1. Keeping A Secret
We all have times when we need to confide in someone, whether it’s about something that has happened to us or an issue about which we have been thinking. Indeed, we all have times when we need a sounding board to help us come to the right decision.
The problem is, though, some of us are good at keeping secrets, and others are not. And, even for those of us who are good at keeping secrets, sometimes what’s shared is so exciting that we find it hard to keep it to ourselves.
When it comes to the need to confide, then, to whom do we tell our secrets? And who do we not tell, to avoid the whole neighbourhood from finding out our business?
2. Jesus’s Secret
Now of course the problem of secrecy, and the need to keep a secret, is not a new issue. Even in the Bible some secrets were kept, and others were not.
The secret surrounding the birth of Moses was kept (Ex 2:1-4). And it was kept for three months from the authorities, who would otherwise had drowned him in the river at birth. But, as he grew, it became necessary to change the hiding arrangements—to the bulrushes—and that was the catalyst for him being discovered.
The reason for Samson’s great strength was also a well-guarded secret. He kept it to himself. That is, until he gave it away to the love of his life. And Delilah just couldn’t keep it secret, and he consequently paid the price (Judges 16:4-19).
On the other hand, today, we are reminded of Jesus’s secret, and his request for the crowd to keep silent about what they had seen. But in his situation, do we really think that Jesus expected them to keep quiet about what they had seen? Or do we think that he realised that what they had seen was far too exciting to keep to themselves?
Well, let’s look at the events, and consider the implications …
B. TWO HEALING MIRACLES
1. Jairus’s Daughter (1) (21-24)
The story begins with Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee, only to find a large crowd on the west bank. However, the writer, Mark, was not interested in the crowd, only in one person—Jairus, a ruler in the local synagogue.
Now, we are told that Jairus’s daughter was dying and, as a consequence, he was desperate for Jesus to go with him so that his daughter could be healed. He’d heard lots about Jesus, and, at that moment in time, he was putting all his hope and trust that Jesus would heal her. And Jesus agreed. And as they went off to Jairus’s house, the whole crowd followed, pressing around Jesus as they went.
2. The Woman with the Haemorrhage (25-34)
Unfortunately, as they went on their way, their journey was interrupted. A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years came close. She’d been to many doctors, and had endured many treatments. But instead of getting better, she’d actually got worse.
Now, in reality, because of her illness, she shouldn’t have been anywhere near. Anyone she touched or who touched her would have become ceremonially unclean. But she was desperate. She’d heard about Jesus too. So, somehow, even though shouldn’t have been present, she managed to work her way towards him.
Now it must be said here, that this woman was not just motivated by faith. She also had some common almost magical belief, that the dignity and power of a person was transferred into what they wore. Consequently we see her determined to touch Jesus’ cloak, with the belief that one touch would be sufficient to heal. And when she did touch Jesus’ cloak, immediately the bleeding stopped, and she knew that she’d been healed.
However, she evidently had not considered Jesus’s reaction. Because immediately, Jesus stopped, turned around, and demanded to know who had touched him.
Well, the disciples were incredulous. And far as they were concerned, he had been jostled and touched by a host of individuals as they’d gone on their way to Jairus’ house. Why was this one person so important? They may also have been concerned that any delay in their journey, would have serious consequences for Jairus’s daughter. Their mission was urgent, and they couldn’t afford any delay.
However there was a purpose behind Jesus’ stopping. The woman had been motivated by a mixture of faith and superstition. And he needed to correct any erroneous ideas. It was her faith that had healed her, not her superstitious beliefs.
3. Jairus’s Daughter (2) (35-42)
Then, as they were stopped, there came some bad news. Jairus’s daughter had died. And for Jairus, and no doubt everyone else, the interruption to the journey had been disastrous. So there was no longer any need to continue the journey.
But Jairus was encouraged by Jesus to believe that it wasn’t too late. And leaving the crowd behind, where the woman had been healed, Jesus, his closest disciples, and Jairus went on to the house.
By the time they got there, however, the funeral preparations were well in hand. And as was the custom, the professional mourners were in full swing. So when Jesus told them that the girl wasn’t dead, only sleeping, they laughed. However, having allowed the mourners to have their fun, he left them outside the house, went in with the girl’s parents and his disciples, and raised the girl back to life. Much to the amazement of the parents, the disciples, and no doubt the mourners outside.
4. Jesus’ Secret (43)
All terrific stuff. But when all this was done, and this is the crunch, Jesus then asked all present—Jairus, his wife, the three disciples, and the mourners—to keep quiet about what they had seen—to say nothing to anyone of what had transpired. It was to be a secret between him and them.
C. THE NEED FOR SECRECY
1. The Question
Well, I don’t know about you, but that would have been one enormous secret to keep. Jairus and the three disciples would have just witnessed two healing miracles. And Jairus’s wife and the professional mourners would have just witnessed one miracle. That would have been hard for anyone to keep a secret. And no doubt, regardless of Jesus’ request, the story of that day was spread far and wide.
So, knowing that, why did Jesus insist that the whole matter was to be kept secret? After all, these weren’t just isolated events? In his early ministry he’d performed many miraculous signs and wonders. He’d healed people who were lame, blind, deaf, dumb, and demon possessed. And in those early days, he often told people not to go and publish abroad what had happened. So what was it all about? Why the request for secrecy?
2. The Answer
Well the secret lies in the fact that it was still early on in Jesus’ ministry. It was a time when he continued to mix with the ordinary people—the strugglers of life—to show them that God cared. And it was a time when he continued to heal people of their diseases etc., to demonstrate God’s compassion, and to show that he did indeed care for all their needs.
However, for Jesus, there was a greater priority than just the physical healing of the masses. He’d come to bring spiritual healing. And if the people continued to come to him with only physical healing in mind, the concern was that they would not hear the message of why he had come.
Jesus’s call for secrecy, then, hinged on the fact that people would be increasingly queuing up for physical healing. A worthy enough past time in itself. But, as far as Jesus was concerned, it would be at the cost of him being unable to deliver the real message: of the need for reconciliation with God. An act that was only possible through faith in Jesus, and the sacrifice he was about to make.
That’s why he wanted his miracles to remain secret. He did not want to be hijacked into being a Messiah who simply performed miracles. So he called people to secrecy. He even, at times, removed himself from the crowds and the sick that they brought, in order to talk to others about the need for spiritual healing.
It’s not that Jesus liked secrecy. It’s not that he didn’t care for the physical healing of people—he did! And he demonstrated that time after time. But he also was aware that there was a greater priority.
1. Secret 1: Praying for The Sick
Now of course, that’s all well and good. But what does this story mean for us? What can it tell us? What practical application can we make, as we try to become more Christ-like in our own spiritual journeys?
Well, the first thing that we can learn is the point of Jesus’s wish for secrecy—his priority for spiritual healing. Because when we pray for healing, or lay hands on people, and they don’t get physically better, it can be so easy to get disheartened because our prayers aren’t answered. Well, not in the way that we may like. And we can start asking some very serious questions about our faith.
But if Jesus’s priority was getting people’s relationship with God right, then that puts the whole matter in a different perspective.
a) A Lack of Faith?
After all, how often have you heard people saying that they don’t have enough faith? That they don’t believe enough?
And yet, if that was the case why were both Jairus’s daughter and the woman healed? Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his daughter. But only up to the point when he was told she was dead. After that, he no longer believed that Jesus could help. Indeed, he had to be persuaded by Jesus that he could still do something for her. Furthermore, the woman had some faith, but it was mixed with a lot of superstition too. So neither miracle depended upon them being totally convinced of Jesus’ ability to heal.
The issue of faith in both instances, wasn’t that they didn’t have any faith. It’s just that Jesus wanted to challenge them further. Spiritual healing was far more important than physical healing.
And if Jesus’s priority is for people’s spiritual welfare, then we shouldn’t whip ourselves for lack of faith, when our prayers for physical healing do not appear to be answered.
b). Out of Tune with God?
How often have you heard people say that they haven’t been physically healed because they are out of tune with God? That they are not praying according to God’s wishes.
But haven’t we just discovered that as far as Jesus was concerned, there was something more important than physical healing on God’s agenda?
The key to where God’s heart lays, therefore, is not just with physical healing, whether healing the sick, the blind, the lame, those with cancer etc. etc. Although he often does that too. However, important as they may be, God’s heart is with the much more important issue of reconciling people with himself, with the consequence of giving people eternal life.
In other words, more important than our immediate physical well-being is our eternal well-being. And when we attune ourselves to that way of God’s thinking, to think in those terms, then it should change our whole attitude to life, and to prayer. And, may I add, it may even mean that we begin to accept some suffering as necessary, as part of our walk with God.
Because even the Apostle Paul recognised that some suffering was necessary, for him, so that he could continue to minister in God’s name. He recognised that pride and conceit could get in the way because of all the wonderful things God had done for him (2 Cor 12:7-10). And that he needed the ‘thorn in the flesh’ that he had. As a consequence, he stopped praying that it would be removed, and he concentrated, instead, on his spiritual well-being and development.
Jesus’s request for secrecy in this story, should be a vital part of our understanding of Jesus’s priorities, and what was really important in his life, in terms of his work and mission. And those priorities shouldn’t be lost on us. Indeed, they should influence the way we think, and act, and pray.
2. Secret 2: No Secret Followers
And, as for the second secret … The secrecy by which the woman touched Jesus robes, and then tried to disappear back into the crowd, in the hope that no one would notice …
Now Jesus didn’t let her, and for good reason. And we’ve already discussed the fact that he wanted her to know the distinction between faith and superstition, and that superstition had nothing to do with her healing. However, at the back of his mind was another reason. And that was that he didn’t and doesn’t approve of secret admirers.
Being a Christian has never been something that should be practiced in secret. In fact you can’t. Growing in faith requires a believer to stand up and be counted. That was why Jesus made that woman stand up and publicly acknowledge where she stood in regard to her faith.
Secrets! We all have them, and we all need someone with whom we can share them from time to time. But in regard to whom we share our secrets with, we need to be very discerning. After all, do we want our secrets to remain confidential, or do we want the whole world to know?
Having said that, there are secrets that are very difficult to keep to oneself. And Jesus’s secret would have been one of those secrets that even the most faithful friend would have had difficulty in keeping. But at this point in history, that’s no longer a problem.
What we can learn from Jesus’s secret, though, is the priorities of God—priorities that we should apply to our own faith and to our prayer life. The priority of spiritual healing over physical healing.
Because, yes, we can pray for the sick, and we should pray for the sick. But we need to remember that a person’s spiritual well-being is far more important than their physical well-being.
Furthermore, the priority of spiritual well-being should exclude any idea that a person can remain, in anyway, a secret believer.
Posted: 7th September 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis