11 February 2011Mark 7:31-37
"He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." (v. 37)
We've spent a lot of time in this chapter considering what was
clean and unclean. The chapter closes with a healing miracle which
to our modern minds is done in a remarkably unusual and unclean
way. Spitting at a patient whilst sticking your fingers in their
ears and then taking hold of their tongue is certainly a form of
treatment that would raise a few eyebrows today. However the
physical contact with the parts of the body to be healed, and the
dramatic way in which it was done are typical of accounts of
healing carried out by other contemporary healers.
Mark clearly sees this healing miracle, along with that of the healing of the blind man in the next chapter (Mark 8:22-26), as being important. In both cases the men are taken away from the crowd to a quiet place and the dramatic nature of the healing process is similar in both accounts. For both the emphasis is on regaining important ways of communicating with and therefore understanding not just the world around them but the message that Jesus was bringing.
In contrast to the many people who are unable to understand what Jesus was saying and doing - the scribes and the Pharisees, the crowds gathered around him and even his own disciples - this poor man can now hear clearly and speak plainly. So this story is not just to be seen in physical terms, but as a sign that those who truly believe in Jesus will receive a spiritual healing that will transform their lives.
This was an age when disability and illness could prevent a person from fully engaging in the religious life of the community. But an encounter with Jesus shows that the problems created by disability are no longer barriers to an experience of God's transforming power and love. Christ is for all, and no one need be excluded.
What physical or mental barriers prevent people from taking a full part in the life of the Church today? How can these barriers be overcome?
Do we place enough emphasis on the importance of holistic healing or do we too look only for physical signs of healing? How might we redress the balance?