by Mike Durbin
PLYMOUTH, MI – “Words create worlds!” Though the author of this powerful statement is unknown to me, I couldn’t agree more, especially as it relates to Jesus. Two millennia have passed since Jesus walked this earth, yet His words continue to shape the worlds of countless people. Princes, paupers, peasants, and potentates have had their worlds radically altered by the words of Jesus. Words so simple they are understood by children, yet so profound that the most brilliant scholars continue to mine their depths.
I was struck recently by an encounter in Mark 7:31-37 that takes place between Jesus and a man who cannot hear and whose speech is difficult to understand. As I read the text, I started reflecting about this man who could not hear anything Jesus said - not a single word. Jesus’ words, with all of their hope and power fell silently on his ears.
Jesus comes face to face with this man because of some people in his life who take the man who cannot hear to Him. We know they care deeply about him because they plead with Jesus to lay His hands on him. Jesus takes the man away from the distraction of the crowd so He can give him His undivided attention. The Scripture records what happens:
“So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, “Be opened!”).
What unfolds in these verses is Jesus “speaking” to this man, not with words he could not hear, but with actions he could understand. Jesus vividly connects with this man as He puts His fingers in his ears. Instantly, this simple act lets him know that Jesus cares - that He is identifying with him in his need.
What happens next seems unusual to us, but speaks powerfully to the man. Jesus spits and touches his tongue - a tongue that speaks with such difficulty that people struggle to understand what he says. By touching his ears and his tongue with His fingers, Jesus communicates to the man that not only does He know his need, but that He is going to help him. This is no sterile, long distance offer of help, but a face to face encounter of Jesus reaching out to him.
After identifying with his inability to hear and his difficulty to speak, the man watches as Jesus looks to heaven. Jesus hasn’t said a word, but in this upward look Jesus declares to him and us that we desperately need God.
Then Jesus sighs deeply.
No words have been spoken by Jesus up to this point. Long before the sign language that exists today, Jesus communicates with this man using gestures he could understand. The deep sigh of Jesus is clearly visible to the man standing before Him as Jesus’ chest fills and empties with the sigh. Then Jesus speaks one word - the first word of Jesus in the text - “Ephphatha!” Mark helps us to understand when he explains that Ephphatha means, “Be opened.”
For the first time in who knows how long, perhaps ever, the man is able to hear and speak clearly. All because of Jesus.
“Words create worlds” but actions build those worlds. Jesus modeled both. He was a man of word and deed - something to remember as God gives us another year. Those who witnessed the interaction between Jesus and this man declared: “He has done everything well!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.