As Though Hiding His Face From Us

Shalom friends,

My name is Julia Blum. Thanks to the kind and generous words of Dr. Eli in the previous post, I don’t really need to introduce myself, as he has introduced me already.  I am privileged and honored to take over the administration of the Jewish Studies blog:  From my classes, I already know some of the students, so I know what an amazing, wonderful, excited and exciting audience we have! I am very grateful for each and every one of you – and I look forward to hearing from you! This blog has been a wonderful addition to your eTeacher experience and I hope and pray that it will continue to be a blessing to everyone who follows.

I would like to begin with my favorite topic – one that I spent many years researching, writing and praying over: The Hidden Messiah.  In the series of posts I’ll present here, we will first see the Messianic Secret of the New Testament against its Jewish background; then we will follow the idea of the hidden and revealed Messiah though Luke-Acts; and then finally, we will learn the profound lessons of the transitional chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 24). So – let the journey begin!

 Messianic Secret  of the New Testament against its Jewish background (Part 1): Messianic Secret 

“Any discussion of… Messianism is a delicate matter, for it is here that the essential conflict between Judaism and Christianity has developed and continues to exist”, Gershom Sholem wrote to begin his famous Messianic Idea in Judaism.  In the light of these essential differences, a consensus between Jewish and Christian scholars regarding the so-called Messianic Secret appears all the more striking. Scholars from both sides recognize the fact that in the Gospels Jesus is frequently portrayed as seeking to maintain an element of secrecy about his own person and work throughout the length of his public ministry (sometimes even openly discouraging use of the title ‘Messiah’). This feature of the Gospels is well-known and widely acknowledged; it is known today as the “Messianic Secret” – a term which derives from a classic study by William Wrede.
Let us have a look at some scriptures where Jesus directly forbade others to speak of Him as Messiah: He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ [Messiah] of God.’ And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one.[1] A similar ban accompanies all His healings of Israelites: the cleansing of the leper, the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and the healing of the two blind men, to name a few. These and many other stories are almost unavoidably accompanied by a concluding commentary: and He strictly warned him… and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone’;’[2] but He commanded them strictly that no one should know it;[3] and Jesus sternly warned them, saying, ‘See that no one knows it.’[4] He didn’t just recommend that they not say anything – He forbade them to talk about it, and almost always strictly or sternly.  Actually, the only thing that Jesus did sternly was to forbid people to discuss His Messianic identity and miracles. In fact, the only time in the entire New Testament that He reveals his Messianic identity is in the scene with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Just think of that! The only time when He speaks of it, is not to a Jewish person but to a Samaritan woman, and even then only at a time when His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food[5] – that  is, when there was not a single Jewish person in sight!  In the same way, the healing of the demon-possessed man from the Gentile country of the Gadarenes also presents a striking contrast to all the stories quoted above: In answer to his request to follow Him, Jesus tells the healed man, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’[6]   Thus, Jesus was ready to reveal His identity to the Gentiles, but was very careful not to reveal it to the Jews.

It is important to distinguish between texts and history, and therefore, between two different audiences: the audience of the readers of the Gospels, and the audience of Jesus inside the Gospels. All the texts of the NT were written decades after His death and resurrection, and the Gospels’ authors, while turning to their contemporary readers, were repeating tirelessly that Jesus was the promised Messiah: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20.31) – but that is not what we are talking about. We are not studying what the evangelists tell us about Jesus; what we are interested in is what Jesus of the Gospels says about himself, or allows/does not allow others to say about him to his own contemporaries. The Gospels consciously and purposely portray Jesus hiding and concealing his messiahship from His audience. In other words, the messiahship of Jesus is something the author and the readers know, but the original participants did not know.

This Messianic Secret – this contrast between the messiahship of Jesus and his injunctions to secrecy in the Gospels – undoubtedly requires some explanation. We will seek this explanation in the Jewish patterns of messianic expectations which Jesus and his followers may have made use of. Jesus was Jewish, and of course He was influenced by contemporary Jewish ideas – by His Jewish upbringing and the whole Jewish context of His life. We will try to identify those aspects of the Messianic Secret that may trace back to the time of Jesus, and even before that, to see this puzzling feature of the Gospels against its Jewish background and to seek an explanation of this New Testament quandary in Jewish thought of the time.

[1] Luke 9:20-21

[2] Mark 1:43-44

[3] Mark 5:43

[4] Mat. 9:30

[5] John 4:8

[6] Mark 5:19

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. Kurt

    I love intrigue! I wonder if there is a distinction between who is better at keeping a secret – Jew or Christian?

    1. Julia Blum

      Love your rhetoric question, Kurt! This is an amazing way to put it: who is better at keeping a secret – Jew or Christian? Both sides did a great job – but, as Yeshua said, the time is coming and has come already… Blessings!

  2. Ioanna

    Dear Julia,
    Thank you so much for sharing with us this subject of the unrecognized Messiah it gives me a better understanding in scriptures and prophesies and the sayings of our Lord about himself.
    I would love to hear some more about the terms “the son of God ” and ” the son of man” to understand why the Israelite wanted to kill him when Yeshiva said he is the son of God making himself God being a man!!!!!
    Thank you and God bless you

    sharing this study of yours with my group we have been so blessed.
    Ioanna

    1. Julia Blum

      Dear Ioanna, thank you for your kind words. Indeed, I am planning to publish a study on “Son of Man” – I don’t know exactly when , but probably in a few weeks . Stay tuned!

  3. Mary Anne

    Hi Julia. Thanks so much for exploring a very important and timely topic! If I may: In my studies of the Scriptures, both Old and New, I believe Jesus was not purporting that his Messiah-ship was a “secret” in any way, but He was in fact making it very plain that in order to truly ascertain His kingdom (which was spiritual, not earthly), His believers must seek God (through Jesus) “in spirit and in truth”. The Jews (and Samaritans / Gentiles) of His day, however, were looking for a different type of Messiah to establish an earthly kingdom and rule through man-made, earthly rules and religious regulations. But many times Jesus said ““My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But, My kingdom is not of this realm”, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ So you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Jesus, therefore, forbade certain people from proclaiming His power and miracles because He did not want them to propagate their false beliefs that He was going to destroy the Romans and establish His kingdom on earth. He was, instead of being secretive, proclaiming that He was not the “Type” of Messiah that the people were yearning for – but that He was the Messiah, nonetheless – but His Kingdom and domain were Spiritual, not Earthly. As Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:47, “The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is from heaven. As was the earthly man, so also are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.…” Jesus’ mission as Messiah and Savior of the world was to shake people’s long-held earthly beliefs – that their man-made rituals and ceremonialism was all what they needed to attain God. He preached, instead, that in order to access God, a man must seek God internally thru a 1-1 relationship with Him , in a man’s heart and mind, not externally through formal religion. They must become the “2nd man” – by shedding the first man who is earthly in nature. So, bottom-line, my sense is that Jesus’ message was not meant as a secret in any way nor did he forbid people from proclaiming Him for the reasons we might expect. It was that most people of His day (not just Jews – all religions) rejected the nature of Jesus’ kingdom. Those he did not “forbid” (and those people were not many but did exist, as you point out), did in fact, grasp and accept the nature of His kingdom. He, therefore, permitted only those individuals to spread the Good New of Jesus and His Kingdom.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Mary Anne, for your deep and thoughtful comment. Of course, I agree with much of what you write: people always (not only in Jesus’ time) look for visible victories and earthly kingdoms. Yet, I think that the whole theme of “hidden” Messiah is a very important piece in this big puzzle that is called: Israel and Jesus. I really hope that my articles on this blog would be helpful in assembling this puzzle.

    2. MIKE

      BIG LOVE.

    3. Brett Mousel

      Shalom MARY ANNE,
      It seems to me that various Jewish concerns (circa 30 CE) were expecting Messiah ben David to come and replace Rome. Which many of us believe is the nature of Christ’s final coming (riding on ‘the clouds’), commencing the ‘millennial rest’ reign; however, that He first came born in the nature of Messiah ben Joseph, to first shepherd ‘the lost sheep’ and later after ‘resurrecting Himself’ to all whom are called (unto His purpose) and are Israel. We await the cry from the regrafted (and natural) olive tree branches, “Baruch haBa b’Shem Adonai”.

  4. gar

    Julia
    Looking forward.

    Are there any links to the two topics you mentioned that you spoke on having ” special interest” referenced above? The “sealed book” and the “hidden” identity of Jesus to the Jews.

    These are both significant pieces of the larger(wisdom built the house) puzzle…….. aka” The House of God”

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi, thanks for asking. The “sealed book” is a small piece in one of my books (“The one who sees me Lives”), it was also a topic of my message at some conference years ago. The “hidden Messiah” is a theme of my posts here, as you probably know, but of course, it is an abridged version, I suppose I will soon put here the link to the full study . Like you, I also see these themes as very significant pieces in the big puzzle of God’s mystery.

      1. jane z mazzola

        I just finished reading your book, Julia, THE ONE WHO SEES ME, LIVES. It is quite a story & journey, very moving. I’d surely recommend it to others. I ordered it from Amazon.com.

        Blessings,
        Jane M

        1. Julia Blum

          Thank you, Jane! Look forward to meeting you here!

  5. Kat H

    Some would say that we repent from sin; I say that we repent to God. A slight difference in language, but a big difference in how we read the scriptures.

    1. Julia Blum

      I agree!

      1. Larry Prince

        I agree as well. The focus then is upon, not how bad we are (from the the perspective of the pristine purity of the Almighty G-D that’s a “given,” anyway), but upon how glorious, good and beautiful He is, and His Word is.

        A friend of mine once said he had a conversation with a fellow, and he asked the man whether he thought God loved him because he was good. The man said why yes, of course. My friend said, “I don’t.” Flustered, the man got defensive and replied, “What do you mean?”

        My friend responded, “I don’t believe God loves me because I’m good. I believe He loves me because He’s good.”

        The man said, “I’ll have to think about that.” My friend was just glad that he no longer had to think about that … he knew it.

        1. Nadeem

          God wants everybody,,he creates,, to be good and in this way near to God; because the God is always good and from ever good and for ever good ,,,,,so that everything to be well according to his will (of creating this world). If we do goodness, he loves us because we are following his rules but actually him(God),, but if we don’t then it is our mistake and sin and we are missing the way of God,, we will be responsible for that ,, so SIMPLE rule,,,,,,,BUT God is also merciful and we should repent from heart and never do that sin again then God will love us like a mother loves his child when after some mischief/mistake, the child repent from the core of his heart with cry and says he/she will never do it again then the mother loves her child with smile on her face,,,,,so in this way we should not test the mercy of God by doing sins to the very last breath and the whole life we follow the path of devil and never turns to God ,,then who knows that he/she will get the chance to repent in front of so merciful God and the angel of death will be in front for taking the soul. God is very near to us,, very near,,, if somebody understands it. Even so near that you (& me) will always imagine God in front ,,,,then there might be no time of a day that you would think of a sin.

    2. jane z mazzola

      That is an interesting way of putting the step toward salvation, Kat. Thank you.

      Blessings,
      Jane M

  6. Dan Bruce

    Any time G-d’s revealed word to man is replaced by the teachings of man, as the Jewish leadership in ancient Israel did from a time before Isaiah onward (with some notable exceptions, such as that of King Josiah), spiritual blindness results. People can’t see through the man-made error to see G-d’s truth. We see that happening in the church and rabbinic Judaism today, with the same result. Yeshua spent much of his ministry pointing out that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes of his time focused their attention on observing their own man-made precepts instead of the teaching from their Hebrew Scriptures. Consequently, because they were looking for a man-defined messiah, they could not recognize the true Messiah of the Tanakh. Of course, those who heard John the Baptist, who introduced the New Covenant that bypassed the Temple system with a message of repentance and faith, and later saw and heard Yeshua who preached and expounded the same message, were able to see Truth, because they saw and heard He who is the Truth firsthand. Yeshua was thus not hidden to those who knew the Scriptures and honored G-d’s teachings above man-made teachings and commandments. At least that’s the way I understand why Yeshua did not reveal himself except to the Jewish remnant who G-d had chosen to hear and understand. In answer to your last question, you can download my books at no charge in PDF format and read what I have written on my website (click on my name). You might find my book HE IS THE ONE especially interesting. Thank you for asking.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Dan. I will download and read your books.

  7. Dan Bruce

    Jesus was constrained to hide his identity from Israel (but apparently not from non-Jews, such as Samaritans) because of the judgement G-d had pronounced through the prophet Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10). The spiritual blindness of Israel with respect to G-d’s plan of redemption is further clarified in Isaiah, chapter 29, verses 10-14: “For the L-rd hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the L-rd said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” That latter passage from Isaiah makes clear that the “sleep” of Israel would be extended to include the wisdom of its wise men and the understanding of its prudent men about the entire testimony of Moses and the prophets, all of that to occur in the future, after the time of Isaiah, when God was prophesied to do a marvellous work and wonder among the people. Seven-hundred years later, when Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus why he preached to his kinsmen in parables, he repeated the words of Isaiah as the reason. In Matthew 13:10-17, Jesus specifically invokes the words of Isaiah: “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them. … Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” Isaiah 53 foretold what would be the result of Jesus hiding his identity from Israel in obedience to G-d’s word. To his disciples, he spoke plainly as G-d had given him to share with them, and they shared with all of us who have since followed them.

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom Dan, I am not sure that I would agree with you on the matter of “spiritual blindness of Israel” ; nevertheless, I am absolutely fascinated by the fact that in your comment, you touched upon two very special for me issues: the sealed book from Isaiah 29, and “Jesus hiding his identity from Israel in obedience to God’s word” foretold by Isa 53. I wrote and spoke on both topics – but I don’t know many others who write about it. Could you please elaborate (or maybe refer me to some of your books or articles)? Thank you!

      1. Brett Mousel

        Shalom Julia, I agree with you. There is neither blindnesses nor other malady in Israel; But, Israel should refer to what haShem is calling His mighty/perfect/joy. Men are incapable of sorting out the tares (but mankind does know that Satan’s seed has been sown in and darnel does exist among haShem’s good wheat).

  8. Larry Prince

    Hmm…
    I’m learning, little by little. I just took Julia’s wonderful advice in many of her postings to not rely too heavily on the English translations, but to dig into the Hebrew. I did so with “honor” from my last post (re: Proverbs 25:2) and found that that the same word translated “honor” (“of kings,” in context) is the word for “glory” (“of God,” same verse), and it is the word K-B-D (כבד), which means to “be heavy”, and thence “be important; honour, majesty, glory.” Now I’m not sure that I can “connect the dots” of that with my notion of “duty” (as I speculated in the last message), but I can envision making that connection via another “notion” — that of “noble calling.” We are created in G-D’s own image. He has called us to be a kingdom of priests (not just in Revelation 1:6 and 5:10, and in 1 Peter 2:9 (royal priesthood), but in the Tenach, in fact, in the Torah, in Exodus 19:6 — by the hand and mouth of Moses, even while he’s laying the groundwork for the Levitical priesthood, and the royal line of Judah (two different tribes, not to mix-and-match duties or stations)! But wait. Could there be another priesthood? Where kings can be priests, and vice versa? Genesis 14:18, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews chapters 5 thru 9 all seem to agree that there is … one that predates and will postdate the Levitical priesthood. And how many “persons” are in that illustrious “body”? I think I count 3. Melchizedek himself (whose true identity is still somewhat mysterious, at least to me, although I have my speculations), Yeshua Hamashiach, and the body (bride) of Christ. Us.
    Just some thoughts …
    Larry

    1. Julia Blum

      Great job, Larry! There is a slide in our DHB course, that does exactly the same: connects the word Kavod (glory, honor) with Kaved (Heavy). It is very impressive that you did it on your own, Are you taking DHB, by the way? If not, I really recommend you: from your comments I feel that you would enjoy this course greatly. Blessings!

  9. Ruth Gibbs

    Would you agree that the secrecy surrounding Jesu’s identity as Messiah becomes more earnest towards the end of His life?

    I think all of heaven including the Father rather give the game away on several occasions early on in Jesu’s life – what with all the angelic appearances and prophesies, the Angels and shepherds, kings, Anna and Simeon, John the Baptist was rather specific about who Jesus was, and Jesus told John in prison who exactly He was – as did the Father when His Son was baptized and again when He was transfigured – many huge crowds bore witness to phenomenal miracles – which Jesus expanded on when he sent his 12 and then 72 disciples out

    I wonder if increased caution was required with time to remain hidden from the enemy – not only the human enemies – but also the demonic – until the time heaven had planned for Him to lay down HIs life?

    1. Julia Blum

      It’s a very interesting thought, Ruth. Let’s keep thinking together about it.

      1. Larry Prince

        Proverbs 25:2 — “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor” (… perhaps the duty?) “… of kings is to search out a matter.”

        HaShem has created a wonderful universe and “Meta-Cosmos” (just made that word up, hee-hee). And He has made everything discoverable (line upon line … precept upon precept … here a little, there a little — Isaiah 28:10), both in His Word, and in His world. Psalm 19 reminds us that He wants us to discover. We are the only creatures that He gave the capacity to discover, and the desire (nay, the passion) to discover. And the joy of discovery. Why doesn’t He just reveal everything right now? Is He teasing us? Being mean? No, of course not. He’s grooming us. And refining us. And learning to grow in patience, grace and faith is the core of that grooming process — and we don’t even get to know the end result! But He never said we would understand everything; He just assured us that He does! Patience … how I used to hate that word. Hmm … that’s the first time I’ve really reflected on that — *used to* hate that word! That’s a nice thought. It must mean I’m (we all, who follow Him, are) growing. And we’ve got all the time in the world. And then some.

        Love the journey.
        שלום

        1. Julia Blum

          Thank you, Larry! Btw, Patience is a first word that many people learn in Israel : סבלנות (comes from the root sevel, suffering, – more like long-suffering in English).

          1. MIKE

            Hallelujah woman of patience

  10. Venelouis PoL@R

    Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ bless you and your work, you explain very well and this a hot topic, very interesting. Thank you

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Venelouis. i am very glad you are enjoying the articles.