Tell No One
“Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about him.” – Mark 8:30
After Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “the Messiah.” Then Jesus ordered the disciples, “Not to tell anyone about him.” Some joker suggested this may be the only command of Jesus—”tell no one about me”—that the church has actually managed to keep!
But, really, why did Jesus say this?
It’s not the first time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus has told someone not to talk about him, nor the last. Scholars have a fancy name for it. They call it “the Messianic secret.”
It’s sort of the opposite of one of our society’s most prominent features, the cult of celebrity. An entire industry tracks and reports the movements of “the celebrated” whose only achievement is often, well, that they are celebrities.
Why did Jesus order those he healed and those he taught not to celebrate him? Perhaps because he’s not seeking admirers so much as participants. Perhaps because he’s not interested in dazzling people but in changing lives. Jesus does not offer a personality cult to join, but a way of life to be lived. A church is different than a fan club.
In a far less grand way, this may also apply to us. Admiration and attention are gratifying—and seductive. Community or business leaders, parents and pastors, teachers and artists may be admired, even in a way “worshipped.” But if Jesus is our guide, it’s not about us being admired or celebrated or winning a popularity poll. That’s not the point. The point is helping people grow in their own faith and in their own capacity to lead lives that make a difference, for God’s sake, in the world.
I give thanks, dear God, for those people who deflect the bright light from themselves in order that others may discover their own light. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.