Do you ever feel like you have been kicked to the curb? Or maybe you have some impediment (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) that holds you down and you feel like you are on the outside looking in? You feel like nobody sees or hears you. While the world so often lacks the personal touch we deeply long for, today we will look at a story which only appears in the Gospel of Mark. This story speaks so clearly of how Jesus meets us specifically at the point of our need.
The context for today’s text is this – Jesus has been going around doing ministry, namely teaching, healing the sick and casting out demons. In one case, Jesus encounters a man who the text says had an “impure spirit” (Mk 5:2). Jesus calls out to the demon only to find out that this man has many demons (verse 5:9 says this, “for we are many.”) Jesus commands these demons to leave the man and into a herd of pigs. These pigs, now demon-possessed, jump off a cliff and drown themselves. Wow, pretty crazy stuff. This miracle scares the people and they ask Jesus to leave the region. The man then goes then around telling what Jesus did. The people have seen this man has been restored. Now sometime later Jesus returns to that same region and the people welcome Him back, asking Jesus to heal their sick. The people bring to Jesus a man who is deaf and could hardly speak.
We pick up the story – Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 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. 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. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mk 7:31-35)
There is so much in these verses, too much for today, but we want to share four key elements that you can cling to. First, we see the personal touch of Jesus. We know that Jesus can deal with the masses (for example, feeding 5,000) but in today’s text we see Jesus simply dealing one on one with this man. Second, we see the humanity and heart of Jesus. The text tells us that Jesus reached out and touched this man and also that He sighed. Third, we see that Jesus knew that His power source came from God. We read “he looked up to heaven.” And finally, we see Jesus is more than a man of words, He is also a man of action. After touching the man and looking to God, Jesus said “Ephphatha,” which simply means “be opened.”
That phrase “be opened” is representative of entirety of Jesus’ ministry – he enables the disabled, he sets free those who are in bondage, he mends the broken, he restores the sick, he welcomes the outcasts. Those of you who have been shoved out of the way, those of you who have been forgotten, those of you who are on the fringe of life – this is the God who steps into your life and says “Ephphatha.” Jesus meets you at your very point of need. He did not touch the man’s leg or put His hand on the man’s arm, instead He touched the man’s deaf ear and mute tongue. He also touches you right where you have a need, as if to say, “I understand.”
Right now, some of you are in bondage, some of you are in despair, others of you simply feel like you are on the fringe, or you have some impediment, some blockage that is keeping you from becoming all you can be. Jesus is reaching for you today, saying “Ephphatha.”
After seeing what Jesus had done, we read these words – People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mk 7:37)