Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mk 7:31-37)
Two of my beloved sisters in Christ mulled through this passage with me this morning. It is an honor and pleasure to discuss His word with them; their insights are always varied, perceptive, and interesting.
I've always loved the sacramental juiciness of this story. It reminds me of Jesus healing the blind man using mud made from spittle and dust in John 9. I wonder why He sometimes heals with a thought or a word or a simple touch, and sometimes through the use of other matter? In this case, He passes along His spit.
My first thought was that it is like a kiss. A passionate kiss.
Spittle is transmitted one of three ways: through a sneeze, through the occasional droplet flung when speaking, or through open mouthed kissing. The first two require a perfect storm of invariably accidental events; the recipient waits with an open mouth, the provider unintentionally launches. The third however is a dance between willing participants.
The deaf mute watched what Jesus did. He felt Jesus' fingers in his ears. He saw Him spit on His hand and then reach for his mouth. He could have clamped his jaws shut, refusing the gift. He could have gone back to the multitude able to hear but still not speak. But he didn't turn his head in repugnance. He received God's kiss.
In return for his trust, what did he get?
The deaf mute's ears were opened to sound, and his mind was opened to meaning through words.
His tongue was freed from it's impediment, and taught to form words.
He did not have to learn all these things over years as we do as babies. He began to speak plainly, clearly. Our Lord implanted in him all he needed to know.
And as DiDi pointed out, the first words he heard were those of his Lord and his God, undoubtedly speaking of His love for His child and brother, the man for whom His Spirit groaned.
What gifts He gives us in response to our obedience and trust.
May I always act with similar faith.
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