The Messianic Secret

AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 12:15-50

15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;

Jesus knew the Pharisees were out to take His life. How Jesus knew is unclear. It is possible Jesus knew because He was omniscient. It is possible He knew because people eventually reveal what is on their heart. What is certain, is that Jesus removed Himself from harm’s way. If the gospel is rejected in one place, it is not wrong to go where the gospel is welcomed, and where miracles can be performed.

The Messianic Secret

16 And charged them that they should not make him known:

Though Jesus continued His Messianic ministry of healing, Jesus did not seek to draw undue attention to Himself at this time, for He was more than a miracle worker.

There is an irony to the Lord’s charge to His disciples, and to the people He healed, in as far as the miracles were performed to authenticate that He was the Messiah, and to help individuals in their time of need.

The miracles were not performed to cause people to believe, because, if anything, miracles often harden the heart against Jesus. Even the resurrection caused the ungodly chief priests, and elders of Israel, to harden their hearts against the Lord, and bribe others to lie about the situation (Matt. 28:12, 3).

The irony is that Jesus came to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and authenticated that truth by the miracles He performed, and yet, He charges the people not to make Him known. Why?

One possibility is that Jesus did not want the miracles He performed to be misunderstood. People might associate Him with the coming promised Conquering Messiah, and desire that He overthrow Rome. That was not going to happen, because Jesus was, at this time, the Suffering Servant. He was the Messiah of prophecy to be sure, but He was not the type of Messiah the hopes and dreams of so many had anticipated. Time was needed to teach the people that their political hopes, and liberating expectations, had to be tempered. The disciples had to learn that Jesus first the suffering Savior of whom Isaiah (chapter 53).

17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

Confirmation for the two-fold ministry of the Messiah, that of the Conquering Warrior – Gentle Savior, could be found in Isaiah the prophet. 

18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. (Isa. 42:1)

The importance of this prophesy is indicated by the word, “Behold.” Attention is to be given to the Messiah, who shall expand the gospel blessings to the Gentiles, and judge them as their Sovereign Lord.

Jesus is declared to be, “My servant,” the servant of God. He is the Man for God. He came to please the Father. “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7).

Jesus is the One whom the Father has chosen, unconditionally. God has the sovereign right to choose whom He wills, and though men rail against the doctrine of election, it stands.

Whom the Father chooses, He loves, so that Jesus is called, “My beloved.” Whom God loves, He protects, and secures by pouring out His Spirit. As the God-Man Jesus was equipped for His task, which was to judge the Gentiles of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come, like the Jews.

Christ did display judgment to the Gentiles, and still does, for all power in heaven and earth has been given to Him. Our Lord rules the nations of the earth in righteousness, and with a rod of iron in this very hour. The royal reign of Christ is not relegated to a future dispensation, but is a present reality.

19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. (Isa 42:14)

Jesus was not the radical revolutionist, as some would portray Him. He was not reactionary. The Lord did not send His disciples into streets to kill, burn, and destroy the property of others. Jesus does not rally His followers to march, make slogans, scream, and silence others. Jesus was controversial, but He was not hysterical. His appeal lay in His love, wisdom, patience, forbearance, and sacrifice.

20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. (Isa 42:3)

The gentleness of Christ is contrasted with other religious and political figures who use the sword, and coercion, to gain, and keep, their power. Nor did Jesus call down plagues, as was done in the Old Dispensation. The gospel of the grace of God is the greatest and most effective form of evangelism for it was modeled by Jesus who did not break a weak reed, nor quench a smoldering candle.

Two themes are united in this prophecy. Jesus is the gentle and quiet Elect Servant of God, but He is also the One into whose hands all judgment has been given. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). Jesus shall be gentle and long suffering, but only until “He sends forth judgment” to gain the final victory over the nations of the earth. The doctrine of retributive judgment is an orthodox teaching.

There is great danger in refusing to come to Jesus, and follow Him as Lord and Savior.

“Ye have rejected mercy, and mercy will plead with you no more. Ye challenged power, and power shall break you like potter’s vessels. Ye despised love, and love grown angry now despises you. Ye rejected truth, and now truth shall bind you in chains of fire forever. Ye would have none of God, and God will have none of you. Ye shall have none of the Savior, and he shall say, I never knew you; depart from me ye workers of iniquity.” 

Charles Spurgeon

21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

There are Bible teachers who insist the Dispensation, or, Age of the Grace of God, whereby Jews and Gentiles are united together as one in the body of Christ, was a mystery not known until it was revealed to the apostle Paul. Support for this belief is said to be found in Ephesians 3:2-6. However, the prophesy of Isaiah, proclaimed by Jesus, indicates the dispensational mystery could have been known, for it was plainly taught. It was prophesied in Scripture for all to read, and the Rabbis to teach, that the name of Christ would be preached, and in His name shall the Gentiles trust.

22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

Jesus knew the thoughts of the Pharisees because He is very God and endowed with Divine omniscience.

There is a practical way to know the thoughts of others and that is to patiently listen to them speak. Eventually, every person will reveal exactly what is on their heart.

26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?

The wisdom of Jesus is simple, and profound. Our Lord taught that a house divided against itself cannot stand. This is true in the family, in a nation, and in the Church.

27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges.

In their effort to slander Jesus and diminish the source of His authority, and power, they only hurt themselves. When we try to diminish and discredit others we hurt ourselves. When we think we know what others are up to and doing, we are often wrong. When the Pharisees said that Jesus was casting out demons by Satan, they only condemned themselves, for they too believed in exorcism by the power of God.

28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

Since Jesus does cast out demons by the Holy Spirit of God, it proves He is the Messiah. The King has come, according to prophesy. Come to His kingdom by faith and be saved.

29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.

Allowing Scripture to interpret itself, Revelation 20:6 becomes clear in light of the teaching of Jesus. Satan has been bound in some sense, and to a specific degree: that he should deceive the nations no more.

30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

It is important to have the proper view of the person of Jesus Christ to be orthodox in one’s theology. There is no neutrality concerning Christ. Either a person is for Him or against Him.

The Unpardonable Sin

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Isa.5:20)

What exactly, then, is the unpardonable sin?

One popular view is that the unpardonable sin is rejecting Jesus Christ as personal Savior. However, that cannot be true, because many people have resisted Jesus, and spoken against Him, only to repent, be converted, and love the Lord. Nor is the unpardonable sin a form of moral debauchery. Jesus spoke to pious men about the unpardonable sin, suggesting they could commit it. Moreover, the unpardonable sin is not something that is common, but, when committed, it is final and deadly.

Rather, in context, the unpardonable sin is this: it is ascribing to Satan the work of God.

One of the heretics in the early Church c. 178 AD, was a Roman philosopher named Celsus. He accused Jesus of learning to perform tricks like an Egyptian juggler, and passing them off as a divine miracle. With this accusation, Celsus blasphemed the Holy Spirit. He committed the unpardonable sin. He blasphemed, or slandered the Holy Spirit, and he would not repent.

It is a divine principle that if a person does not respond to the gospel, hardening of the heart takes place. It is the natural result of rejecting God. The older a person grows, the harder the heart becomes against the Lord, and all things spiritual. It is a serious matter to hear the Word of God and reject it. There is retributive judgment. Individuals are given over to a reprobate mind. Men cannot repent at will.

33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.

Though ever person is responsible for the sin they perform, the Lord Jesus is the only one who can make the tree good.

34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

The view of Jesus concerning basic human nature is clearly stated. The heart of the natural man is no better than that of a viper. It is ready to strike out to wound and kill, without any concern, or warning. A poisonous snake seeks only to destroy that which it sinks its venom into.

35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

The story of Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, illustrates the truth of this teaching. He divorced his wife, beheaded John the Baptist, and sought to kill Jesus. In the end, the Lord had not a word for Herod. The heart of the monarch had grown hard to the point that no Word from God would be spoken to him, and no hope given. 

36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. 38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 1 Cor. 1:22

There is a polite hypocrisy given to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. They call Him, “Master,” but do not bow to His will or His teaching. Bold is their disbelief as they demand to see a sign from Jesus after the many signs they had already witnessed.

What kind of sign the scribes and Pharisees desired is not stated. Jesus had already spoken with authority, unlike all others. He had already healed the sick, and forgiven people of sin. What sign did they want?

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

There was a special judgment being pronounced by Jesus on the scribes and Pharisees when He used the terms “evil”, and “adulterous,” for Israel was “married to Jehovah in a covenantal relationship. “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you” (Jer. 3:13). Israel broke the spiritual marriage bond.

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so, shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale, or better, “a great fish” (Gk. ho ketos), is not a myth, but a historical fact, according to Jesus, who appealed to the incident to establish a point.

There are many teachings and beliefs that are a myth. Many things are accepted based on tradition, which can be dangerous, for “Custom without truth, is error grown old” (Tertullian). The Mediatrix of Mary, her bodily assumption, and the Infallibility of the Pope are examples of “error grown old.” But it is no error to believe the Bible, and the stories and teachings the Scriptures contain.

Having asked for a great sign, despite their hearts of sin, the Lord did give the scribes and Pharisees a sign, the sign of Jonah. Three days the Lord would be in the heart of the earth, and so He was if Jewish reckoning of time is kept in mind whereby a part of a day stood for the whole day and night (see Esther 5:15-5:1).

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

  • Jesus, Greater than Jonah.
  • Jonah, a rebellious prophet.
  • Jesus, a true prophet of God.
  • Jonah, a sinful prophet.
  • Jesus, a prophet without sin.
  • Jonah, a prophet without pity.
  • Jesus, a prophet filled with compassion.
  • Jonah, a prophet with a message of doom.
  • Jesus, a message of love and saving grace.
  • Jonah, a prophet without miracles.
  • Jesus, a prophet who comforted and healed.

42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

  • Jesus, Greater than Solomon.
  • Solomon was loved by God.
  • Jesus is eternally loved by God.
  • Solomon built a temple.
  • Jesus is that Temple.
  • Solomon was arrayed in glory.
  • Jesus has been given all power in heaven and earth.
  • Solomon was wise.
  • Jesus is Wisdom incarnate.

43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Jesus viewed the scribes and Pharisees to be like an empty house that is being revisited by an unclean spirit. All attempts at religious renewal and keeping the Law, with pomp and ceremony, have availed nothing. The hearts of the people are not right with God. A Generational Judgment is passed on “this wicked generation,” the generation to whom Jesus was speaking, His own generation. It is possible to have a religion without any corresponding reality.

Identifying the True Family of Jesus (Matthew 12:46-50)

46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?

Speaking in spiritual terms, it was a valid rhetorical inquiry, because, despite their close intimate connection to Jesus, not one of His brothers believed in Him until after His resurrection. Not one of His brothers supported Him, encouraged Him, or followed behind Him as a humble disciple during the days of His ministry. There was an opportunity of monumental significance, lost forever. Even Mary, who did believe in Him, warned Jesus not to be too “beside Himself,” or be too fanatical in the service of God (Mark 3:21).

49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Are you part of the true family of Jesus? It is possible to be part of the family of God by doing the will of the Father which is in heaven. It is the will of the Father to believe in Christ, and to love Him. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). May God give you the grace and the power to believe.

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