Genesis 13:2-18; Galatians 2:1-10; Mark 7:31-37
An unnamed man is brought to Jesus by an anonymous crowd. They intervene on the unknown man’s behalf, begging that Jesus heal both his speech and hearing disability. With a gentle touch, the natural elements of spit and mud, and a simple word, “Ephphatha,” that is, “be opened,” the man’s “ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:34b-35).
When we were brought to baptism a similar miracle unfolded. With a simple touch, the earthly element of water, and God’s Word we were set free from our bondage. Although the bondage may not be have been of a physical nature as in our reading, it is the captivity of sin and certain death.
However, as we grow in years, we allow the fear of public opinion, the chasing after worldly goods, empty promises, and the erroneous use of our time to incarcerate us anew, limiting or even disabling our faithful Christian worship and witness. “Daily,” Martin Luther urges, “remember your baptism.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as you made the deaf hear and the dumb speak, may our ears receive your word, and our mouths proclaim the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Heidi Punt, Pastor of Christ United Lutheran Church in Granite Falls, NC.
Yes, an anonymous group of people intervened by “bringing” the Deaf man to Jesus. The Greek word for “bring” (of course translating Jesus’ spoken language for the Greek language used by Mark’s Greek reading target audience) can also convey the nuance of “carry” or “tote.” Were they taking him to Jesus against his will. Perhaps. Nothing in the text implies that the man was interested in meeting the healer. Even though he was Deaf and used Sign Language, as Deaf people in the first century Greek world did, he would have “heard” about Jesus and could have gone to him by himself with having to be ” brought” by anyone.
The text does not use the word “heal.” There is a Greek word for “heal” and the Holy Spirit could have moved Mark to use that word, but He did not. In fact, Jesus did not heal him; he wasn’t sick, ill or diseased. He was simply Deaf! Jesus did miraculously gave him the ability to hear and speak clearly.
The text depicts Jesus as saying the Syriac derived Aramaic word, “Ephphatha” to the man, the whole man, not only his ears. Jesus could have just said, “Let your EARS be opened,” but He chose not to.
By communicating with the man non-verbally i.e. taking him away from the crowd for some private time with the Master and touching him in such intimate ways people don’t usually use (When is the last time you took some of your spit and put it on another person’s tongue? ) Jesus conveys acceptance rather than rejection, which was the commonly held view in both the Jewish and Greek worlds of His day. THIS was his act of healing, not physical but spiritual, for the man. The disciples Jesus was traveling with would have been horrified that Jesus would make himself, in their view, unclean by this contact.
Yes, we are freed from spiritual bondage to sin when we are baptized. The Deaf man was freed from spiritual bond age when Jesus embraced him as a brother. The Deaf was freed from no physical bond age at all, he was given a miraculous gift.
The word “dumb” is not usually used in translating this text into English today. The meaning of that word has changed and causes offense.
Pastor Dayton A. Williams
Pastor for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
Graduate of Gallaudet University for the Deaf, Washington, D.C.
Certified Sign Language interpreter
Metro Chicago Synod – ELCA