don’t tell anyone.

mjkimpan  —  January 30, 2013 — 9 Comments

bullhorn
jesus and the twelve had made the 25 mile trek off the shores of the sea of galilee, and stopped to rest outside the district of caesarea. they sat along the fallen rocks on the side of the dust-filled road, their cloaks musty with the sweat of travel.

amidst their discussion and reminiscing of the miraculous discovery of the bushelfuls filled with bread to feed the crowds in previous towns, hunger had crept in. lucky for them, the sons of zebedee had purchased an ample supply of figs for the journey.

sitting in a circle under the nearly setting sun, they ate and laughed together.

jesus, always one to turn the discussion toward something significant, asked his disciples ::

who do people say i am?

a myriad of responses flowed from their lips ::

some say john the baptist, come back from the dead.’

others claim you’re elijah, reincarnated.’

still others believe you’re jeremiah the weeping prophet – or perhaps one of the other prophets, come back from the grave!

they sat in silence, considering the implications.

so many people had followed jesus over these past three years. thousands flocked to him wherever he went, and sat under his teachings. some came to question, others came seeking to find answers to questions. others, looking for a miracle. still others seemed to come just to see what would happen.

would jesus set them straight?

but…who do you say that i am?

peter leaned forward, mouth full of figs, and blurted out his suspicions ::

you are the anointed one! you’re the son of the living God, YHVH.

the others leaned in as well, anticipating their rabbi to affirm peter’s proclamation.

don’t tell anyone.

<yes, it’s true :: i skipped over the affirmation.>

jesus does indeed affirm that he’s the messiah in this passage, claims he’ll build his church on the rock of peter’s declaration and states that even death will not overpower it.

he then gives the disciples the ability to ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ with the keys of heaven, a tremendous responsibility the modern church has yet to come to terms with.

and then he warns them not to tell anyone he’s the messiah.

really. you can read it for yourself.

don’t tell anyone.

is this odd to anyone else? in our western 21st century evangelical circles, it seems we are defined by this proclamation, and we don’t do so secretly.

we make this declaration a distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

and we do so not merely regarding christ’s claims of divinity – we pontificate about our opinion on a myriad of other issues as well – continually driving a wedge between those who believe, and those who don’t.

we are a culture committed to conversion. addicted to answers.

our addiction to an answer culture dictates declarations of ‘Truth’ so individuals know what we believe - and we quickly become defined not by what we are for, but what we are against. we tragically live not as who we are, but become obsessed with correcting who we are not for fear of being misunderstood.

jesus didn’t seem to care.

it’s not that he was unaware of who he was – nor did he shame peter for his spirit-guided insight into declaring his affirmation of christ’s claims of divinity.

yet it would seem it mattered less to jesus what people believed about him than it did that they follow him and experience his way of life.

jesus seemed quite comfortable with people following him, some for long periods of time, while simultaneously being uncertain as to his divine nature. jesus didn’t correct them or chastise them for not ‘getting it‘ – in fact, he told the disciples not to tell anyone once they did!

spending time with the marginalized || blind beggars and crippled people, lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes  and drunkards and other ‘sinners’ of his day || no doubt jesus heard proclamations of who he was that missed the mark.

yet correcting those misconceptions was not as important to him as doing life in proximity to and relationship with those who otherwise would not experience his abundant way of life.

in contrast, i often find our churches guilty of proclaiming preferred doctrinal positions while simultaneously lacking any compassionate or pastoral response to the very people we’re pushing to the outside.

any expressed doctrinal or theological position apart from a compassionate and pastoral response castrates the conversation.

jesus seemed much more committed to the process – the conversation – the journey – the way – than we are.

our obsession with cognitive conversion and admitted answers about jesus renders our beliefs in him obsolete if they are not couched in external actions of loving one another in his example, standing in solidarity with the Other… even when they’re ‘wrong.’

what do you think?

  • http://twitter.com/jimbalaya713 Jim Searing

    Well I don’t think this is necessarily a fair interpretation of what Jesus was telling them. We have to account for the progression of the narrative which here is the growing revelation that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, as it leads up to his resurrection. It would be better to say that Jesus told them to not tell anyone–yet. (I.e. don’t spoil the ending) Given the context in the next chapter where he transfigures and tells Peter, James and John to not tell anyone until AFTER the resurrection (17:9) and the final command in the book the Great Commission where they are to tell the entire world about him.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      thanks, jim. that’s definitely a plausible interpretation – and i’m certainly *not* suggesting that we NEVER make declarations of what we believe or what elements of the story are essential to our faith.

      yet i can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a kingdom principle to be learned from jesus’ example here as we engage our culture in the context of conversations where others may not be either ready or willing to hear our declarations of dogma and doctrine?

      it’s also interesting to note that in the great commission, jesus again seems more concerned with making followers (or even students) of his teachings and example than he does creating individuals and institutions that believe the ‘right’ things. for me, it’s difficult to separate the ‘teaching them to observe all i have commanded’ (matthew 28:20) and the new command he gave to them – ‘that you love one another, just as i have loved you…by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

      though i gladly proclaim jesus as both king and messiah, i am convinced that his church has missed the mark in being known by his self-sacrificial love. instead it seems we are defined by which beliefs we subscribe to on any number of secondary issues.

      does that make sense? what do you think?

      • http://twitter.com/jimbalaya713 Jim Searing

        It does. At some level I am just being hermeneutically nit picky, which is important because these are weighty matters when we deal with Jesus and because we craft our theology as a community. So when we form ideas from the Bible we need to look at the parts but also compare those parts to the rest of the contextual whole. But I would agree that too often the church likes to come to blows on the minors instead of majoring on the majors together–that being Jesus, who he was and what he did and how we live in the fantastic journey of coming to even a shallow comprehension of what that all is.

        • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

          absolutely! that’s what the WayWard follower is all about – learning to journey – together! thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

    thanks, jim. that’s definitely a plausible interpretation – and i’m certainly *not* suggesting that we NEVER make declarations of what we believe or what elements of the story are essential to our faith.

    yet i can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a kingdom principle to be learned from jesus’ example here as we engage our culture in the context of conversations where others may not be either ready or willing to hear our declarations of dogma and doctrine?

    it’s also interesting to note that in the great commission, jesus again seems more concerned with making followers (or even students) of his teachings and example than he does creating individuals and institutions that believe the ‘right’ things. for me, it’s difficult to separate the ‘teaching them to observe all i have commanded’ (matthew 28:20) and the new command he gave to them – ‘that you love one another, just as i have loved you…by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

    though i gladly proclaim jesus as both king and messiah, i am convinced that his church has missed the mark in being known by his self-sacrificial love. instead it seems we are defined by which beliefs we subscribe to on any number of secondary issues.

    does that make sense? what do you think?

  • Kerry Kind

    It seems the more obvious and more accepted understanding of this was that it was too early to provoke the final confrontation. Every month, every moment, that Jesus had to invest in his disciples and to preach the Kingdom was important. If all the demons and disciples were going about shouting, “Here comes the awaited Messiah!” at every turn, it could have brought things to a head too soon, or at least made very problematic all that Jesus was to accomplish before the passion week.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      thanks, kerry. while i certainly agree with you that this is the more accepted understanding, i would also simultaneously suggest, as history has shown us time and time again, that the more accepted understanding ≠ more obvious ≠ more correct.

      an alternative perspective is at least worth exploring, don’t you think?

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.danner Michael Danner

    The gospel of the kingdom – which contains in it Jesus as the Messiah in and through whom all of God’s promises will come to fulfillment – can be proclaimed other than as a pretext for defining “us” vs “them”. I think that is what it means to bear witness and invite others to enter into the kingdom of God.

    With that background, it seems like your post contains with in it Jesus’ concern that undergirds the Messianic secret. I’ve always read the “don’t tell anyone” stuff, not as trying to control the narrative, such that people didn’t kill him too soon and the like – he’s Jesus for heaven sake, he died when he choose to if you believe what he said – He lays his life down, people don’t have the power and authority to take it. Rather, their understanding of Messiah was different than the actuality. He needed more time on the ground, so to speak, to provide an incarnational model and example in order to shift people’s messianic expectations (at least a nucleus of people that would become the believing community).

    The problem isn’t with proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom, per se, but that people have misunderstood the gospel, turned it towards their own ends, and now – far too often- proclaim a truncated gospel or particular soteriology AS THE gospel.

    I don’t think the category of “divine nature” is something that was front and center, or even a necessary category, for Messiah within a Jewish context. At least not in the same way that we think it about it now after the first council of Nicaea.

    At the same time, it’s common to say that Jesus didn’t come to start an institution. That is true enough, I suppose. But it is clear that Jesus’ expectation was that the kingdom of God would play out beyond his death and resurrection within a community of faithful and obedient disciples under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. I would call that the church. That the church has become organized through the ages doesn’t preclude them being the church with particular beliefs that set them apart from others within the broader culture.

    The problem isn’t with having beliefs vs not having beliefs. Per Rollins, the problem is with HOW people believe. To believe in Jesus in such a way as to act very unlike Jesus lacks integrity. Beliefs get a bad rap some times, but we all have them and they shape us in profound ways. At the same time, I think we’d all say that some beliefs are better than others, otherwise why believe “this” and not “that”.

    The basis of your whole work and ministry is the belief that it is better to approach others with openness, humility, compassion and love (if not mutual submission and other things which you can fill out) and NOT judgement, hate, criticism, and so on.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      absolutely, michael…the problem isn’t what people believe, but ‘the problem is with HOW people believe.’ or perhaps another way to say it is how people *behave* as a result of their *beliefs* (judgment, hate, et cetera versus with openness, humility, compassion and love).

      thanks for sharing your thoughts and taking the time to respond – always appreciate your voice here! thanks for helping us think through the implications of the gospel of the kingdom.