Our church is working through Mark. We’re six weeks in and I just finished writing the curriculum for Mark 1:21-28.
I’m struck by how pervasive the motif of the Kingdom of God is throughout Mark’s Gospel and understanding that theme has completely transformed the way that I understand this book and has made so much sense of Jesus’ actions. For example, in this passage, a demon-possessed man identifies Jesus as “the Holy One of God” but Jesus commands him to be silent and casts the demon out. And later in verse 34, it says that Jesus cast out many demons and did not allow them to speak “because they knew who He was.” Why would Jesus do that? Why was He hesitant to let His identity as the Son of God be revealed?
My speculation (and that’s all it is) is that Jesus didn’t want His identity as the Son of God to dissuade His disciples from believing that the Kingdom of God was accessible to them. Jesus has come preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and people marveled at His teaching because of the authority with which He spoke. But here, in His miracles, He’s attesting to the reality of the Kingdom not in word but in power. And He’s saying this Kingdom is available to anybody who repents and believes the Gospel (at this point, the “Gospel” refers to the arrival of the Kingdom of God). Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is available to anyone. And the miracles, the teaching—all of it was His way of demonstrating it and authenticating its inauguration.
If the disciples knew that Jesus was the Son of God, it could have deterred them from thinking that they were capable of doing what He did, that the Kingdom was not as accessible to them as it was to Him. Could this be why Jesus kept His identity a secret? Notice that it wasn’t until three years later, after the disciples had learned the Way of the Kingdom from Jesus and had actually gone out on their own and exhibited Kingdom power themselves (Mark 6:7), that Jesus had asked them who they thought He was and they professed Him to be the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). They experienced His Way first, and were convinced of its power, then they were convinced of Him.
The Kingdom of God is the new reality that we must press in to. It’s not something that we are awaiting to come, it has already come. It’s not some flickering hope in the dim future, it’s currently within our grasp now. Jesus showed His disciples, and taught them, that this reality was theirs, too. And it’s ours, as well. This power, this freedom, this Kingdom, is ours for the taking and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. In this moment, there are still rival kingdoms that oppose the Kingdom of God that we must contend with, but it won’t be that way for long.