A Question from a Friend: “Why did Jesus say to someone He had healed, ‘Tell no man what was done,’ as in Luke 8:56?”
The fact that Jesus instructed several people whom He had healed to “tell no man what was done to you” does seem puzzling. Why would He want to keep it quiet? He certainly had nothing to hide.
Any answer to this question is speculative because the Bible does not give us a direct answer. But I think we have some good evidence from which we may draw some reasonable conclusions.
1) Jesus did not intend to keep people from coming to Him to hear Him preach the Gospel.
Preaching and teaching were the purpose for which He was sent. As He quoted from the prophet Isaiah about Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel…” (Luke 4:18).
Then why did He command that they not tell? Because advertising His power to heal would hinder His work of teaching.
We get this idea from the following incident: Jesus had healed a man with leprosy and told him, “See that you say nothing to anyone….However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction” (Mark 1:44–45). It seems that He really did not want any one spreading the news about His healing because, as is mentioned here, it limited His freedom to teach the Gospel.
The people were more interested in the immediate benefits (being healed, or in another instance, fed).
While Jesus was compassionate and really wanted to help others, it seems clear that the end result of healing the ten lepers must have been a disappointment: “So Jesus answered and said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17–18). He was not pleased when crowds flocked about Him just because they wanted to be fed or healed; i.e., “Jesus answered them and said, Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).
It wasn’t that He didn’t want more people to hear His teaching, but the miracles were for a distinct purpose: to demonstrate His authenticity. So those “spreading the matter” were really hindering Jesus’ teaching ministry. We read in Mark 9:30–31: “Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them.…” The New Living Translation reads: “Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus tried to avoid all publicity in order to spend more time with his disciples and teach them….” It is understandable that Jesus would need time alone with His disciples. Mark 4:33–34 reads: “And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.”
2) The clamoring crowds were really making it difficult for Jesus and His apostles to get even normal—necessary—rest.
Jesus could hardly get away for any rest. The fact that He could sleep on a boat during a raging storm when the others feared they were about to drown, might indicate how tired He was at times. “Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:36–38).
Not only were He and the Apostles seeking a private place to rest, but it seems that even then they had little opportunity. “Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mark 6:30–31).
But there was no rest for the weary. “So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.” Even though He had had only a short rest, He was still compelled to immediately teach the people when He reached the shore. Later the same day, we are told, He fed 5,000 of them (Mark 6:32–34).
It seems that the spreading of the news about His healing hindered His primary purpose––that of preaching the Gospel.
Any healing He might do for the sick was a small and short-term benefit compared with the long-range value of the Divine plan He was presenting. He healed so that some might believe and obey His teachings, and become a part of the eternal Kingdom He would one day return to set up on earth.