So far in Mark’s gospel, we’ve been learning about the power of Jesus’s words. His words are like seeds planted in soil that break open, grow, and bear fruit. His words are not sterile, but potent. We’ve learned this is why Jesus is constantly repeating, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” because Jesus’s powerful words are meant to be heard. Once they are heard, they go to work and do something in our souls. His words get inside us like impregnating seeds and cause new life to form inside us. This is part of his plan of grace, it’s not something we do on our own, but something he does to us. He gives us new life, he causes us to believe, he heals us.
But what if you cannot hear him when he speaks? In other words, what if you’re literally deaf? Does this mean Jesus’s words cannot get inside you and change you? Mark 7:31-37 tells the story of a deaf and mute man, who can neither hear Jesus’s words nor confess Jesus to be his Lord. As we will learn, not even he is beyond hope.
There are no special cases, in case you think you might be one. You are not beyond hope, so let’s turn to the story to see how this truth is shown.
“And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him” (Mark 7:32). Here is a man who cannot hear Jesus preach the word, nor can the man voice his faith in him. But this does not mean he is beyond the reach of Jesus. This man might not have been able to hear or speak, but he had wonderful friends, who cared enough to take him to Jesus. His friends did more than casually ask Jesus on his behalf; rather, they begged Jesus to help him. So far, Mark’s story is leading to this point, because of the emphasis on hearing and responding to Jesus’s word; suddenly, here is a man who can do neither. What will become of him?
If there’s one thing I’d like people to know about Jesus it’s this: there are no cookie-cutter solutions. Jesus is not an assembly line worker, applying the same nut and bolt to everyone he meets. He takes each person as he or she comes and ministers to his or her individual needs. He knows you personally and cares for you personally. He honors, values, and respects your struggles, situation, and needs. And you are not beyond his reach. You may look at yourself in the mirror and honestly believe you’re a ‘special case’ that Jesus hasn’t dealt with before; but even if he has not seen ‘your kind’ before, he will joyfully, lovingly, and gladly make an exception for you. He will take you as you are and determine the approach that works best with who you are and what you need. He honors and respects every individual story and soul.
Here’s how it looked for the deaf, mute man, for Jesus did something to him we don’t read anywhere else. “And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” (Mark 7:33-35).
What a beautiful scene! In all its weirdness, it’s incredibly intimate and individual. Jesus intimately fingers his ear holes; Jesus touches the man’s tongue; the man’s tongue gets Jesus’s spit on it! On the surface it might seem awkward, but, when you think about it for a moment, it’s incredibly beautiful. Could you imagine having the spit of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, on your tongue, so that you’re literally tasting Salvation?
Doesn’t that stir your heart like nothing else? In everything we do, whether eat a cinnamon roll, write a song, do the dishes, or argue with our coworker, we are looking to taste salvation. We want to be saved, healed, made whole, fixed, repaired, fulfilled, embraced, completed, once and for all. This man got to taste the Savior who gives salvation.
Notice the ironic actions of Jesus: the man couldn’t hear, so Jesus stuck his fingers in his ears; the man couldn’t speak, so Jesus held his tongue. Jesus plugged his ears and held his tongue in order to get him to have unplugged ears and a free tongue.
Take in that extraordinary truth for a moment and think about your life. Jesus restricts in order to make free. You have an issue, a problem, an inability; to surrender to God means to let him hold you down. He won’t just instantly take away your problem, but he will solve your problem with a problem. He will crucify your problem. To be free, you have to nail yourself to him.
Think about how Jesus destroyed death. He did it by going to the cross and dying. He destroyed death with death! In the same way, he destroyed deafness by making the man deaf; and he destroyed muteness by holding the man’s tongue and making him mute. This is God’s strange and wild work! However you think he should help you, chances are, he’ll do the opposite.
Your problem cannot be solved by logic or keeping the law, do you realize this? In other words, if your problem is sexual immorality, you can’t solve it by trying to keep the law of being sexually pure. Nobody can keep the law and the law cannot keep anybody safe from sin. We must stop trying to fix ourselves by keeping the law; we must surrender to Jesus, instead. Bind yourself to Christ who will crucify your flesh. He will do the opposite of what you think and cause you pain in order to heal your pain. He heals by breaking.
Jesus gave the man unique treatment and ‘crucified’ his deafness and muteness. The man was healed and set free. Afterwards, the people who saw it said, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:37). Jesus found a way to get his living word inside the deaf man, so it could take root and grow. There is nothing he can’t do well.
This means he knows just what to do for you, too. You are not beyond hope. When it says, “He can do all things well,” it means he can heal you ‘well,’ too. Jesus will embrace your weakness until you’re able to make it on your own.
Finally, in order for God to help you, you have to come clean and show him your weakness. Even more, you have to let him put his hands all over your weakness. We like to keep our dirt away from him, we like to keep our problems at a safe distance, because we think he’d be too offended by them. However, as this passage demonstrates, Jesus wants to grab hold of our tongues and put his spit on them! He wants to finger our earwax! In other words, Jesus is not afraid to get dirty. He longs to be intimate with you and take hold of your problems, no matter how disgusting they might seem. Don’t be too proud to be real with Jesus Christ. Expose your weaknesses and shameful underbelly to him.
This is a message for the church, too, who often is too afraid and too proud to show its dirt to others. Thank God the deaf and mute man wasn’t too proud to expose himself and his weaknesses in front of his friends and his God. That is true Christiantiy.
- Be honest, do you think you’re a ‘special case’ that God cannot help? That he does not want to help? Why do you think this way? Who gave you this message?
- If Jesus were to touch a part of you right now, what would it be? Where do you need healing? Consider how Jesus made the man deaf and mute in order to heal him of being deaf and mute, what would Jesus do for you?
- You must allow God to know your weakness and touch your weakness. This might be incredibly scary to do, but there’s no other way. Pray right now and confess your weakness and ask God to grab hold of it. Also pray for the courage to expose your weakness and shameful failing to another person.