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In Every Language

September 10, 2012

Have you ever had a conversation with someone…walked away…and had the feeling that the other person had absolutely no idea what you were saying?  They nodded in agreement…maybe they even made a verbal affirmation that they understood.  But on some level, you just knew they didn’t get it?  This happened constantly in the construction industry.  You could both be standing in the exact same place…both looking at the exact same plan…both hearing the exact same words…but in the end, you know, they have no idea what is supposed to happen next.

Take a moment…hopefully this moment…and read through Mark 7:31-37.

Jesus is on the move again.  This time He’s entered into Gentile territory, in the area of the Decapolis.  This is a trait of His that we’ll see throughout all of the Gospels.  Jesus is perpetually moving…always looking for ways to minister to the needs of the people…always breaking cultural barriers and civil divides.  And in this case, He’s going to encounter a man who it says, “was deaf and had a speech impediment.”

If we aren’t careful, we’ll miss what this is implied by this man’s malady.  And, if we aren’t careful, we’ll attempt to make less of this man’s problem than we should.  This is not a man with a little lisp.  This is a man who, when he speaks, people automatically make the assumption that he is an idiot.  They don’t have a class for him to go to.  They don’t have a formal sign language.  To give you an idea; one of the earliest references to sign language comes from Socrates, and he said, “If we hadn’t a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn’t we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body, just as dumb people do at present?”  This is a clear demonstration of exactly what people, taking him at face value, would have thought of this man.  However old this guy is, he has experienced immense levels of embarrassment and even humiliation because of his condition.

Now…look what Jesus does.  He took him aside…away from the crowd…into a place out of view of the mass of humanity who would have been watching.  Then, Jesus “put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.”  Again now, don’t miss what is happening here.  This is a profound action on the part of Jesus.  This is an intimate experience.  If you look in the passage just before this, Jesus healed a little girl without even seeing her.  He just spoke and the girl was healed.  He could have done that here…couldn’t he?  He could have just looked at the man and said to him, “Ephthapha (be opened).”  But, that’s not what He did.

Jesus put His fingers into the ears of this man.  This means they were standing extremely close.  Imagine it.  Hold your hands out in front of you and get a vision for how close they would have been together.  Then, and I can only speculate that the man had made up his mind to just go with it…Jesus spit on his own fingers and then touched the man’s tongue.  Again…this is an incredibly intimate scene.  For a man who has spent his life being cast off as a second tier human…he is being embraced on a completely new level.  But that’s not the end.

Jesus then looked up into heaven and it says, “He sighed.”  Do you see what Jesus is doing here?  Again, face-to-face, almost uncomfortably close, He is speaking a language that this man can understand.  In a very real sense, Jesus is using sign language.  He’s opening his ears.  He’s loosening his tongue.  And all of that…all the power to do that…comes from heaven above.  Even in this moment, the Eternal Son is giving all the glory to the Eternal Father.  And as for the “sigh” of Jesus…what other response could he have to the effects of the fall of man?

In the end, the man is healed…and the people marvel and say, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  Jesus was not going to let this man go away without knowing exactly what had taken place.  Sinclair Ferguson says, “He had entered into this man’s world of silence and spoken the only language he could understand.”  And this is exactly what He does for all of His children.  There are no limits to the lengths that Jesus will go to claim His own.


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