SynopsisThis is a less complex passage than most of the passages we usually look at. Jesus and his disciples “withdraw” to the sea, but a great crowd of people follows them there because they’ve heard all that he has been doing. I say “but” because the implication I’m getting is that what Jesus is “withdrawing” from is the crowds; if so, God the Father has other plans for Jesus.
Jesus has his disciples get a boat for him so that the crowd doesn’t crush him. This is a valid concern, we are told, because Jesus has been healing so many people and casting out so many unclean spirits that the crowd is pressing in on him. We are also told that when the unclean spirits are coming out of people they are crying out that Jesus is the Son of God, but Jesus is strictly ordering them not to make him known.
ThoughtsVerses 7 and 8 (ESV) tell us that the crowd following Jesus is from “Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon.” In other words, as the ESV Study Bible points out:
Despite serious opposition, Jesus is now known in Galilee, in Judea (including Jerusalem) and Idumea (to the south), in the area beyond the Jordan (to the east …), and in Tyre and Sidon (to the north). All of these regions had belonged to Israel during the time of the judges, and descendants of the 12 tribes have now resettled in these regions following the Babylonian exile.So Jesus has people coming from all over to see him.
I was confused, earlier in my Christian life, as to why Jesus would so often silence the unclean spirits; they are telling people that Jesus is the Son of God, wouldn’t that be a good thing? It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me (or was pointed out) that it’s about timing; Jesus is not yet ready, at this point, to be crucified, so he doesn’t want the unclean spirits (or anyone else) getting Him crucified before He is ready for it. The ESV Study Bible points out another thing that maybe should have been obvious to me, but didn’t occur to me until they said it: The unclean spirits might have known that it wasn’t time for Jesus to reveal Himself—and therefore, they were trying to mess up his timetable. In other words, they’re trying to actively work against Jesus by telling people who He is. If that’s true (and it seems plausible to me), it’s a real mind-bender: trying to work against the Son of God by proclaiming him to people.