21 was a 2008 movie inspired by the MIT Blackjack Team. If I remember the story well enough the members of the team were legally counting cards in casinos and winning. Now, this is just one more post on the internet using a bit of that story. In other words, if the team was never caught it might be possible that we wouldn’t be talking about this. Yet, this isn’t how life works in regard to information that valuable. People can’t keep it a secret. By now, most of us have heard of this amazing effort by a remarkable team.
In Mark 1:35-45 we find Jesus healing a man who’s leprous and Jesus sternly warns the man to keep it a secret and instead go through the system in order to get his official approval from the priesthood. This is so that he is indeed no longer to be considered unclean. Of course, the man doesn’t listen to Jesus and he began to publicly broadcast this great news that Jesus wanted to be kept as a secret. So, why might Jesus want this to be kept a secret?
The leprous man had to live outside the villages in a special colony since he was considered highly infectious. Having lived outside the villages and then all of a sudden showing up in the surrounding area could’ve caused confusion as to Jesus’ real identity and intentions. It might appear as if Jesus is somewhat of a thief, not to the villagers, but to the priests in those areas who were types of enforcers of the Temple system.
It’s sort of like the Blackjack Team from MIT and their winnings. What they were doing in casinos was legal but if the valuable secret was leaked to the public they’d be shut down fast by those casinos. Ever since the MIT team was found out there’s been a crackdown on this kind of effort. Security cameras and their operators are constantly on watch in casino control rooms. The casinos have a system and if that system appears to be threatened there’ll be a crackdown effort and anyone attempting to win in this way will have to confront those enforcing that system.
It doesn’t appear that Jesus is concerned about the man being happy about his healing. The concern seems to be the fact that news of the healing will draw the wrong kind of attention for Jesus. Jesus will begin to be seen not as heroic but as a cheat, perhaps. This line of thinking appears to conflict with Myers view (unless I’m mistaken) that Jesus wanted to use the man as a means of poking the bear, poking the Temple authorities, showing who the real tough guy is. In Galilee, at this time, this healing might have caused a different kind of crackdown on Jesus’ efforts to spread the good news of the kingdom. It might have caused Jesus to look rogue and perhaps maniacal. We know this will become a problem eventually. Even Jesus’ own family thinks Jesus has gone too far (3:20-21). They thought he’d gone mad.
The crowds (1:33) were attracted to Jesus because of his incredible healings and the fact that he spoke with his own authority (unlike the priests and scribes who leaned on the reputations of influential rabbis). The demons revealed Jesus’ mission (1:24). Jesus came to destroy the evil that plagued Israel and the world. He came to do something that would demand allegiance but would also be suspicious and be threatening to those in power. The crowds could linger in amazement but could they comprehend what God was doing all of a sudden in and through Jesus? Time would tell, and time is what Jesus seems to have wanted, at least for the present. “Be silent and come out of him!” Jesus rebukes the demon (1:25).
Jesus is beginning to be seen as a winner throughout Galilee. Jesus is on Israel’s side but he opposes the system that enslaves them and the other nations. He doesn’t want spying eyes to confuse the truth of God’s plan for anyone. Jesus will eventually confront the casino bosses and take his winnings whether they like it or not. Yet, there’s more work to do to spread the good news and continue proving that God is at work in him, bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The mission must not be compromised.
Does the church know when it’s best to speak the truth about God’s kingdom? Are there times when we need discernment? Is it possible for us to do more harm to God’s cause than it is for us to do good for that cause? It certainly is difficult to keep something secret when we know how good it is for us and everyone else. We know there’s a system that opposes the kingdom of God and we also know that God has already beaten the system. The eyes behind those security cameras can’t do anything about it. May the church trust God to speak to power at the right time and in the right way, just like Jesus did, in order to win for all the nations whether they understand it or not.