Timing is Critical
“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Mark 1:40-44
This account of Jesus healing the leper early in his earthy ministry is peculiar. It runs against the grain that anyone new in town with an agenda to make a difference would tell people he helped to stay mum about it. Can you image politicians running for office cautioning people in their riding “Now be careful! Don’t tell others what I’ve done for you to make your life better!” It just doesn’t make sense.
Well, yes and no. Have you ever had a secret you wanted to keep for a while for strategic reasons? When my wife and I became pregnant with our first child, we were ecstatic. We wanted to tell the world, but we didn’t. We knew that some babies don’t make it past the first twelve weeks, so we didn’t tell the world. We called her folks and mine, her sister and my siblings. After two more months, we told others. Timing was key.
Jesus did similarly with regard to his identity as the Messiah—the Savior of the world. He did not refer to himself as the Messiah when he began his ministry, rather, he called himself the Son of Man, another term for “human being” (as Ezekiel used the term) who had godly power and authority (as Daniel used the term). He knew his early 1st-century Jewish audience had distinct expectations associated with “Messiah”—such as military ruler, earthly king, and another high priest. He didn’t want to muddy the waters of his identity until they were more prepared for it, even though it was very good news. Yet later he did. Timing was key.
Sometimes we have good news that needs to be handled carefully. An acquaintance of mine had yearned for a new job on the west coast. He and his wife had discussed it, and he was sure she supported him in pursuing it. He applied, and a few weeks later received a phone call inviting him to a new and exciting role. In a flash he picked up the phone and called his wife who was busy at home with three kids. “I was offered the job! And accepted! We’re headed for British Columbia!” Not until he got home six hours later did he realize his wife had had a horrible time processing his bold declaration, with no discussion, and alone with three kids. She was a wreck and the two had to work through it. Years later he told me he wished he had handled that disclosure more carefully.
In all these instances it those with good news had a decision—to tell or not to tell, right away or later, while in tune or not to those they told. Without doubt good news is worth sharing, yet timing is key.
Questions: How do you handle big news? Do you post it online at first chance? How might you share it discerningly?