Jonathan Rowe, 4 September 2022
2 Corinthians 3: 4–9; Mark 7: 31–37
Can you keep a secret? Sometimes it’s hard to do. If we’re bursting to tell someone what we know, we remind ourselves of why we need to keep our mouths shut. Sometimes, of course, we shouldn’t keep a secret – then it’s important to tell others.
But what are the reasons for keeping the sort of secret you should keep – for example, what someone has been bought as a birthday present? There are lots of reasons. An important one is not to spoil the surprise. By keeping quiet, the enjoyment on the day is greater. Another one is that we don’t have the whole story. So, we may know where the present has come from, but not what it is.
It’s because the people with Jesus only have some of the picture that he tells them to keep quiet. Of course that was difficult to do. After all, they were ‘astounded beyond measure’ – completely amazed at the miraculous healing they had witnessed.
Jesus had made quite a show. Fingers in the man’s ears and spittle on his tongue, then sighing as he looked up to heaven and instructing the ears and mouth to ‘be open’. It’s all very dramatic, drawing attention to what Jesus was doing and leaving no doubt about his intentions.
There was a good reason for that. Just like us in our drought, when we needed rain this summer, the people were thirsty; they needed God. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah had spoken of a time when God would rescue his people like this: ‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad’.
And what would be the sign that God was with them, was rescuing them? Isaiah continues, ‘The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy’.
Jesus’ healing of the deaf and mute man was not just amazing, it was a sign: a sign that God was present. That’s why the people were astounded beyond measure.
Jesus’ healing of the deaf and mute man was not just amazing, it was a sign: a sign that God was present.
So, why did Jesus say that they shouldn’t tell anyone?
Because the way in which he was to rescue didn’t involve a magical sorting out of all that was wrong, but something much deeper and more profound. In Jesus, God makes himself known. Rather that God plucking people out of the world, God comes to the world to be with us here. And that meant that he would experience both the joy and difficult things that come with being human. In the words of William Blake,
Joy and woe are woven fine,
a clothing for the soul divine.
The reason for asking people to keep the secret was that they didn’t yet understand this. They could see God was rescuing, but not how the rescue was to take place, through Jesus’ suffering on a cross.
2,000 years later, we can see the big picture. We can see that the Good News is not that we will escape to heaven but that God reveals himself in Jesus, bringing heaven to us. If we ponder this, really try to appreciate all that it means, I think we, too, might be ‘astounded beyond measure’ that ‘God is with us’.
And that’s something that should not remain a secret!