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
Today’s passage comes with a geography review for me. I had to go back and dredge up previous references to the city of Tyre and Sidon to see if there was anything special about these locations. There was a prophecy about this sea port region back in Zechariah 9:1-5, and I reflected on it there in a post called “Power on the Sea“. Tyre was also called out back in Ezekiel 28:1-10, dealing with the pride of the king of Tyre and his impression that he ruled the sea rather than God. Tyre was also prophesied about by Isaiah when God said that it would be “left without house or harbor” (Isaiah 23:1-18).
So Jesus is leaving a region with a long history of rejecting God and His Lordship. He travels to the Sea of Galilee where many miracles occur, including the one described here. “Some people” bring a deaf and mute man to Jesus so that He can heal him. It is not stated who these people were, but presumably they were either his friends or relatives who were helping him find healing, and hopefully ears to hear the “new song” that Jesus is offering.
Jesus takes this man aside and gets very personal by putting His fingers in his ears and putting spit on his tongue. Now I am not sure what this man would have been thinking or what his level of faith was in this man standing by the Sea of Galilee, but it must have felt like a deeply personal experience to be touched by Jesus in this way.
Jesus looks to heaven and with a “deep sigh said to him, be opened!”. I am not sure what the importance of the “deep sigh” was here. Perhaps it was the understanding that this man’s physical healing was only an outward sign of a much more difficult inner healing that would take much longer and be a more difficult road. Jesus was healing hearts with his spit and hands, but I am not sure that the people always understood this overlay on the more obvious healing.
The man is physically healed, his “tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly”. I am not sure if that means he was speaking plainly about that fact that he was healed or if he was speaking plainly about the Man who healed him. Jesus wanted to keep this healing from being a sideshow, “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.” I think Jesus wanted people to focus on the new wine He was offering rather than the “magic” in the miraculous healing.
I find the last part interesting when the people say “He has done everything well,”. I am not sure what their measure of “well” was but it seems like it was based on his success in physical healing rather than his ability to channel hearts and souls toward God. The focus on the “magic” of the miracles was a distraction from the real metaphysical miracle that the God of the universe was standing in front of them placing His fingers in people ears and putting spit on their tongues.
The take home message for me is that God forded a great river that no one can cross so that we could Follow Him to the undiscovered country – a journey that ironically requires no speaking or hearing.
Prayer: God give a ears to hear and eyes to see more than just the “magic” in miracles.