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.


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.

You might also be interested in:

Join the conversation (37 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. Elizabeth (Lisa) Seibel-Ross

    I think that if His true identity had been made known to all beforehand, He wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the higher purpose of God: that He became God’s Passover Lamb. The people would have risen up and prevented His capture and crucifixion.

    It’s also fascinating to me that the demonic world knows exactly who He is, and chose to flee from His Presence to their own death when they are released (when He cleansed the peoples’ lives from their habitation, the demons flee into the bodies of the pigs and hurl themselves over the cliff.)

  2. Tom Englehart

    His death, burial and resurrection became a turning point.

    1. Julia Blum

      Of course, you are right Tom. The question we are trying to answer here is :why? Why did His death and resurrection become such a clear-cut border, such an obvious demarcation line between “before” and “after”? Why did Jesus have to remain the hidden Messiah during his earthly life, only to be revealed after His resurrection? It has to do with this whole picture, of Israel and Jesus, and we are trying to see this bigger picture.

  3. Kat H

    Lazarus was (finished) carried to Jacob by heavenly messengers. I am not sure if this means Christ was revealed as Lord or he had faith in what God promised. (I’m trying to tweak the word hidden 🙂 )
    And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; Luke 16:22

  4. Robin

    A simple question…I hope. In the opening sentence of the fourth paragraph you state this: “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.”

    Please can you indicate where in the New Testament “Palestine” is mentioned in any connection with Second Temple Judaism?

    1. Julia Blum

      Of course you are right, Robin. It is just a very common term for scholars and books on the 1 century Judaism , that’s the reason that I used it. Sorry!

      1. Robin

        Thank you Julia.

  5. Angeline

    Going back to the demoniac who was healed and was not prohibited to speak about Jesus, I think every word and action in the Bible has a purpose. Could it be the demoniac was allowed to speak in order to reveal the God of Israel to the nations. Israel had been given an instruction to make God known to the nations but besides being loyal in keeping the Torah, had done nothing to evangelise the nations. It think God wanted the nations grafted in before the Messiah is revealed to all. This was an exploit that convinced the gentiles the God of Israel was Master of the Universe, demons included. If these people kept swine, they obviously were gentiles. We should not forget the pig sacrifice around that area and the pig is the animal that was destroyed.

    1. Julia Blum

      I agree, Angeline. Indeed, every word in the Bible has a purpose: God of Israel had to be revealed to the nations, therefore the Gentiles (unlike Jews) were allowed to speak about Jesus’ miracles even during His earthly life .

  6. David Hereford

    Dr Michael S Heiser in his book, “The Unseen Realm” takes this aspect of the “hidden” Messiah from the kingdom of heaven and earth perspective. I am half way through his book and he is pointing out that God did not even want the “gods” of the spiritual world to realize the details of His plan.
    Dr Heiser brings out the fact that we have not given precedence to much of the Jewish text that bears this truth out. However, Father is bringing us to question that which we thought we “knew”.
    Thank you Julie for your labor in His kingdom!

    1. Dorothy Healy

      Sounds like an interesting book David. Even though the demons Jesus encountered knew who he was, neither they, nor the principalities and powers in high places could know the plan of God.

  7. Annie

    When Moses asked God could he see his glory and God said you can see my back but not my face. I believe Jesus was hid right there in the cleft of that rock. Paul referred to Yahshua has “Jesus in the face of God” Just something to think about.

    Can you help me out please recently I was in a group discussing the 2 Trees in the Garden. I commented that I thought the Tree of Life was the Word of God and the Tree of Good and Evil akin to “own resources” own way of thinking. I believe Jesus was in the Garden has he is the Word. The group did not believe that.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Annie, thank you for your comment. I personally love the idea of Tree of Life as the Word Of God and the Tree of Knowledge as our own thinking, our “own resources” – however, the beauty of the Torah is that this Word speaks differently to different hearts and minds. It raises issues without providing single answer, it allows different interpretations – and therefore we should let it speak to everyone in its own, unique for this person way.

    2. Dorothy Healy

      Annie, I see your discussion re the two trees and would like to emphasize that the second tree was the “Tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil. God alone truly knows and reveals what is good and what is evil – what will bring life and blessing, and what will bring death and curse – and yes, he has revealed this through his word. However, when man ate from this tree he was saying, in a sense, we ourselves will judge what is good and what is evil. We see this at work very much in our secular world today, and our societies bear the consequences..

  8. Petro

    It must be about the timing! If He became known too soon the pharisees will start building aggresion against Him too soon and as we know, His timing is always perfect…… Planned even from before the world was created!

  9. Mark Stevens

    Dear Julia,
    A fascinating topic and I can’t wait to hear your answer. If I were to take a guess, I would say when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of the young donkey colt, on the day we call “Palm Sunday”. The Biblical narrative is in Luke 19: 28-40. Here Jesus is hailed as King and Savior. Here Jesus is fulfilling prophecy by riding on the colt and entering Jerusalem. When the Judean’s tell Jesus to rebuke His followers from using Messianic titles and cries of deliverance, Jesus responds that if they do not cry out, the stones will, thus in effect affirming the Messianic cries.
    I am not sure if I am interpreting this scene correctly, so if I am not, I will stand corrected when you reveal your answer to your question you posed!

    1. Jerry S.

      I concur. The Triumphal entry also fulfill Daniels 70 week’s prophecy to the very day of it and I believe this is what Messiah was waiting for to reveal himself. I am patiently waiting for Julia’s explanation of her reasoning.


  10. Eric

    Shalom Julia
    I am always overjoyed to see the uniqueness of Y’Shua presented as He is – Ha Mashiach of Israel. To me, a gentile, He is special because He came as a light to the Gentiles and He is my assurance of eternal life through the forgiveness of my sinful state. No other Name! I enjoy your articles, as I did/do Eli Lizorkan’s.