Why the Ministry of Jesus is Like the Film Sixth Sense
Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus “warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was” (9:21)? Given the fact that, later on, Jesus sent his disciples into all the world as his witnesses (Acts 1:8), his warnings in Luke 9:21 and elsewhere can seem puzzling to us. Why did Jesus do that? And how does it relate to us today?
I think a film analogy might help us here. Have you ever seen a movie that had a surprise ending, one that changed the way you understand everything else that had happened in the film? M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Sixth Sense was such a film. I won’t give away the details here. But I will say that, at the end of the movie, surprising things happen that completely change your perspective. When I finished watching Sixth Sense, I thought to myself, “I have to watch this again so I can understand what was really happening.” (More recently, I had that same experience when I finished watching Christopher Nolan’s film Inception.)
So it was in the ministry of Jesus. As he proclaimed the kingdom of God and healed broken bodies, Jesus looked more and more like the promised Messiah, the one who was expected to restore the nation of Israel and usher in a time of lasting peace. In fact, Jesus was Israel’s Messiah. But his ministry was moving in a most unexpected direction. Until one grasped what happened at the end, with his death and resurrection, one would not be able to understand who Jesus really was as the Messiah. Thus, the ministry of Jesus is like Sixth Sense in that the surprise ending changes everything. (Of course, Jesus gave away the ending, but none of his followers understood what he was saying.)
Jesus knew that if his disciples ran around telling everyone that he was the Messiah, people would expect Jesus to be something quite different from what he was called to be as the suffering Son of Man. Thus, he instructed them to hold back, not to tell people who he was. Later, once the surprise ending of his ministry was revealed, then it would be the time for Jesus’ disciples—including us—to tell everyone who he is and what he accomplished. We have the privilege and responsibility of letting everyone know how Jesus, as the Messiah, defeated death and invited us into the realm of true life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Can you think of a movie or book that had a surprise ending, one that changed the way you understood everything that had happened earlier? What expectations do people have today if they hear that Jesus is the Messiah (or the Christ)? Do some of these expectations get in the way of people understanding who Jesus really is?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, indeed, you are the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed Savior of Israel and, indeed, the whole world. You are the one through whom God has begun to reign on earth. How I praise you in your royal majesty and glory!
You are also the suffering Son of Man, the one who accepts divine judgment for sin, the one who was wounded so that I might be healed. Through your suffering, you opened up the way for God’s kingdom to come in fullness and for me to live in that kingdom both now and forever. All praise be to you, Jesus, Son of Man, Suffering Servant of God.
Help me, dear Lord, to bear witness to you faithfully, appropriately, respectfully. It is no longer the time to keep your identity secret, because you have completed your saving work. Now is the time for the world to know who you are and what you have done.
I pray in your authority and for your glory, Lord Jesus. Amen.