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Jesus, when talking to his disciples in Matthew 16 specifically instructed them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Matthew 16:20 (NIV)

Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Why did he do this? Do we know his purpose in hiding this fact from everyone? Is there any doctrinal relevancy or importance to this request of Jesus?

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Fantastic question. –  Caleb Aug 30 '11 at 13:52
    
if you were the messiah in that time period you wouldn't want people to know who you were. he knew they wanted him killed –  Tyler Gillies Sep 3 '11 at 3:29
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No, that can't be it. (I) He knew he was going to be killed. (II) He, being perfect, did not give in to fear--we see this throughout the gospels. (III) Therefore, if he could not have been trying to keep this a secret out of fear of being killed or else he would not have been perfect. Thus, it was not from fear. –  Richard Sep 7 '11 at 12:56
    

7 Answers 7

In the next verse Jesus tells of how he will have to suffer, die, and rise again.

Matthew 16:21 NIV
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Perhaps he did not want the people to know he was the messiah until after these things had happened.

He may also have known that he would not have much time left after people started calling him the messiah publicly. He still had a lot of teaching left to do.

He may also wanted the people to come to the realization that he is the messiah on their own. As it seems they did, even though he still does not state this directly at his trial.

Matthew 26:63-64 NIV
63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

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+1 good answer. I would add that this command was also a fulfill of the prophecy Isaiah 42:1,2 biblegateway.com/passage/… –  user14 Aug 30 '11 at 14:08
    
in the original, when Jesus says "you have said so", it's not a statement about someone else's words, but it's worded in such a way as to indicate he agreed or was saying "you have stated properly" –  warren Aug 30 '11 at 16:15
    
What is the explanation of Mark 5:18-20 then? –  Pacerier Sep 3 '11 at 2:53
    
"And all the people were amazed." He must have known they wouldn't crucify him. –  a_hardin Sep 3 '11 at 3:12
    
I think it does relate strongly to Jesus wanting individuals to gain a personal revelation. –  Monkieboy Oct 23 '12 at 16:47
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Jesus was attempting to hide the fact that he was the Messiah. But, it's not because he was afraid of the local authority. Rather, he was trying to delay the events of his death. He knew that the timing had to be perfect and these events recorded in Matthew were "too soon".

Part 1: The secret

In John 7, Jesus' disciples are going up to the festival. Jesus, however, did not want to appear publicly:

John 7:6 (NIV)
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.

Later, it says, he decides to go in secret:

John 7:10 (NIV)
However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

This theme plays out multiple times. The idea that seems pretty clear is that Jesus is trying delay the timing of these events. (This is clear in the phrasing "My time is not yet here".)

Part 2: The revealing

Later, we see that Jesus says the time has come:

John 12:23 (NIV)
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."

If we read this entire section (John 12:20-36), we see that Jesus is saying that the time has come from him to be crucified. Indeed, directly after this, he says

John 12:24 (NIV)
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

After this (during the same event), Jesus says:

John 12:27 (NIV)
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

He's clearly speaking of the crucifixion and the suffering that he must endure. These were the events that it seems he was attempting to delay

Part 3: The completion

John records the final words of Jesus:

John 19:30 (NIV)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

We see here the theme that has played out through the entire gospel of John. Jesus wanted to delay the events of the crucifixion and suffering until the time has come. Once the events were in place, Jesus declares that the hour has come. After the crucifixion was complete and his life was over, the events that were the purpose of his life (John 12:27 (NIV) above) are complete. This was the time that Jesus was referring to.

Summary:

Jesus was clearly (and understandably) troubled by the thought of his own crucifixion and death (John 12:27 (NIV) above). However, the reason that he was hiding and delaying the events wasn't out of fear, but because he knew the correct timing and knew that it shouldn't begin too early.

Therefore, Jesus tried to delay some of the early events in order to make sure the timing was correct and perfect. This includes hiding the fact that he was the Messiah.

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+1 perfect timing is for me a definite part of his reasoning for not wanting it to be publicised. –  Monkieboy Oct 23 '12 at 16:49

The problem was their understanding of the Messiah... they did not understand that the Messiah must come and die for the sins of the world, on a cross.

They were expecting a political messiah that would rescue the people from the hands of the Romans and rule the newly established Kingdom of Israel on Earth.

Even after Jesus has risen the Apostles still did not quite understand when in Acts they ask:

Acts 1:6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

They had not realised even then that Jesus was not about establishing the Kingdom of Israel on earth, but rather about saving the world.

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You continue to see this throughout all of Jesus time on earth. He tells the demons not to speak and say who He is, He tells the people that He heals to go and sin no more, but not to tell anybody that it was Him.

Think about this for a minute. What if Jesus wanted to advertise His presence? Each time the people grew to a mob, Jesus escaped and/or went to another city. The mob still chased Him. If He had advertised He would not have had time to heal as many people and present His testimony properly.

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+1 for the other references to the "secret" of Jesus. But the rest seems to be speculation. –  Richard Aug 30 '11 at 14:47

I don't think there was fear in Jesus by telling his disciple not to tell anybody that He is the Messiah. In the the bible Jesus is warning us to fear not almost 365 times. So the fear does not come in. He is the God of order, He is doing things at right time. When her mother approached him at the wedding, He told his mother my time is not yet.

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Hi samson! This answer has the shape of a comment rather than a complete, supported answer. I agree that Jesus had plan that required precise timing. I wonder if I can convince you to edit this answer to provide a bit more evidence for to support the case you're making? –  Jon Ericson Oct 23 '12 at 19:13

Jesus hid his identity from others for 30 years. He began his public speaking at the age of 30. He preached for only 4 years. He didn't want others to know that he was the messiah as an act of humility and humbleness. He came to this earth as the son of God to save us all but not to seek fame. He didn't want fame because he did everything in God's name. He didn't want other people to know that he was the messiah because blessed are those who believe and have faith without seeing. He wanted people to have faith an believe In him without him performing miracles but by simply him spreading the good news. Because after all our faith is what saves us all

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Welcome to C.SE! Your post have a flaw: Jesus made miracles, more miracles than anyone else. That's why many people were following him. You may say that Jesus wanted to glorify God not himself by his miracles, but the miracles are irrefutable. Of course, some people don't believe they are even possible - if it's your position, it's nice to start with something like "Liberal theology approach:" –  Pavel Jan 28 '13 at 9:14

I have heard it speculated, in sermons, that the Jewish leadership at the time thought the Messiah would come and be a political leader and drive the Romans from Jewish lands.

However, this was not the intent of Jesus.

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