Friday, February 19, 2016

"Say Less"

Mark 7:24; 36 NIV

Jesus…entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.”

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.”

I found myself siding with the heathen and wishing the preacher would sit down. “Sit down. Sit down. Sit down,” as if repeating it silently and glaring at the orator would get my message across to the man who many minutes ago overstayed his welcome at the podium. Funerals are favorite forums for windy pulpiteers who cannot suppress their need to unload way too much salvation theology. People come to pay respects and grieve the loss of a loved one. All they want is a little hope. Instead, mourners are forced to endure a prolonged ‘altar call’ they are in no condition to comprehend.

The good reverend should learn the three rules of public speaking… “Stand up, speak up, and shut up!” I wonder how the preacher will feel when he learns that his good intentions had the opposite effect. Instead of winning souls, his over-sermonizing actually drove people away from Jesus. Is that possible? Every pagan knows it is. How incredible! How unlike Jesus! These ‘men of the cloth’ can’t help themselves. Unbridled zeal overcomes them. They control their passion and listen to the Holy Spirit to be still. 

“Jesus commanded” over-talkers “not to tell anyone.” 

“...But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.”
 
Jesus taught His followers to say less, not more, about their experience with Him. Jesus clearly understated Himself and His identity. In Mark’s account, Jesus prefers the title “Son of Man” to “Son of God”. Some scholars have accused Jesus of keeping a “Messianic Secret”.[1] He warned devils, disciples, and those He healed not to tell others who He was.[2] Why?

“To affirm his Messiahship outright would have been to court misunderstanding. His contemporaries would immediately have foisted upon him their traditional conception of the Messiah as one designed to slay their foes and lift them high. But Jesus was not such a Messiah; he was Messiah, but so unlike the picture of the Messiah which his hearers had in their minds that he wanted to avoid the term. He was the Messiah but not their Messiah.” [3]

According to W. D. Davies, Jesus “was the Messiah but not their Messiah”. When it became evident the message would not be received, Jesus quit talking. He was too intelligent and sensitive to “throw... pearls before swine” (Matthew 7.6). Jesus may have “wondered at their unbelief” but He he would not try to persuade “His hometown” with miracles and healing (Mark 6.1-6).

The Master studied His audience before opening His mouth. Effective preachers still do. If ambassadors for Christ followed the example of Christ, they might tend to say less, not more.
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[1] The so-called “Messianic Secret”, first advanced by William Wrede in 1901, claimed that secrecy regarding Jesus’ role as the Jewish Messiah was not original with Jesus. Rather, the author of Mark (or a later editor of his gospel) added the secrecy theme to explain the reluctance of religious leaders to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Conservative scholars, of course, dispute this theory.

[2] Mark 1.34; 3.12 (devils); 8.30; 9.9 (disciples); 1.44; 5.43; 7.36; 8.26 (those Christ healed). See also Mark 7.24b; 9.30.

[3] Invitation to the New Testament ~ A Guide to Its Main Witnesses, W.D. Davies, Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1969, p. 206.

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