Messiah Hidden And Revealed In Luke-acts (1)

 

We are back to the “hidden Messiah” theme.  So far, we have been dealing with the Second Temple extra biblical sources.  We have seen that, by the turn of the era, the pattern was already set: a transcendent messiah was to be hidden in heaven till the appointed time came – “For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning…; then he revealed him to the holy ones and the elect ones.” Indeed, the timing is a crucial moment here: then, in those days – these words show up again and again in these texts. With this transcendent messiah hidden in heaven till the appointed time comes, we arrive at the turn of the era.

Now we are moving to the Bible, and here, in the New Testament scriptures, we can see an exact and direct reflection of the same plan that had been dimly reflected in the human texts: the messiah from heaven coming to earth – but still remaining hidden until the appointed time came. What then was that appointed time?

The two volumes of Luke provide us with a unique opportunity to follow the development of this theme – “before” and “after”:  Messiah, hidden in heaven from the beginning, comes to earth, but continues to remain hidden until the appointed time – and is then revealed after the appointed time. The same author, while writing about Jesus’ earthly life, consistently portrays him concealing his messianic identity, while in Acts he proclaims his messiahship loudly and publicly – so it was somewhere in between that Jesus was revealed as Messiah. Thus understood, we can see, in the whole story of the New Testament, the conscious efforts of Jesus not to reveal his messiahship prematurely – and after the appointed time, the relentless efforts of his disciples to tell everybody about his messiahship.

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We already know that the manner of referring to the coming of the Messiah as hidden and revealed may be taken as representative of first century (A.D.) Palestinian Judaism. We can suggest, therefore, that the messiahship of Jesus was understood by those describing his life and ministry, in the terms of a messiah who is hiding his messianic identity until the appointed time comes, and revealing it only afterwards. The main claim of this article is that, for his countrymen, Jesus remained the hidden Messiah during his earthly life and was only revealed after his resurrection.

Let us try to analyze the major clusters of “hidden” texts in Luke’s work. We will start with the very first case in Luke when we see Jesus prohibiting the announcement of his messiahship. It follows immediately after the famous episode in the synagogue at Nazareth, in chapter 4. We see that, unlike the people in Nazareth, there were those who had recognized him as Messiah – these were the demons. “But it is specifically in regard to them that he shows his unwillingness to be prematurely considered as Messiah. He regularly forbids them to proclaim him”[1]. 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 unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying: … I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying: “Be quiet, and come out of him!”[2] In Luke 4:40 this demonic confession of the Messiah is again verbalized, and here again 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.[3]

In the same way, sick people often become the objects of this veto. We find Jesus’ prohibition both in the story of the leper and in the raising of the Jairus’s daughter. After cleansing the leper, he charged him to tell no one[4]; after raising the girl, He charged them to tell no one what had happened.[5] Jesus doesn’t want his miracles to be broadcast, because he knows he must remain hidden.

However, the story of the demoniac from the country of Gadarenes – who was a gentile of course – reveals a deviation. 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 every other case Jesus constantly avoids messianic titles and firmly resists 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 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, he remains very careful not to say: The Messiah must suffer many things, as one might expect after Peter’s confession.

Conversely, when we open the second volume of the same writer – The Acts – the contrast is radical. No words can better describe this abrupt change in the atmosphere from the Gospel to   The Acts than the verse of Luke himself: What you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.[8] As against hidden/concealed/only in the ear revealed secret of the messianic identity of Jesus in the Gospel, there is an open proclamation of his Messiahship in Acts. In his first three public speeches – in chapters 2, 3 & 4 – Peter proclaims loudly (sometimes 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! The secret, esoteric knowledge of the Gospel all of a sudden becomes a widely broadcast message in Acts.  So somewhere between the Gospel and Acts, the secret of Jesus’ messiahship became revealed.

Only now, as we have the starting point and the final point of this equation, can we begin to look for the specific turning point. We can now formulate the questions: Why this drastic difference between “before” and “after”? For what reason does Jesus consistently hide his messiahship in the Gospel, even commanding his disciples to keep silence?  On what account, all of a sudden, does his messiahship yield to public proclamation in Acts? These are the questions to be answered.

 

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

[2] Lk.4.33-35

[3] Lk.4.41

[4] Lk. 5.14

[5] Luk.8.56

[6] Luk.8.39

[7] Luk.9.20-21

[8] Luk.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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  1. Nick Edwards

    If the Messianic Age was imminent, concern for others (especially Gentiles) would bring forth alerts. However, it did not happen. Seems our obligation or service to God the Father was the emphasis of Jesus’ teaching, regardless of the timing of Messianic revelation/Kingdom. I am not sure that Jesus wanted Jews or Gentiles to give him more attention than the Father.
    I enjoy the blog and look forward to more! Thank you.
    Nick

    1. Dorothy Healy

      I think you have hit on one important point here Nick. Jesus came to earth to glorify the Father, not bring attention to himself. In Jn. 8:54 we read: Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’.”
      Notice Jesus’ words in Lk. 8:39: “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” I imagine that, even if the news from the “Gerasenes” reached Jewish ears, the Jews would not have thought for a moment that it was their Messiah who was at work amongst the gentiles. Impossible!

  2. Carroll Roberson

    Julie,
    I think your article is very interesting. Anxious to hear your questions answered that you asked at the end. I have studied the Jewish roots of the life of Jesus for many years, along with over thirty trips to Israel. Thank you for your insight; it’s a great help.
    Shalom,
    Carroll Roberson, Evangelist

  3. Ofenia Antonini de Souza

    Shalom, amados professores. Estou acompanhando o estudo sobre “O Messias Oculto nos Céus” e tenho aprendido muito e crescendo no interesse de saber mais sobre Jesus. Entretanto este acima, está em inglês e não consigo a tradução para o português como até o momento tenho consigo. Há alguma coisa que os amados possam fazer nesse sentido. Se houver ficarei muito feliz. Se não houver os amo da mesma forma e aguado outras partes. Grande abraço e muito grata, Ofenia Antonini de Souza.
    Deus os abençoe sempre.

  4. jane z mazzola

    Interesting observations. I look forward to pondering & response to your final questions during future posts.

  5. Kat H

    What made the demoniac man from Gadarenes (Gerasenes?)a gentile? What I see in Luke 8:39 is that Jesus told him to return to his own house and he went away. Where did he go away to? I am looking forward to the “before” and “after” questions because I need to rethink why we tell people about Jesus vs Jeremiah 31:34.

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom Kat and James, both of you have raised an interesting question: how do we know that the demoniac man was a gentile? Of course, nobody knows for sure; we don’t even know whether it happened in the Gerasenes, Gadarenes or Gadara: Luke, Matthew and Mark all refer to a different place. However, from the unsuitability of the locality around Gadara it appears that the proper reading should be “Gerasenes” (Luke’s version). Were Gerasenes Jews or Gentiles? Gerasa was included by Schürer among the Hellenistic cities – and even today still most scholars believe that this section of the country was chiefly inhabited by pagans in the first century,. The swines in this story, of course, would provide an additional proof .

      Kat, it is written that he was “a man from the city” – so it means, he was from the Gerasenes and accordingly, was a Gentile.
      James, it is a very interesting point that Jesus would reclaim this area. I think, this whole episode might be seen as a part of this process. It doesn’t mean , however, that the man was a Jew.

  6. James T. Mace

    I see Jesus, in his reconstituting all Israel, ministering to those east of the Sea of Galilee by cleansing it from demonic spirits as he did elsewhere in the land of Israel (to prepare for the return of the Holy Spirit as seen in Acts). While some conclude as you that “the country of Gadarenes” must be entirely “gentile of course,” I recognize that it is an area that Jesus must reclaim since it is part of Israel’s original tribal allotment and of the later Davidic realm, which Jesus is renewing as the Davidide to come (cf. Acts 15:16 quote of Amos 9:11). And of course this fits your paradigm of the messianic secret, for Jesus did not proclaim his identity there either.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi James, my reply to your comment is under the next post (Kat’s comment), as you both ask the same question.

  7. Donald Johnson

    Great observation and question. Thanks.

  8. Sharon N.Dodge

    Thank you for the verses on the hidden Messiah have know Yeshua as messiah since I was 23 yrs old and just turned 80. He has been my Savior on many occassions as well as eternity. I have been in Eli Dahan’s Webinar going on 4 years as well as Sigal Zohar’s and Biblical Hebrew B with Sigal. I love them both dearly and have been in Bibleli since it started about a year ago. I have been to Israel 2 times and leave again in 2+ weeks to Jerusalem. My cousin is associate Pastor of King of Kings in Jerusalem in Davidka Square and I volunteer in their soup kitchen. Thanks again for your work.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for sharing, Sharon! Have a safe trip and a wonderful time in Jerusalem! May I ask you, what is this Bibleli that started about a year ago?

  9. Betty Waller

    What a wonderful lesson of the time-flow of our Messiah from being hidden to revelation!
    I have never looked at the scriptures as to when He revealed Himself to different people and groups.
    Thank you for this beautifully written article calling my attention to this.

  10. Gary Lutz

    Could it be that the difference between before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus was that the prophecy had been fulfilled?

    1. Julia Blum

      Gary, I hope you don’t mind waiting till the next posts for the answer to your question.

      1. Werner Du Plessis

        Greetings,

        I am surely waiting on the edge of my chair for the discussion to follow !!

        Shalom
        Werner