Jesus explains to James and John in Mark 10:25 that: "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
One of the main themes in the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus did not want it to be known that He was the Son of God. He instructed His disciples not to tell anyone His true identity, He gave strict orders to those He healed not to spread the word about His miracles, and He silenced demons who recognized Him for who He was. Why would Jesus seek to keep His identity a secret?
Thankfully, the answers to this question can also be found in Mark. Jesus likely sought to conceal His identity for three very good reasons.
- He did not want to be turned into an earthly king
When Jesus was born the people of Israel had long been expecting a Messiah, but their expectations were radically different from the Messiah that God provided. They expected an earthly warrior king who would lead them to victory over Rome. Had Jesus revealed His true identity, they would have attempted to force Him into this role, and would have proceeded to serve Him as an earthly king. Jesus explains to James and John in Mark 10:25 that: "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
- He did not want His identity to detract from His message
Had Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah, people would have attempted to serve Him or to use Him for their own religious or political advantage. They would have focused more on who He was than what He had to say. He needed them to hear and take to heart His spiritually inspiring words. Jesus' message that the most important commandments are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31) could have easily been overshadowed by His Messiah status and lost forever to time.
- His true identity could only be understood after the resurrection
Jesus' apostles were aware of His true identity, and yet not even they could understand why Jesus had to die on the cross. When Jesus tells them about His inevitable persecution, Peter cannot fathom that the Son of God could possibly be put to death by His enemies. If the apostles could not even understand the true meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection, then how could the multitudes that followed Him?
When Jesus appears to the Eleven after His resurrection, He finally says to them: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15). It was only now, after His mission was complete, that those who had the eyes to see and ears to hear were capable of understanding who He truly was. No political or religious expectations could now change why He came to earth and what He did for us. All that remained was the truth of His resurrection.
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed youto those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”