There’s more taking place in the miracles of Christ than just feeding multitudes, changing water into wine, and healing disease. The Apostle John defines Jesus’ miracle ministry as “signs” confirming who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish in fulfilling God’s redemptive mission (John 20:30–31). Each miracle demonstrates Jesus’ compassionate heart as He steps into our miserable condition as the incarnate Son of God.
In Mark 7, Jesus’ compassion is lavished on a man who is unable to hear or speak. In the ancient world, this man elicited severe social humiliation from those who falsely concluded from his physical handicaps that he was mentally ignorant. Imagine never hearing the morning birds singing or a conversation in the marketplace, or even having the ability to say “I love you” to your children. Yet he’s assisted by a group of people who lead him to Jesus, begging Him “to lay his hand on him” (Mark 7:32). Rather than subjecting him to further disgrace from the crowds, Jesus took him “aside from the crowd privately” (v. 33). What Jesus was going to do would be in private, away from watching eyes and sneering remarks.
On the surface, the account of this man’s healing borders on the bizarre. What is Jesus doing putting His fingers into this man’s ears, and then spitting and touching his tongue with the saliva? After all, Jesus could simply say a word, and new eardrums and vocal cords would be instantaneously created. But in a dramatic display of compassion, Jesus begins to speak the only language this man would have known. Putting His fingers in this man’s ears, Jesus is saying, “I’m going to do something to your ears.” Spitting and touching his tongue with the saliva, Jesus is saying, “I’m going to do something to your voice.” The glorious Creator of all things is entering this man’s world. In verse 34, Jesus looks “up to heaven” as the sign of His dependence on His heavenly Father, and He sighs. He’s moved by this man’s physical condition, the fallen world that He has entered, and the desperate need of sinners. God loves us in our human condition to the point of sending His beloved Son all the way down into the ravages of our fallen nature to open our ears to hear gospel truth and to open our voices to glorify His name.
With his full attention, Jesus utters one word: “Ephphatha,” which is translated “Be opened” (v. 34). There’s such an immediacy to what Jesus does that this is the first word this man had ever heard. There’s a complete restoration, and a divine miracle takes place—his hearing is fully restored, and he is instantly able to speak. And though Jesus warns him to tell no one what has happened to him, the man couldn’t help proclaiming it far and wide.
What a compassionate healer we have. Through the gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ has sovereignly opened our ears to hear His voice saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).