Today we are in Mark 7:31-37.
We say often around here that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing for Christians is Jesus. This year we are working through the extraordinary life of Jesus in the gospel of Mark.
Jesus left Tyre and Sidon where he had an extraordinary conversation with a Syrophoenician woman which ended in the praise of her faith. From that area, Jesus returned to the region of the Decapolis, where he had delivered a man from demonic possession at the cost of a herd of pigs.
The crowds of the Decapolis gathered around Jesus and some in the crowd brought a man to Jesus, begging for help. The man was deaf and had a serious speech impediment. The Greek word for the speech problem this man had only appears one other time in Scriptures, in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. The context of that appearance is Isaiah 35, a glorious anticipation of the blessings to follow the Messiah.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
Jesus does things personally.
It is difficult for those of us with typical hearing to understand what life is like for someone who is deaf.
You can’t enjoy the cardinals singing across the neighborhood, the laughter of a small baby, the angelic sound of a beautiful singer, the blissful sound of symphonic music, the soothing sound of a fall breeze blowing through the cottonwood, the transcendent sound of the waves of the sea, the familiar sound of a loved one’s voice.
You have nothing in the background to distract you from your own thoughts.
You have a unique vulnerability to the hazards of the natural world around you.
You are surrounded by people sharing an experience you can’t fully understand or experience.
Those people who stick with you in friendship do so only by taking on a burden.
There is a particular social stigma that is carried by the deaf.
Jesus draws the man aside for a personal touch and heals him. The crowd is stunned, exceedingly astonished. More than amazed. They exclaim – “He does all things well.”
Jesus does all things well. Years of sermons could be devoted to the ways in which Jesus does things well. In this passage I see 4 qualities of the excellence of Jesus’ works.
Jesus does things personally.
33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately . . .
One of the most extraordinary features of the gospel accounts is the personal touch of Jesus. Time after time, we see Jesus taking the time to engage with one individual.
In Mark 10:21, when a rich young man approaches Jesus, the gospel tells us that “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” It’s extraordinary. He’s the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords and he takes time to see one individual and love him.
These encounters are living demonstrations of the heart of God illustrated in Luke 15 by the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one who is lost. Jesus loves ones. He works on behalf of the one.
Jesus does things sensitively.
he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed
Why the theatrics? Is Jesus practicing some kind of superstitious magic with this man? Mark does not interpret Jesus’ actions for us, but the context does gives us some direction.
People who are deaf, when they cannot hear the voices around them will have great difficulty keeping up with what is happening.
When they have interpretation, through sign language, they often depend on the motion of the interpreters body to capture the sense of what is going on.
When Jesus puts his fingers in the mans ears and touches his mouth, when he looks up to heaven, he is communicating to the man who is deaf.
Jesus is displaying an extraordinary sensitivity to a man with special needs. Driven by compassion, Jesus works with kindness and sensitivity.
To work with the sick and the hurting day after day requires a certain callous, a detachment from the realities. Everywhere Jesus went he was surrounded by crowds pushing in to make demands on his time and energy. He was surrounded by leprosy and illness and disease. He never hardened his heart.
Jesus does things completely.
And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
The effect of Jesus’ actions is expressed in three results.
The mans ears were opened. He was opened to the inward flow of communication from the world.
His tongue was released. He was opened to the outward flow of communication to the world.
These two things alone would be enough. But there is more.
The man is able to speak plainly. (The Greek means rightly.) Not only is he able to hear and to communicate with the world, but his speech is right. The shame and stigma of speech impacted by years of deafness is instantly removed. What would take years of physical therapy is done in an instant.
The man’s tongue was opened and his soul was opened to the world around him in a whole new way. He experienced a complete healing.
But even that is not enough. Earlier in Mark we see that healing of the body is just the beginning for Jesus.
Mark 2:10 – But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Jesus came not just to make the body right, but the soul. In time he would take this man’s sins to the cross in order to make atonement and provide the ultimate healing for the world. His good works, his righteous life, his sacrifice on the cross were done well. They were done completely.
Jesus does things at just the right time.
And Jesus charged them to tell no one.
It wasn’t the right time. Jesus wanted to become famous after the cross as a suffering savior and not simply as a wonder worker.
This is the problem with the prosperity gospel and much religion today. The prosperity gospel seeks to spread the story far and wide that Jesus heals and works wonders without first going with him to the cross.
What shall we do with the prosperity gospel? Leave aside the healing and the wonders in order to keep the cross?
Wisdom avoids all extremes, wisdom refuses to ride the pendulum swing of imbalance and overcorrection by holding to the truth in all of its tensions.
The cross is central. Jesus is not understood unless he is understood on the cross.
But we must not lose the full scope of what Jesus came to accomplish on the cross. He came to save us to the uttermost. He came to take away our sins. He does that well. He came to take away our corrupt heart and give us new incorruptible hearts. He does that well. He came to conquer death and give us eternal life. He does that well. He came to give life abundantly – he came to fix all that was broken, to restore all that was lost, to heal all that is sick in our humanity.
Jesus continues to heal today. Here are a few things that he is doing well today…
Jesus is healing today.
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Jesus is praying for his people today.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Jesus is taking away sin today.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Jesus is shepherding his churches today.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” I know your deeds . . .
Jesus is preparing an eternal home.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
What should we do in response to this revelation of Jesus who does all things well?
We should trust him with all of our heart. We should rest our full weight in him. We should hand over our lives with glad surrender.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown