Then He returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 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. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:31-37 ESV).
In this reading from this past Sunday’s one year lectionary, Jesus seems to act a bit oddly. He takes the deaf and mute man aside, and does a pantomime. Similarly, later, He will take a blind man aside, spit in the dirt, make mud, and stick it on his eyes. In both cases, it’s earthy, a bit odd, perhaps unexpected behavior from Jesus. However, Jesus is dealing with each man as he is. For the deaf and mute man, He takes him aside to ease him into a new world of hearing. The sudden ability to hear with all the noise of a crowd enveloping him, would easily have been overwhelming. He also pantomimes that He understands what the man’s afflictions are. Since the man cannot hear, the use of pantomime and touch would convey that Jesus was preparing to do something about his deafness and his inability to speak. And of course, He did do something about it: He sighed, looked into the heavens, and said, “be opened.” Ears, open up and hear. Mouth, open up and speak. He met the man where he was, so to speak, and brought him into something else. A new life. A healed life. A life of hearing and speaking where there was once silence. A life in Christ, the one who opens.
We may not be literally deaf or literally have a speech impediment, but we too are in need of healing. Our spiritual ears are often shut to the Word of God. Our mouths are often shut to speaking that Word to others (or to ourselves!). We have “ears to hear, but do not hear.” And if we do not hear, how can we possibly speak? Like the deaf man from the region of Decapolis, we are Gentile outsiders, often living outside of God’s Law and His perfect will.
However, like with the deaf man, Jesus comes to us. He meets us where we are, deaf to Him, living in sin outside of God’s will, with our mouths shut. And He touches us with tangible things. Cold water on our heads. Words from the mouths of our pastors. Bread and wine in our mouths. He opens our spiritual ears to hear His word, He opens our mouths to taste of His body and blood broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. He opens are mouths, too, to “zealously proclaim” what the Lord has done in Christ. We cannot help but tell others, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes (Isaiah 35:4-7 ESV).
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, even as You opened the ears and the mouth of the deaf man, open our ears to hear Your Word and receive it in repentance, and then open our mouths so that we may speak of Your saving work to others, that they might also be opened. In Your name we pray. Amen.