[Mark 7:31-37] Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 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. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Jesus Gives Good Hearing & Correct Speaking
I can’t sort out what I’m hearing. And I don’t know what I should say. I have a hard time knowing what I should believe about this or that issue. And when I know the truth, I don’t how to speak rightly to convince others of it.
I talk and talk the truth to my son, my daughter, my loved one, but the truth falls on deaf ears. I’ve taught them the right belief, but everything they speak is some other nonsense.
Deaf and can’t speak. Sin renders human understanding deaf to God’s Word. Sin hinders human speech from articulating God’s truth.
Yes, by your participation in the sins of this life, and by your neglect and apathy toward a vigorously Christian life, you deafen and dumb your understanding of God’s truth and your ability to speak it. And, in fact, human nature itself, in its sin-fallen state, even from conception and birth, cannot hear or understand the things of God and cannot speak the truth.
Have a baby. Raise it up. Children seem to learn and speak many things quite naturally. But knowing and speaking the truth of God’s Word does not come naturally. By nature, the child knows to call you mom. The child does not know by nature to say, “Jesus is Lord”. The child, by nature, knows “mom”, “dad”, “sister”. The child does not know by nature “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit”.
By nature, sin-fallen mankind – including you and your children – is deaf to the things of God and therefore does not naturally know how to speak the truth on many issues. Scripture teaches this: “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. Spiritually deaf. A spiritually tied tongue. Their hearing must be healed. Their speaking must be healed.
Today, in our Gospel reading, our Lord Jesus healed a man’s ears and tongue. Jesus was in a region of darkness. Jesus was in the region of the Decapolis. A Gentile region - a region not of God’s people. Here Jesus found a man whose hearing was deaf and whose speech was impeded.
Those who loved this man brought Jesus to him and prayed earnestly, begged, that Jesus would lay his hands on him to heal him. They were not lazy in taking care of their deaf loved one. They brought Jesus to him.
Jesus had compassion. He asked nothing about the deaf man, but had sympathy for him. Jesus takes the man aside privately and heals him hands on. Sometimes, Jesus merely spoke to heal. Here, our Lord is physical. Jesus, unashamed of the sinner, jams his fingers into the deaf man’s ears and then spits and, apparently, applies the saliva to the man’s impeded tongue.
This real, concrete contact with Jesus heals. But it wasn’t the contact alone. Jesus also prayed and spoke. His prayer was a groan, a sigh to heaven – “and looking up to heaven, he sighed…” And, yes, he spoke – he “said to the man, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’”.
The Word of God preached. The prayers of God’s people. And the concrete Means of God’s Grace: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through all of these, the hands and the spit and the prayers and the speaking of Jesus are at work to open deaf ears and to loose spiritually tied tongues.
The Word of God. Prayers. Baptism. Receiving the Supper. By these, the hands, the mouth, and the groans of Jesus are healing your hearing and healing your speaking so that you can hear and speak the truth of God’s Word correctly, rightly, on many issues. Our sinful nature still hinders us. But through Word, Prayer, and Sacrament, Jesus is still healing you. To increase in hearing, understanding, and speaking the truth rightly and clearly, increase your receiving of Jesus, the God who heals.
What about your son or daughter? What about those who haven’t even had the chance? You live and work in a dark region, a place not of God’s truth. You have many friends, coworkers, neighbors, cousins, and other acquaintances who are not able to hear and speak the truth on many issues – in fact, they are falling for the world’s lies – and, more importantly, they don’t even know how to hear or speak the very basic truths of who and what they are and who God is, who Jesus is.
You must love these people and therefore bring Jesus to them just as those people in the Gospel brought Jesus to that deaf man. Bring Jesus to them. Bring, invite, your coworkers, friends, neighbors, family members here to where Jesus is. Bring them to the Word of God so that the Word of God can free up their ears and tongues to His truth.
In fact, Scripture says that faith itself comes, not by a human decision, but through this kind of hearing – “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17]. And pray, sigh, grown for deaf and dumb people just as your dear Lord Jesus has so naturally had compassion even on you. Speak. Invite. Pray.
The deaf tongue-tied man in today’s Gospel lesson was healed – “his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly” – “He spoke rightly, correctly”, in the Greek. How many of us and how many out there need to learn to hear and speak rightly? Jesus will do it. Jesus is the Savior of sin-fallen, natural man.
In fact, for all those who are spiritually deaf and can’t speak the truth, Jesus died. Jesus died to forgive them for it. To forgive them, and you, and me for our sin-caused blindness. The shed blood of Jesus has forgiven it all.
You might be a person who knows the truth, has benefited inwardly from it, and who wants to tell others about it, but you don’t know how. Learn how. If you can, sign up for “Everyone His Witness”. Come to Bible Study. Ask how and what to say. Make an effort. Making an effort will make a difference.
Even if we learn how to speak to others about Jesus just a little bit more. Even if we just go from not speaking about Jesus at all to speaking about Him some with a stutter and not very well, that little bit will still be effective and will lead to the healing of other ears and tongues. Jesus will heal. And Jesus can make you able to do things that you can’t yet do or are afraid to do. Jesus, who is God over all things, can change our abilities for the better.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus loves you. Jesus forgives you. Jesus found you as a little deaf child and has healed your ears to hear and your tongues to speak His truth. Jesus loves you, forgives you, and heals you. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.