Healing the Deaf Man

Time for a checkup?

Are your ears open and is your Facebook post about God’s love?

Mark 7:31-37 31 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 Jesus to place his hand on him.

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.”

Blind Man-louvre-jesus-guerissant

 The Healing of the Deaf and Dumb Man by the Dutch artist Bartholomew Breenbergh (1599-1657)

Bartholomew Breenbergh illustrates this miraculous healing in a supernatural setting that is more similar to an ancient Roman city of Tivoli than Tyre in northern Israel. (Tyre is about 85 miles north of Tel Aviv in southern Lebanon) Although he takes liberty with the scene, he recounts Mark’s Gospel literally with Jesus taking the man away from the crowd and putting his fingers in his ears and touching his tongue. Breenbergh uses contrasting images of light and darkness to place the deaf man in the spotlight as others ( a boy with a dog, a man with crutches) witness this miracle.

Martin Luther:  In his sermon on Mark 7 in 1533, Martin Luther emphasized the importance of opening our ears and loosening our tongue. We hear God’s Word and confess our sins! Here are selected passages from Martin Luther’s sermon:

“Christ shows us that He opens ears and unbinds tongues. He seeks to perform this work daily in his church. . . . It is a physical fact that God gives sound ears and tongues also to the heathen; but only for Christians is this spiritual fact true, that he opens ears and looses tongues. For we Christians must hear His Word with our ears and confess with our lips.

“This is sure, that we have our salvation alone through the Word of God. What would we otherwise know about God, about our Lord Christ, his sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit? To this day the greatest miracle and mightiest work is giving a person ears that gladly hear God’s Word and a tongue that honors God and does not blaspheme.

“Many people are a thousand times worse off than this poor deaf and dumb man. They have ears that are really stopped up. They hear God’s Word and yet really do not hear it, nor do they want to. But those who hear God’s Word gladly and to whom Christ says, as to the deaf man, ‘Ephphatha (Be opened),’ are helped. . . God has shown us no other way by which we can come into heaven than through his precious Word, the Holy Gospel. Whoever gladly and diligently hears and receives it and who loves and delights in it will be helped.

“God also stirs our tongues and causes us to speak. . . . Through faith in Christ we come to have the forgiveness of sins; confession should also follow. We must not be mute, but speak what we believe in our hearts.”

“Our tongues will not be loosed, our ears opened, faith in our hearts begun, without the outward, oral preaching of the Word and external Sacraments. For parish pastors and preachers are the fingers of our Lord God, the servants and spittle through which he looses our tongues and opens our ears. When you hear them, God says to your heart, as to this deaf man, ‘Ephphatha!’ so that your ears are opened, your tongue unsticks, and you become a hearing, speaking person, no longer deaf and mute.”

“Then they praise God, saying: “He hath done all things well, he has made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.” For wherever there is true faith, there the Spirit will not allow you any rest; you will break forth, become a priest, teach other people also, as we read Ps. 116:10: “I believe, for I will speak.” There the heart is full, and the mouth must run over. Then when they are persecuted, they will not care.

But the part of the story, that Christ took the man apart from the others, looks up to heaven, has this meaning: If God do not take me alone to a separate place, and give me the Holy Spirit, so that I cling to the Word which I have heard, then all preaching is in vain. But why does this require so much that he looks up to heaven and makes use of divine power, calling upon God’s grace to come and to act? By this he teaches us that such power must come from heaven, working in the heart of man by divine strength; then help comes to him.

Thus have you learned, from the story and from its spiritual or secret meaning, that we must first hear the Word of God and thus, through the intercession of Christ, obtain a faith of our own, and then we come out, confessing this and praising God forever.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

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