Ah, Christmas. Even a curmudgeon like myself softens up a bit at Christmastime. It’s like Bill Murray said in Scrooged, “It's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!” Now, if you think that’s hyperbole, then just take a look at this clip from He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special. It seems even ol’ Skeletor isn’t immune to the charms of the season…
Of course, Skeletor being Skeletor, he doesn’t really want to cop to being a nice guy, even if it’s just for Christmas. I mean, even though his plans always fail and he has extremely poor judgment in choosing henchmen, he still needs to protect his credibility as the big bad on Eternia. So that explains why he insists on not advertising his lapse into niceness.
But what’s the deal with Jesus in today’s reading from the study of the Gospels in a Year? We see two blind men approach him and beg to be healed, which he does, but then, “Jesus sternly charged them, ‘See that no one knows it.’ But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.” That seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Skeletor’s reluctance to have his good deeds broadcast is understandable, but you would think Jesus would be okay with a little publicity. After all, it might help with spreading that whole “I’m the Messiah” thing.
Now some modern scholars have interpreted this seeming pattern in Jesus’ behavior (he does it multiple times in the Gospels), one which they have dubbed the “messianic secret”, as a result of later generations inserting these passages into Scripture to explain why Jesus wasn’t recognized by everyone as the messiah during his lifetime. And they had to do this because these scholars purport Jesus never actually claimed to be the messiah in the first place. The problem with that idea is that not only does Jesus actually once command a person to go and tell everything that happened, meaning the pattern was inconsistent, but even when he did instruct people to be silent, most of the time they blabbed anyway. So what would be the point of inserting something later, then saying it didn’t really work? Eh, sometimes modern scholarship just comes down to wishful thinking.
Pope Benedict XVI had a better idea. He thinks Jesus did this because he absolutely did know he was the messiah. “He knows in fact that to liberate humanity from the dominion of sin he must be sacrificed on the cross as the true paschal lamb. The devil, for his part, tries to divert his attention and direct it instead toward a human logic of a powerful and successful messiah.” In short, Jesus didn’t want too much fame to sidetrack the whole reason he came here for in the first place, which was the cross. “This is why he often admonishes the apostles and the sick people whom he heals to not reveal his identity to anyone… because the fulfillment of his mission is at stake, on which our salvation depends.”
Of course, the Pope wasn’t speaking infallibly when he gave his interpretation, but hey, it makes more sense than desperate contortions like the “messianic secret”. Heck, even Skeletor’s reasoning made more sense than that stuff.