One of the strange things about the earthly ministry of the Lord is that He often told people not to tell others about the miracles He did. To our minds, this seems counterproductive. Why wouldn’t the Lord want people to know about Him? Why would He tell people not to proclaim what His power had accomplished? Wouldn’t such news help in His goal of bringing people to faith?
One such example is in Mark 1:44-45. The Lord heals a man of leprosy. This would have been an incredible miracle. It was very rarely seen in the OT, and it was recognized by the Jews that only God could do it. In Jesus’ day, nobody had ever seen a man cured of the disease. Yet, after the Lord does it, He strongly warns the man not to tell anybody what He has done. I think it is safe to say that if any of us had experienced something like that from the hand of the Lord we would be eager to tell everyone we could find who would listen to our story.
Though at first glance this command from the Lord doesn’t make sense, we are told why He said this to the man. The man disobeyed and spread the news about the miracle. As a result, Jesus was not able to travel easily in Galilee, where the miracle took place. Large crowds came to see this miracle worker in hopes that they would see some spectacular healing themselves. In the eyes of the people, Jesus became like a traveling circus. The large miracle-seeking crowds prevented Him from teaching those who wanted to know about the coming kingdom of God.
Still, it seems such a shame that after such a great healing the Lord didn’t want the message of what had happened to go out. Though the man certainly benefited from what the Lord had done, in another sense it was a waste because it didn’t help in proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ. It is sad that this great miracle could not have been put to better use.
Of course, it actually was. The Lord knew what He was doing. While the man was not to spread the news of what had happened in Galilee, where the Lord was conducting His ministry, He told the man to show others what had happened. He instructed the cleansed man to go south, to Jerusalem, and show the priests in the temple his cleansing. It would be a witness to them.
In the OT, there was a long, drawn-out ritual for a man cleansed of leprosy. It took a week to accomplish all the sacrifices. None of the priests had ever done it. But when this man showed up, what a witness it would have been to them. The Man who had cleansed this man from this disease was obviously sent by God. That was a message that needed to get out.
In the book of Mark, it is the religious leaders who eventually have Jesus put to death. What a tragedy for the nation of Israel. These leaders played such a pivotal role. Imagine the difference among the Jews had their religious leaders proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ.
That is what the Lord was attempting to do. In the south, in the capital of the nation and the heart of the religious community, the message was to go out. Jesus would stay in the north, in Galilee, teaching the people who He was and instructing them about the coming kingdom of God. When the priests in the temple saw what He had done, they could have played their role in pointing the people to Him. They could have preached that it appeared that the Messiah was working and teaching in Galilee. After a week in Jerusalem, this man’s witness should have brought that about. After all, when the week was over and the rituals performed, these very religious leaders would have proclaimed that this man had been cleansed of his leprosy by Jesus. By their own pronouncement, they would say that Jesus had been sent by God.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened. The leaders did not do what was obviously right. In addition, the healed man disobeyed the Lord. But there is an important lesson here. The Lord knows what He is doing. When we see things in His word that don’t seem to make sense, we should always begin with the realization that there is wisdom there that we can’t yet see. If we seek the truth, that wisdom will come through. In this case, the message of who Christ was did indeed go out. The Lord ensured that it did. The problem was that many were not willing to believe.