition from the Gospel to Acts—from the Hidden Messiah to the Messiah Revealed.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy also my book As Though Hiding His Face, discussing in depth the issue of the Hidden Messiah. To get this and my other books, click here: all Books by Julia

[1] Luke 4:33-35

[2]  I would like to remind you that  Christ ( from Greek Χριστός, Christós)  means “the anointed one”, Messiah.

[3] Luke 5:14

[4] Luke 8:56

[5] William Wrede, The Messianic Secret, p.11

[6] Luke 8:39

[7] Luke 9:20-21

[8] Luke 12:3

[9] Acts 2:36

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Join the conversation (7 comments)

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  1. Paul Kristofferson

    Hello Julia, I have found your blogs very stimulating & encouraging ( just like your books & lectures). Shalom Paul

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Paul for your generous words about my books and lectures and posts. I am so glad to know that you are still following the blog – and still enjoying it! Blessings!

  2. Mandla

    Shalom, Prof Julia
    Thank you very much.

    Blessings!

  3. Nick Edwards

    Where is the change in this world as we know it that accompanies the Messiah? I am not Jewish, but I understand this is the Jewish objection to the Christian claims. I appreciate your work and candid sharing.
    Thank you Julia!
    Nick

    1. Julia Blum

      Yes Nick, you are correct. This is not the only one, but one of the most serious Jewish objections. Thank you!

  4. Paul T Rumaker

    I am reading and enjoying the book, “As Though Hiding His Face” by Julia Blum.If your a Christian who enjoys the Bible, your eyes will be opened to a better understanding and you’ll be shocked by what has been before you the whole time. Old favored verses will take on a new depth and you’ll wonder why you haven’t heard this insight from the pulpit. The truth is a person cannot give what they’ve never received.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Paul for your kind words about my book. Of course, you wouldn’t hear these things from the pulpit as they don’t go along the lines of the traditional Christian understanding. Thank you for having open mind and open heart!