“Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” (Matthew 16:20 KJV)
Why, “Tell no man…”? That seems at odds with the process of going forth and making disciples. Let us step back and review the previous verses which brought on this statement. “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15-17 KJV) That is quite an assertion that Peter has made. One that appears to be highly accurate and not disputed by Jesus. Why would the clarity of this insight be anything but broadcast?
Look closely at the response that Jesus gives. Who revealed this to Peter? Why must this revelation have come from “my Father which is in heaven”? Point of reference! We know a diplomat when we see one. We know a soldier when we see one. We know a beggar when we see one. We even know a cheat when we see one. How many Christs or Sons of a living God had Peter seen to know that Jesus fit into that category? (Not forgetting for a moment that this is a very exclusive category.) Peter seems to be espousing a very particular title with specific identification that he has absolutely no point of reference for. The only way Peter could have actually known this was to have seen it clearly from one who did have an appropriate point of reference, “my Father”.
So, if Peter has this incredibly insightful revelation, why not share this with everyone? Why, “tell no man…”? Was it simply that the time was not right yet? Did the Holy Spirit yet have work to do before this could be communicated effectively? Perhaps. There may be more to this though. Part of disciplining someone in faith is leaving room for God to make clear specific revelations about Himself to the disciple. We can teach the Word. We can give examples of how to really pray. We can be with those near us through highs and lows. We can feed those who are hungry, Sheppard those who need direction, and have our testimony at the ready. Yet, somewhere in the growing process the trainee needs to really know inside themselves the realness of God. That must be beyond our capabilities. If it was not, then how would we ourselves know the realness of God?
In this case, at that time, Jesus told them to “tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ” because that effectively left room for so many others to see the same revelation that Peter saw independent of any catch phrases that they may have picked up. And it did this without diminishing the task of going and making disciples. While we may never know what Jesus will hold us back from sharing and on another occasion encourage us to share, it is imperative to know that God is so real that He always leaves room for Himself to reveal Himself. And oh what a witness it is when we later hear about their discoveries!
“And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” (Exodus 33:17, 18 KJV)