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.”
Sometimes I just can’t stop listening to it. When my truck radio is tuned into the right station at the right time, I just can’t turn it off, even if I’ve arrived at my destination. We all have things that we just can’t stop listening to…maybe it’s keeping the TV on all weekend so you can hear the football game, maybe it’s keeping the news on in case some new political story comes out that will change the outcome of an election or policy, maybe its listening to a story about a famous athlete signing a new deal with a team or company, maybe it’s following the results from the latest hurricane or earthquake, maybe it’s following your friends or someone you don’t even know on Snapchat and Instagram or maybe it’s listening to God’s Word. The man in our gospel lesson today from Mark 7 wished he could choose when to start or stop listening to something. Instead, he couldn’t hear at all, until he met Jesus. Jesus changed everything for this man and this morning, we are reminded that Jesus changed everything for us, when Jesus opened our ears to hear his healing word.
The man who couldn’t hear was from a place referred to as the Decapolis. It’s a place where the Gentiles lived, a place Jesus had been to before as he traveled from town to town teaching, preaching and working miracles. When Jesus first came to the Decapolis, he made quite an impression. There had been a man who lived among the tombs, who was wild, possessed by demons and uncontrollable even with metal chains. When the possessed man saw Jesus, he ran to him and begged Jesus not to torture him. Jesus then commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man and learning that it was many spirits, referring to themselves as ‘Legion,’ Jesus commanded them to come out of the man and go into a herd of two thousand pigs, which then rushed down a hillside and drowned in the lake. The people who tended the pigs ran into town and shared what Jesus had done. Then, the town’s people came out, saw the once possessed man in his right mind, saw Jesus, saw the pigs and began asking Jesus to leave their region. Jesus listened to the people and left, but before he was gone, the man whom Jesus healed asked to go with him. Jesus told him to stay and to tell the people what the Lord has done for him. And when he told the people, they were amazed.
Enough time had passed from the time Jesus first visited their town that the people had heard about many of Jesus’ other miracles making them glad for his return. This time when he came to town, the people were ready for Jesus and
some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
At this time in history, the deaf man was more or less helpless on his own. He could see, but the first standard form of sign language was more than 1600 years away, so explaining that the miracle worker named Jesus, who might be able to heal him, was in town wasn’t going to work. The deaf man had to be brought to Jesus and when he saw him, it still wasn’t obvious to him what the big deal was. In Isaiah 53:2, God told the people that the Savior would have,
“no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
For a moment the deaf man, the crowd and Jesus were standing there waiting for something to happen. Jesus was new to the deaf man and he didn’t know what to expect from him.
It’s often the case that when something new comes out on the market, we have to wait to hear what it can really do for us. Right now, the world is waiting to see what happens with self-driving cars…will they be yet another luxury that makes our lives easier and more efficient or will they bring more headaches and heartaches. Today, the world of supplements, vitamins, miracles pills and shakes continue to promise good health and weight loss, but the promises might be more like a product called ‘vitameatavegamin,’ from the 50’s TV show ‘I Love Lucy.’ The miracle elixir promised to cure everything, but after Lucy drinks almost a whole bottle while practicing to be a spokeswoman for a commercial, it’s obvious that ‘vitameatavegamin,’ isn’t worth much at all. As the deaf man stared at Jesus, he didn’t know him or what he could do for him.
All of us were like the deaf man who stood unknowingly before the only one who could cure him both in body and soul. All of us were born with the need to stand before Jesus and receive his healing power, as David wrote in Psalm 51:5,
Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
We were conceived in sin and needed Jesus, but we could not come to him on our own, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.
Spiritually, we were dead and unable to hear, see or hold onto Jesus. Caught in the spiritual death, we were also destined for physical death because of our unbelief and lack of fear in
the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
On our own, we didn’t know him, but Jesus opened our ears to hear his healing word.
When the people brought the deaf man to Jesus, he opened his ears allowing him to trust in his amazing power. Jesus took special care with this man. He knew what the deaf man needed from him and in order to heal him, Jesus took him away from the crowd. And,
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.
Jesus knew the deaf man had learned to rely on his eyes, so he took him aside to allow him to focus only on Jesus. He took his finger and put it into the deaf man’s ear, to show him what Jesus was planning to do for him. He spit and touched the man’s tongue, again showing him that he intended to address what was afflicting him. He looked up and visibly breathed deeply, calling out to God. All of this was seen by the deaf man and then he could hear, everything.
The healing of the deaf man was just a glimpse into the healing power of Jesus. In our second lesson from Isaiah 35, God gave Isaiah picture after picture revealing the healing the Messiah was going to bring to the world. God told Isaiah,
“say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
And he goes on to say, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, the mute will shout for joy and the desert will become a lush oasis filled with clear water and green plants. Jesus healing of the deaf man further proved his amazing power and fulfillment of God’s promise to send us a Savior.
Jesus’ miraculous power to heal all came together when he was put to death on the cross. The ears of his own people, Israel, were deaf to his call to repentance and trust in him as the Savior, leading them to condemn him as a blasphemer, traitor, liar and outcast. Even in their stubborn unbelief though, the people accomplished God’s will. Jesus was put to death and as he died, the sins and death of all people were paid for. When Jesus rose three days later, he proved his power to provide the ultimate healing of both body and soul. He is our only hope for freedom from sin and a future home in heaven free from sickness, suffering and death.
We all have songs, sports and stories we can’t stop listening to, but the one thing truly worth listening to is our Savior. The people in the region of the Decapolis may not have been sure about Jesus, but after seeing him heal the deaf man, the
37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Jesus tried to keep the people from talking about his miracles, lest they think of him only as a healer of the body. We know the full story of Jesus’ life. He came to heal our sin sick souls and give us hope in his amazing power to give us eternal life. May God send his Holy Spirit to keep our ears open and to in lives of thankfulness that Jesus opened our ears to hear his healing word. Amen.