Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 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. 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.
And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37
Jesus travels from the territory to Gentile territory on the Mediterranean to the Gentile Decapolis, where he had previously exorcised Legion from the man to the large passel of pigs. There appear to be some followers in the region because “they brought him a man who was deaf.”
Jesus uses his spit as part of this healing (see Mark 8:23, John 9:6). In certain quarters of the ancient world, the belief was that saliva had healing properties and was used by some physicians and supernatural healers. Some scholars believe Jesus used it as a symbol that the healing came from his body to theirs; an interesting hypothesis. Is it possible that the sigh he uses is also an affectation along with the use of spit, as the word here is ἐστέναξεν (estenaxen) which better translates as a deep expelling groan (think woman pushing during childbirth). Add in the Aramaic exclamation, “Be opened,” and you have a powerful visual that may help this non-Jewish man understand the healing coming from the rabbi. Regardless, Jesus heals this Gentile man’s deafness and the associated verbal impediment.
He caps the whole event off with a dose of keeping the “Messianic Secret.” But they don’t keep it quiet and tell everyone; just like their Jewish counterparts. I guess people will be people no matter what their context!
One last thing. These people compliment all of his works as being done exceptionally well, and he even heals the deaf and mute. With all this detail packed into this story by Mark, he undoubtedly caps it off with a not so veiled scripture reference:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. Isaiah 35:5-6a
So far in this Gospel, we have seen the lame walk, the dead rise, the deaf healed, the mute talk, and more. It looks like Mark is engaging in a little spitballing to convey a very concise idea; this guy is The One!
It’s just a matter of time before we witness
the eyes of the blind being opened!
You are the Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything!
I pray in the name of the Anointed One. Amen!