Friday, February 04, 2005

Markan secret and modus operandi of Christ

Throughout the gospels, Jesus usually refused to openly affirm His Messiah status. We read the gospels and see Him heal diseased and hurting persons, and then turn around and command them to ‘tell no one!’

And, when discussing His true nature with the disciples, Jesus warned them not to speak of it. This tendency of secrecy has baffled scholars over the years. And since the Gospel of Mark mentions this secretive meme so often, they have dubbed it the “Markan Secret.” And, true to scholarly form, they forever stumble over what it means. “Why would Jesus not make this Messiah fact common knowledge?” they wonder. “If He really was the Son of God, surely He would tell people about it!” “Wouldn’t He?”

So eager to critique biblical faith and biblical texts, they miss some incredible significance…

Scholars who believe in Jesus usually highlight the political atmosphere of the 1st century. Jesus’ “secrecy” showed much common sense… and faith in a higher mission.

In that context, Jewish revolutionaries often claimed the title Messiah in order to rise up against Rome. It was a political statement of resistance, which invited Jewish warriors to pick up sword and throw off Roman rule. Many followers of Jesus wanted Him to be that kind of Messiah. Even the disciples carried a misguided idea of earthly kingship -- right up until the Cross. But Jesus utterly rejected – harshly at times – those of His circle who pushed Him to earthly claim. “Get behind me, Satan!” He said to Peter, when Peter tried to talk Him out of the Cross.

Why so harsh? Jesus had something far more radical in mind than earthly kingship. Jesus came to set human prisoners free from the chains of sin, something no earthly kingdom or Messiah could do.

Jesus came to put the save in Savior. So He rejected what Messiah had come to mean in the 1st century. Instead, He called himself, “Son of Man.” Son of Man! Son of Man was a transcendent title from the Book of Daniel. It conveyed His unique status as Christ and God without making Him a local zealot. This title expressed His divine mission, and at the same time defined His Gospel above mere social or political expectation.

And so there is great practical significance in the “Markan Secret.”

But is there an even larger spiritual lesson? I think so.

Spiritual significance of the “Markan Secret”

For the larger clue, look at Christ, telling so many stories in parables. His stories usually had hidden meanings, cryptic clues and confusing words.

The disciples were so often confused! They questioned Jesus, “Why do you speak in parables?”

Jesus replied with a chilling answer: “There is a time when ‘that which is true will be made hidden.’ But time is coming when ‘That which is hidden will be made plain.’”

“Every eye will look upon him whom they pierced!”

Ah! Here is incredible significance in the secrecy of Christ: Those who find Him must seek, and only those who seek honestly will find; but the time is coming when all will be made plain.

We will look upon the One who was pierced for our sins.

At that time, no more secrets. No more parables. But until then, as Pascal says, we must have 'partial light, partial knowledge for the sake of faith.'

"God wishes to move the will rather than the mind. Perfect clarity would help the mind but harm the will. Humble their pride." [cf. Pensees, 234 and 446]

The Markan Secret is actually an incredibly consistent glimpse into the modus operandi of Christ: He demands faith. All who seek will find, and see the signs.

But only the penitent man, and penitent woman, will pass.

Thus the Markan Secret holds both warning and hope: Eventually, all will bow: Some as friends who bowed in this life; some as enemies who bow then.

But He gives time.

Let us know Him as our friend!

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