Do Not Tell!
A reader asks, “Why did Christ command those whom He healed not to tell who healed them, yet we are commanded to witness of Him?”
In addition to the historical fact that Jesus commanded some whom He healed not to reveal who healed them, He also told only a few who He truly was. First, He said He was the Christ to the Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26). Second, He identified Himself as the Son of God to the man born blind whom He healed (John 9:35-37).
It is striking that both instances are recorded in John’s gospel narrative, for John’s express purpose in writing his gospel, under divine and infallible inspiration, is given in chapter 20:31: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
A third incident in which Christ declared who He was is recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. This passage describes Jesus’ question put to His disciples: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” After receiving the answer, Jesus put the same question to the disciples. Peter, speaking for all of the disciples, said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus confirmed this truth by telling them that this confession would be the rock on which He would build His church. Yet, even then, Jesus “charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
Why the command not to tell? Setting aside for the moment Jesus’ injunction to His disciples in Matthew 16, we should notice that both the Samaritan woman and the man born blind were already inclined to think that He was the Messiah. The woman from Samaria hinted at this when she said that she knew and believed that the promised Messiah would come. She as much as asked Him, “Art thou that Messiah?”
The same was true of the blind man. He called Jesus “Lord,” which name already set Jesus aside from others whom the blind man knew. But his question is also a sort of revelation of his inward questioning: he wanted to believe but was not sure Jesus was the promised Messiah. In other words, both the Samaritan woman and the man born blind saw that Jesus was divine, that is, the Son of God. God had put this faith within their hearts.
But with so many others who were healed, this was not the case. They did not have this saving faith. Again, it is John who gives us insight into this matter. At a very early time in our Lord’s ministry, after He had cleansed the temple (John 2:14-22), we read that Jesus was in Jerusalem where He performed many miracles and many believed on Him. But, John adds, “Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (24-25).
In other words, many believed in Jesus only as a miracle-worker. They did not see Him as the Samaritan woman and the man born blind saw Him, as the promised Messiah, the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent and deliver them from their sins. Jesus knew all men, including who were and who were not true believers. He knew that most of them who swarmed around Him did so because of His eloquence as a preacher and His ability to perform miracles.
Again John makes this clear when Jesus had fed the crowds with five loaves and two fishes. When He would not be their king and would not feed them with earthly bread, and when He pointed out to them that He was the Bread of Life and that faith that He was from God was required of them, we read “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).
When Jesus turned to His disciples and asked them whether they wanted to leave as well, their answer, with Peter again as the spokesman, was, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (68-69).
By all this, I do not mean to say that many of those who believed in Christ only for the miracles were not God’s elect. Later history tells us that there were thousands who were the chosen people of God, though as yet they did not believe in Christ as God’s Son.
In the purpose of God, that true faith in the hearts of His people had to wait for Pentecost. Even the disciples who possessed true faith did not understand Christ’s work in its entirety. Just before Christ’s ascension into heaven, they asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). In their carnality, they kept thinking of an earthly kingdom. It was only after the Spirit of Christ was poured out that all became clear: the cross, the resurrection, the ascension and the New Testament church. The Spirit made all the difference, for the Spirit, as Christ Himself had told them, would lead them into the truth and make all Christ’s work plain (John 16:13).
How frequently the same mistake is made by today’s throngs that fill mega-churches. They believe in a Christ who does healing miracles today (or so the Charismatics claim) or that faith in Him will guarantee a trouble-free life here in this world of sin and darkness or that believing will give them prosperity and wealth. They may claim to follow Christ but they are following a phantom. More subtly, many claim to believe in Christ because He loves all men, gives them a chance to be saved and lets them have a gloss of religion while their hearts remain in the world.
True faith confesses that we are totally depraved sinners who cannot believe of ourselves and who do not deserve salvation. We know our sins and realize that only God can save us by the power of His irresistible grace. We know that our salvation was accomplished in the cross and to that cross we flee with broken hearts and cries of sorrow.
So, my answer is this: Miracles themselves were only signs of Christ and what He did as Saviour. Healing blindness is a sign of Christ’s gift of healing our spiritual blindness. Making the lame walk was a sign of Christ’s work of enabling us to walk in the way of His commandments. Raising the dead points to Christ’s work of raising us from our spiritual death to new and heavenly life. And so it was with all the miracles. But the faith of many ended with miracles. Christ does not want to be known merely as a miracle-worker. He is the Saviour and Redeemer of His people, and faith in Him brings true heavenly salvation and deliverance from all our physical and spiritual ailments and troubles in the next world. That He saves me is the greatest miracle of all! Prof. Hanko