(Note: this is a different question from What Gospel was preached before Jesus revealed the cross?, which was closed for not being specific enough. It is also different from What does "the gospel" mean in Mark 1:15? and If the gospel is described in Luke 18:31-34, what gospel were the disciples preaching earlier in Luke 9:6?, which ask about the difference between Paul's gospel and the gospel preached prior to Jesus death. My question is about what the character of the gospel would be if Jesus were not identified as the Messiah.)

Each of the synoptic gospels relates an episode in which Jesus instructs his disciples not to tell people that he is the Messiah (Christ). For example:

Matthew 16:13-16, 20

13 “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” ... 20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

Yet, throughout the synoptic gospels, Jesus and the disciples are described dozens of times as spreading the "Good News" or the "Gospel."

How could they share the Gospel without declaring that Jesus was the Christ?


6 Answers 6


The answer to this is rather stark - Jesus did not want His divinity and identity as Messiah emphasized too early as it often caused commotion and nearly had Him killed too early, for example

  • Luke 4:16-30, when Jesus declared that He was Messiah and the fulfilment of the prophecy in Isa 61
  • John 8:58, 59 when Jesus declared Himself the great "I Am".
  • John 10:39 after Jesus declared that had been with the Father and was a co-worker with God the Father
  • Mark 14:62 - Jesus' statement about being the "I Am" sealed His death warrant from the High Priest.

The same was true of Jesus' miracles - he often told the healed person NOT to tell others. When these disobeyed and told everyone, Jesus' ministry was curtailed, eg, Luke 5:14, 8:56, Mark 1:44, 7:36, Matt 8:4, 17:9, Mark 9:9, etc.

Despite this, Jesus, quite early in His ministry declared Himself the great "I Am" to the woman at the well in John 4:26 and on several other occasions.

Thus, in Matt 16, I suggest Jesus is saying that they needed to be careful to whom and when such startling information is presented. One does not teach mathematics to student by starting with advanced calculus; one must begin at the beginning with counting, addition and subtraction.

Which Gospel?

The OP asks which or what gospel was preached. This is specifically answered by Jesus Himself when He said:

  • Mark 1:15 - and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
  • Matt 4:17 - From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
  • Matt 10:7, 8 - And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
  • Luke 9:2 - And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Thus, Jesus preached a message or repentance and healing, both physical and spiritual.

  • I'm accepting this answer because I think it does the best job of dealing with the main question - the nature of the Gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught without identifying Jesus' identity. Jan 4 at 3:41
  • @DanFefferman - Thankyou - a few did not like it at all.
    – Dottard
    Jan 4 at 3:43
  • @Dottard. Some may have tuned you out because you said " it almost got him killed" . I wish you could refraise that slightly, because it implies Jesus would not have had control over his own time of death at the appointed time. There were plain examples to the contrary. He told Herod " you tell that fox etc." But what do I know. The important thing is we are a many membered body that God can use for blessed results when we all remain humble.
    – RHPclass79
    Jan 4 at 4:30
  • @RHPclass79 - Thanks for the comment - the comment about "almost killed" was intended to show that Jesus DID have control because He escaped each time.
    – Dottard
    Jan 4 at 4:49
  • @Dottard I knew what you meant because I have got to know how you think. I was merely addressing why your votes where low possibly . I also recognise how much ground you have to cover for this site. I don't know how you do it, and you are appreciated.
    – RHPclass79
    Jan 4 at 4:56

The key message of Jesus' Gospel is:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2 NIV)

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He began to Preach the same message in Matthew 4:17. The synoptic describes an event where Jesus sent His disciples out for preaching the Good News. The same tone is found in:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matthew 10:7 NIV)

They went out and preached that people should repent. (Mark 3:12 NIV)

He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9:2 NIV)

The message of the Good News is that people should repent in order to receive forgiveness of sin from God, for His kingdom has come near, His judgement is near. The Jewish people may have different perception of their Messiah, and knowing Jesus is the Messiah couldn't save them. In Matthew 15:24, Jesus said He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Revealing His truth as the Messiah could lead to unwanted expectations from the people and suffocate the truth of the Gospel.

In other words, believing in Jesus' Gospel is not just about knowing that He is the Christ. It is about repenting and acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ.


The entire gospel concerning the Messiah can be conveyed without once stating the actual identity of that Messiah. The gospel was already preached in the wilderness as we are informed.

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. [Hebrews 4:2 KJV]

And the gospel had been preached throughout the Hebrew scriptures, being declared in the sacrifices ; demonstrated in the artefacts of ark, mercy seat and so forth ; and proclaimed by each and every prophet sent of God.

It is true that the revelation yet to be revealed is that the Messiah is, also, the Son of God. But it is only with Paul's preaching that Jesus Christ is, publicly, declared to be Son of God for that revelation was withheld until after his resurrection from the dead and after his ascension.

And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. [Acts 9:20 KJV]

[Note that this is the first mention in the Greek scriptures, publicly, of the true identity of the Messiah.]

He is declared Son of God from his place in glory, seated at the right hand of God and now given all power in heaven and earth.

That declaration is not made until the due time, which time is his enthronement.

Of course, the 'beginning' of the gospel may be preached and John the Baptist did indeed preach it, before, as yet, Jesus of Nazareth began his public ministry in Galilee and in Judaea.

As Mark plainly states in his introduction the 'beginning of the gospel' is the ministry of the Messenger of Preparation, see Malachi 3:1 and 2, the 'Elias' who was yet to come, John the Baptist himself.

That baptism of repentance is pure gospel ; it is not law, it is deeper and more profound than law ; it goes to the heart, it breaks up the fallow ground, it removes the stony ground, it removes the suffocating weeds of heart-lust, and prepares rich good ground for the coming of the Messiah.

This is gospel indeed, without which faith will never appear in the heart.

  • 3
    Indeed, even in the garden of Eden was the Gospel proclaimed to the serpent. +1 Jan 3 at 2:07

Luke 4:18, 19, 21 KJV

18 The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. ... 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

What more needs to be said? Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1, 2. Jesus' first sermon in his earthly hometown after his wilderness test was these verses from the Isaiah scroll. This defined the gospel and fulfilled prophecy.

  • The elephant in the room is the identity of the person. In Isaiah it is the prophet himself. In Christian tradition is Jesus. But if there is no other name than Jesus by which a person is saved, is it enough to leave the name out? Jan 4 at 3:16
  • @DanFefferman. Dan I am satisfied with Jesus being a mystery in the OLD Testament. In Gen. 3 we are only told of the seed of the woman, but his name is not given. As I have said before I teach Jesus as making some " guest or you might say undercover" appearances in the OLD Testament. HE walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He walked on the plains of Mamre with Abraham.etc. Some call these Christophanies. Jesus as The Son of Man ( Jesus of Nazareth) had to remain incognito to those who wanted to kill him at least until his proper time had come. I realize much of this some would say is opin.
    – RHPclass79
    Jan 4 at 4:02

It is the essence of preaching that Jesus is Christ, the promised Messiah. And He Himself explicitly preaches and teaches that He is the one (Luke 4:26 and many other places), but in specific contexts He restricts both Himself and the disciples to preach it openly.


The reason is that like in case of the disciples, He wants people to think for themselves and guess for themselves through observation of His deeds and words. Moreover, the notion of “Messiah” was infected among Jews by nationalistic-political expectations; therefore He wanted that both His disciples and people arrive at a loftier and more proper understanding of Messiah’s universal and supra-political mission through their own independent reasoning, curiosity and investigation.

That such an inquiry and intrigue about Him was vivid both in people an in his disciples is evident in His question “Who do they think I am?” (Matthew 16:13). As a divine Teacher, He did not want to kill as it were a vivid curiosity-driven and passionate quest for truth about Himself by a correct, albeit a ready-made answer, which because of the mentioned stereotyped Jewish misconception about Messiah could even be harmful.

Actually, often such stereotyped, petrified notions and terms hinder our thinking, but deeds and wisdom even without pre-given and pre-conceived petrified and ossified categories speak for themselves.

That is why also John the Forerunner does not say directly that Jesus is Messiah, but, more mystically than that, that He is "the lamb of God who will bear the sin of the world" (John 1:29-32) - the stereotyped Jewish Messiah was not to "bear the sin" of the entire mankind, thus having to do with the very nature or ontology of the fallen mankind, but had a more parochial, Jewish national-political mission.

Furthermore, one can also consider that the He forbade to preach Him being Messiah in the sense said and realized by Peter, as the unique Son of God, and as, immediately we read in this passage, the one who was to give to Peter the keys of His Kingdom and authority to loose or bind the sins; now, the sovereign Giver of such an authority to others must possess this authority properly, underivatedly and, in virtue of this, He must and can be only God, sharing the same divine dignity and authority with God - His Father. However, the Jewish concept of Messiah was not that of the incarnate God, but a human ruler chosen by God. Thus one can think that the Lord forbade, for the time being, to preach about Him as Messiah a la Incarnate God, not to scandalize them in undue time, to give them a room for independent inquiry.

Those two conjunctures do not necessarily contradict each other but can, on the contrary, complement each other: the Lord wanted both his disciples and Jewish people consider His words and deeds that accompanied those words so that the question of "who He is who says such wise things and does such mighty deeds?" (cf. Mark 6:2) may arise in them. Then they would answer themselves: "He is either Messiah or somebody else, who came before the Messiah", and then again: "But when Messiah comes, will he do anything more than Jesus does?" (cf. John 7:31).

Thus, they, through inner dialectics of thought, would come by this very process to understanding Him as Messiah, but already in a loftier and more proper sense, as the universal Savior, as the one possessing divine authority, as the one whom it is allowed and even necessary to worship alongside with the Father, for the Latter cannot either create anything (John 1:1-3) or save anybody (John 14:6) without Him.

Exactly this process could be disadvantageously cancelled with immediate hammer-hit upon one's head: "He, Jesus, is the expected Messiah"! Even, because of the mentioned infection of the notion of "Messiah" with nationalistic-political agendum, Jesus who showed Himself as negligent of this agendum, would immediately fall under their suspicion and anger as an impostor and ruiner of their most cherished religious-political aspirations that formed their very identity, like it happened in the Nazareth synagogue, by members of which He was nearly killed (Luke 4:29-30), just because He openly declared that He was Messiah, albeit immediately giving a totally novel, supra-nationalistic semantics of this term.

  • this explains why you think Jesus told his disciples not to tell people he was the Christ, but the question I asked was what Gospel they preached to the people, if they had to keep this secret. Jan 2 at 18:01
  • 1
    @DanFefferman Actually I would conjuncture that the He forbade to preach Him being Messiah in the sense said and realized by Peter, as the Son of God, and as the one who was to give to Peter the keys of His Kingdom and authority to loose or bind the sins; the Giver of such an authority must be and can be only God; but Jewish concept of Messiah was not that of the incarnate God, but a human ruler chosen by God. Thus the Lord forbade for the time being to preach about Him as Messiah a la Incarnate God, not to scandalize them in undue time, to give them a room for independent inquiry. Jan 2 at 18:40

Answer:- Jesus and the Disciples preached the kingdom of God under the leadership of the Messiah King without identifying who that Messiah King was.


It was Paul and Barnabas who were set apart as the apostles to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2, 46; Gal 2:9).

Yet, God appointed Peter, the Apostle of the circumcised, to inaugurate the entry of Gentile believers into the Church. We can see that in Acts chapter 10.

In his inaugural speech, beginning at verse 34, in Cornelius’s house Peter clearly identifies the true Gospel of God.

True Gospel Identified

  1. God sent the Gospel through Jesus Christ (verse 36).
  2. It was sent to the children of Israel originally (verse 36).
  3. It began after the time of John the Baptist (verse 37).
  4. It started out in Galilee (a Gentile area – Matt 4:15) and spread throughout Judea (verse 37).

Exactly in this way is what Mark describes the beginning of the Gospel.

  1. John the Baptist is arrested (Mark 1:14).
  2. “Jesus came into Galilee (a Gentile area according to Matt 4:15)” (verse 14).
  3. Proclaimed the true Gospel, God sent through Him (verse 14).
  4. We know from the gospels that Jesus proclaimed this Gospel to the children of Israel only (Matthew 15:24) which culminated in His death in Jerusalem, the capital of Judea.

Now, we are in a position to identify the true Gospel:

It is “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (mark 1:14) that “draws near” (verse 15). Jesus asks the listeners to “repent and believe in the gospel”.

What the Kingdom of God Is

Jesus is referring directly to Daniel’s prophecy revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:44:

“During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor its sovereignty left in the hands of another people. It will shatter and crush all of these kingdoms, and it will stand forever”.

It is a spiritual kingdom because it is set up by “the God of heaven” “without human hands” (not of the world). Yet it will be a political kingdom (in the world) because “it will shatter and crush all of these (political) kingdoms” such as Babylon, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires.

Thus we have been able to identify the true Gospel as the good news of the Kingdom of God that is going to be set up in this world destroying the then political kingdoms by the God of heaven (that is, the Creator God) in future.

This is a World Government with its international capital in Jerusalem, “the city of the Great King” (Matt 5:35 - so we should not swear by it according to Jesus).

No Problem, As Long As…

The Jews were very much familiar with Daniel’s vision of the Kingdom of God (a politico-spiritual kingdom) that will free them from the clutches of the Roman Empire. The Jews believed in the “Son of Man” of Daniel as “the Messiah, the King” who will gather all the children of Israel under his Leadership into one nation above all the other nations as a strong nation.

The Jews interpreted “nor its sovereignty left in the hands of another people” in Daniel 2:44 to mean that the political kingdom of Israel will be the leading Super Power in the new World Order.

So, as long as Jesus or the apostles preached and taught about this kingdom of God under the leadership of the Messiah King (without identifying who the Messiah King is), the Jews in general and the Jewish authority in particular had no qualms about it.

This is exactly what Jesus did with His disciples. The disciples were preaching this gospel of the Kingdom of God, which will be led by the Messiah King, to the Jewish cities earlier. This was a safe business to do then.

Mountain of a Problem

An avalanche of problems ensued once Jesus or the disciples pinpointed the Messiah King to be Jesus the Nazarene.

Hell broke out that culminated in the Crucifixion of Jesus and the hiding of the disciples.

Jesus Knew This

God’s ways are always different from man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8; Luke 10:21).

So God obscured the background of Jesus from the Jewish world. They did not know that Jesus was in the lineage of King David (Matt 13:55). They thought He was just a son of an ordinary Jewish carpenter.

They thought Jesus was a Galilean (John 7:41) without knowing that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (verse 42).

Forget about the authority, even Jesus’ own disciple Nathanael, when heard about Jesus the Nazarene for the first time from Philip, exclaims: “"Out of Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46)!

Jesus knew that with His obscure background of His family and the place of His residence, it was difficult to push forward the truth that He is the true Messiah.

As a true Leader and Shepherd Jesus knew full well that His disciples, without the “power from above” (Luke 24:49), would not be able to withstand the brunt of the full force of the Jewish authority’s fury when they would “witness of” Him as the Messiah King (Acts 1:8).

Remember the pathetic condition into which a boastful Peter fell when he denied Jesus three times. Look at the cowardly way in which all the disciples deserted and ran away when Jesus was captured.

Post-Pentecostal World

The situation had a 180 degree turn after the day of Pentecost when the disciples received the power, the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised.

The cowardly lot became so courageous that they withstood the Jewish high authority to the face:

“But Peter and John answered them, "You yourselves judge which is right in God's sight—to obey you or to obey God. For we cannot stop speaking of what we ourselves have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20).

Wow, such courage from Peter who denied Jesus three times just in front of a servant girl now speaking boldly to the entire Sanhedrin (the highest authority of the Jewish nation) that included the High Priest!!

The Real Problem

The Jewish authority had no problem as long as Jesus and the disciples taught about the gospel of the kingdom of God and the Messiah King without identifying the latter. After all, these were the standard Jewish teaching. But the problem happened when Jesus and His disciples started identifying who the Messiah King was.

This, the Jewish authority tried to suppress:

“but that it may spread no further toward the people, let us strictly threaten them to no longer speak in this Name to any man. And having called them, they charged them not to speak at all, nor to teach, in the Name of Jesus” (Acts 4:17).

“And bringing them, they stood in the Sanhedrin. And the high priest asked them, saying, Did we not command you by a command that you not teach in this name? And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring on us the blood of this man” (Acts 5:27-28).

“And to him (to Gamliel) they agreed, and having called near the apostles, having beaten them, they commanded them not to speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go” (Acts 5:40).


Initially the Gospel had only one part: the kingdom of God under the Messiah King. (The second part – the identity of the Messiah King - was proclaimed only by Jesus, that too, to selected individuals or groups).

But, after the day of Pentecost, the Gospel was added with a second part: Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah King proclaimed in the Scripture.

The disciples were commanded to proclaim this loudly to the public: “you will be witnesses of Me ……to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). (This reminds us of Yahweh saying, “You are my witnesses – Isaiah 43:10; 44:8).

So the true Gospel has two parts: “the gospel, 1)the things concerning the kingdom of God, and 2) the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12).

This is what all the disciples taught throughout their life after Pentecost.

Even towards the end of his life, Apostle Paul, who declared “there is no other gospel”, still speaks the same Gospel:

“And having appointed him a day, more came to him in the lodging, to whom he expounded, earnestly testifying (1) the kingdom of God and persuading them (2) the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 28:23).

Again, “And Paul remained two whole years in his own rented place, and he welcomed all those coming in to him, (1) proclaiming the kingdom of God, and (2) teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30-31).

Answer to the OP Question

Jesus and His disciples preached the gospel of the kingdom of God that will be led by a Messiah King as provided in Daniel and witnessed by other prophets of God. They did this without identifying the Messiah King. They didn’t encounter any problems as long as they kept this practice.

But the moment they revealed that Jesus of Nazareth is this Messiah King or the Christ King, things changed for the worst.

The more the Jewish authority tried to suppress the truth, the more the truth spread throughout the world.

No wonder, Jesus of Nazareth took the truth of an otherwise obscure Messiah King from an obscure set of Scriptures of an obscure small group of people who lived in an obscure corner of the world and catapulted them into the whole world.

And history was never the same ever after.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.