These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Every one of us starts off spiritually deaf and spiritually speechless. We don’t hear God truth accurately and we struggle to talk to God, about God or talk to others about God plainly. We are spiritually deaf and spiritually speechless. That’s how we all start out. David in Psalm 40:6 praised God by saying, “You have opened my ears and given me the capacity to hear [and obey Your word]” (AMP).
Today we are going to take a look at a man who could not hear and could not talk. Jesus heals him and gives him the ability to hear and ability to talk. This man represents all of us in many ways.
Beginning in Mark 7:31 the Bible says, Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. 32 A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. 33 Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” 35 Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! 36 Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” (NLT)
From this we see several truths about ourselves, Jesus, and our relationship to Jesus as we follow Him throughout life. Let’s set the stage. Mark begins this section by telling us, Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. Two things:
- Jesus had already done many miracles in this area and many of the people from this area had traveled to Jesus when He was in other towns to listen to Him, see Him perform miracles, or to be healed by Jesus personally. His popularity in Sidon and the Ten Towns (Decapolis) was huge and increasing.
- Matthew 15:29-31 helps set the scene regarding the big picture, “Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down.30 A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. 31 The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel” (NLT). It is in that context that the miracle of the deaf man occurs. Whereas Matthew provides an overview of Jesus’ healings, Mark gives a detailed encounter of one of those miracles.
So, what do we learn from this encounter between Jesus and the deaf man?
Jesus knows about your spiritual condition
First, Jesus knows about your spiritual condition. Jesus knows you are spiritually deaf and spiritual silent. In verse 32, Mark tells us that “a deaf man with a speech impediment” was brought to Jesus. His deafness was likely from birth. Without being able to hear as a child, he was unable to learn how to speak which resulted in a severe speech impediment. In that world, no remedies, no medicine, and no surgeries were available to help him. Those suffering from such physical difficulties were usually made fun of and often rejected. They were regarded as mentally handicapped. Adding insult to injury, people with disabilities like deafness or blindness were often seen as being judged by God for some sin in their life or their parent’s life (cf. John 9:1-2).
I believe this man is a picture of every one of us before Jesus enters our lives. Let’s journey into the deaf man’s world and let me show you what I mean.
- Just like this “deaf man” we are disconnected. We are isolated and disconnected from God and from God’s truth. If you were deaf in Biblical times it would be nearly impossible for you to communicate with others and for others to communicate with you. Verbal communication would be impossible. Written communication would be slow and laborious. Sign language was near non-existent and inadequate at best. In many ways you would be disconnected from family, friends, and God. You might be in the same room but it would be very difficult to feel close or a part of what was being said or what was happening.
- Just like this “deaf man” we are unaware. Spiritually, he would have had very little knowledge of God or His truth. Spiritual conversations would have been near impossible. Most of what he would learn about God would come through sight. That would have been very generic in nature. Romans 1:20 addresses this when it says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (NLT). He may have been aware there was a God, but his knowledge would have been very broad and basic. His knowledge of God would mostly come through what He could see. Spiritually speaking, the “deaf man” would be very unaware and ignorant of God and His truth. That’s how we are before Christ. We have to have the ears of our heart opened up so we can hear God’s truth plainly.
- Just like this man’s “speech impediment” we are unable to talk. We are unable to really talk to others or truly talk to God. We have never heard anyone’s conversation and we have never heard anyone talk to God. His speech impediment came from not being able to hear. I think this is true for us before Jesus enters our lives. If we can’t hear spiritual truth from God we will have a difficult time talking to God about spiritual things. We struggle to talk to God, about God, or praise God. We are unable to talk spiritually because we are unable to hear spiritually.
When you come to Jesus or when you are brought to Jesus, Jesus knows about your spiritual condition. He knows you can’t hear spiritually and He knows you don’t know how to talk spiritually or what to say or how to pray. He knows that your ears need to be opened and your mouth freed. This takes us to our second observation.
There are people in your life who care about you
Number two, there are people in your life who care about you. While you are spiritually deaf to God’s truth there are people who care about you. Mark says in verse 32, “A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.”[i]
- Some people just have to be “brought.” You have to go invite them. You have to go and pick them up. You have to bring them. Genesis Church does things in the community, helps with other ministries in our community, blesses organizations in our community. We are online live every Sunday. You can go to our website and watch it later in the week. We produce podcast and advertise on Facebook. All those are good, but every study shows the most effective way of people coming to Genesis or giving their heart to Jesus comes through someone in their life inviting them to church, telling them about Jesus. As a matter of fact, 80% of those who attend a church for the first time was invited by someone they knew.
- Not only did these people bring the man to Jesus, they also interceded for this man before Jesus; they “begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.” This is what ministry looks like sometimes. You are going to have to bring them and then you are going to have to ask Jesus to open their ears to His truth. All you can do is bring them and pray for them.
- Circle the word “begged” (parakaleo). It means “to plead” or “to ask” with a sense of urgency. In desperation for this man, on behalf of their friend who could not speak for himself, they begged and pleaded for Jesus to heal him.
Before we move on, let me share a couple of observations.
- The deaf man was “brought to” He probably would not have known that Jesus was in town or even who Jesus was, he was that cut off from the world. Fortunately he had some family or friends who heard that Jesus was around who brought him to Jesus to intercede on his behalf. They believed in Jesus’ ability to heal, and so they begged him to lay his hands on the man and heal him. Sometimes you need people around you to believe God for you. You have people in your life who need you to believe in God for them.
- Even though this man was deaf and could not talk, he was still a blessed man because he had people in his life that loved and care for Him enough to bring Him to Jesus and to intercede for him before Jesus. He had people in his life that cared for him. You have people in your life who cared for you and who currently care for you.
Jesus meets you where you are
Number three, Jesus meets you where you are. In verse 33 Mark says, “Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone.” Usually, when Jesus healed someone it was public, in front of those who happened to be there. However, occasionally Jesus would pull the person away from the crowd to deal with them privately. There are multiple reasons why Jesus would do this.
- For one, Jesus had a mission and it wasn’t to do miracles it was to teach and preach about the Kingdom of God. He didn’t want the miracles to distract from His teaching.
- Jesus separated the man from the crowd so as not to cater to their persistent desire to see a sign.
- Another reason would be that Jesus simply wanted a private moment with this man. He wanted to give this man His undivided attention.
In some ways this reminds me of John 3:16 which says, “For God loved the world [that’s all 7 billion of us] so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone [that’s you and me as individuals] who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (NLT). Jesus does not save groups of people together: He saves each person individually. You may have been in a crowd when you were saved, but Jesus saved you personally and individually. Even now, even though you may be in a crowd of people today, God is talking to you as an individual.
It’s essential to gather in a large group like this and to gather in smaller groups like a Life Group and prayer together, talk about God’s Word, and encourage each other. It’s also critical to have a private time with Jesus every day in His Word and in prayer. Jesus wants to minister to you personally and privately, just as He did for this deaf man. Jesus will meet you where you are.
Jesus cares about you
Number four, Jesus cares about you. In verse 33, Mark tells us that Jesus “put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” At this moment, the man received the undivided attention and compassion of Jesus. In an act of profound kindness, the Lord began to communicate in basic sign language that he could understand. He used gestures and nonverbal signals. Jesus used four specific signs to make His point.[ii]
- First, Jesus “put his fingers into the man’s ears.” This let the man know that Jesus recognized the man’s physical problem. This let the man know that Jesus didn’t think the man was stunted mentally or possessed by demons, as some may have thought; he simply could not hear. The Lord used a symbolic gesture to demonstrate that He had rightly diagnosed the medical issue.[iii]
- After putting His fingers in the man’s ears and removing them, Mark says, “Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue.” Jesus used spit in His healings on two other occasions (Mark 8:23; John 9:6), but it obviously has no power to restore speech. During Jesus’ day people generally believed that saliva had healing properties. The deaf man would have understood that Jesus’ use of salvia meant He intended to heal him.
- After putting His fingers in the man’s ears, removing them, spitting on his fingers and touching the man’s tongue, Mark says that Jesus “Looked up to heaven.” This was an act of prayer and a sign of dependence on God the Father. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He chose to live His entire human life in dependence on God the Father (John 5:19). He had “looked up to heaven” several times before. Before doing the miracle of feeding thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish the Bible says He “looked up toward heaven, and blessed” the food (Mark 6:41). Before raising Lazarus from the dead the Bible says that Jesus “looked up to heaven” (John 11:41). In John 17 where Jesus prays for His disciples we are told that “Jesus looked up to heaven” (vs.1). For the blind man this communicated that the power to heal came from God. The source of this miracle would be the one true God. It also would reinforce the truth that all good things come from above.
- Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears, spit on His fingers and then touched the man’s tongue, looked up to heaven, and then Mark tells us that Jesus “sighed.” This “sigh” (stenazo) of Jesus was a deep sigh. It is the kind of sigh that comes from pain, hurt, and exhaustion over weary things. It can be translated groan. Jesus is sighing and groaning over how sin has hurt and damaged God’s creation. The man’s deafness and speechlessness was just another expression of the impact of sin that started in the Garden of Eden. This was a compassionate sigh, an empathetic and sympathetic groan for this man and those like Him. This reminds me of Psalm 34:18 which says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (NLT). This reminds me of Hebrews 4:15 which tell us that Jesus “understands our weaknesses” (NLT). It reminds of Romans 12:15 where Paul says, “Weep with those who weep” (NLT). Jesus’ sigh was one way Jesus was sympathizing with the deaf man. His heart was broken for him. Jesus cared deeply about this man and Jesus cares deeply about you.
I think all these physical acts for this deaf man reminds us that the words of salvation must be accompanied by perceived acts of love and kindness. Sometimes we lead the spiritual deaf to Jesus through what we do, rather than what we say. We must display acts of love before some will accept the love.
- For the deaf man, the fingers placed in his ears and then removed meant, “I am going to remove the blockage in your hearing.”
- The spitting and the touching of the man’s tongue meant, “I am going to remove the blockage from your mouth.”
- The glance up to heaven meant, “It is God alone who is able to do this for you.”
- The sigh of Jesus meant, “I care for you.”
Jesus can set you free
This takes us to number five, Jesus can set you free. We are told at the end of verse 34 Jesus said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” 35 Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! Two things happened “instantly.”
- First, the man could “hear perfectly.” A flood of sound came into his life. He could hear the crowd talking and moving about off in the distance. He heard the birds in the trees, the wind blowing through the trees, and he could hear the sound of his own voice. He went from complete silence to perfect surround sound.
For me, this miracle reveals and demonstrates the power of Jesus to heal the spiritual deaf. He can give sinners an ear to hear the truths of God. He can make the lost person delight in listening to the very Gospel which he once ignored, ridiculed or despised.
- Second, the man could “speak plainly.” Mark describes his mouth being “freed” (desmon). This idea refers to being freed from chains. It was like his mouth had been tied up and now it has been set free. The extent of the miracle went beyond merely repairing the man’s physical faculties. He was given the ability to clearly speak. He needed no speech therapy. He was immediately able to speak “plainly.”
This word “plainly” comes from the Greek word orthos, meaning “straight” or “right.” We get words like “orthodox” which means correct belief and “orthodontics” which means straight teeth. He was immediately able to talk right and speak correctly. We are not told, but I do wonder what the first thing this man said. Can you imagine all the questions he had about what he saw, but did not understand? Can you imagine all the stories he wanted to tell, but could not.
This reminds me of the power of God to transform the speech of someone who becomes a follower of Jesus. The person who never spoke of God loves to talk about God now. The person who never prayed finds it a delight to talk to God. The person who never sang praise to God now worships God freely with other believers. The person who never talked to others about Jesus is now having conversations about what Jesus has done for them. They now “speak plainly” about the things of God.
Jesus does everything well
Finally, we see that Jesus does everything well. Mark says in verse 36, Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”
- Once the crowd realized what had happened Jesus told them “not to tell anyone.” The reason Jesus did this was because the crowds were already getting to big and the people wanted more and more miracles rather than the truth of God’s kingdom.[iv] They were more interested in what they could get from Jesus rather than following Him. The crowds were beginning to see Jesus as a political and national leader. That was not His mission. His mission was to seek and save the lost. To slow the frenzy down Jesus “told the crowd not to tell anyone.” However, they were so “amazed”[v] at Jesus they couldn’t help but “spread the news” about the healing of the deaf man.
- In their amazement the people said again and again, “Everything He does is wonderful.” The word “wonderful” (kalos) means “well,” or “right,” or “correct.” The people were commenting on the perfection of His miracles. Their recovery was immediate, and their restoration complete. Jesus’ healings never failed; they were perfect every time.
- The phrase “everything he does is wonderful” seems to echo the language of Genesis 1:31 where we are told after God created everything that “God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (NLT). When God does something, He always does it well. He never does sloppy or substandard work. What He begins He finishes, and He always does it to perfection. That is good news for us, because if you are a believer, God is in process of working on you. And as we read in the book of Philippians, you can be confident of this: “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). God does everything well and everything he does is wonderful, including you.
- As I think about the works of Jesus in my own life, I have to say that Jesus has done all things well. He has blessed me beyond measure. I have been saved by His grace and adopted into the family of God. He has blessed me with fellow believers to walk this road of life with. He is always there to guide my steps. I have never been disappointed in my Lord. I have never regretted the day that I was saved. “Everything he” has done in my life has been “wonderful.” I may not have understood it all, but I know that what He does is always “wonderful.”
The people who were amazed at what Jesus had done concluded by saying in verse 37, “He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” Without knowing it the people were identifying Jesus as the Messiah and Savior that was prophesied to come back in Isaiah 35:5 which says, “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!” (vs. 5-6, NLT). This miracle of healing the deaf man was a small sample of what God’s kingdom will be like when He returns for His people. Everything Jesus does is wonderful!
Let’s go back to the phrase “be opened!”
- God wants the ears of your heart to be opened. He wants you to hear what He is saying. He wants you to listen to His Words. Be opened to receive His truth.
- God wants your mouth to be opened. He wants you to talk to Him. He wants your mouth to open with praise, thanksgiving, request, and intercession for others.
- God wants your life to be opened. Open to where God would send you. Open to what God wants you to do. Open to changes and new directions for your life.
[i] Does this remind you of another healing miracle? In Mark 2 we read about the four friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus and tore up the roof to lower him in front of Jesus. My favorite part of that miracle is where it says that when Jesus saw their faith, he spoke to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
[ii] This apparently strange way of healing this deaf man provides a simple lesson to be learned. Jesus is not tied to the use of any one means in doing His work among people. Sometimes Jesus thought it would be best to work one way and then another. His variety of healing reveals the variety of ways God works in the lives of His people. We see the same thing going on in His church. We see continual proof that the Lord is not tied to the use of any one means exclusively in conveying His love and grace. Sometimes Jesus is pleased to work by the Word preached publicly, sometimes the word read privately. Sometimes He awakens people by using sickness and affliction, sometimes by the rebukes or counsel of friends. Sometimes He arrests their attention by some act of providence.
[iii] It is interesting that in Mark 9:25 Jesus rebuked an “evil spirit” that made a boy “unable to hear or speak.” In the case of the deaf man there is no evidence that this man’s affliction is anything but physical.
[iv] As in Galilee, the Lord had no desire to add fuel to the fire of their inherently materialistic and political expectations about Him (cf. John 6:15). Jesus issued similar commands at other times as well (cf. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 17:9; Mark 1:25, 34, 44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30; 9:9; Luke 4:41; 9:21). On certain occasions, the Lord insisted on silence because He knew the report would amplify the enthusiastic fervor of the crowds, which would only hinder His ministry (cf. Mark 1:40-45; John 6:14-15). As noted above, that was likely part of Jesus’ concern on this occasion since large crowds were already flocking to Him in the Decapolis (cf. Mark 8:1-10). At other times, the gag order served as an act of judgement on unbelievers by obscuring the truth from those who had permanently rejected Him (cf. Luke 9:21). However, the primary reason Jesus repeatedly insisted on this kind of silence is found in Mark 8:30-31. After His disciples identified Him as the Messiah and the Son of God (v. 29; cf. Matt. 16:18), “He warned them to tell no one about Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Knowing that His earthly mission would not be accomplished until after His death and resurrection, Jesus instructed even His own disciples to remain quiet until after the story was complete. Many whom He healed knew Him merely as a miracle worker, but Jesus had come for a far more glorious purpose (cf. Luke 19:10). A message that highlighted only His miraculous healings would be inadequate. The full message about Him must include the truth that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). (MacArthur, 380-381)
[v] Mark tells us the people “were completely amazed.” The word “completely” (huperperissos) means “exceedingly,” “above all measure,” or “superabundantly.” The word “amazed” (ekplesso) means “to be blown away” or “to be blown out of one’s mind.” The people were completely awestruck and could not contain themselves. “Amazed” (ekplesso) means to drive out of one’s senses by a sudden shock or strong feeling, or “to be exceedingly struck in mind.” It means to cause to be filled with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed. Expresses a stunned amazement that leaves the subject unable to grasp what is happening.