WHY DID JESUS FORBID OTHERS FROM PREACHING THAT HE WAS CHRIST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Jesus eventually commanded His disciples not—notice NOT—to declare to others that He was Messiah/Christ/the Son of God. Why? Moreover, when Jesus cast out devils, He strictly charged those unclean spirits not—notice NOT—to say that He was Messiah/Christ either. Again, why? Did not Jesus want His identity to be known by all Jews? Why the “secrecy?” We will turn to the Holy Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us through it. It is our hope and trust to shed some light on these obscure passages. Dear reader, you are sure to learn some wonderful truths!
CONCERNING THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST
At a certain time in His earthly ministry, Jesus commanded His disciples not to tell others that He was Christ/Messiah. That is strange, huh? Why did He discourage His disciples from publicly identifying Him as the Son of God? Did He not want people to know who He was? At that point, NO, He did not want them to know who He was. Let us explain by looking at verses.
The first time in the Scriptures where Jesus Christ commanded His disciples not to tell others that He was Christ, is recorded in Matthew 16:16-20, Mark 8:27-30, and Luke 9:18-21. (They are all parallel passages of the same event.) We will read them now.
Matthew 16:16-20: “ And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
Mark 8:27-30: “ And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?  And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.  And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.  And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.”
Luke 9:18-21: “ And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?  They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.  And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;”
The key to understanding the above passages is to remember where they are on the Bible timeline. Matthew chapter 16, Mark chapter 8, and Luke chapter 9 are the latter half and near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They are discussing the last year of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus Christ had already preached and taught in Israel for over two years. For over two years, He had performed countless miracles to prove who He was. He had also preached countless sermons teaching and validating the Old Testament, and showing how the Old Testament passages authenticated Him. How did the Jews react—positively or negatively? The nation Israel overwhelmingly turned a blind eye toward Jesus’ works, a deaf ear toward His words, and an unbelieving heart toward His Messiahship. Even today, the average Jew refuses to hear and believe that Jesus is Messiah. Yea, beloved, there is nothing new under the sun!
Some weeks before Jesus discouraged any teaching or preaching about His Messiahship, Israel’s religious leadership had greatly insulted Him in Matthew 12:22-45 (cf. Mark 3:22-30). They had said that He was performing miracles by utilizing Satan’s power! Once they had disrespected Him with the charge of devil possession, Messiah Jesus’ ministry to Israel changed significantly. In the next chapter—Matthew chapter 13 (cf. Mark chapter 4 and Luke chapter 8)—Jesus Christ switched to preaching and teaching in parables. He had preached in plain language for about two years. However, when most of Israel continued to argue with Him and persistently reject Him, and when her religious leadership finally plotted to kill Him (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11), He changed His method of dealing with her. The parables were designed to communicate truths to believers and were intended to confuse the Christ-rejecters. Remember, if you do not want the truth, God will give you over to error (Romans 1:18-32)!
We learn in Matthew 13:10-15 about the purpose of parables: “ And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith [Isaiah 6:9-10], By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:  For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
According to God’s timeline, Jesus Christ had a limited amount of time before He was scheduled to die. Daniel’s prophecy had to be fulfilled perfectly—Messiah would be put to death 483 years after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24-26). Once Jesus Christ had formed a small group of Messianic Jews, the little flock, then He gradually withdrew from ministering to all the nation of Israel. Jesus was avoiding wasted time with people who had heard already but had persisted in unbelief. At that time, He taught only His disciples. He trained them so they could continue His work whenever He would leave and go to Heaven. They were to convert all of Israel (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8), which they began to do in early Acts. The parables were designed to teach the believers but confuse the Christ-rejecters. Another aspect of God’s giving those lost, hell-bound Jews over to what they wanted was to now suppress the preaching of Jesus’ Messiahship, that it not be preached throughout all the streets and villages of Israel. The time of “all-of-Israel-should-hear-the-gospel-of-Messiah/Christ–Jesus” had come and gone! It was now time for a confined ministry to Israel’s believing remnant.
Furthermore, we can see how, during the final months and/or weeks of His life, Jesus spent His time in southern Israel (Judah and Jerusalem). His ministry started out in northern Israel (Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth, et cetera), He spent about two years going back and forth between north and south, eventually confining His latter ministry to southern Israel (mostly Jerusalem). In southern Israel, Jerusalem, He let Himself be arrested and He gave up Himself to die on Calvary’s cruel cross. Those who had rejected Him those last three years would finally get their wish!
While somewhat of a repeat, note these related concepts. Jesus did not want His disciples to tell anyone anymore that He was the Christ. For the last two to three years, He had already demonstrated to them that He was Messiah and they refused to have Him. He would not strive as Isaiah said. He would no longer preach to the people who had rejected Him. Matthew said they would not hear His voice in the streets. Again, all that meant was He gradually limited His ministry. Originally sent to preach and teach all of Israel, with Israel largely rejecting, He confined His ministry to believers, those who had already accepted Him and wanted to hear more truth from God.
As we mentioned earlier, Matthew 12:14-21 is where Israel’s leadership began to plot to kill Jesus. This was sometime during Jesus’ final year in ministry, some two years after He had begun to preach and teach: “ Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.  But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;  And charged them that they should not make him known:  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying [Isaiah 42:1-4],  Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.  He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.  And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” Verse 19 speaks of Jesus limiting His ministry within Israel at His First Coming. Verse 20 speaks of the fiery judgment to come at His Second Coming to burn up the unbelievers. Verse 21 is the earthly kingdom He will establish as Messiah-Christ-King! Verses 20 and 21 are still future.
Here is an interesting little side-note. When Jesus raised from the dead the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, “He charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat” (Mark 5:43). Again, Jesus was limiting His ministry here, was He not? He did not want more publicity. He did not want them to publish the news of the miracle. The “turning point” of parables and limiting spiritual knowledge had occurred earlier in Mark chapter 4. Similar events occurred in Matthew 8:4, Mark 7:36, Luke 5:14, and Luke 8:56. The time had come for Jesus to gradually withdraw from public ministry!
CONCERNING THE DEVILS OF SATAN
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, when He would cast out devils (evil spirits), He would always command those evil spirits not to tell any man that He was Christ. For example, we read in Mark 3:11-12: “ And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.  And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.” And, the Bible says in Luke 4:41: “And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.”
Why did Jesus forbid these unclean spirits from preaching His Messiahship? Again, did not Jesus want people to know that He was Christ? Yes, at that time, Jesus did encourage His disciples preaching about His Messiahship, but He did not want His ministry weakened by devils preaching it. The Jews looked for anything and everything to discredit Jesus Christ, so He knew to limit the “ammunition” they would seek to gain. Thus, no devils were allowed to bear witness to Jesus’ Messiahship. These evil spirits were not allowed to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. Note another example, Luke 4:33-35: “ And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,  Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.  And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace [Be quiet!], and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.”
Why did Jesus discourage His disciples from preaching that He was Messiah/Christ? Once Jesus Christ had preached approximately two to three years throughout northern and southern Israel, He began to gradually confine His preaching and teaching to His disciples. Most of His audience throughout Israel’s land had refused to hear and believe anything He said. He would no longer go to any and every Jew, but He would confine His ministry to people who had already accepted and trusted Him as Messiah/Christ. Once that ministry was limited, those members of the little flock were not to go out and teach any more lost Jews about Jesus being Messiah/Christ. Jesus Christ spent His time teaching His disciples, and His disciples spent time learning from Him. Neither Jesus nor His disciples wasted time preaching to rank and file Jews at that time.
Why did Jesus prohibit devils (unclean spirits) from preaching that He was Messiah/Christ? Jesus Christ wanted the Old Testament Scriptures (JEHOVAH’S Word) to testify of Him and He wanted His disciples to preach and testify of Him. He did not want Satan’s minions preaching on His behalf, for they would only disrepute and defile His ministry and message. Unbelieving Israel would have all the more reason to deny Him—“Jesus is certainly a fraud because even the devils preach He is Christ!”