What is the Messiah’s Secret?
Jesus used the term ‘Son of Man’ one of the names associated with the Christ but the Jews did not believe that the Christ would come and die, they believed that he would come and remain for ever.
Jesus asked the man who had been healed of blindness, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir that I might believe in him?” Jesus replied, “ You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” Jesus discreetly told the man that he was the Messiah, the Son of man.
“The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? Jesus had said this to show by what death he was to die.” The crowd had been confused when Jesus said that the Son of man would be lifted up. They did not understand that he was telling them about his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins an eternal healing. In the wilderness Moses had lifted up the serpent on the bronze pole, For those who looked at the serpent would be healed from the deadly bite from the snakes.
Jesus asked his disciples who did the people think the Son of man was? The crowd had said that the Son of man referring to Jesus was John the Baptist, others had said Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets, believing that God had raised one of the prophets from the dead. The Jews were taught from the law that the Christ would come and remain for ever. Peter answered Jesus’ question saying that he is, “The Christ.” Jesus told his disciples that God had revealed this to Peter and he told them to tell no one. During his ministry Jesus told his disciples and others that they were not to make it widely known that he was the Messiah, the Christ.
Jesus did not want the people to publicise their healing.
Jesus gave evidence through his teaching, healing and miracles that he was the Messiah. “And many followed him, and he healed them all, and ordered them not to make it known.” Jarius’ daughter when she was raised from the dead, Jesus told her family not to make it known. There are several other accounts were Jesus has told the person not to tell anyone. “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
Jesus did not reveal openly that he was the Messiah.
At the Feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem, the Jews gathered around Jesus saying, ” How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ tell us plainly.” When Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man he had told them that he was the Messiah but they did not believe. It was impossible for the nation to receive Jesus as their Messiah before he had fulfilled the Hebrew Scriptures concerning his death, resurrection and ascension. The people discussed whether he was the Messiah saying, ” When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” The healing and miracles were evidence that Jesus was the Christ.
His own brothers wanted him to make himself known, but he would not. ” For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world. For even his brothers did not believe in him.”
Lay hidden in the teaching of the kingdom of God the Messiah’s secret.
Jesus taught his followers many things in parables, a parable is a word derived from the Greek verb paraballo, to lay by the side of, to compare; and so a likeness, similitude.In Mark’s Gospel the parable of ‘the Sower’ those who were listening did not understand this parable.Jesus had to explain its meaning but he remarked to his disciples, “ To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.” From this we learn that instead of giving understanding, explaining his teaching, the parables were puzzling, their meaning could not be easily understood.
“ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”
The people hearing these parables would probably spend many hours discussing, trying to work out their meaning. The hidden secret in the teaching in the kingdom of God was that a seed had first to die before it could start to grow and produce many more seeds. Jesus the seed that died on the cross, through his death he was the first fruit of the resurrection of the dead.
“ And Jesus answered them, “ The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Jesus foretold of his death and resurrection.
St Matthew wrote in chapter 16 verse 21, “ From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes. He would be killed, and on the third day be raised from the dead.” Peter’s reply would indicate that they did not believe that the Messiah would come and die. “ God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Jesus said that he had not come to cast a fire upon the earth, meaning judgement, the fire was not yet kindled because he had to go through the baptism, the baptism of his death and he felt constrained until this was accomplished.
St Luke wrote,” Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men. But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them.” Jesus knew that he had to die, he told his disciples that he would be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes they would condemn him to death. The understanding of his words was concealed from the disciples. Jesus could have opened their minds but at that time, before his death, he did not.
Caiaphas the high priest prophesied that one man should die for the people so that the whole nation would not perish. The understanding of what this meant was hidden from the council, because if they had they known that they were about to deliver their promised Messiah to a terrible death on a cross I’m sure they would have not have done so.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus knew of his coming death. “And he said to them, “ My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death; remain here and watch.”
Jesus himself quoted scripture concerning his death when before his arrest he told the disciples,“ For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘ And he was reckoned with the transgressors;’ for what is written about me has its fulfilment.”
Jesus said that he would be delivered to the Gentiles who would mock him, spit upon him and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he would rise from the dead. The disciples did not understand what rising fromthe dead meant. After they had witnessed the Transfiguration Mark wrote that the disciples were told by Jesus not to reveal what they had seen until after his resurrection they did not understand what he meant by his resurrection.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures concerning his death and resurrection.
After his resurrection Jesus told his disciples. “ These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was with you, that everything that is written about me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.”
The months and weeks before his arrest Jesus had not opened his disciples understanding about the scriptures concerning his death and resurrection. Jesus’ death was hidden, concealed from their understanding this was the Messiah’s secret. They were now for the first time now able to understand for themselves that the Messiah had to die and be raised from the dead.
The prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in the Messiah’s death and resurrection. The apostles witnessed through these scriptures from the Psalms and the prophets after Pentecost when they proclaimed Jesus as the Christ that the Messiah had to suffer and be raised from the dead and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
“ And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he has thus fulfilled.” “And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came afterwards, also proclaimed these days.” Isaiah’s prophecy confirmed by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.
Philip was instructed by an angel to go from Jerusalem to Gaza. Philip met an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. The Ethiopian was seated in his chariot reading from Isaiah chapter53 verses 7,8. Led by the Spirit Philip joined him, he asked Philip whether Isaiah was writing about himself or someone else. Philip expounded the scripture told the Ethiopian the good news about Jesus. The Ethiopian was baptised by Philip and continued on his journey rejoicing. Luke the writer of the Acts recorded this incident perhaps to convey to Theophilus and the Jews reading his account that these verses that were prophesied by Isaiah were definite references to the suffering and the death of the Messiah. The Ethiopian’s baptism in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sin and the prophecy of Joel, the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon all flesh in the last days.
The Messiah’s secret revealed in St Mark’s Gospel.
St Mark has given us the complete picture of the Messiah’s secret, when in chapter 8 verse 29 in reply to Jesus’ question “But who do you say that I am,” Peter says that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus then tells them to tell no one about him. Jesus doesn’t want the disciples to reveal his identity amongst the people and leaders of the Sanhedrin before his death. In verse 31 the same chapter, Jesus tells them about his coming deathand resurrection, he is going to be killed and on the third day rise from the dead. Then in verse 38 he speaks of his second coming with the holy angels, after his resurrection and ascension he is going to return and in chapter 9 verse 1 Jesus said to those listening that some of them would not taste death before they saw the coming in of the kingdom of God with power. This would indicate that he meant within their life time he would return.
St Mark chapter 9verses 30, 31 and 32, Jesus has told his disciples about his coming death, but they did not understand. At this time the understanding of these words about his death was hidden from them by God. Earlier in the same chapter in verse 10 Jesus had told them to keep quiet about the transfiguration until after he had been raised from the dead, here they questioned what rising from the dead meant. Also this understanding about his resurrection was hidden from them. It was not in God’s plan for the Jewish nation to receive Jesus as their Messiah before his death.
St Peter and St Paul teach that the Messiah had to suffer and be raised from the dead.
At Pentecost Peter declared that, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.” Peter continued to quote from Psalm 16 v 8 – 11 the prophecy of King David.
St Paul speaking in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia told them, “ For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognise him nor understand the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. They fulfilled what had been written about him.” Paul quotes from the Psalms and from Isaiah.
In the synagogue at Thessalonica Paul argued with the Jews from the scriptures, “ Explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to be raised from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
Jesus prophesied of his coming with the angels.
For the last two thousand years Christians have been baffled as to why Jesus had told his followers that he would return within the disciples lifetime with the angels of God, the apostles and followers of the first century anticipated Jesus’ immediate return.
Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
“ Then you will begin to say,’ We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets. But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!”
“ Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.”
“ But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “ Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “ I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14 v 61,62.
The appointed time of his coming.
Peter the leader of the apostles at Pentecost called the people to repentance and acceptance of Jesus as the Christ. “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he for saw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
“ And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,’
“And that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” Acts 3 v 17 – 20
“ I mean brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they have none.” 1 Corinthians 7 v 29
“ For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not proceed those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4 v 14 – 18
“ Be patient, therefore brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and late rain. You also be patient Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5 v 7,8.
First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, “ where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3 v 3,4
There are numerous other texts in the Letters and Epistles which indicate that the first century Christians had expected Jesus’ immediate return, the ‘Day of the Lord.’
The apostles were setting up the kingdom of God at the beginning of Acts
“To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.” The apostles during Jesus’ ministry did not understand that Jesus had to die and that God would raise him from the dead. After his resurrection Jesus opened the minds of his disciples concerning his death and resurrection and spoke to them of the kingdom of God. After they had spent some time in Galilee they then came together at Jerusalem.
God’s plan for the Messiah was of his return with the angels of God, he would bring into the world the ‘ Day of Vengeance’ Jesus said, “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he willsit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Jerusalem the Holy City of the Jews covering approximately four square miles. In Jerusalem no house might be hired. The houses belonged as it were to all; for they all must be thrown open, in free hearted hospitality, to the pilgrim- brethren that came upto the feast. No dead body might remain in the city over night; no sepulchres were there, except those of the house of King David and the prophetess Huldah. Not even domestic fowls might be kept, nor vegetable gardensbe planted, lest the smell of decaying vegetation should defile the air; no furnaces be built for fear of smoke. Never had rain extinguished the fire on the altar, nor contrary wind driven back the smoke of the sacrifices; nor yet, however great the crowd of worshipers, had any failed for room to bow down and worship the God of Israel! The population of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus recorded by historian Tacitus as be 600,000 and the attendance at the Passover between 2 and 3 million Jewish people.
Luke wrote that the apostles and followers of Jesus were instructed by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit and not in their home town of Capernaum in Galilee. After the apostles returned to Jerusalem from Galilee they were together in the upper room, Luke records that there where 120 people present in the upper room. Peter told those present that the scripture had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, his death reduced the number required by the Mishna.
The Mishna rules permit the setting up of a town with 120 people, one tenth to be the officers. Luke quotes the scripture, ‘His office let another take.’ The apostles deliberately brought their number up to twelve again, Matthias took Judas’ place.
Jerusalem was already the City of God at the heart of the Jewish faith. The leaders were being asked to accept that in Jesus the prophecies concerning the resurrection of the Messiah had been fulfilled. However the death of Jesus, defilement by a Gentile death was too great an obstacle for them to over come because they did not believe that the Messiah would come and die.
Part of the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled at Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit was not a mystery to the Jews they knew that some of the prophets had visions, dreams, and prophesied in the Holy Spirit. The priest Zechariah John the Baptist’s father filled with the Holy Spirt prophesied of his sons’ ministry of preparation for the coming Messiah. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth whilst in his mother’s womb, he grew and became strong in spirit.
The prophecy of Joel, God said that he would pour out his Spirit upon all flesh in the last days. This prophecy was in association with the coming of the Messiah. John the apostle wrote that the Holy Spirit was not given until after Jesus was glorified that was after his resurrection. On the evening of the first day of the week Jesus came and stood among them in the upper room at Jerusalem saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.” John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire was now fulfilled.
The apostles Baptise people with the Holy Spirit and the fire of judgement.
The Holy Spirit was given to those who repented and accepted Jesus as the Christ. Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” After repentance the baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit was given as a gift. Thousands joined the apostles, the mission began at Jerusalem the hub of the Jewish nation, the apostles were in direct confrontation with the leaders of the Sanhedrin. They witnessed that Jesus was the Christ through the fulfilment of the Hebrew prophesies to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The apostles and followers met daily in the temple, those who believed their word were baptised and became followers sharing all their possessions and wealth, giving to all those who were in need. The apostles were following the teaching that Jesus taught during his ministry.
Barnabus sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. But Ananias and his wife sold a piece of property and kept some of the proceeds from their sale. Ananias brought the money to Peter but Peter knew that he had not brought the full amount and questioned Ananias about it, because he had lied Peter told him that he had not lied to men but to God. Ananias fell down dead at Peter’s feet. His wife came in later and told Peter the same lie. Peter made a judgement on sin when he said to Sappphira, “The feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” When the young men came in they found her dead too. The authority given by Jesus to his disciples judgement of sin on the evening of the day of his resurrection had been carried out by Peter.
The nations’ call to repentance and the Messiah would return.
Peter speaking to the crowd at Solomon’s portico said, “And now brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” During Jesus’ ministry he did not allow the disciples to proclaim him as the Christ, but now they were doing so. The ministry of Jesus, his crucifixion and his resurrection would be still fresh in the minds of those who had known him or had heard about him.
The high priest and his family were Sadducees and they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. When it was reported to them that the followers of Jesus were witnessing his resurrection they took steps to stop them there Peter and John were arrested at Solomon’s portico by the temple guards. A persecution began against the followers of Jesus after the death of Stephen, they were dispersed throughout Judea and Samaria, but the apostles stayed in Jerusalem.
In more recent times, the New Testaments expectation of Jesus’ ‘Coming’ within the apostles life time was still a mystery.
Alfred Edersheim wrote “ For John also had his life work for Christ. It was to ‘tarry’ while he was coming- to tarry many years in patient labour, while Christ was coming. But what did it mean? The saying went abroad among the brethren that John was not to die, but to tarry till Jesus came to reign, when death would be swallowed up in victory. But Jesus had not so said, only: “ If I will tarry while I’m coming.” What that “Coming was, Jesus had not said, and John knew not. So, then, there are things, connected with his Coming, on which Jesus has left a veil, only to be lifted by his own hand – which he means us not to know at present, and which we should be content to leave as he has left them.” The Life and Times of the Messiah, page 632. 19th Century
Alfred Edersheim did not understand that it was impossible for the Jewish nation to receive Jesus as their Messiah before he had accomplished the plan of God in his death, resurrection and ascension. The early church for the first time, after the ascension were proclaiming Jesus as the Christ and if the leaders of the Sanhedrin had accepted that Jesus was their Messiah through faith, he was ready to return, that was the time for his coming within their generation.
The Historical Figure of Jesus, Ed Saunders page 180. Published 1993.
Ed Saunders recently wrote “ In the decades after Jesus’ death, then, the Christians had to revise their first expectation again and again. This makes it very probable that the expectation originated with Jesus. We make sense of these pieces of evidence if we think that Jesus himself told his followers that the Son of Man would come while they still lived. The fact that this expectation was difficult for Christians in the first century helps prove that Jesus held this view himself. We also note that Christianity survived this early discovery that Jesus made a mistake very well.”
Ed Saunders confirms in his book that the early church had been expecting the immediate return of Jesus. If Ed Saunders understood when writing his book that Jesus could only be received by the nation as the Messiah after his death and resurrection and ascension he would have known that Jesus had not made ‘ a mistake.’ After Pentecost the majority of Israel’s leaders rejected the apostles claim that Jesus was the Christ, in that he had fulfilled the prophesies concerning the death and resurrection of the Christ.
Jesus prophesied that the leaders of the nation of their generation would reject him as their Messiah.
Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew’s Gospel, “ When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then he says, ‘ I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes and finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be with this generation.”
Through the Baptism of both John the Baptist and Jesus and his disciples for the repentance of sin, the majority of the people of Israel had been cleansed from their sin. As a result of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, an internal decision by the leaders of the Sanhedrin, within a short period of time the nation was brought to its knees. In A.D. 70 Jerusalem was destroyed and the people where scattered throughout the world.