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19. Good News for the Sick
B. The Deaf Hear

a) “He Even Makes the Deaf Hear and the Mute Speak”

“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 him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his finger 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. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’ ” (Mark 7:31-37)

It appears that Jesus was in Gentile (non-Jewish) territory again when He healed the deaf and mute man. Why did Jesus take him aside when He healed him? Did it have to do with various signs and gestures Jesus performed with this man? In any event, it appears that the man was possessed by an evil spirit. And Jesus’ treatment of the man helps us better understand Jesus’ understanding of these problems and His method of treatment.

The Gospel account tells that Jesus put His fingers into the deaf man’s ears, spit and touched his tongue. Was it “language” to help the man understand that Jesus wanted to help him? On numerous occasions we read how Jesus identified Himself with the victims of these difficulties by being close to them and touching them. At the same time, He looked into heaven and sighed. As a human being He, too, indicated His dependence upon His Heavenly Father above. His sigh was a sigh of grievous disappointment over the sickness, corruption and sin which had infected the people themselves and infested the whole creation. But it was also a sign of His sympathy. When He uttered the word “ephphatha” (“be opened”), the man could hear and speak!

As we have seen, Jesus’ great works on behalf of the deaf, the blind and other handicapped people were signs that He was the Messiah, the One whose coming the prophets had proclaimed. For more detail on Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus’ request that the deaf man, now healed, tell no one, see Glossary, Messiah.

Later, the disciples of Jesus carried on His legacy of concern for handicapped people and continue special ministries among them today.

Have you asked yourself how you could help the deaf and dumb, virtually an invisible minority in countries like India, to have a better life? Did you ever realise that people who are deaf from birth have never heard the word “God” and His special name “Heavenly Father”, or the word “Jesus”? Could the welfare of the deaf, perhaps of other handicapped persons also, become a concern for you and your community? Are you aware of how important it is for the deaf to have an opportunity to go to school? And do you pray for them?

O Son of God, in Galilee
You made the deaf to hear,
The mute to speak, the blind to see;
O blessed Lord, be near.
Oh, listen to the silent prayer
Of your afflicted ones,
Oh, bid them cast on you their care;
Your grace to make them known.
The speechless tongue, the lifeless ear
You can restore, O Lord;
Your “Ephphatha,” O Saviour dear,
Can instant help afford.
Meanwhile to them the list’ning ear
Of steadfast faith impart,
And let your Word bring light and cheer
To ev’ry troubled heart.
Then in your promised happy land
Each loss will prove a gain;
All mysteries we shall understand,
For you will make them plain.
(Lutheran Worship, Concordia Publishing House, 1982)
Praise God!

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