“Ephphatha!” – “Be opened!”
Mark 7:31-37 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 him to place his hand on the man. 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."
Maybe you have seen the videos on YouTube or through your Facebook feed. They are videos of deaf people who hear sounds for the first time. Doctors put cochlear implants into people’s ears. When the implants are activated, the deaf person can immediately hear their first-ever sounds. The videos record the reactions of these people hearing voices for the first time in their lives.
They show babies who are hearing their parents’ voices for the first time. They show adults who have never heard before, now hearing. And their reactions? The babies become wide-eyed and a big smile breaks out on their faces. The teenagers and adults who have gone much longer without ever hearing – when they hear sounds, they become overwhelmed and have to cover their faces. They begin crying. The tears of joy just start flowing.
If you watch those videos, you will begin crying along with them. I’ve watched a few of them and end up bawling like a baby. It is very moving to see the extreme joy that overcomes a person when the deaf hear for the first time.
Instead of watching a video, we read about a deaf man who hears for the first time. But it isn’t from a cochlear implant, but from the Son of God. Jesus opens the man’s closed ears with a single Aramaic word, “Ephphatha.”
Consider the compassion of the Savior. Friends have brought this special-needs Gentile to Jesus. Their friend is both deaf and mute. Jesus takes him away from the crowds so that the man can focus on Him and so that He can focus on the man. Since the man cannot hear, Jesus does some visual actions to convey what He is about to do. He puts His fingers into the man’s ears as if to say, “I’m going to fix what’s wrong with your ears.” He spits and touches the man’s tongue. “I’m going to fix that, as well.”
We don’t know why Jesus used spittle. But if a mom’s spittle can clean her child’s grimy face, surely the spittle of the Son of God can fix what once was broken.
Jesus looks up to heaven to communicate from where this blessing is coming. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
There is one more thing Jesus does before He heals this deaf-mute man. He sighs. Jesus is moved with emotion as He deals with the damage that sin has done to one of His children. Jesus shared in our humanity so that He could free us from the devil’s power and pain (Hebrew 2:14). He is a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3). He agonizes over the results of humanity’s fall into sin that have caused this extreme physical suffering upon His precious child. God’s beautiful creation has become damaged. Jesus sighs. He echoes the sigh of all creation at the fall into sin (Romans 8:22).
And now Jesus is ready to commence with the healing. He speaks a word – that funny-sounding word, “Ephphatha.” It may sound strange to our ears, but it is a powerful word – precisely because the Great Physician proclaims it. “Ephphatha.” It’s an Aramaic word, which is the language that Jesus spoke. “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And when the Son of God speaks, things happen.
The same fingers that formed man out of clay now reform the man’s inner ear canal. The same divine power that opened the floodgates to fill the oceans at creation, now opens the man’s ears to hear the flooding of sounds both strange and wonderful at the same time. The shackles of Satan are cast off this poor man. Perhaps for the first time he can hear sounds … words … music! He is released from his prison of silence.
The man’s ears are opened, and he hears for the first time! Imagine the overwhelming emotion the man felt – like those people in the videos! Tears of joy! And it’s not just his ears that work now, but also his tongue. His tongue is loosed, and he speaks … clearly. No learning how to enunciate or form vowels and consonants. No speech impediment. He can hear and speak clearly. What a joy! What a blessing! And when the people find out what Jesus did for this poor man, they are amazed and overjoyed also: “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Jesus does the same thing for us. It is always scary when we realize that we might lose our sight or our hearing or our memory or our independence. It may be part of Jesus’ divine will to heal us of our physical ailments.
More importantly, we know that it is definitely part of Jesus’ divine will to heal us of our spiritual ailments.
What are those spiritual ailments? Sadly, they are ones that are often self-imposed. We tune out God’s voice so that we can live in sin with our boyfriend or girlfriend. We turn a deaf ear to God’s peace so we can walk in the door after work ready for a fight with our spouse. We close our ears to God’s love so that our hearts are filled with resentment and revenge.
We turn a blind eye to the beauty of God’s creation so that we may complain about whatever piddly annoyance aggravates us. We fail to see God’s overarching will for our lives so we are consumed with worry and doubt. We are so nearsighted looking only at the trinkets of this world that we miss out on the treasures of the world to come.
We shut up our mouths so that we do not give God the glory He deserves because of our lack of worship. We close our lips so that we do not avail ourselves of God’s almighty power because of our lack of prayer. We are afraid to speak God’s truths to our children so don’t share our faith in our Savior with them.
We don’t read our Bibles. We skip worship. We don’t pray with our children. We have no clue what the voice of our Savior really sounds like. We have no idea what God’s holy will for our lives really looks like. We live for ourselves and let the Savior just walk on by.
We have become comfortable with our deafness. We have become complacent in our blindness. We have eyes, but fail to see. We have ears, but fail to hear (Mark 8:18).
Thank the Lord that this is why Jesus came. To fix what Satan has broken. To heal what humanity has hurt. To save sinners from their self-imposed damnation.
“He has done all things well,” the people said when Jesus healed the deaf and mute man. Jesus definitely has done all things well, but the supreme thing He has done well is to rescue, redeem and reclaim a world of lost, blind, deaf, and dying sinners.
This happened, not by way of a cochlear implant, but by way of a cross and an implanted word. The cross, which was planted on Calvary’s hill, is the place where Jesus does the fixing. All the damage that Satan caused – disease and disability and death – Jesus reversed it. All the people not living right and enjoying their sin – Jesus saved them from it. All the spiritual blindness and deafness that we allow in our daily lives – Jesus heals us from it.
We humans got out of step with God. We disobeyed God’s will and rebelled against our Creator. And everything got messed up – our bodies, our lives, even our souls. You are here today because you know you aren’t perfect. You realize that you are therefore in need of a perfect Savior.
And that’s who Jesus is.
Jesus is the perfect Son of God who came down from heaven to be our Savior. He took on our flesh. He came face to face with Satan. He came finger to ear and spittle to tongue with the effects of our sin. He came to be buried in our death. He lived the perfect life of always having an open ear to the voice of His Father and an open mouth to praise His Lord. Jesus gave that perfection to us. His holiness covers over our sinfulness, our blind eyes, deaf ears, mute tongues, and hard hearts.
Jesus then went to the cross to finish the job of fixing us. He bore the sins of our selfishness, our laziness, our lack of worship, our disobedience to His holy will, etc. He was the innocent who bore the penalty for the guilty. Jesus became our Substitute and our Savior. He spoke His own “Ephphatha” at His tomb and opened the grave so He could walk out. He has opened the graves for all those who believe in Him. Now, though the curse of sin will eventually kill us, the blessing of Jesus’ open tomb allows us to live once again.
This is the only way we could be forgiven. The only way we could be healed. The only way we could be saved. The only way we can enter the gates of heaven.
Thank the Lord that Jesus still utters His “Ephphatha” for us also. Because of what Jesus has done for you, now you can believe. Now you can hear. Now you can speak. Your ears have been opened to hear the voice of the Lord. Your tongue has been loosened to praise your Savior for what He has done for you. Your heart has been healed. Your soul has been saved.
But my once broken but now healed brothers and sisters in Christ, the best is yet to come. Because of Jesus you will soon see the glories of heaven. You will hear the praise of the angels. You will sing the song of the saints.
And when we realize exactly what Jesus has done for us … it’s OK for us to smile, to be overwhelmed with joy, and to bawl like babies. Amen.He who has an ear, let Him hear (Mark 4:23).