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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Jesus left the Mediterranean coast at Tyre. He went past the Sea of Galilee to an area called the Decapolis. This was a region, not a specific city. Decapolis is a Greek term which means 10 cities. All the cities, except for Scythopolis, were on the far side of the Jordan from the Mediterranean Sea. This means that Jesus traveled a long distance from Tyre to the Decapolis.
Like Tyre, the Decapolis was a Gentile territory.
Some of the people in that region brought a deaf man to Jesus. Mark tells us the man also had a speech impediment. He speech impediment may or may not have resulted from his hearing loss. Often those who lose their hearing, develop speech impediments. This is because they cannot hear themselves speak.
They begged Jesus to lay hands on the man. The laying on of hands was a solemn symbol of consecration. Jesus used it many times. But this time Christ used other symbols. He placed His fingers in the man’s ears and spittle on the man’s tongue. Christ did not need to do any of that. He did not need to raise a finger. The symbolism was for us. It was for us to know the man’s the healing was by Christ.
Christ was the cause of the man’s hearing returning and speech. His actions were to make that clear. It was not the spittle, not the act of putting fingers in the man’s ears. Nor was it the word, “open”. This was not a magic trick. The fingers and the spittle were means of communicating what Christ did.
Many confuse symbols and means of communication with the real. They confuse cause and effect. An example of this is how they debase baptism. They treat it as a magic trick. Pour some water (or dunk if you prefer) and say a few magic words and voila you are righteous. No! Salvation comes from Christ alone. It does not come from Christ with the aid of baptism or anything else. It is the work of Christ alone. We do nothing.
In the first century, some pagans believed a person’s saliva had curative powers. Jesus did not believe a His saliva had medicinal powers. The healing came from Christ. It was Christ who healed. Christ often bends to our (mis)understandings. He stoops to us to communicate His love. It is like you may stoop to a child to speak tender words to him.
Then Jesus said, ”Open”. This was not a request that God the Father heal. This was a command from Christ Himself. Jesus commanded the ears to hear and the tongue to speak. This is like when He told the winds to be still, there was no option. The ears had to obey. They had no choice. This was a command from their creator.
Jesus told those who brought the man to not tell anyone. Many have tried to say Jesus was using reverse psychology. He wanted to spread Him fame. The best way to do that was marketing. What is the best form of marketing? Word of mouth. How could He get them to spread the word and add to His fame? By exhibiting a false humility. That would add to the mystic. When people told the story the added fact He did not want it to get around, it would add to His stature. Uhhh. No.
If you have been following this story Jesus did not need marketing. He did not need to have more people come to Him for healing. He needed rest. Everywhere He went people wanted something from Him. They wanted Jesus to health them or their friend.
Are we any different today? Examine the sermons of popular megachurch preachers. What is their theme? “Once you come to Jesus your life will be so much better. It will be so much richer. You will find fulfillment.” Some are even crasser than that. Their message is all about you. It is not about Christ.
That sort of message is in direct contradiction to Christ. Matt 10:16-25; Matt 23:34; Luke 11: 49; Luke 21:12; 21:17; John 15:20. We are to expect persecution. We are to expect people will hate us. We are not greater than Christ. Our best life is not promised to us now.
What these men tried to do was bring glory to Christ in their own way. They did not listen to Christ. They thought they knew better. How would remaining silent bring glory to Christ? We ought to condemn their disobedience not praise it.