“Jesus, the Divine Healer, Takes Us Aside”
(Mark 7:31-37 – Pentecost 16 – September 9, 2018)
Mark 7:31-37 – Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Dear Redeemed, who have been healed for eternal life by our Savior Jesus Christ:
Do you ever get tired of feeling like just another number, just another face in the crowd? At times, we may not mind being anonymous. If we are in a huge crowd at some public event, we may not want to be singled out with thousands of eyes staring at us. But other times it means a lot for us to be treated as an individual. Like for instance, when we go to the doctor, when we need to be treated for something that hurts, when there is something no one else can understand. Then we want to be given personal care.
Today we see how our Savior does not treat us like just another number. As He sees our need for healing: “Jesus, the Divine Healer, Takes Us Aside.” He treats us 1) Individually, 2) Compassionately, and 3) Powerfully.
First, He takes us aside individually. Matthew’s account says: “Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them” (Matthew 15:30). With great crowds coming to Jesus, it may be easy to imagine Him operating a sort of assembly line of impersonal healings, His disciples ushering through case after case: “All right, next, next…” But Mark’s account shows this was not the case. The Divine Healer treats each one in the crowd as an important individual.
“Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.” There is the personal introduction, the specific need, the urgent request. Jesus takes him aside to treat him to a healing beyond his greatest expectations.
The presenting problem is deaf-muteness. The man cannot hear a thing. His speech is impaired. No one else really understands his world. Imagine living without being able to hear a thing, not even the voices of your loved ones. And with your tongue tied, you cannot fully express your love in words. In a way, this man was closed into his own world. Jesus understood. He saw whatever sorrow and frustration the man felt in his heart.
He also saw the deeper problem, a problem that is shared by each of us. What, you ask, are we deaf; are we tongue tied? Hold that thought for a moment.
Jesus knew this man’s problem from eternity, just as He knew our problem. It is the same. It goes back to our first parents’ fall into sin – sin which we all have inherited, sin whose effects we all feel to this day in many ways. God’s Word leads us to see how all that goes wrong in this world, all that brings anguish and frustration in God’s creation, all illness and death, is evidence of the fallen state of humanity and of Satan’s power active in this world.
Jesus was there in the beginning with the Father and the Holy Spirit at creation, when “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). At first, as God had walked with Adam and Eve in perfect creation, they had no individual problems to bring to Him. They did not have to say things like: “Lord, look at my loved one: He can’t hear or speak any more. Lord help: my loved one is sick, on her deathbed. Lord, these chronic pains: what shall I do? Lord, my heart is hurting like no one can understand.” Such words were unheard and unspoken in the perfect Eden, when sin and evil were still unknown by our first parents.
Jesus was also there to hear the devil’s tempting lie, to see our first parents fall. He was there to see the shocking effects of sin set in on them, as forewarned. He was there to hear the first cries of pain and frustration, to see the sorrow and anguish of death invade their life. The crisis has passed down to everyone, to you and me – fallen children of Adam (Romans 5:12).
But Jesus was there as the promise of restoration was given. One day, He would make all things new. Our Savior would come to reverse the devil’s work and sin’s effects. Romans 8:20-21 says: “The creation was subjected to futility… in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
So it was by God’s plan that His Son entered our world. He came to address the great problem of sin, to address the problems of each of us sinners. In our text we see one example, as the Divine Healer takes an individual aside and reverses the outward effects of sin in his body.
But He came not just to treat sin’s physical effects, but its spiritual effects. With sin comes suffering and death, not just in body but in soul. In the fall, sin destroyed spiritual life so that, though we had ears to hear, we could not hear God’s voice rightly; and though we had tongues to speak, we could not speak God’s praise rightly. Satan’s power had overtaken us and would have cut us off from God forever, if the Divine Healer had not come to reverse that effect too.
Consider the spiritual parallel to this deaf-mute man’s problem: a need shared by us all. Have we been deaf and mute, like this man? Yes spiritually speaking, that is how Jesus found us.
Psalm 19:1 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” But such voices in nature could no longer lead our sinful minds to right knowledge or praise of God. Even when He spoke and revealed Himself to us in His written Word, as fallen sinners we were not spiritually prepared to hear it. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Therefore, we were deaf to God’s revelation of Himself, both in nature and in His Scripture.
Scripture also says: “‘Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:13-14). But as long we were deaf to God’s Word, we could not rightly believe or call on Him in prayer. As God told rebellious sinners in Isaiah’s day: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, we were as good as mute before Him.
Even now that we have been brought to know God by His grace, our ears and tongues are tainted by sin. Too often, as our Epistle lesson in James 1:22-23 says, we hear God’s Word but do not do as it says. We hear God’s gracious Word, how He looks on us with greatest love and forgiveness in Christ. But we go away with ears ready to hear other people wrongly and put the most unkind twist on what they say; and with tongues ready to gossip and speak evil of them.
A few minutes ago, I asked you to imagine living without hearing the voices of loved ones, with your tongue tied from being able to express love to them. At times, do we make our world that way – when we are unwilling to hear the God who loves us, and our tongues are too tied to respond to Him in love; and when faulty spiritual ears and tongues stop us from sharing His love with one another? By sin we cut ourselves off in our own world. Spiritual deafness and muteness hints at the seclusion and misery of hell, where no love is heard or spoken.
But thankfully, Jesus saw our problem and cared. Our Divine Healer came to take each of us aside and administer His individual cure to us. We see here how He does this compassionately.
The friends of this deaf-mute man begged Jesus to place His hand on him. But He did more. First, “He took him aside from the multitude.” It could have been embarrassing and frustrating for this man to be on stage in front of the crowd, unable fully to understand or reply to Jesus. Ever considerate of others’ needs, Jesus showed compassion by taking him aside. Now the man could focus his attention on his Savior and benefit, not only physically but also spiritually.
Next Jesus spoke to him compassionately in a language he could understand, using sign and touch. Picture yourself in this man’s place. Jesus puts His fingers into your ears. Then with His saliva He touches your tongue. Then He looks up to heaven. And you understand: He is about to bring healing from Himself, from the divine source, to you, the passive recipient. Then you see Jesus give a deep sigh and His lips move: “Ephphatha.” For the first time, you hear. You understand! And Jesus looks at you and smiles. See your Savior’s compassion!
Think of the great compassion Jesus has shown us, as He came to save us through deep sighs and words of healing. God’s Son came into our world to identify Himself with our problem. He took on Himself the burden of sin, which is at the root of all our infirmities and sorrows. In His deep sighs, He echoed the groan of creation in its bondage and frustration under sin. He sighed and groaned as “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He took our burden to the cross, to sigh and groan under suffering and death that should have been ours. For our sin He was made like a deaf-mute man. His cries were cut off from His Father who had forsaken Him. His ears were not allowed to hear His Father’s loving voice (Mark 15:34). He felt the culmination of our spiritual deaf-muteness in the seclusion and misery of hell, so we never will.
Now having carried our sins, Jesus speaks words of healing and life to us. He does not come to disgrace us in front of the crowd or frustrate us in our problem of sin. He takes us aside with compassion, to heal and restore us. He meets us where we are at, speaking our language. He shows us by His action and His Word that our healing comes from within Him as the divine source, to us as the passive recipients. He holds His nail-pierced hands open wide to say: “See how much I love you. I have given My precious life to win your forgiveness and eternal life.”
As He takes us aside individually and compassionately, He also speaks powerfully to heal us. To the man in our text He said: “‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly.”
Just as He touched this man where his infirmity lay, to heal his sin-effected organs, Jesus touches us where our infirmity lies. As He speaks His Gospel to us, His Spirit enters our sin-blocked spiritual ears and opens them in faith. For “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). His Spirit touches our sin-bound tongues and loosens them so we can say in faith: “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Our Divine Healer has reversed sin’s effects in our lives. He has removed Satan’s control over our spiritual faculties that had left us dead in our sins. He has brought us faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.
What a difference it makes to be treated as an individual! Jesus will never treat us as just another number. Our Divine Healer takes us aside individually, compassionately, and powerfully to restore our soul. Here we have seen but a glimpse of the final heavenly restoration to come for all believers in Christ, when “creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). For Revelation 21:4 says: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
This man who had been healed now spoke plainly, able to proclaim his Savior’s praises. Likewise we join our hearts and voices, proclaiming with Psalm 103:1-4: “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Amen.