1. A person who was deaf and dumb was brought to Jesus. Because the text says he was brought, this means at the least that he had some one around him who [could] help him. That must have been a blessing for him. But, nevertheless, back in that day it was an age without sign language. Even with written communications, society was low in its literary rate as compared to today. Worse for [people back then], to bear some impairment was always simply considered a judgment for sin, it was an age when people thought [you were that way] because you were possessed by an evil spirit. We don't have enough powers of imagination to see how lonely this person had lived to this moment, how much suffering and sadness he bore in his life, or how much great worry and fear there was [in his life]. But, this man the way he was bearing such hardship like he had was granted a meeting with the Christ. Perhaps more accurately said, because he had borne such a hardship he was able to encounter the Christ. That is written here in this text. So now, what happened to him while meeting with Christ?
Christ Touches At The Weak Spots
2. Let's turn our focus on what Christ did. Please look at verse thirty-three. It says, "Then, Jesus took this man out of the crowd, he placed his fingers on both ears, then he spit and touched his tongue," (7:33). When we read the text just before this one, what the people had asked was [for Jesus] to lay his hand on him. Of course, "Please lay your hand on him" means "Please heal him." But, Jesus didn't just heal his physical problems and make them go away. First, Jesus took the man by himself away from the crowd. Why did he do that?
3. His first purpose is clear. It was to hide the act of healing from the eyes of the other people. It is [clear] that Jesus did not want this man to be known as just "a person who sought for healing and was granted it." Jesus didn't want this man to "witness" before the great crowd that "I was healed this way." He didn't want the people to spread the healing miracle. Instead, he forbade the people to speak of it, saying, "Don't tell anyone about this," (verse thirty-six).
4. But, the reason he took him aside was not only to hide it from the people's eyes but also to meet this man face to face in a personal way. Jesus wanted to meet with him as a person alone and not as part of the crowd. Finally, the Lord did not say anything to him directly except when he said one word, "Ephphata!" -- Because if he had spoken to him, he couldn't have heard it. The Lord could not tell him his heart with words. But, as we also know, small gestures from a person can often speak a person's heart more eloquently than a million words. First, the Lord put his finger in the ears of this man. Then he spit and touched [the man's] tongue. [Isn't] this strange what Jesus was doing? But, I think this man knew why. What Jesus did must have echoed in his heart more than the comfort of many words. Because the place where Jesus touched him with his hands, it was a very weak section of his body and it was a part that was very very disgusting, unholy and the source of the "curse on his life.
5. He had suffered so much on account of his deaf ears. He had received so much unfair treatment and he had shed [countless] tears of pain. His tongue could never say it even if he could try to declare the unfairness. His tongue did not move with freedom [of ease], even to tell of his suffering and physical pain. He [must have] wondered many times if only I didn't have this weakness. But, with his own hands Jesus touched just such a man upon his very tongue and on his very ears, which he could have called the source of his suffering and pain in his life. In his weak and abominable part of [his body] he felt the power of life flowing from those hands, those warm hands of Jesus.
6. So, where does the root of our hurts and sorrows lie? The problems we [all] have are each different. The people around us may not understand [our problems] very much at all. But, the Lord stretches out his fingers to that section [of our lives] and touches us. Our situation, which may seem so hopeless, so powerless to us, but yet, it becomes a meeting place with Jesus, it becomes the point of contact where we are touched by the Christ.
7. When I read this passage, I recall another person who experienced the same thing as this man. It is Paul. In his epistle he speaks about "a thorn" given to his body. "... Thus, for this reason in order to not be high minded, a thorn was given to my body. In order not to be high minded, it was a message sent from Satan in order to afflict me. About this message, I asked the Lord three times to remove it from me," (Second Corinthians 12:7). We are not certain what "this thorn" means. Some think it means the disease of epilepsy. Others think it was an eye disorder. Whatever the case might have been, it was a very abominable weakness for sure, and it must have seemed to be a great handicap even in serving God. That's why he repeatedly prayed that this thorn be removed. But, the Lord's answer to Paul was "My grace is sufficient for you. [My] power is demonstrated sufficiently within this weakness indeed." Therefore, Paul would say, "So, that the power of Christ may dwell in me, I instead will rejoice greatly and I will take pride in my weakness," (Second Corinthians 12:9). "The thorn" given to Paul became the point of contact where Christ touched him.
8. I return to the biblical story. Jesus touched the man's ears and tongue with his hands and inhaled deeply as he looked up to heaven. The Lord was not a spectator of his pain. With unworded groans [the Lord] shared the suffering that he bore as his own, and while doing that he prayed to God the Father on his behalf. Then, facing him again, the Lord said, "Ephphata." This is explained as having the meaning "Be opened." Whereupon, immediately his ears opened, his tongue's tangled [nature] dissolved, and he started to have the ability to speak clearly.
9. His ears and tongue were healed. Yet, Paul's "thorn" was not taken away. In this way, the manifestation of the power of the Lord is different. Yet, there is no essential difference in the grace of the Lord because it was not just the ears that were opened in that man. The biggest thing was that just like Paul, this man too, was touched by the Lord and a new life was opened as a person who was experiencing the grace of the Lord.
Ears Be Opened, Tongue Be Loosened
10. Now, let's give some thought to another point in the text. Earlier I asked, "Where does the root of our suffering and sadness lie for us?" It may be in a physical sickness of ours, it may be a personal issue we have. But, were each of us to inquire into the deepest root to our very own suffering, I think we should [all] ultimately come to the issue of our sin, and nothing but that. In that sense, the figure of the man with the deafness and dumbness as depicted here expresses in symbolical terms our own sinful condition.
11. In the Old Testament the word translated "hear" also at the same time means "obey." Therefore, the disobedient Israelites refusing to listen are described as "A people, though having ears, cannot hear," (Isaiah 43:8). In this way then, our sinfulness lies in the fact that we won't listen to God, we refuse to obey him. We are happy to listen if convenient for us, but we stop our ears when it is inconvenient for us [to obey]. When we are like that with God, we're also probably like that with [our] neighbor. Often times our ears stop listening even to the voice of the neighbor to whom we should really listen.
12. And [our] tongues are a nuisance to us too. James said the following [things] about the sinfulness of this thing called the tongue: "Look. Though it be such a small fire, it will burn up a large forest. The tongue is a fire. The tongue is 'a world of unrighteousness.' It is but one organ in our bodies, however it will defile the whole body, it consumes a life even as it changes, and our own selves are burned up by the fires of hell. Every type of beast and bird, and creeping thing and life in the sea is governed by humans and [continues] to have been governed by them. But, there is no one who can govern his tongue. The tongue is an evil which does not know fatigue, it is filled with death bringing poison. With our tongues we praise the Lord our Father, but with our tongues we curse human beings made in the image of God. From the same mouth come out praises and curses. My brothers, such a thing ought not to be," (James 3:5-10). The power of sin that tries to rule over us in this way often times not only makes our ears stop hearing but our tongues to mumble [like a deaf mute]. Here is where the deepest root of our pain lies.
13. But, Christ has come in order to deliver us from sin. With sincerity Christ will turn himself face to face with our sinful selves and thoroughly and totally care for us. Christ will not be a spectator looking at us as we suffer in sin. In order to atone for our sin the Lord cared so much even unto the cross. Christ makes the pain of those who can't hear or speak right as his own pain and looking to heaven he takes a deep breath, then he receives into his body our suffering, he intercedes to God the Father with deep groaning. Then, the Lord looks at us and says, "Ephphata, be opened," and he touches our ears and our tongues with his hands. He [does this] so that we might listen to God's voice, that we might obey his voice, and that our tongues be loosened and we praise God and start to speak right even towards other persons. In this way then, I'd like for us to be steadfast in seeking for the power of the grace of Christ to be manifested more and more abundantly in our bodies and persons.