Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37
It’s always amazing to me that Jesus didn’t want people to spread the word about his healing. But I thought about it as I read this passage. Jesus doesn’t want the focus to be on the fact that he can heal people. He wants people to focus on the spiritual.
And isn’t it true, that if we have something physical going on, that’s all we can think about? If we’re in financial difficulties, we worry about money and how we will pay our bills. If we don’t have a car, we’re consumed with how to get where we need to go. If we are sick, we just want to get well.
It has certainly been true for me. When I was depressed, it defined my life. It dictated so much about how I lived my day.
So it’s easy to see how people could get caught up in the thought that they could change their physical situation. It’s easy to see the allure of this. And the more people got healed, the more THIS would be the focus — physical healing.
And the less people would remember that the REAL issue is our spiritual state of being. The real issue is eternity, not just life on this earth.
But Jesus was merciful. Jesus cared. So he healed the deaf man, even though it could get people’s focus off of what was truly important.
And when he did, the people were “overwhelmed with amazement.” They were blown away. Because they had seen this deaf man all their lives. It was astonishing that his reality could be so changed.
We were talking at house church last night about how people are born with certain characteristics, and how they grow up in certain ways. We discussed how it is hard to overcome destructive habits and ways of thinking to become a new person in Christ. It’s HARD to think we can change.
And yet, in Christ, we DO change. My husband is completely different than he was 5 years ago, and UTTERLY different than he was 30 years ago. It is every bit as much a miracle as this deaf man being healed.
Those are the changes Christ DOES want us to focus on. These are the real miracles that MATTER, when He changes us from the inside out.
After Jesus healed the deaf man, the people said, “He has done everything well.” You know, the people Jesus touched were fixed. They were healed of their maladies. They were delivered from the control of evil spirits. Jesus ended raging storms. He multiplied food so the hungry were fed.
It is so obvious that God COULD fix the world if He wanted to. There could be no more pain and suffering. There could be no more starvation. It is so crazy that God chooses NOT to change these things. Could it REALLY be that these things aren’t the most important thing? Tell that to someone who’s dying in agony, or to a child who is wasting away from hunger.
I know God totally cares about these people. The answer has to be that HE wants US to help those who are suffering, as we can. And He wants us to focus on eternity, not the here and now. He wants us to focus on our souls.
So as I pray for people today, let me not pray so much for their healing, their marriages, their jobs, etc. as I pray for their inner selves. Yes, I WILL pray for all of the things I listed first. Just like the people who wanted the deaf man healed, I want my friends to have great jobs, and financial security, and great marriages, and good health. But as Paul said, he considered everything rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. (Phil 3:8) As I pray for others, let me not forget that the most important things are going on at the heart level.
Look at what it says early in Mark 7, when Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who ask him why he doesn’t wash his hands —
“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. Mark 7:20-22
The real changes that need to occur in people’s lives are getting rid of the inward defects, the rotten spots of character that will grow and distort, even destroy, the radiant people we were created to be.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. II Peter 3:14