Archive for May 21, 2009

May 21

To Speak or Not to Speak?

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

Last Sunday I preached a sermon from Luke 8:26-56, “Miracles, Belief, and Emotions.” The study of the four miracle stories and the dozen-plus references to varying emotions in this passage was our focus. So time did not permit to address what seems like a contradiction in the chapter:

Why is it that, after one healing, Jesus tells the man to “go and describe what great things God has done for you” (v 39), and, after another healing (actually, a resurrection), Jesus instructs them to “tell no one what has happened” (v 56)?

Well, here is the best and most thorough answer I’ve found in my many Luke commentaries:

The command for silence [in v 56] seems a little odd. This contrasts with the instruction to the Gerasene demoniac in Luke 8:39 and the efforts Jesus went to in having the woman with the hemorrhage relate her healing (8:45-47), not to mention an earlier public resurrection in 7:11-17. It seems clear that Jesus is concerned about what aspects of his ministry receive attention (4:41; 5:14).

Jesus knows that he is headed for a different kind of ministry than people will want from him. Excessive focus on his works of power will undermine the type of commitment he will ask from people. He does not need to be raising people on a daily basis. The type of commitment that will be required of them, should they follow him, is one of suffering, not comfort (9:22, 36, 57-62; 10:17-20). People will talk about his works, but they should not be encouraged to focus on elements that only point to deeper issues. There will come a time when the miracles will go public, but their publicity need not be encouraged since they are not at the heart of what Jesus is doing. Rather they point to more significant spiritual realities (11:14-23).  In Luke, miracles are a testimony to the nature of the times; they are not intended to be the focus of Jesus work (7:22).  Rather, they picture deeper realities that Jesus offered, as Acts 2:22-36 suggests.  The call to silence makes clear that Jesus does not regard such acts as the center of his ministry, but as only the evidentiary periphery.

(Darrell Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Luke 1:1-9:50, pp. 804-805.)

In other words, for that time in redemptive history, there is a bit of a razor’s edge to understanding the place of miracles. They verify who this Jesus is and the truth of what he says; they evidence that the Christ and his kingdom have finally come. But, too much attention drawn to the miracles themselves and they could possibly overshadow the very things to which they point. Jesus, in his infinite wisdom, knows exactly when to say “go and tell” and “speak of this to no one.” So v 39 and v 56 are not in contradiction; they represent the complexity of the purpose of miracles in Jesus’ ministry. The difference between the two verses also hints at the sinful temptation to be more focused on and impressed by miracles than the presence of the Christ, the reality of his gospel, and the presence of his glorious kingdom.