In Luke 9, Jesus tells his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. This raised a number of questions for small groups as they discussed the readings for this first week of CBX. Why would Jesus restrict the disciples in spreading the new of who he is? It seems counterintuitive for the savior of the world to hide his identity from the world he came to save.
Jesus gives us a hint in the early and middle chapters of the gospels when he says, “My time has not yet come.” He says it numerous times. It appears that Jesus has an instinctive sense of timing to his life, and ultimately his death and resurrection.
So when Jesus says, don’t tell anyone, he is actually preserving his timeline and protecting his plan from being undermined. But what would undermine his timeline? Here are a couple of contextual elements to consider. The first is Roman occupation. Israel, during the time of Jesus, is not a sovereign state but a province of the Roman Empire. Rome was very sensitive to unrest within its territory so if the Roman authority caught wind of a movement of the masses it had the likely potential to bring more aggressive oversight and response from the occupying force. The second contextual element to consider is the idea of being messiah. In the previous verse, Peter says, “You are the Messiah” (Luke 9:20). Messiah is an extremely loaded term and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For many in Israel it meant God’s movement to save Israel by kicking out the Romans. There was a common expectation that the Messiah was a military leader called to rally Israel against Rome. Jesus is on a timeline of reshaping peoples’ (Jews and Gentiles) mental model of a Messiah. His version of Messiah is more in line with “bring good news to the poor He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be resealed, that the bling will see, that the opposes will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18) Rome was also going to respond unkindly to the rumor of a messiah or military leader being raised up to fight the oppressing occupation.
In the end Jesus wants to define his identity as messiah, savior and Son of God on his own terms, and on his own timing, without drawing too much attention or perpetuating a distorted view of God’s movement to restore a broken world.