Why is it that Jesus commanded His disciples to not say He was Christ?

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Many wonder about the reasons behind Matthew 16:20 when Jesus ”commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.” The Twelve disciples, on their tour through Galilee, were not to discuss the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah or not because of the popular misconceptions that were held by the people concerning Messiah (Luke 4:19). Men would have interpreted such a proclamation in a political sense, as they did at the time of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1, 5; John 6:15).

Except under oath (Matt. 26:63, 64; Mark 14:61, 62), and in private to those ready to believe in Him as the Christ (Matt. 16:16, 17; John 3:13–16; 4:25, 26; 16:30, 31), Jesus made no direct Messianic claims.

And Christ repeatedly enjoined the evil spirits not to address Him as “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24, 25, 34; 3:11, 12; Luke 4:34, 35, 41). Jesus knew that an open claim to the Messiah-ship at this time would only prejudice many minds against Him.

In addition, the political situation in Palestine gave rise to many false messiahs, who purposed to lead their people in revolt against Rome (Acts 5:36, 37). So, Jesus wanted to avoid being considered as a political messiah in the popular sense. This would have blinded the people to the true nature of His mission and have offered the authorities a reason for stopping His ministry.

Another reason why Jesus avoided claiming to be the Messiah was that He desired that men should know Him through personal experience by seeing His perfect life, by listening to His words of truth, by witnessing His mighty works, and by recognizing in all of this the fulfillment of OT prophecies (Matt. 11:2–6).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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