“Your Word Is Truth”
Why Jesus Christ Wanted No Publicity
MEN who are interested in gaining prominence and position exert themselves to get public recognition. They try to ‘sell themselves’ and create a wave of popularity that they can ride to gain power. Jesus Christ, however, was not out for showy publicity. He discouraged it. His kingdom was no part of the world, and, therefore, he had no need for the world’s recognition.
In connection with his performing miraculous cures, we repeatedly read that Jesus charged those who had been healed not to tell anybody about it. (Matt. 9:30; Mark 1:44; 7:36) He also instructed his disciples not to make known that he was the Christ.—Matt. 16:20.
Jesus’ half brothers just could not understand why he would carry on his activity in seeming obscurity in Galilee. Therefore, about the time for the celebration of the festival of tabernacles in the year 32 C.E., they said to him: “Go into Judea, in order that your disciples also may behold the works you do. For nobody does anything in secret while himself seeking to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.” (John 7:3, 4) Such a recommendation was an evidence of their lack of faith. Had they believed that Jesus was the Son of God, they would never have presumed to recommend what he should do. They would have sought to understand why Jesus conducted his ministry without showy public display.
Nearly eight centuries earlier Jehovah God, by means of his prophet Isaiah, revealed why the Messiah would discourage noisy publicity. Applied by the apostle Matthew to Jesus Christ, the prophecy, as found at Isaiah 42:1, 2, reads: “Look! My servant, on whom I keep fast hold! My chosen one, whom my soul has approved! I have put my spirit in him. Justice to the nations is what he will bring forth. He will not cry out or raise his voice, and in the street he will not let his voice be heard.” (Matt. 12:15-19) So Jesus’ directing others not to publicize his miraculous works was really a confirmation of his being the promised Messiah.
Also other factors appear to have been involved. Rather than seeking notoriety and having people reach conclusions on the basis of sensational reports, Jesus apparently wanted others to decide on solid evidence that he was the Christ. Therefore he did not raise the issue of his Messiahship publicly, but let his works speak for themselves. For example, on one occasion Jews encircled him, saying: “How long are you to keep our souls in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us outspokenly.” Jesus replied: “I told you, and yet you do not believe. The works that I am doing in the name of my Father, these bear witness about me. But you do not believe, because you are none of my sheep.” (John 10:24-26) Yes, those proving themselves to be Jesus’ “sheep” had ample evidence for making a decision respecting his being the Christ.
Of course, Jesus did tell a Samaritan woman at the well near Sychar that he was the Christ. But this was after she had acknowledged him to be a prophet and expressed faith in the coming of the Messiah. (John 4:19-26) Afterward this woman said to the men of her city: “Come here, see a man that told me all the things I did. This is not perhaps the Christ, is it?”—John 4:29.
Consequently many Samaritans put faith in Jesus. But it should be noted that they did so not merely on the testimony of the woman. They reached their own conclusion on the basis of what they personally heard Jesus say. The Bible record tells us: “They began to say to the woman: ‘We do not believe any longer on account of your talk; for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.’”—John 4:39-42.
Whereas Jesus usually instructed individuals not to advertise his miracles and his being the Christ, one notable exception is mentioned in the Bible. This involved the healing of two demon-possessed men in the country of the Gadarenes. Jesus allowed the demons that he expelled from these men to take possession of a herd of swine. As a result the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs rushed over a precipice and drowned in the Sea of Galilee. This so disturbed the local inhabitants that they entreated Jesus to depart from the area. (Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:11-17) When Jesus was about to leave by boat, one of the men “that had been demon-possessed began entreating him that he might continue with him. However, [Jesus] did not let him, but said to him: ‘Go home to your relatives, and report to them all the things Jehovah has done for you and the mercy he had on you.’”—Mark 5:18, 19.
Though an exception, the instructions given to the former demoniac evidently served Jesus’ purpose well. The healed man could bear witness among people with whom the Son of God would have only limited contact, particularly in view of Jesus’ being requested to leave the area. The man’s presence would provide testimony about Jesus’ power to work good, counteracting any unfavorable report that might be circulated over the loss of the herd of swine.
With Jesus’ ascension to heaven it was no longer possible for individuals to hear his words and to observe his works, personally. Now, with the evidence all in, the time came for bold public testimony to be given concerning Jesus’ being the Christ. Just prior to his ascension Jesus himself had said to his followers: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) By enabling them to perform powerful works and speak in foreign languages that they had never learned, Jehovah God himself confirmed the truthfulness of these witnesses.—Heb. 2:3, 4.
Eventually the events of Jesus’ earthly ministry and many of the things he said were committed to writing. In harmony with the legal principle that every matter be established at the mouth of two or three witnesses, Jehovah God kindly saw to it that four separate accounts were written concerning the activity of his Son while on earth. (Deut. 19:15) Thus no one today has to base his belief on oral traditions, mere hearsay handed down over the centuries. By examining the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, a person can determine for himself whether the evidence there presented proves that Jesus is indeed the Christ.
Obviously Jesus’ instructions not to have his identity and miracles advertised were temporary. While on the scene of action, Jesus wanted persons to believe on him as the Messiah because of what they personally saw and heard, as did his apostles and disciples. Most importantly, Jesus’ action in avoiding showy publicity fulfilled prophecy and was in itself a verification of his Messiahship.