June 19, 2005
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)
It's interesting in this passage the reference to Jesus opening ears and loosing tongues -- I think this is a reference to what Christ's mission was all about: freedom. Freedom from the sin that binds us. It also refers to the spread of the Gospel to all the nations -- people who formerly could not hear, can now hear. People to whom the Gospel was not first presented (as we saw in the last passage in Mark) are able now to hear, and to testify to the power of Christ.
This man's friends begged Jesus to come and heal him. We need to have friends who have faith, and we need to BE friends who have faith -- so that we can both faithfully witness to our unsaved friends AND be an encouragement to our Christian friends.
The early church fathers have a lot to say about Christ putting His fingers in the man's ears. They see it as the man being touched by the entire Godhead at once -- an incredibly powerful experience. Gregory the Great said, in his Homilies on Ezekiel: "The Spirit is called the finger of God. When the Lord put His fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
Are our ears opened? Do we experience this type of contact with God daily? The Holy Spirit dwells in us, and yet we walk as if we have no guidance. We see people every day who cannot hear: do we bring them to the Christ who can heal them with just a touch of His hand? Or are we too worried about being seen as religious nutcases?
How do you think this man's friends were looked at by the people around them? Taking him to a Jewish itinerant preacher who was doing nothing but stirring up trouble among his own people, and expecting him to be healed? I'm sure they were mocked -- right up until it worked. Why did they do it? Because they loved their friend. Do we love our friends enough to make ourselves look foolish to the world to bring them to Christ? And are WE speaking with tongues that have been loosened by the Holy Spirit, showing them and telling them the Truth of God's love in Christ?
Prudentius, a Spanish poet and hymnwriter in the 4th Century AD, wrote this:Tongues Unloosed
Deafened ears, of sound unconscious,
every passage blocked and closed,
At the word of Christ responding,
all the portals opened wide,
Hear with joy friendly voices and
the softly whispered speech.
Every sickness now surrenders,
are unloosed and speak aright,
While the joyful paralytic
bears his pallet through the streets.
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