Today’s reading was Mark 7:31-37
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him,“Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
A few observations.
The people are absolutely convinced that Jesus can help this desperate man. They can’t wait to bring people to Jesus and see what he can do with them. I wish for myself that I had both the same urgency and confidence.
Jesus seems to be very delicate with the man, in the sense that he does not want to make a public spectacle of the healing, and he removes him from the crowd so that he can minister to him privately. Not everyone will want a public encounter with Jesus. Sometimes we need to allow them space to interact with him alone, away from a church service and, dare I say it, perhaps not through some type of altar call.
The most beautiful part of this story to me is how Jesus heals the man. In one sense it is very visceral, involving touch, saliva and speaking. But notice the word Jesus says to the deaf man: Ephphatha. Now I’m no expert, but it seems to me that this is a superbly easy word to lip read. In the absence of any formal type of sign language, Jesus takes care to make sure that the man understands what he is saying. Was that necessary? Probably not. But perhaps he did it to provoke faith in the man, so that he could participate in some small way in his own healing, by understanding and agreeing with what Jesus was saying and doing.
What an incredibly thoughtful gesture, that Jesus would move to the man’s level, to make sure he understood. But then again, isn’t that what the incarnation is all about?