The Weird Ways of JesusNovember 20, 2015
All too often Christians envision divine healing as neat and tidy and socially sophisticated. They expect it to be much like a visit to the doctor: clean, clinical, and always in conformity with the standard practices of the day. Continue reading . . .
All too often Christians envision divine healing as neat and tidy and socially sophisticated. They expect it to be much like a visit to the doctor: clean, clinical, and always in conformity with the standard practices of the day. Well, whatever your expectations might be, Jesus shatters them here in Mark 7. Look at this remarkable passage:
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:31-37).
There are several things to note about how Jesus went about healing this man who was both deaf and mute.
(1) The fact that Jesus pulls aside this anonymous man is proof once more of the compassion and love that Jesus has for people, especially those who are convinced that because of some failure or disability they are of no value to anyone. Jesus doesn’t view him as a problem or a nuisance or even as just one more face in the crowd. He singles him out and pulls him aside privately.
(2) You may find this a bit odd, but I love it when people try to dismiss or reject the work of the Holy Spirit because of what they believe are weird incidents and unusual behavior. Folks, it doesn’t get any more weird or bizarre than right here! Jesus sticks his fingers into his ears! And as if that weren’t enough, he spits on his own fingers and then touches the man’s tongue!
Rule: never, ever measure the validity of what the Holy Spirit does by whether or not it is weird or strange or out of the ordinary. In another place Jesus spit in the dirt and made little mud balls and put them on a blind man’s eyes and healed him. By 21st century, sophisticated middle-class American standards of what is culturally acceptable, Jesus is weird. But again: biblical truth and spiritual reality are never to be judged by “21st century, sophisticated middle-class American standards of what is culturally acceptable.”
(3) The fact that the people beg Jesus to lay his hand on the man (v. 32) and that Jesus puts his fingers in his ears and touches his tongue all point once again to the importance of physical touch as a means by which God has chosen to impart the healing power of his Holy Spirit.
This man undoubtedly felt like a complete social outcast, a reject, an embarrassment to others because he couldn’t hear or speak. No one paid him any attention. People saw him coming and turned and walked away in the other direction. Not Jesus! If nothing else, these expressions of physical touch were a sign of love and acceptance and affirmation.
(4) But why “spit”? Among the Jews of that day and time the spit of certain persons was considered to have healing power, especially when it was applied to the area of sickness or injury, and accompanied by prayer.
(5) Literally, it says that “the chain of his tongue was broken,” indicating that this was a supreme act of liberation in setting this man free from the bonds of his affliction.
I’m not suggesting that you and I should regularly employ a similar method when we pray for the sick today. But be careful that you don’t put God in a box and dictate the manner in which he goes about the business of blessing those in need.