Previously, after Jesus healed the demon-possessed man in the Decapolis, our Lord told the person whom He had delivered from Legion to go and proclaim what God had done for Him (Mark 5:1–20). During Jesus’ second period of ministry in the Decapolis, however, our Lord charged those who had witnessed His healing of the deaf man not to spread word of the miracle (7:31–36a). This change prompts us to ask why Jesus was willing to have only one of His works proclaimed to other Gentiles.
We have already seen that when Jesus ministered among the Jews, He often told them not to witness about Him to others (1:40–44; 8:27–30; 9:1–9). It is not hard to discern the reasons for this. The more people who heard of what Jesus could do, the harder it was for Him to minister openly in the towns that He sought to visit (1:45). Furthermore, the common first-century Jewish expectation regarding the Messiah was for a conquering king who would overthrow Rome’s control of Palestine. If Jesus was widely acclaimed as the Messiah, it could inspire revolutionary zeal among the people and cause the Romans to arrest Jesus before it was time for His crucifixion. Yet there were no such expectations among the Gentiles who lived in the Decapolis. So, we have to look elsewhere for an explanation regarding Jesus’ command for them to be silent after His restoration of the deaf man’s hearing and speaking ability.
It may be that Jesus was still trying to escape the notice of Herod Antipas, who ruled part of the territory adjoining the Decapolis and who would have likely tried to put Jesus to death since he thought Jesus was his old enemy John the Baptist restored to life (6:14–29). One commentator also suggests that Jesus forbade the people to speak of the healing of the deaf man because He did not want people to misunderstand His purpose. It was easy to come to Jesus looking for an answer to one’s physical problems, but Jesus was not a genie who would grant every wish. He came to atone for His people’s sin (10:45); true faith calls upon Him for salvation and not merely for physical restoration or to receive a dose of His power (see Acts 8:9–24). Warning people not to tell others of His miracles was a way to help them not miss the reason for His coming.
In any case, the Decapolis residents disobeyed and proclaimed that Jesus did “all things well” (Mark 7:37). Of course He did, for as the incarnate God, all He does is very good (Gen. 1:31).