As we continue to work our way through Mark, we approach the end of one of Mark’s most intriguing themes: Jesus’ emphasis on keeping his identity secret. So far in the gospel, whenever Jesus has acted in a way that would point out that he is the messiah, he has quickly followed his action with a command for those in-the-know to be silent.
Biblical scholars call this the “Messianic Secret” of Mark. And honestly, it’s still largely a mystery as to why Jesus does this and why Mark records it as a prevalent theme throughout his gospel. In fact, Luke was so uncomfortable with this idea that it was explained as an attempt by Jesus to not be overwhelmed by large crowds (Luke 5:15-16). Remember, Luke and Matthew based their gospels off of Mark’s framework. So the healing of the leper in Mark 1 shows up in Luke 5 and Matthew 8 from their perspective.
I say all of this to point out that Mark 10 marks (ha!) the end of the Messianic Secret. In verses 46-52 we have the story of the healing of Bartimaeus. In the final verse, Jesus says, “Go; your faith has made you well.” That’s it! Before this, we would have expected Jesus to say something like “Be healed, but shush!” No, instead Jesus heals him and that’s it. The missing admonition is emphasized even more because in the opening of the scene, it is all of Jesus’s followers who were telling him to be quiet…very interesting… But, Jesus himself says nothing. While Jesus may be the first example of being emo (‘I liked being quiet before it was a thing. Now that it’s a thing, don’t.’), I don’t think that’s what Jesus or Mark had in mind.
If we look back at chapter 1 of Mark, Jesus’ first miracle happens in the synagogue (church). He casts an unclean spirit from a man (Mark 1:23-28) telling the spirit to “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Whoa! The first thing Jesus says is shut it! Now, in Mark 10, Jesus’ final miracle is the healing of Bartimaeus and he doesn’t say anything about silence. And, it’s a miracle where a man’s sight is restored! If Jesus is trying to hide his messiah-ship, then the restoration of sight (seeing that Jesus is the messiah) is the perfect way to emphasize it’s end.
So, what happens next? The triumphant entry into Jerusalem where EVERYONE sees and claims the messianic nature of Jesus. Whoa! Mark is doing some crazy, mind-blowing stuff here that would work on even the best dramatic television shows today.
As we continue to explore Mark, we’ll get to see how this theme becomes a critical foundation for what is to come and for Mark’s final message to his reader. So, stick around and we’ll keep digging through this amazing text together.