9 February 2016

Mark 7:31-37

“They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’” (v. 37)

Psalm: Psalm 33


(Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of the season of Lent, leading to Easter. Shrove Tuesday has come to be seen as something of a festive day, before the season of reflection and penitence of Lent.)

Jesus' ministry at this point in Mark's Gospel, covered the whole of the southern Phoenicia, which was a gentile (non-Jewish) area. Here he performed many astounding miracles, including the healing of a man deaf and with a speech difficulty.

We can sense the eagerness with which people in this non-Jewish area came to Jesus pouring out their many needs. "They begged him to lay his hand on him" (v. 32): this is a whole hearted requesting. Jesus' healing stories generally have a pattern, beginning with a request for healing to happen. This suggests we have to ask God for healing. God's healing is not imposed on us.

The story is about speaking and hearing. In the very beginning, God spoke creation into being (Genesis 1), and God gives humans the gift of speech, hearing and sight (Exodus 4:11). In this passage, Jesus took the deaf man aside, out of the gaze of the crowd. Often when Jesus is described as taking people aside, it is his close disciples. But here the one taken aside is not a disciple, but someone who wishes to hear and speak, and he may well have been non-Jewish. God can be intimate with whoever God chooses.

The healing is described in detail, and shows Jesus releasing the man from his disability. His ears were "opened" (v. 34). Jesus demonstrated that he has the power to do what God alone was thought to be able to do.

Then Jesus ordered the man not to tell anyone. The motif of Jesus' secrecy is a recurring theme in Mark's Gospel. Perhaps Jesus did not want the temptation of being famous, distracting him from his main purpose of showing the nearness of God's kingdom or maybe he did not want to encourage people to follow him for the wrong reasons. In this, he failed. People were amazed at what Jesus could do by his very presence, and they flocked to him to meet their needs.

To Ponder

  • Spend some time thinking about what you most value about the gift of speaking, what use you make of it and what you would most miss, if you could not hear.
  • Who do you know who cannot hear well, and how could you reach out to them?
  • Is there any way that God is calling you to make better use of the gift of your voice? In what ways do you make your voice count?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.