The Secrets We Keep: Reflections on Mark 1:29-39
Jesus' repeated stern injunctions to people "not to tell" are not completely successful. The demon knows him in 1:24-28. The healed leper spreads the news (1:45) and a whole crowds observes the healing of the paralytic let down through the roof by his friends (2:12). In the Transfiguration, the disciples are witness to his supernatural glory (9:2-8).
Is the Messianic secret really a secret? No, and yes. It is and remains a secret to those who define power and authority in conventional ways. Those who seek conventional power and authority seek far different advice for living. It is available in countless books, blogs and seminars offering "secrets for success. "
Jesus' authority and power come from his willingness to submit himself to God in sacrificial love for us. We are called to do the same for one another.
Those who would be disciples of the enigmatic Messiah of Mark's gospel keep a slip of paper in a safe place on which is written the real secret of the kingdom of God in Mark: Divine power only flows through a cruciform life.
In a culture and a time that holds an opposite understanding of the source and purpose of power, we continually need this reminder.
As Christians, we all know at an intellectual level the secret of the kingdom of God: divine power only comes from a cruciform life. We know it the same way we know our left from our right. But the whole person has to get involved, not just the intellect and the lip service, when it comes to moving in one direction or another.
An old dunkard gentleman (dunkards are a group related to the Church of the Brethren) was once walking down the street in a little Pennsylvania town. A young evangelist approached him and handed him a tract, and asked him "Sir, have you been saved?" The old gentleman took the tract, peered at it a moment, then pulled a pencil out of his pocket and began writing on the tract. The younger man stood by impatient and curious. Finally the old man handed him back his tract.
"I've written down the names and phone numbers of several of my family and friends. Ask them if I've been saved. I could tell you anything."
If we are living faithful lives, seeking to serve others and love them as Christ loved us, it's no secret to anyone.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.