The Unstoppable Preachers (Mark 7:31-37)
In too many congregations, people are sleeping. People all around them are going to hell, but they sleep. People all around them go hungry, but they sleep. People all around them need a friend, but they sleep.
It is refreshing to work in a congregation that does not sleep. This congregation genuinely cares about people. So many of you have already invited numerous folks to “Bring-A-Friend” Day because you care about people. So many of you bring items for the pantry, for Potter’s Children’s Home, and for other needs which arise because you care about people.
This morning, we want to think about being awake enough to share Jesus with others. Our text concerns Jesus’s healing a deaf-mute and the proclaiming of those who witnessed it. Our text gives us a reason for the proclamation and then the proclamation itself. Let’s think about “The Unstoppable Preachers.”
The New Age, vv 31-35
They brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hands on him.
The people of Decapolis brought a deaf-mute to Jesus. Decapolis had been the scene of previous healings of Jesus. After Jesus began his ministry, he healed people with various diseases and crowds from Decapolis followed him (Matt 4:23-25). When Jesus healed a demon possessed man, the man went into Decapolis and told what had occurred (Mk 5:20). The people of Decapolis brought a deaf-mute to Jesus in order that the Lord might heal him; it is not at all clear whether the people of Decapolis were generally concerned about this man or whether they just wanted to see Jesus do a miracle.
This man was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. Deaf-mutes were protected under the Jewish law and classed with other groups (women, slaves, imbeciles, minors) who were not educated enough to keep the law. The Greek term for “mute” means that this man spoke with difficulty. The Revised Standard Version and other translations have done well in stating that this man had an impediment in his speech. This man could talk; however, he could not do so plainly.
Taking him aside from the multitude privately, Jesus put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, Jesus said, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
Jesus took this deaf-mute aside privately. Crowds customarily gathered to see the magicians perform tricks, and the crowd would have loved to have watched Jesus perform some miracle. Thus, he took this man aside to prevent a spectacle. Jesus also could have taken this man aside privately to get his attention; the man could not hear Jesus, so he took him aside so that Jesus knew that he had this man’s full attention.
Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Since the man could not hear, Jesus had to use sign language to communicate with the man. We should not see Jesus’s putting his fingers in the man’s ears and the spitting on the tongue as some type of magical formula—the signs Jesus use did not heal the man; the power of Jesus healed the man.
Jesus looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, “Ephphatha,” which means “Be opened.” That Jesus looked up to heaven showed that he wasn’t using some magical formula; he was dependent upon the power of God to heal this man. Although we cannot say so with absolute certainty, Jesus’s sighing probably was a form of prayer to the Father.
Jesus said Ephphatha. Magicians often used a formula that was unintelligible to those who heard them Jesus spoke in Aramaic which would have been known to most all people of Syria-Palestine, whether they were Jews or Gentiles. Thus, Jesus wasn’t using some magical formula.
The man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Jesus healed the man; he had the power and the compassion to do so.
What is so important from this passage is that the healing of deaf-mutes was seen as part of the messianic age. The term for mute here is a rather rare word in ancient Greek. The term does occur in the Septuagint only at Isaiah 35:6, a passage which discusses the blessings in the messianic age. Thus, this passage is seen as part of the inauguration of the messianic age; the Messiah had come and was able to help.
Isn’t that the reason for our going out and proclaiming Jesus? The Messiah has come, the messianic age is here, and the Messiah can help. Are we going to proclaim that the messianic age is here, that the Messiah can help? Thank God that Jesus did want to help those who were sick! Thank God that Jesus continues to help those who are spiritually sick!
The New Proclamation, vv 36-37
He charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
Some have been troubled by Jesus’s admonition not to tell those in the surrounding territory about this healing. Why would Jesus not want help in proclaiming who he was? In the first place, Jesus seems to have wanted some “down time;” when he went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, he “would not have any one know it” (Mk 7:24). In the second place, Jesus may have been concerned about the character of these people; they may have been “questionable characters,” and Jesus wanted to be careful about who told others about him.
The more he charged the people, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
These people could not keep their mouths shut; they had witnessed something extraordinary, and they wanted everyone to know it.
They zealously proclaimed it. “Proclaim” is in the imperfect tense in Greek. Again, the imperfect tense refers to a repeated action in the past. These people repeatedly told others what Jesus had done.
We need to tell others repeatedly of what Jesus has done. We have that obligation from God. “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation’” (Mk 16:15). “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Jesus has done so much in our lives: he has saved us from our sin, he has given us joy beyond measure, and he has given us blessings beyond measure. Will you tell others what Jesus has done in your life?
This crowd zealously proclaimed what Jesus had done. We need to have zeal, to be excited and encouraged about what Jesus has done and continues to do in our lives. Let us go out with zeal, with encouragement, and proclaim what Jesus has done!
The crowd was astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
The crowd had every reason to be astonished beyond measure; it is not every day that one who is deaf and dumb is healed. No doubt their astonishment was one cause of their proclamation—they had to tell other people what they had witnessed. Should we not be astonished beyond measure at what Jesus has done? Should we not be astonished that he came to save us, should we not be astonished that he was raised from the dead, should we not be astonished at the blessings he gives? Should we not go out and tell others because we are astonished?
The crowd said, “He has done all things well.” What Jesus did, he did to the best. He did everything well. Because of his excellence, this crowd went and told others what he had done. Will you go out and tell others because Jesus has done all things well?
Imagine being this deaf-mute. He had spent his entire life not being able to hear and not speaking very plainly. Then, Jesus came and healed him. Should we have expected this man to do anything other than to go out and tell everyone what had happened to him?
Think about all that Jesus has done for you. What sins has he forgiven? What relationships has he restored? What hope has he given in the place of doubt? Will you not go out and proclaim today what the Lord has done for you? Do you need to come this morning and allow Jesus to begin doing great things in your life?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.