Text: Mark 7:31-37
36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
31 Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
Jesus was traveling through Sidon along the Sea of Galilee. As we might remember from a few weeks back, the disciples had crossed over the sea after the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus came to them walking to them on the water.
The crowds had followed Jesus who had fed them, healed them from illness, and he cast out demons and they are now in the region of the Decapolis – a region of 10 cities near the southeast corner of the Sea.
32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
The healings of Jesus are numerous in the gospel accounts. At times it is by faith in Christ that we see healing: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” The old woman thought to herself who had been plagued by the flow of blood for many years in Mark 5:28.
Or, it is by the healing touch of Jesus and the words of Christ’s own command, “Little girl I say to you arise!” as Jairus’ daughter was raised from death to life in Mark 5:41.
In today’s reading a deaf mute is brought to Jesus. He neither knows nor understands what is going on. He can’t hear and his speech is muted and unintelligible to those who are around him.
… and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
The people knew of Jesus and his healing touch. Those who brought him to Jesus begged him to lay his hands on him … as if the laying on of hands from Jesus was the magic formula of healing and required to make one well and whole again.
Jesus sees the problem … here is a man who is deaf and mute.
If you know someone who is deaf or have interacted with them before, you know that they communicate in ways their own. Those who use sign language know that communication with the deaf is highly visual. Our own Michigan District has an active ministry to the deaf and many churches work to accommodate the hearing impaired.
At Rev. Dr. Jacob Heckert’s funeral this year, while the service went on there was the traditional speaking of the liturgy as to accommodate those like me who can hear … and there was the signing of the liturgy for those who can’t.
Pastor Tom Dunseth who’s family is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Hartland provided the signing for those members and friends who came to the service so that they could more fully participate.
Communicating with the deaf is special and unique.
Jesus understood that.
33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
We can speculate, as many do, that there was something significant about Christ’s touch and fingers in the ears, or that the spit upon Christ’s fingers that touched the man’s tongue … brought about a miraculous healing. But what I believe Jesus is doing here is communicating. He is speaking to the deaf man in a way that he could understand.
Taking him aside privately … away from the crowd … Jesus now can have the man’s attention without distraction. How often have you or I who hear … needed to get away so we can speak to someone privately, so the noise of the crowd doesn’t distract us?
Jesus gets his attention.
The text says he put his fingers into his ears. Again not the healing but showing that he understands what the man’s problem is and that he intends to correct it. You can almost see Jesus show his fingers to the man and reach to his ears as if to say, “I understand your problem.”
And now we read: … after spitting touched his tongue.
Again in the language of the deaf Jesus wants the man to focus on the problem of his tongue and lack of speech and that he desires to heal these problems. You can see in the depiction on our bulletin cover the man sees and understands what is about to happen. He is fixed on Jesus.
Your maladies and mine are greater than hearing loss and being unable to speak. You and I and the man who is deaf and mute in our lesson for today are born dead to God and as a result we are unable to come to Jesus and receive the spiritual healing we need and that Christ desires to give. It takes an act of God to satisfy God’s justice and in Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased. It also takes an act of God to bring you and me from death to life by God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit … working through the word … opening our ears to hear … so that we believe in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8
34 And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, not as a means to the healing, or a hope that God the Father would answer Christ’s prayer, but as a sign communicating the heavenly healing that he was about to perform, and a point of our own sighing in our own prayers mediated by God.
and said to him, “Ephphatha,” The common Aramaic language of the home intended by St. Mark to give us the very word Christ spoke … and what it means, “Be opened.”
Jesus has the man’s attention, privately; he shows what he intends to do with his ears and his mouth; that he understands his problem and he is willing and able to help; and he looks up to heaven, the place of all good and comfort, healing and peace and says “Ephphatha, … Be opened.”
35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
The healing of Jesus is complete, opening the ears and mouth of the man who was deaf and mute. And just as the man was healed and “spoke plainly,” as the gift of language was given him, you dear friends, too have had Heaven opened, the place of all good by Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, and have received comfort, healing, and peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Interestingly, Jesus as he does at times tells them to “tell no one.” And what do they do? They tell everyone! [And] the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
You know that feeling too, don’t you? When we pray for good test results and they come back good what do you do?
You tell everyone! You joyfully proclaim that good news you have been given for all to hear!
There is even better news than the good test results you get and that is the good news that in Christ all things have been made new again. No more sin, death and the power of the devil to fear because Christ has opened heaven to you and me who were once closed to God as his enemies but now have access to him as his children, having been given faith freely in his son.
37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
And he brings we who were dead in trespass and sin back to life.
He has forgiven your sin and you have God’s favor on account of Christ!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!