12th in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.
Consider Matt. 8:4 – Then Jesus told him, “See that you don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them.”
Is the leper whom Jesus healed really not to tell anyone? Obviously, he has to say something to the priest in order to fulfill the requirements of the law. But what about his family, friends and others in the community? Is he expected to hide this obvious miracle from their eyes — especially since now, for perhaps the first time in years, he’s able to have personal contact with the ones he loves? What’s the point of Jesus’ stern command?
Quite simply, it appears Jesus is making it clear that the time has not yet come for Him to be fully revealed as the promised Messiah. Although in some private settings — as with the Samaritan woman at the well and in the presence of His closest disciples — He affirms His Messianic identity, He carefully calculates the day in which He must ride triumphantly into Jerusalem and be hailed King of the Jews. Until Palm Sunday, however, He must continue His earthly ministry without inciting His followers to prematurely declare Him King or His detractors to prematurely seek His death. All is done in God’s perfect timing. His command to the healed leper to hold his tongue looks to His future date with destiny, when He is declared King and fulfills the role of Suffering Servant in a single week.
The apostle Paul puts it well in Gal. 4:4-5: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (KJV)
One final note: After Christ’s resurrection, the recipients of His grace are never commanded to hide the message of the Messiah.