There is one aspect of Jesus’ ministry which has often puzzled me. Throughout the gospels He hides His identity. Demons know who he is, but He commands them to keep quiet. People Jesus heals have an inkling, but they are told to keep their story secret. Peter makes his confession on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but Jesus solemnly warns them to tell no one.
Why would Jesus do this? After all, He was here to save to the world, and the way I learned the gospel, believing that Jesus is the Son of God is the path to salvation. So if I were writing the script, Jesus would have stayed on earth longer. He would have held massive evangelism crusades, like Billy Graham. He would have told people clearly who He was, explained all the prophecies pointing toward Him, and given them a chance to “make a decision.” Because if believing that Jesus is the Messiah is the crux of salvation, shouldn’t He tell as many people as possible, as clearly as possible? Why all the secrecy?
It seems odd from a human perspective, but looking through a Trinitarian lens, it is a glorious mystery! Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father. He came to manifest His name. (John 17:6, Luke 10:22) YHWH has always been compassionate and gracious, abounding in lovingkindness and truth, slow to anger, quick to forgive, a righteous judge who will not leave the guilty unpunished. In love He revealed Himself to Israel. He told them His Name. But they feared the fire and the smoke; they trembled at the thunder of His voice; they could not see mercy, grace and compassion of His love.
So the Father asked His Son to go to His people, to take on their human flesh, to speak in a human voice, to touch them with human hands. The Father asked His Son to heal their diseases and teach about the kingdom of heaven so they would come to know the God they feared. He asked His Son to die a brutal death on the cross to leave no doubt about His love. And in love, the Son said yes.
If Jesus had come announcing that Himself as the Messiah, everything would have been different. People had preconceived notions about the Messiah and what he would do, what he should do, if he were in fact real. Militias were already formed, waiting. Herod also had a plan. Religious folk were engaged in debate. So if a man with Jesus’ reputation for miracles claimed to be the Messiah, gatherings of 5000 at the Sea of Galilee would have been a security threat. And no one would have listened to Jesus’ teaching because they would be focused on politics and impending war. Who would have time for parables? How could the lame have pressed through the crowds?
That was not Jesus’ plan. He came to show us the Father.
Jesus did, in fact, long to be known for He who was. He was a Bridegroom coming to woo a Bride. But He determined to leave the revelation of His identity in the Father’s hand. Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus took the twelve aside and asked, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples replied that the crowds said He was a prophet, maybe even Elijah come back to prepare the way of the Messiah. And then Jesus asked the twelve directly, “But who do you say I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus’ spirit soared, I believe, because Peter knew, but “flesh and blood had not revealed that to him.” Jesus had not told him. The Father opened the eyes of Peter’s heart.
This is the mystery of Trinitarian love. The humility of God! The Father sends the Son to reveal His nature. The Son does not speak of Himself but points to the Father. The Son does not set up a Kingdom on earth, or seek to make His name known. Instead He ascends to heaven and entrusts this mission to the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus to men. And as the Spirit opens our eyes to the Son, the Son leads us back to the Father, who will hand all authority over to Him. What a beautiful dance of humility, honor and love! This is our God.