Secret of Jesus’ Divinity

In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus often instructs the demons, his disciples and others to conceal his identity.  After the voice of God identifies Jesus as his beloved Son during the Transfiguration, Jesus commands the disciples “to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man should have risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).  What is the Messianic secret?

Jesus keeps it as a secret as possible until the time is right to bring his mission to a climax.  The Synoptic Gospels do provide evidence Jesus claimed to be divine, and we provide two examples: (1) the healing of the paralytic, and (2) Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man.

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When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.  Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.  They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”  Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—  he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mark 2:1-12)

Jesus’ initial words to the paralytic are focused exclusively on the forgiveness of his sins —  Jesus does not say anything about the healing of the man’s body.  Jesus exceeds the expectations of those who seek him, surprises those whom he encounters, and shows that his ministry is focused above all on healing the broken relationship between sinful humans and God.

The Jewish scribes react by accusing Jesus of “blasphemy,” which referred to offenses against God, the Temple, the Scriptures, and even holy man (Acts 6:11), and direct blasphemy against God was punishable by death (Exodus 20:7).  The Jews’ focus is: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7)

Jesus does not reject the charge, because he declares that he will heal the paralytic so that the scribes might know that “the Son of Man” does have authority on earth “to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10).  “The Son of Man” in Daniel is a Divine Messiah.  He is a divine figure who appears as a human being — a mysterious blend of both God and man.

Jesus forgives the ins of the paralytic acting as if he was God, and the scribes charge him with blasphemy for claiming to do something only the one God can do.  As the heavenly Son of Man, Jesus has the power “on earth” to forgive sins.  Jesus performs the visible healing of the paralytic to prove his claim.  Jesus is issuing a challenge to the scribes to discern his divine identity as the heavenly Son of Man.

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 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?[a] No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” 20 He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  (Mark 10:17-22)

Jesus declares there is only “one” who is “good,” namely, God (Mark 10:18).  Jesus does not deny that he himself is good, and uses questions and riddles to lead his audiences into the mystery of who he us.  Jesus does not go around showing the mystery of his divinity; rather he wants them to freely come to believe in him and arrive at their own conclusions about who he is and how they are going to respond to him.  Jesus poses a question to lead the young man to follow the implications of his own words.  If Jesus is “good,” and God alone is “good,” then who exactly is Jesus?

Jesus ends by telling the rich young man the “one thing” he still lacks is to sell all he has and follow him.  When it comes to the question of “eternal life,” following Jesus is an essential part of the equation.  During his public ministry, Jesus wants his audience to ask themselves: Who is this man?  And what is his relationship with the one God?

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