Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 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. 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. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37
Deaf and mute. I can’t imagine either of them. The days when my ears are filled or I’ve lost my voice because I have a cold are some of the most frustrating days I have. When my ears finally “pop” and my voice comes back, I feel like I’m back to myself again.
Deaf and mute. Two senses that are essential to communicating. Essential to being understood. Both are necessary to be heard. To be deprived of both would be devastating. To know that others are communicating around you while you are passed over, not able to join in on what is happening. To be unable to or have a limited capacity to speak, to pass on information. To engage meaningfully with others. Here is isolation, a loneliness of soul and spirit.
However, in spite of all of this, the man had community. He didn’t come to Jesus on his own volition. He was brought. “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.” The man did not advocate for himself. He didn’t ask for the miracle. His friends did. Those who loved him deeply wanted more for him. They must have known that Jesus was the miracle worker. They would have heard stories of what Jesus had done on behalf of others. They were desperate for the same to be done for their friend. If Jesus could change other’s lives, He could do the same for them.
Jesus saw the need. He must have felt compassion for the man. But he drew him aside. Sometimes Jesus best work is done without an audience. Without people stopping and staring and wondering. He pulls the man off to the side and then works in power and might.
Jesus is a fan of using the unorthodox. He used His fingers, His saliva and the power of His words. The man must have wondered what was going on. He must have wondered if this would really “work.” But at Jesus command, everything was opened. His ears heard. His mouth was able to speak clearly. His isolation was removed with a word. Had there been bells ringing, he would have been able to hear them for the first time in his life.
Jesus then asks him to be quiet. These moments in the Bible always perplex my heart and mind. When Jesus does amazing things in my life, I want to share. I need that outlet to remind myself that Jesus is active. That He’s doing things in my life and if He is working in my life then He is also working in yours. However, Jesus asked them to not tell the story. This was a hard secret to keep – the one who couldn’t speak or hear now could do both. I’m not surprised that they just couldn’t help themselves. This was only something God could do and He had done it!
I stood in a square in Germany and listened to the church bells ring. They were announcing a wedding. The bride and groom emerged from the church to the joy and celebration. I enjoyed a sleigh ride on a cold winter’s night. The jingles on the reins and collars of the horses were the bright accompaniment to a dark night. Sometimes God gets my attention with a sound.
This Advent season, I want to be listening for what Jesus is up to. Sometimes that will involve complete silence. Other times He may have a song for me. He will speak in His own way to those who hearts are open to Him. As I listen, I pray for an obedient heart. One that will hear and then obey the call.