Hello, my name is Brent, i’m one of the pastors at Highrock North Shore. We are committed to going through the entire gospel of Mark during our various Markan sermon series. This Sunday Brynn is preaching on the Feeding of the 4000, but before we get to that, there is a rather strange story of Jesus healing a deaf man that struggles to speak at the end of Mark Chapter 7.
I know what you’re thinking, “Jesus healing someone doesn’t sound very strange.” Oh, did I fail to mention that in this healing Jesus spits? Matthew and Luke do not record this miracle in their gospels. I cannot say for certain why they chose to not include this miracle, but it might have had something to do with Jesus spitting, but that’s just a theory. Mark 7:31-37 (TNIV) says:
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.”
As we have said since the beginning of the first Mark sermon series, geography is important in Mark. Jesus is on the move in Gentile territory; therefore, the people that Jesus is interacting with in this phase of his ministry were almost certainly Gentile.
“Some people,” - that is all the information that is given about them - bring a deaf man who was not able to speak well to Jesus and beg Jesus to heal the man. Jesus then puts his fingers in the man’s ears, spits, touches the man’s tongue, looks up to heaven, sighs, and then says “Be Open!”
What’s with all the theatrics and sensational motions?
I wish I had a satisfactory answer for you; however, I do not know why Jesus went through all these extra steps, nor why Mark chose to record them here. It is important to note that the healing did not happen because Jesus followed a six step procedure. The man’s hearing and speech were restored because of Jesus’s authority as Messiah and power over the natural world.
Last time Jesus was in the Decapolis in Mark 5:1-20, he freed the demoniac and encouraged him to tell everyone what the Lord did for him. This time Jesus commands the crowds to keep quiet, but this miracle so overwhelms and astonishes the crowd that they cannot keep quiet.
Jesus’s reputation had grown so large that even in the Gentile Decapolis there was the danger of Jesus appearing on Rome’s radar before the time was right due to messianic fervor and a misunderstanding of what it meant for Jesus to be Messiah. Matt Webel will speak more about Jesus’s messianic identity on May 20th.
Throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus has been inaugurating the Kingdom of God. Everytime he healed, exorcised, taught, fed, calmed, etc. he tore down the wall that separated the Kingdom of this world from the Kingdom of God, and onlookers (and readers!) were (and are) allowed to glimpse the Kingdom of God like never before. This passage highlights something special about Jesus’s mission to bring about the Kingdom of God, and this detail is brought to light when we look at the words that Mark uses.
The word for “could hardly talk” only occurs once in the New Testament. The coolest thing about this word is that it also appears only once in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Isaiah 35:6.
This means that Mark is no doubt wanting his reader’s attention to be drawn to Isaiah 35. This Old Testament oracle talks about a time when God will return and restore all things. Isaiah 35:5-6 says, “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!” Jesus is providing us with a sneak peek of what will happen when the Kingdom comes in its fullness and all of creation is restored.
And remember when I mentioned that this took place in Gentile territory? That means that Mark is drawing our attention to the fact that the Kingdom of God and the future restoration of all creation are open to everyone, including Gentiles.
Until then we live in the time between times. The Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and will be fully consummated when Jesus returns again.
So what are we to do while we wait?
I’ve found following Jesus’s example is a good place to start. Jesus met people where they were. If they were hungry, he fed them. If they were sick, he cared for them. If they hurt, he met them. Jesus is still on mission and the Kingdom of God can still break into this world today. Look around you. Where is Jesus at work in your home? Your school? Your office? Your floor? Your neighborhood? Your community? Your circle of friends? There is hurt and need all around you. Join with Jesus and help provide someone with a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
Not to bring us crashing back down to reality, but this man, whose ability to hear and speak were restored, he died. The healings, exorcisms, and other miracles that Jesus performed were incredible and life changing, but they were temporary. Does that make them any less important or spectacular? Not at all. Does that mean we should not seek to meet the needs of people around us? Not in the slightest. We just have to keep the whole picture in mind.
Isaiah 35 provides us with the other half of the picture, verse 10 says, At that time, “those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” When Jesus returns and fully ushers in the Kingdom of God, all of creation will be renewed and restored, and death will be no more. One of the first things Jesus did in Mark’s gospel was call people to repentance and right relationship with God. As we live on mission with Jesus, looking for chances to help the Kingdom of God break in, we cannot let eternity escape our minds, and neglect calling people to repentance and right relationship with God.
This coming Sunday Pastor Brynn will preach on the feeding of the 4000 from Mark 8. Brynn is also going to share some of the initial findings from the partner interviews and the most mind blowing detail about baskets that you never knew you needed to know. We are going to be receiving communion again this week, so you won’t want to miss that. Finally, in preparation for Sunday morning hear the Word of the Lord from Mark 8:1-21 (TNIV):
8 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” 4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” 5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. 6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. 11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. 14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” 16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” 21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”