Read Mark 7:31-37
Sometimes, life is a grind. You finish one responsibility and turn to immediately encounter the expectations of others. If you didn’t care, you might be able to push others away or ignore what is facing you, but if you do, you engage. But weariness and frustration can’t be far behind.
The image of Jesus as the stained-glass, iconic, immovable, unflappable God-in-human-garb is marred by this short story.
It had been a draining few days: on the move from Galilee to the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon, and then back; crowds of people from Gennesaret jostling Him, touching Him, begging Him for healing; Pharisees criticizing and questioning His motives and practices; tense conflict and correction over the Law; a Gentile woman’s insistent request to heal her demonized daughter; and then, this:
The unnamed “they” bring a deaf-mute to Jesus to heal. Just one more. The straw that could break the camel’s back. “They begged Him...”
Jesus’ reluctance isn’t too surprising. He isn’t an unfeeling vending machine, producing in exchange for some coin of simple request or spiritual belief. His mission isn’t to heal everyone on planet Earth, but to give enough signs to confirm his identity. But compassion leads Him to do more, as it might us.
But he is tired.
And this deaf-nearly-mute isn’t demonized; just part of the broken world where everything isn’t as it should or someday will be. He just can’t hear. And it affects his speech.
His ability to work miracles, to heal might work against Him. Like light shining into the eyes of the onlookers, constant healings might blind and distract, rather than enlighten and confirm. But here is another. Just like the one before, and the one before that, and another after, and another after that.
The crowd loves it, and waits to see what the “Jesus side show” will do next.
Jesus removes the deaf man from public view; if he is going to heal him, this one will not be under the crowd’s voyeuristic gaze. His disciples come with him to see what happened, but no others.
God in human flesh puts his fingers in the man’s ears, spits into his hand and with that hand touches the man’s tongue. This strange remedy is not humanly reproducable: there is no biological connection between Jesus’ fingers in the man’s ears and his hearing (just the opposite!); or Jesus’ saliva touching the man’s tongue. It may reflect the culture’s medical understanding of the day. It may be done to incite faith. But Jesus’ methods and reasons are his, and He is not obligated to explain.
He then turns his eyes heavenward, but speaks to the man in Aramaic: “Be opened”—as if the ears and tongue would be instantly responsive. And they were.
But what startles me in the entire incident is not his technique, but His emotion:
“And looking up to heaven, he sighed...” (vs. 34)
And my heart immediately is drawn to this miracle-working-God-in-a-human-body, and I realize He feels what I have felt, and knows the weariness of unending lines, the heaviness of balancing expectations and outcomes, the moments when a deep breath is a strange mixture of persistence, resignation and compassion.
And then I realize my ears, my eyes and my heart have also responded to his command: “Be opened.” I am that one more.
He did not stop.
He did it for me.