This is a curious thing, isn’t it? Especially in light of the fact that Jesus has commissioned us to make him known. We find that on several occasions during his earthly ministry that Jesus told the people whom he healed not to let anyone know about it.
This was not always the case, however. For instance, when Jesus delivered the Gerasene demoniac from the power of Satan, and the man “begged that he might be with him… Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’” (Lk. 8:38-39). So here’s one time, at least, when Jesus told a man to tell everyone.
But on most other occasions he told people not to tell. In Matthew 9 we read about two blind men whom Jesus healed. It says,
And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it” (Matt 9:30).In the first chapter of Mark we read of a leper who was healed; and it says,
Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them” (Mark 1:43-44).Jesus told him to tell the priests because the law required that people who were healed of leprosy were to be thoroughly checked out by the priests and were to offer certain sacrifices and perform certain rituals (Lev. 14:1-32); but Jesus told him to tell no one else.
We also find that when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, her parents were astonished, but he “strictly charged them that no one should know” about it (Mk. 5:43).
On still another occasion, when Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute, he charged the entire crowd to tell no one. “But the more he charged them,” it says, “the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mk. 7:36).
This was often the case. People couldn’t keep it quite, especially the ones who had been healed. And you can understand their excitement, not to mention their gratitude! But why did Jesus say that they should tell no one? I think we find a clue in the account of the leper who was cleansed. Even though he was told not to mention it to anyone, it says,
But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter (Mk. 1:45)If his miracles were widely known they would attract so much attention and create so much excitement that his movements would be inhibited. He “could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places.” He could no longer move about as he wished. This was while he was in the land of Israel, where he conducted almost all his earthly ministry. When he told the Geresene demoniac to tell everyone about the miracle he received, it was in a land that Jesus visited once, and then only very briefly. It would not hinder his movements there if everyone knew about it because he was not planning to stay there.
I should also point out that there was undoubtedly a concern on Jesus’ part that people’s attention would be distracted from what he regarded as a more important aspect of his ministry than that of working miracles, namely the ministry of the word. He came as a prophet and a teacher. But many would be attracted to Jesus only for the sake of the miracles he performed. They would be attracted to him much like they would be attracted to a carnival sideshow. They would not be interested in the truth he came to teach, but in having their senses dazzled by seeing a miracle. They would be like Herod. When Jesus was on trial before Herod, we’re told that Herod was very glad to see him, “because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him” (Lk. 23:8).
These are the main reasons why he told people not to tell. But the thing we should remember is that circumstances have changed and we should now do what Jesus told the Geresene demoniac. We should now declare to everyone how much God has done for us.