Meet the Deaf and Mute Man

“Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, “Ephphatha!—Open up!” And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.”

36-37 “Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”

Mark 7:34-37, The Message

Jesus enjoyed carrying the good news to distant places. His ministry wasn’t confined. He went to places that orthodox people avoided. Jesus penetrated these places and found a rich mission field. (This should speak volumes to us.)

It was in Decapolis that He met this man. He was deaf and mute, and it seems no doctor could help him. Close friends brought this man to Jesus. They begged Jesus to heal him–perhaps this shows their faith and love. (Again this should speak to us. Do we care for others–or not?)

The Lord led this man away from the crowd (interesting.) It seems Jesus wanted privacy. I think that He wanted to avoid the “carnival” atmosphere that healing would cause. Jesus was God–not a showman. (This dear one should clarify things for us.)

It interests me the approach He took. Jesus’ fingers went into the man’s ears. He spits (!) and touched the man’s tongue with His saliva. (Oh if He could do this to us!) Jesus looked up to heaven and said one word, “Ephphatha!” Which in English means “be opened.”

The man suddenly began to speak!

Everyone who witnessed was amazed. Jesus looked at those and told them not to say a thing about what just happened. (Is this humility or what?) Of course, it interests me that the crowd ignored His command; they couldn’t help but spread the news. They must have figured that Jesus was the Messiah, and this miracle proved it.

But the way He went about this amazes me–why the fingers and obviously why the spit? Perhaps this man, (and his friends) needed to see something more “physical.” Maybe? Could it have communicated something to Jesus’ disciples who were watching? Could it be that this can guide us as we now carry Jesus’ power?

I’m thinking through these things.

One: Jesus does impossible things He extends Himself to the “unorthodox”

Two: He seems to heal in ways we really don’t quite understand.

Three: What Jesus does is not about “showmanship,” He avoids publicity and self-promotion.

And there must be other points. It’s good I think, to roll these thoughts around.

A Question: Am I Like Peter?

To follow Him can be really hard. There doesn’t seem to be any contingency plans for any who are looking to escape such a drastic call. Jesus either is, or He isn’t our Lord. “Do you also want to leave?” This is a question that will be asked to every disciple–sometimes once, and sometimes repeatedly.

There are these crystalline moments when I must make a decision. Will I take up my cross and go with Him? There doesn’t seem to be any room in Jesus’ band for ‘almost’ disciples. That scares me sometimes.

Today’s cross is waiting for me. I’m afraid at times that I won’t be able to take the next step as a true follower. Am I just fooling myself?

All of heaven seems to stand on tiptoe to see what I’m going to do next.

Who am I really?

Being obedient to Jesus is far from easy. We must have His Spirit.

“After this, many of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance:

“Do you also want to leave?”

“Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:66-69, The Message

Image from Wikipedia, verses are from The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson.

Meet Jesus’ Family

John 7:1-5

After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

To be honest, I didn’t believe He was the Messiah. I simply couldn’t accept that he was the Chosen one, predicted in the Scriptures. Really now, Jesus? Our older brother? Was he the one we were all looking for? Was he the one who would save Israel? He was family, and we saw Him eat, drink, sleep. I for one didn’t believe it.

We played with him in the streets.

We ran, played ball, and raced donkeys. We sat with him around the fire when the storytellers came. We had fun dancing–(with our sisters of course). When we weren’t working in the shop, carrying water, and helping out, we found lots of things to do, and Jesus as the oldest was the one who came up with many of our adventures.

But to say that he was the one who was prophesied about in the book of Isaiah seems ludicrous. To be very honest, our father was just a poor carpenter–we lived hand-to-mouth, much like any other family in Judea. We wore Jesus’ hand-me-downs, and when he outgrew his sandals, guess what?

Looking back at it all, the whole business of him being the Messiah seemed like a sad and silly joke.

Our father and mother seemed privy to some sort of secret, but we kids never could get the whole story from them or others. Our cousins knew something, but no one was talking, and I suppose we never really pursued it. Maybe it would’ve helped, and again maybe it wouldn’t.

Our lives rotated around the Temple and the synagogue. A Sabbath day was part of our religious upbringing, and we listened to the rabbis and Pharisees as they taught. Jesus had a tremendous knack at grasping these things, and yes, he did know the Scriptures and the various interpretations that the leaders gave.

Each of us boys had the mitzvot ceremony at the age of 13.

We were told that we were now responsible before God for our own lives after this ceremony took place. This was normal for each of us. And apparently, even for Jesus, there was nothing special about it–no lightning, no doves coming down. Like I said before, it all was very normal. We were normal people trying to survive in normal Judea.

Now, this is where it gets interesting.

When Jesus was around 30 we heard that he had been baptized by our cousin John. We later heard that he started to teach and preach to any who would listen. He gathered disciples who followed him from town to town, sleeping and eating in the countryside, or wherever things opened up. I was told by many that his teaching was brilliant and authoritative.

When we started to hear of his miracles, it didn’t make any sense.

Honestly, it seemed something happened directly after his baptism–something that was hardly normal. As his brothers and sisters, we tried to process it with each other. At that time we finally came to the conclusion that Jesus was losing it. Maybe he was or at least very close to it. I remember at least twice we came to take custody of him. That was hard.

Was Jesus orthodox, did he have the Pharisee’s ‘stamp of approval?’ After so many reports of healings and exorcisms, we thought that having that could help. I remembered then that we wanted him to reveal his ministry through the proper religious channels. For ourselves, we didn’t believe he was who he claimed to be, but we desperately wanted him to be safe.

When they arrested him and gave him a trial it was a shock to us all.

And when they ordered his death by crucifixion we were deeply troubled and ashamed. Only criminals died that way. Did Jesus deserve to die like this?

But then something quite startling was said to have happened–we were told that he rose from the dead! I remember the shock; maybe these resurrection reports were being made up by those with deluded hopes. We really didn’t know, but we did wonder.

Who was he really? Who was our older brother exactly?

He replied to the one who was speaking to him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

Matthew 12:48-49

[Two of Jesus’ brothers that we know of became believers, they went on to write the book of James and Jude.]

Meet the Rich Young Ruler

Mark 10:17-22

As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running to him and knelt down and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get to heaven?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good! 19 But as for your question—you know the commandments: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, respect your father and mother.”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve never once broken a single one of those laws.”

21 Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “You lack only one thing,” he told him; “go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor—and you shall have treasure in heaven—and come, follow me.”

22 Then the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away, for he was very rich.

My name is inconsequential. I suppose all you must know of me is I tried to keep God’s Law and that I was very wealthy. Many believed that being rich was evidence that God approved of me. Of that, I wasn’t too sure. I kept the Law out of fear I suppose, and at times I just knew it wasn’t quite enough.

As I studied I began to realize that riches weren’t going to make me righteous. There was enough Scripture in me to let me know that it wasn’t enough. The prophets, especially Isaiah spoke about the deadliness of wealth, but there was that one verse in Proverbs that really disturbed me:

“Your riches won’t help you on Judgment Day; only righteousness counts then.”

This verse and all of the others were the cause of many a sleepless night.

I was tormented by the reality of standing before God with nothing but my money to cover me. Perhaps I was just being overly concerned. Coming under God’s righteous judgment haunted me. I thought of it day and night. I was terrified of being damned. My righteousness wasn’t enough, and I knew it.

I heard about Jesus (and who hasn’t)–some were claiming that he was the Messiah. He was at least a wonderful teacher and many said he worked miracles. Just perhaps he had answers for me. I hoped so, but I needed to know. It was my questions that drove me to find him.

And finding him was easy–I just followed the crowd.

I went ahead of his retinue of followers. I knelt in his path and waited. I must know what he thought. When he stood before me I asked the question that had haunted me my whole life–“Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”

Being a good Jew he answered my question with a question. It now seems that he wanted me to see what really mattered. I answered him with my “righteous” commitment to the Law of Moses. I did what was important–at least that’s what I thought. But still, in spite of all that, I felt no security and no real peace.

Jesus looked right at me. I knew deep down that he loved me.

But oh those words, his words really disturbed me. He told me that I only lacked one thing, that I must sell everything and distribute the money to the poor. Only by doing that would discover riches in heaven. And only then could I truly follow him.

And that was the thing I couldn’t do.

I went away grieved. If he had asked for anything else I would have done it. You see, my wealth was my real obstacle. Deep down I suddenly knew that everything I possessed was now my stumbling block. It was my idol, my golden calf, and it was a sacrifice that I could never make.

I’ve come to realize now, over my many years, that when I do finally stand before God, I will have nothing to save me. Jesus invited me to follow, and I didn’t.

And that my friend meant I would die in my sin.