Can Man Hinder God?

Locked Old Door

In reading through the gospel of Mark recently, I ran across a peculiar passage.

Mark 1:40-45 is the simple story of Jesus healing a leper. Stories of this nature are strewn throughout the Bible. What struck me was not the miracle itself or even the Lord’s compassion, but the Lord’s instructions to the leper after He healed him.

And sternly charging him, immediately He thrust him out, and said to him, See that you say nothing to anyone… –Mark 1:42-43

Why did Jesus charge him not to tell anyone?

A String of Strange Commands

This is a strange command that is contrary to our expectation. Imagine it. Your life is miraculously changed, the pain of living in isolation is lifted, and then you are told to keep quiet about it? And yet this peculiar command is reiterated often throughout this gospel.

  • Mark 1:34 …And He cast out many demons and did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
  • Mark 5:43 And He strongly commanded them that no one should know about this.
  • Mark 7:36 And He charged them not to tell anyone.
  • Mark 8:26 And He sent him to his house, saying, Do not even enter into the village.
  • Mark 8:30 And He charged them not to tell anyone concerning Him.
  • Mark 9:9 And as they were coming down from the mountain, He ordered them not to relate to anyone the things which they had seen, except when the Son of Man has risen from the dead.

Such instances may seem unusual to us, but since they were uttered by the Lord there must be a reason for them.

Revealing Christ’s Character and Purpose

One basic reason is that Christ is the fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah 42:2.

He will not cry out, nor lift up His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street.

The Lord did not promote Himself or seek notoriety in His ministry. There are indications elsewhere that some of the Roman politicians of the day didn’t even know who Jesus was.

Another reason for this strange command is that Jesus didn’t want to attract the crowds of the merely curious. If you read through Mark with this in mind you can pick up how the crowds became a frustration to Christ’s move in His ministry. Mark 1:33-38 shows that Christ came for a distinct purpose, God’s will, not just to meet various needs among humanity. Of course He didn’t neglect the crowds, but from among the thousands that benefitted from His ministry, at the end of His life in the upper room He only had 120 disciples to carry on God’s move.

What is so interesting to me is that the healed leper goes ahead and tells everyone about what has happened.

But he went out and began to proclaim it much and to spread the matter abroad, so that He could no longer enter openly into a city, but He stayed outside in deserted places. And they came to Him from everywhere. –Mark 1:45

Well-Intended Rebellion

Leprosy in the Bible signifies the damaging results and isolating effects of sin. Specifically, if you look at leprosy in the Old Testament, it has its source in rebellion and disobedience (Num. 12:1-10, 2 Kings 5:1-14).

What is so amazing is that immediately after the leper was healed physically he disobeyed the Lord’s command! Right after he was healed, his rebellion manifested itself again. This shows how deeply rebellion is rooted within us. We may have the outward traces and symptoms removed, but within our nature we are still rebellious.

People may try and rationalize this act by the apparent result. Look at the crowds it brought Jesus! “They came to Him from everywhere.”

Yet why do we marginalize the Lord’s word for outward results?

The fact is the Lord said, “Don’t do it.” We may not understand all the reasons why the Lord has spoken to us a certain word, but we should not rationalize it away because of an opportunity we see.

Right after the leper was healed, his rebellion manifested itself in a religious way, with a good motive. This is a prime example of what it means to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, rather than the tree of life. Spreading the news about what Jesus has done in your life is certainly good. But Jesus is not interested in good per se, but life. If what we do goes against the Lord’s speaking, it may be very good but it is not of life and it may become a hindrance to something further the Lord wants to do.

The result of this disobedience may seem negligible to us. I’m sure most everyone would focus on the last sentence in v. 45 to outweigh any apparent disobedience. But what about the phrase “He could no longer”? What the healed leper did put Jesus in a position of “He could no longer.” It limited the Lord’s move and became a frustration to Him.

Does Jehovah delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice… –1 Samuel 15:22

7 thoughts on “Can Man Hinder God?

  1. Really enlightening, especially for those who really want to do something for the Lord. Thanks for posting. May our priority be to obey His word rather than win His favor with good works. Can we find examples of obedience over notoriety in the disciples’ lives?


    • The best examples I can think of are negatively, Saul in 1 Samuel 15 and positively, Paul in Acts 16:6-10 which is also described in 2 Corinthians 2:12-14. Saul disobeyed the Lord’s word by saving what he thought was the best from the Amalekites and even with the intention of using it for the Lord. But the Lord was not pleased. Paul on the other hand had an opportunity for the gospel even from the Lord but he had no rest in his spirit, so he didn’t take it. Our only green light is the person of Christ in our spirit, which is manifested by His speaking.


  2. “Why do we marginalize the Lord’s Word for outward results?” Why, indeed?
    Lord Jesus, save us from ourselves! We want to never hinder You again, Lord. We need Thee, oh! We need Thee. Every hour. Every moment.


    • I once heard a brother pray- “Lord, save the church from me.” This really helped me. If we compare this portion in Mark with Matthew 16:22-24 we can see that the self, even in its best intentions, can become a stumbling block to the Lord, can actually become an outlet for Satan. And of course it is possible that the self can manifest religiously and actually grow stronger under this guise so that in the end the more we do for the Lord, the more we frustrate Him.


  3. What timing!! A couple students and I hit this same block when we started reading Mark a few weeks ago. This post was extremely helpful. I never quite paid attention to the “He could no longer” part. Thank you for the reminder that God has an economy to carry out and a goal to reach—we just need to “Amen” His word and be one with Him.


    • This phrase had never caught my attention either. It’s encouraging though that the Christ that Mark presents- the One who became obedient even unto the death of a cross (Phil. 2:8)- now lives within us to repeat, through us, His life of obedience to God.


  4. Pingback: The Tree of Life Signifies Christ as Life to Man - He's So Available and Satisfying! — a God-man in Christ

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