What Did Peter Reveal?

My dear readers, you all know by now that Pentecost and Shavuot are two different names for the same Festival.  Last time, we spoke about Revelation being the main theme of Shavuot in Jewish tradition. That means that some hidden things were revealed on that Pentecost/Shavuot day in Jerusalem that Acts 2 tells us about: when “Peter (stood) up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem,” he was about to reveal something that was not known to his audience before.  Of course, you all know the text, and Peter’s speech does not read as revelatory for you. However, try to imagine the suspension of the crowd when Peter stood up, raised his voice, and began his speech with the words, “let this be known to you”. What did Peter reveal?

The Mystery of Luke

In order to understand, what was revealed on that day, I would like to emphasize something that undoubtedly you know: Luke is the only author in early Christianity who complements the story of Jesus before the crucifixion with the story of his disciples after his crucifixion. Therefore, we are not at the beginning of a certain book, we are in the very middle of two volumes of Luke’s writings. If something is being revealed now, in the middle of Luke’s writings, we should probably look into the first half of these writings: has there been anything in the Gospel that has been kept as a secret so far?

As a matter of fact, there has. I will try to explain it here briefly, although of course, it would take much more time and many more pages to explore it fully. Yes, we do find a hidden mystery in Luke’s Gospel – and again and again we see in this Gospel that the whole process of keeping this secret from almost everybody – and revealing it to some chosen ones – seems essential for Luke. I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes[1].

What is the secret, then? What is the main secret of Luke’s narrative? What is being concealed from certain people participating in this story and revealed to just some?  What hidden things does Jesus have in mind?  Luke places these words of Jesus after the return of the 72 disciples who rejoice that the demons are subject to them. Jesus thanks the Father and then, turning to his disciples, he says to them: “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired (ηθελησαν) to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”[2]  Obviously, this statement is connected directly with the first one: these things, which are hidden by God from the wise – they are the same things that many prophets and kings desired (ηθελησαν) to see … and to hear…. Luke claims that there is some secret, hidden mystery, which many prophets desired to see – but now the disciples finally see it.

The Messianic Secret  

According to Luke, this mystery is the coming of the Messiah happening right before the eyes of many people, but not recognized and understood by them. The messiahship of Jesus is something the author knows, but the original participants do not. Consciously and purposely, Luke portrays Jesus concealing his messiahship from His audience.

The examples are numerous. 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.[3] 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.

Let us turn, for example, to chapter 4, to the scenes following the well-known episode of the rejection of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. Unlike the people in Nazareth, there were some who had recognized him as Messiah—these were the demons—but Jesus always forbade them to proclaim him. Thus, when the demoniac of Capernaum cries: “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!” – Jesus rebuked him, saying: “Be quiet, and come out of him!” [4]  In Luke 4:40, this demonic confession of the Messiah is repeated again, but here, for the first time, the reason why Jesus rebukes the demons is formulated explicitly: And he, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that he was the Christ (Messiah-JB).  

In the same way, sick people also become the objects of the corresponding ban. 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; after raising the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, He charged them to tell no one what had happened. The impression is that Jesus is concerned that the broadcasting of his miracles will compel him to reveal his messiahship to Israel.

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. 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. Thus, Jesus was ready to reveal His identity to the Gentiles but was very careful not to reveal it to the Jews.

There is no secret, which will not become revealed.

It is important to distinguish between texts and history, and therefore, between two different audiences: the audience of the readers of the Gospel, and the audience of Jesus inside of the Gospel. Of course, Luke knows the secret of Jesus’ messiahship; moreover, he will soon describe it revealed in Acts. But for now, the messiahship of Jesus is something the author knows, but the original participants of the Gospel do not.

So, here are some preliminary results that will definitely help us understand what exactly was revealed by Peter on the Day of Pentecost.  First of all, we can say that in his Gospel, Luke claims that there is some secret, hidden mystery, which many prophets desired to see, and now the disciples finally see it. This most profound secret and mystery of Luke’s Gospel is the coming of the Messiah, happening right before the eyes of many people, but still not recognized and understood by them. Why wasn’t he recognized? Why was his messiahship hidden? And when was it  revealed? These are the questions we will discuss next time.

 

 

 

If you are interested to learn more about  Hidden Messiah, you can read my book As Though Hiding His Face, discussing in depth this issue.  To get this and my other books, click here. Also, I would like to remind you, that we offer wonderful courses, and those interested in studying in-depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, or exploring the Jewish Background of the New Testament, are welcome to contact me  (juliab@eteachergroup.com) for more information and for the discount for the new students. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Luke 10.21

[2] Luke 10.24

[3] Luke 9:20-21

[4] Luke 4:33

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 (12 comments)

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  1. James

    Very good insights in to the mysteries in the bible

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, James!

  2. Gladys Fox

    Thanks Julia,
    Again you are ” spot on ” as my English friends would say .. People hide their faces because they don’t want to be recognized . People often stare at people that are different . They certainly don’t hide their faces . I also believe that the Jewish people weren’t meant to recognize Jesus as Messiah because if they knew who He was they might have whisked Him away to some secure spot and guarded Him with their lives . He then wouldn’t have been able to fulfill His mission to save all of the children of God . The Jewish people at that time might wonder why GOD would want to save those very nasty gentiles and who can blame them . They had suffered much at the hands of gentiles such as the Egyptians and Romans .
    May GOD Bless you and your family Dear Teacher and all your readers that love you as I do .

  3. Gladys Fox

    Thank you again Julia.
    I am coming to appreciate you and your teachings more and more .I am truly amazed at how much things written in the Bible are tied to other things written in it . What Christians call the New Testament is interwoven into the one they call the the Old Testament . Some of these connections I have seen myself ,but not nearly as many as you have help me to see .You are very much a Godsend .
    Thanks again many times Dear Teacher !

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Gladys! It’s always such a joy to hear from you and to see that my articles do indeed help to make these connections between “What Christians call the New Testament” and “the one they call the Old Testament” I am very blessed by your comments. Thank you!

  4. Donald Ashton

    julia,
    Thank you for the explanation of Peter’s speech.
    Regarding the prohibition by Jesus of being referred to as the Messiah, except for the demoniac you identified and the Samaritan woman at the well (both non-Judeans).
    I have always taken this as a result of the term being ambiguous in terms of distinguishing Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Joseph. With the political situation at the time the people wanted a Messiah who would free them from Roman subjugation and not a Messiah who would free them from their misunderstanding of Torah and reveal the living G_d to them.

    1. Julia Blum

      Of course, Donald, you are right, this is a big part of the story – and the last question of the disciples proves it (see my previous articles from this series). It’s not the whole story, however: If we decide that Jesus wanted the people of Israel to accept and recognize him as Messiah, we must admit that he was acting rather strange, doing all He could in order to lead Israel into error and hide this secret from them. You must agree that such a conclusion is hardly acceptable, and consequently, we are left with only one possibility: that Israel was not supposed to have recognized Jesus as Messiah.

  5. Perry

    Thank you for this insightful study, connecting the Israel and Jesus story to the Gentile reality, so much in need of it!

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Perry!

  6. Nick

    So Jesus specifically hid his messiahship from the Jewish audience, but seemed to explicitly teach an awareness of the Divine Presence that they were lacking. The Jewish brothers and sisters of Jesus had the head knowledge and knew the Torah history, but were not experiencing or manifesting the “divine spark” hidden within themselves. Am I in the ballpark, Julia??
    Thanks,
    Nick

    1. Julia Blum

      I think, my main point here is the fact the Jesus’ messiahship had to be hidden from the Jewish people. The Gospels describe very vividly that the people all over the land felt this Divine Presence in Jesus – think of the episode in the synagogue in Nazareth; yet, they couldn’t accept his messiahship because “flesh and blood would not reveal this” – it required a special revelation from “My Father who is in heaven”, and He chose to revel it just to the few chosen ones.

  7. Dot Healy

    I love this joining of Acts to Luke’s Gospel. Look forward to further unfolding Julia.