Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Matthew 16: 20 – 21
Why would Jesus order the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah? This is such a puzzling passage when you look at just that one verse. I couldn’t grasp this for years. But the second verse can maybe help us understand what was happening.
Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, for the last time, and He knew that this was the way to the death that was set before Him. It was hugely important that He should walk this path – a matter of life and death for Him and for the whole of the world. The expectations of what the Messiah would be and do were written into Jewish culture. The Messiah would free the Jewish people from the Roman Empire, the Messiah would be a king on David’s throne, the Messiah would be a warrior. The idea of the Messiah being executed, hung on a cross, cursed and broken, was inconceivable. If the disciples had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the whole of Judea might have risen in revolt, as indeed it did in AD66, ending in the sack of Jerusalem. This wasn’t the time for that and this was not the role that Jesus had to fulfil. His life, and death, was much, much more important, not just about the fate of the People of Israel, but about the fate of the whole of Creation. Thank God for it!
Prayer: Blessed Lord, thank you, thank you for your faithfulness in walking the way to your death. Thank you for redeeming the whole of Creation, including me, not just Israel. Thank you that, despite your humanity and your friends’ confusion, you never lost sight of the bigger picture. Thank you for the humility that didn’t succumb to the temptation to be a king in the world. Thank you for the grace that saves us to this day. Amen
Action: What can we learn from Jesus’ patient, humble walk to Jerusalem and his death? Think about whether there are areas in our lives where we can copy his persistence and faithfulness in difficulty and suffering.