Mark’s Good News: A Secret Message

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, July 5th, 2021

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

At the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, he announces that he is proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). But in the first half of the Gospel, it is the evil spirits who recognize who Jesus is, and Jesus warns them not to reveal his identity (Mark 1:34; 3:11–12). When Peter and the Twelve recognize that Jesus is the Messiah in the eighth chapter, Jesus again admonishes them not to tell anyone (Mark 8:27–30). He tells them that the Messiah must suffer and die, but they don’t understand (Mark 8:31–33; 9:31–32; 10:32–34). When Jesus is finally arrested, they all run away (Mark 14:50–52). In Mark’s Gospel, it is not until the crucifixion that Jesus is recognized (by a Roman soldier!) as the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Why did Jesus want to keep his identity secret? Was it perhaps that he didn’t fully understand it at that point himself, or because he didn’t want to be accepted for the wrong reasons? He wanted to lead people to a way of greater love and suffering service to others, not be reduced to the role of a magician, or a wonder worker. We see this first come to a climax in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus puts the question to Peter and the disciples: “You, but who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

Brian McLaren has written about Jesus’ “secret message,” which is the loving, transforming, nonviolent, and revolutionary message of the Gospels, that institutional Christianity has so often missed or kept hidden. He writes:

What if Jesus had a message that truly could change the world, but we’re prone to miss the point of it? . . .

What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted? What if many have sincerely valued some aspects of Jesus’ message while missing or even suppressing other, more important dimensions? What if many have carried on a religion that faithfully celebrates Jesus in ritual and art, teaches about Jesus in sermons and books, sings about Jesus in songs and hymns, and theorizes about Jesus in seminaries and classrooms . . . but somewhere along the way missed rich and radical treasures hidden in the essential message of Jesus? . . .

What if Jesus’ secret message reveals a secret plan? What if he didn’t come to start a new religion—but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world? [1]

Christ is asking each of us, “Who do you say that I am?” We each have to come to that moment of deciding who Christ/God/Ultimate Reality is for us. It means nothing if we intellectually accept that there is a God. The only moment that has any effect or revolution for us is when we acknowledge God’s active presence in our lives and the power of unconditional love.

[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything, (Thomas Nelson: 2006), 3–4.

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: The New Testament (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 1988), 36; and

“Mark and John’s Good News: Jesus is Lord,” The Great Themes of Scripture, tape 8 (St. Anthony Messenger Tapes: 1973).

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