Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
There’s no doubt about it, this is a peculiar story from beginning to end. Mark relates that Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee by way of Sidon, ending up in the area of the Decapolis. That would be a little like going from Baltimore to Atlanta by way of Boston and ending up in Birmingham. It makes almost no sense, perhaps because Mark didn’t know the geography of Palestine very well, or perhaps because he had a theological, rather than geographical or historical, reason in mind.
In any event, the crowds in this area also recognize him and bring him a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. Again, the details are hard for us to put together, even to make sense of – Jesus touching his ears, spitting into his hand and then touching his tongue, looking to heaven and sighing – in effort, relief, weariness? – and commanding the man’s ears to “be opened.”
But perhaps here’s the detail to focus on. Because whatever else we don’t understand, we do know what it is like to be stuck, to be closed, to be blocked. Is this the surest sign of the kingdom – that Jesus can open what has been closed? At his baptism the heavens opened – literally were torn apart – that the grace of God might fall afresh and anew upon humanity. And at his resurrection the very gates of death are broken apart, opening the way for a hope beyond the mortal and material life we enjoy.
“Be opened.” How many areas of my life would I like to say that to? How many relationships, past and present, could benefit from some fresh air or new beginning? How much would I benefit from having my ears opened and tongue loosed that I might see and hear and then tell – no matter what – of the goodness, even excellence, of the Lord?
“Be opened.” Yeah, I think that’s probably as good a brief description as we might find of the kingdom Jesus proclaims, embodies, brings…and invites us into. No doubt about it.
Prayer: Dear God, open us to your spirit, that it might fall afresh and anew on us that we might be emissaries of your grace and goodness to all those in need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Post image: Quilt “Ephphatha; Be Opened” by Suzanne Horton Thompson