Jesus’ instruction to the cured leper

Do not tell anyone …


An example of humility.

Matthew 8

4 And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Haydock Commentary

Ver. 4. For a testimony to them. That is, when the priest finds thee truly cured, make that offering which is ordained in the law. Wi.
— He did this to give us an example of humility, and that the priests, by approving of his miracle, and being made witnesses to it, might be inexcusable, if they would not believe him. M.
— He thus shews his obedience to the law, and his respect for the diginity of priests. He makes them inexcusable, if they can still call him a transgressor of the law, and prevaricator. He moreover gives this public testimony to them of his divine origin. Chry. hom. xxvi. S. Chrysostom, in his third book on the priesthood, says: “the priests of the old law had authority and privilege only to discern who were healed of leprosy, and to denounce the same to the people; but the priests of the new law have power to purify, in very deed, the filth of the soul. Therefore, whoever despiseth them, is more worthy to be punished than the rebel Dathan and his accomplices.” Our Saviour willeth him to go and offer his gift or sacrifice, according as Moses prescribed in that case, because the other sacrifice, being the holiest of all holies, viz. his body, was not yet begun. S. Aug. l. ii. & Evang. ii. 3. & cont. adver. leg. & Proph. l. i. c. 19, 20.

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From the Catholic Biblical Association’s 1942 book, A Commentary on the New Testament, on Matthew 8:4:

4. See thou tell no one: most of the miracles of Jesus were not done primarily to prove to His immediate audience that He was the Messias and the Son of God but rather out of sympathy for the afflicted. On the other hand, during most of His ministry, at least in Galilee, He endeavored to conceal His miracles. For He did not wish to be proclaimed the Messias as long as the people had a false idea of the Messias as a mighty temporal prince (cf. John 6, 14 f). For similar instances of our Lord’s efforts to conceal His true nature until the proper time cf. Matt. 9, 30; 12, 16; Mark 1, 34; 3, 12; 5, 43; 7, 36; Luke 4, 41. By commanding the leper to carry out the prescriptions of Lev. 14, 2-32 for cured lepers Christ wished to show His compliance with the Mosaic Law and to avoid all unnecessary hostility with the priests. The same command in Luke 17, 14. Offer the gift . . . for a witness to them: the leper is to bring his sacrifice to the priests so that they, in accepting it, would be witnesses of his cure and he in turn would receive a testimonial from them guaranteeing the genuineness of his cure. This seems more probable than the opinion which holds that the priests are thereby to have a proof that Christ worked a miracle. For this would hardly be in conformity with our Lord’s command, which is still more strict as given in Mark 1, 43, that the cured leper should conceal the miracle. Moreover, the priests need not have seen anything miraculous in the cure, for the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law evidently presuppose that the cure of some types of so-called leprosy is fairly common and entirely natural.

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Thank you, Todd, but if I was to explain it to a child, I would tell him Jesus wanted the leper to remain silent, to only bear his witness in the Synagogue in obeisance of the Law of Moses.

This question is the centre of what has been called the Messianic Secret. Brant Pitre has done some great work on this in Jesus and the End Times and The Case for Jesus.

A summary of what he suggests in those…

Jesus in the Gospels is constantly telling people not to reveal his identity. This is what scholars have referred to as the messianic secret.

  1. Jesus does not permit demons to speak (Mark 1:34; Mark 3:11-12)
  2. Jesus does not permit the leper or mute to speak (Mark 1:43-44; 7:36)
  3. Jesus to the disciples: tell “no one” about Peter’s confession (Mark 8:30)
  4. Jesus tells Peter, James, and John to tell no one about the Transfiguration (Mark 9:9)

Most scholars today insist that Jesus actually practiced messianic secrecy for a good reason.

Some claim Jesus was using ‘reverse psychology’ to get those he healed to spread his message. But it is difficult to understand why he would practice reverse psychology on demons. (Mark 1:34; Mark 3:11-12)

Craig Keener has made the case that the messianic secret was a practical strategy on Jesus’ part because of the explosive nature of his claims to be the Messiah and Son of God.

[O]ne important reason for allowing claims of his messiahship only toward the end of his ministry was a matter of practical strategy. Messianic acclamations could (and did) lead the authorities wrongly to classify Jesus as a revolutionary and seek his execution; thus Jesus presumably delays his martyrdom until the appropriate time and place (Passover in Jerusalem)… If Jesus knew anything at all about the political situation in Jerusalem, he would know that a public messianic claim would lead to his almost immediate execution… (Craig S. Keener)

Jesus’ secrecy about his identity makes sense if one of the objectives he has is to engage in a teaching ministry to help people understand the nature of the ‘kingdom of God’ that he has come to bring. He has to form the Apostles and disciples to begin a Church and will require three years to do that.

Jesus is not going to go around saying, “I am the Messiah!”
Nor is he going to go around saying, “I am God!”

The first would get him crucified by the Romans for sedition, and the second by the Jewish authorities for blasphemy. When the time comes at his trial, Jesus will make BOTH those claims (Mark 14:61-2)

The messianic secret has a double function: It both conceals his messianic/divine identity from those opposed to him and the authorities, and reveals his identity to his disciples and those who have faith.

This is why Jesus uses riddles and parables to reveal his mission. His stories reveal his mission and teaching to those properly disposed to see, but are perplexing for those who don’t. Some examples of his use of riddles are: the Healing of the Paralytic, the Riddle of David’s Son and Jesus and the Rich Young Man.

Brant shows how Jesus uses parables, riddles and questions to both reveal and conceal his mission in this talk (timestamped to begin at the appropriate part):

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Is that online or hard copy only? Pre-WWII was about the end of the 100% solid Catholic commentaries, IMO.

Copies of a now-defunct website that featured the commentary are available at the Internet archive website ( You can access them by entering the now-defunct website’s old URL ( in their search box. Here, for example.

After the feeding of the five thousand Jesus said -

John 6
15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

I recall from a homily I’d heard based on Mark 1: 40-45 , something which falls along parallel yet simplified lines bearing out @HarryStotle 's reply relating to Craig S. Kenner’s “practical strategy.”
The result of the former leper’s disobedience is that Jesus can “no longer enter a town openly.” This would not have made his ministry easier in any way.

NAB Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

The homily I heard provided an additional insight - (Paraphrase) :
Leprosy involved exclusion from the community. The lepers of that time were not permitted to enter or live in the camps or cities as long as their disease persisted. Rather they were required to remain outside the towns, modify their clothing to indicate to others that they had the disease and had to additionally warn those coming within proximity by crying out “Unclean, unclean !”
The homillist said in conclusion that our Blessed Lord was not only willing to heal the leper - despite his disobedience, but was even willing to take his place : Following his cure, now it was the leper who could freely enter and leave the cities and camps , while Jesus had to remain “outside in deserted places.”

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I have puzzled over this myself…I think Jesus knew exactly what they were going to do…even though he instructed them otherwise.
As to the why? Only Christ knows…but He had a reason…

I also think back of the ten lepers…

3 And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us.

14 Whom when he saw, he said: Go, shew yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.

So in this example He told them to go show themselves, yet one, in reality, disobeyed and immediately returned to give thanks to Christ…and Christ asks him

Where are the others?


I recognize that site, as I relied on it many times.

And then, in the case of the Gerasene (aka Gadarene) demoniac, rather than allow the man to accompany Him, He told him to return home and proclaim the good that God had done for him. One of the first missionaries.

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Oh yes!
Very good example of His direction to the souls He touched…

I always figured Jesus’ reasons were as follows:

  1. Humility
  2. Wanting to keep a low profile so he could more easily go about his ministry and avoid drawing massive attention from either the Jewish leaders or the Romans.

Obviously (2) didn’t last very long, but Jesus may have bought himself a little time out of it. If he hadn’t been trying to avoid attention, his public ministry might have lasted only 1 year instead of 3, that sort of thing.

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