BY CHAD BIRD
The first person who attempted to stop people from talking about Jesus was not a tyrant, a secular government, or a bully religious mob. It was Jesus himself.
Early in his ministry, Christ explicitly commanded people to keep silent about him. He cleansed a leper, then said, “See that you say nothing to anyone,” (Matt 8:4). He opened the eyes of two blind men, then “sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about this,’” (9:30). When he raised Jairus’s daughter, same thing: “He strictly charged them that no one should know about this,” (Mark 5:43).
There’s a time to be silent, and a time to speak. And the time to speak openly about Jesus had not yet come. So he told them to zip their lips, for the time being.
And it didn’t work.
In fact, his hushing had the opposite effect. The two blind men “went away and spread his fame through all the district,” (Matt 9:31). When he healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, he “charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it,” (Mark 7:36).
The recipients of Christ’s mercy and grace could not maintain their silence. Their bodies and souls were so flooded with divine compassion, that a stream of words rippled from their lips about this Messiah “who has done all things well,” (7:37).
If even Jesus couldn’t stop people from talking about him until the time was right, then all other parties who attempt to suppress or silence the Gospel are certainly doomed to fail. It will be whispered in alleys, talked about over dinner, proclaimed from the roof tops—and, yes, blogged, tweeted, and facebooked. You can put a gag order on the Good News as easily as you can halt the growth of fruit by wagging your finger at an apple tree. Speech will blossom and abound. That’s just what it does.
David knew this well. You might think that this man, who had taken his neighbor’s wife and life, might skulk into the shadows of silence because of the evil he’d done. He had acted scandalously. He brought shame upon the office of king. And he had done so in as public a way of possible. He even married the woman whose husband he had killed!
Yet this infamous sinner did not switch his mouth to mute. When he had confessed his iniquities and God had forgiven him through the prophet Nathan, he took a pen in hand. The result? One of the best Gospel hymns ever written: Psalm 51.
In this song, a beloved child of God teaches us what kind of Father we have. David prays for mercy; asks that God wash him thoroughly from his iniquities; beseeches the Lord to hide his face from his sins, create in him a clean heart, give him the Holy Spirit, and restore to him the joy of salvation. Having prayed for all these gifts, and having received them in abundance, David continues with these words:
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you,” (51:13).
The forgiven sinner becomes the teacher of forgiveness. David, forgiven of adultery, teaches the unwavering fidelity of our Father in Jesus Christ. David, forgiven of murder, instructs us about the life that the Lord gives us even in the midst of our death. He cannot but speak. The absolution becomes a song in his heart that must be sung. And as he sings, he teaches transgressors the ways of God. He ushers sinners back to arms of the Lord whose love knows no bounds.
In Jesus Christ, God is not simply willing to be reconciled to you; he already is. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” (2 Cor 5:19). He has blotted out every accusation against you with the blood of his Son. He has forgiven you of all your sins—the ones that plague you, that you have forgotten, even the ones you never realized you committed. All of them have been cast into the depths of the sea of Christ’s grace.
Long ago, those who were the objects of his love, proclaimed, “He has done all things well,” (Mark 7:37). Indeed, he has. And he has done all things well for you. For me, for David, for all of us. Christ has reconciled us to the Father, washed us clean from all our iniquities, and placed upon our lips the song of absolution that will be sung until the final trumpet sounds.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.