Some studies have found that men speak an average of 7,000 words a day. They may seem like a lot, but this radio broadcast averages about 4,000 words each week. So 7,000 words would be like a man talking nonstop for close to an hour. Those same studies say that women speak on average 20,000 words a day. There you go! Nearly three times as much as men. But you always knew that, didn’t you?
One cartoon pictures a man holding a newspaper with the headline “Females Speak 13,000 More Words a Day.” The man exclaims, “Good grief! Is that all?!”
Sorry ladies! But that might be more of a compliment than you think. It would be hard to overestimate the importance of communication, and we must not forget that it is the very nature of God to communicate, as John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word…”
Those statistics that women speak 13,000 more per day than men… those statistics have been contested. With many words, no doubt, they have been contested! And we have all met men who talk a lot and women who are rather economical with their words.
But what if we could not communicate through the spoken word? What if we could not hear one another? Imagine being in the deaf world. Hearing nothing… Radio stations do not like dead air time. You probably wondered what happened just then. Did the station go off the air? Was there an electrical power outage? That’s the way it is for deaf people. The only sound they hear is “the sound of silence.” No noise. No sound of wind, or music, or babies crying, or people laughing, or birds singing, or waves splashing. Our world is made up of sounds, but for the deaf, it is a silent world.
It is through sounds, vibrations formed in larynx — the voice box — sounds shaped and produced by the entire vocal apparatus including the tongue, teeth, palate, lips — the entire mouth — it is through these sounds that we communicate to one another.
But that is only one side of the process. That is the transmission side by which words are transmitted. The science of communication involves both transmission and reception. The words are transmitted by mouth, but they are received by the ear. The ear includes not only the external ear that we see, but a whole complex of funnels and bones and fluid-filled semicircular canals and the auditory nerve that make it possible to hear the world around us.
As the Scripture says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
But what if you could not hear the words that others were speaking to you? What if you saw the movement of someone’s mouth but could hear nothing?
Have you ever tried to read someone’s lips? Your wife is across a crowded room and she wants to tell you something. She mouths her message to you. If you are like I am, you don’t have a clue what she wants to say. You might as well be deaf.
Enter the world of the deaf. A driver honks his horn, but the deaf person hears nothing. Thunder claps and the deaf person may feel the change in atmospheric pressure, but he hears nothing.
The man in our story today was not only deaf; he had a speaking impairment. He had a speech difficulty and could not communicate properly.
We find our story in Mark 7:31-37.
Mark 7:31-37 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 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. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Jesus (still) among the Gentiles
We find in the previous verses of Mark that it was there in the region of Tyre and Sidon, that Jesus cast the demon out of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman.
In Mark 7, Jesus is facing increasingly hostile opposition from the Pharisees and from Herod Antipas, so he leaves Jewish territory and enters Gentile territory in the region of Tyre and Sidon, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But there is another reason why Jesus has gone into Gentile territory: he purposefully includes the non-Jewish world in his ministry.
Jesus shows that while the Jews have priority in terms of receiving the gospel, the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike. There is more than enough grace for everyone. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
In this story of the healing of the deaf man, we see that Jesus continues to avoid the Jewish territory and returns to the region of the Decapolis, the region of ten Gentiles:
Mark 7:31 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
Jesus had been in the region of the Decapolis in Mark 5. There he had been met by the demon-possessed man of the tombs. That man had many demons that Jesus cast out and allowed to enter a herd of pigs. Some two thousand pigs “rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea” (Mark 5:13 ESV).
But the people of the region cared more about their pigs than they did about the man, so they begged Jesus to leave. The man who had been set free wanted to come with Jesus, but
Mark 5:19 ESV …[Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
This man became the first Gentile missionary.
Mark 5:20 ESV And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Now Jesus has returned to the Decapolis, and it seems that the witness of this first Gentile missionary had been fruitful. Jesus returns to the Decapolis, the region that had asked him to leave before, but this time he is warmly welcomed.
Mark 7:32 ESV 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.
Doing What the Man Could Not Do For Himself
Here is a deaf man who had difficulty speaking. He could not hear, and he could hardly talk.
Now right away, we understand that this “man’s malady made it impossible for him to have heard about Jesus or to ask him for healing had he learned about him. Others must intervene on his behalf.” So he is deaf and cannot have “heard” about Jesus. If he has somehow learned about Jesus, he cannot even ask him for help because he cannot talk. This man is totally dependent on others for the help that he needs.
There is no mention that this man had any faith. It seems that he did not even know why he was being brought to Jesus. What could he have heard about Jesus? Nothing. He was deaf. What did he know? He does not seem to know much.
Romans 10:17 ESV So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
The deaf man had heard nothing. What he might have learned we do not know.
But notice that the people are bringing this man to Jesus. These Gentiles are begging Jesus to lay his hand on the deaf man. Immediately, two things seem clear:
- These Gentiles are doing a loving act of kindness toward the deaf man. No doubt they sometimes felt frustrated at their inability to communicate with him, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: They are showing compassion on him. They want to help him, but they are limited. They cannot restore the man’s hearing and they cannot loosen his tongue to enable him to talk.
- Second, in their limited ability, they turn to Jesus. While they can do nothing to heal this man, they believe that Jesus can do something for their deaf friend. They have a certain level of faith in Jesus. They have seen or heard of what Jesus can do. Perhaps they knew the man of the tombs that Jesus had delivered or had heard his testimony. Perhaps they had heard of other miracles that Jesus had done in Galilee. We can only guess, but two things are clear: (1) they knew that they could not help the deaf man, and (2) they believed that Jesus could.
We frequently come to the end of our resources. We are stopped by our limitations. We come to an end of ourselves and must turn to God. Perhaps we may be concerned for our own children but we realize that while we may have done our best, our best was not good enough. Our best cannot bring about the best results. And so we must turn to Jesus and ask him to do what we cannot do. We beg him to lay his hand on their lives, to change their hearts, to do what he alone can do.
These Gentiles demonstrated compassion toward the deaf man and faith toward Jesus.
The Act of Healing
Mark 7:33-34 ESV And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
A Private Encounter with Jesus
Jesus led the man away from the crowd so that they could be alone. Why does Jesus do that? Wouldn’t he want everyone to see what he was going to do?
Well, imagine this man as he grew up. He’s always been a spectacle. He’s deaf, and therefore he can’t produce proper speech. Just imagine the way people made fun of him all his life. Jesus knows this, and refuses to make a spectacle of him now. He is identifying with him emotionally.
Jesus shows that this man is not simply one of the crowd. He is not simply a problem. He is a unique individual.
But now we find something quite unusual in Jesus’ method of healing:
- Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears.
- He spit.
- He touched the man’s tongue.
- He looked up to heaven.
- He sighed.
- He said, “Ephphata.”
What’s this all about? Is Jesus doing some kind of a ritual to bring about the healing?
No, Jesus does not need to perform any rituals to summon his power. This is different from every other miracle that we have seen so far.
- Jesus calmed the storm by a simple command: “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39).
- He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead by telling her to get up (Mark 5:41).
- He healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter simply by willing it to be so (Mark 7:29-30).
[T]here was no arm-waving, no incantation, no mumbo-jumbo. Jesus obviously does not need to perform a ritual in order to summon his power. Which means Jesus is doing all this not because he needs it but because the man needs it.
This healing is different because this man’s need is different. This man is deaf. This deaf man had been shut out of the world of sound. He had certainly not heard anything about Jesus with his ears. He may not have even known why the people had brought him to Jesus. Jesus cannot speak to him as he would speak to someone else, so he identifies with the man by entering his world of silence and speaking to him in a language that the deaf man can understand. Jesus speaks to him in a kind of sign language.
Jesus placed his fingers in the man’s ears and removed them. He was telling the man, “I am going to remove the blockage in your hearing.” He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He was telling him, “I am going to remove the blockage in your mouth.” He looked up toward heaven to tell the man, “It is God alone who is able to do this for you.” “Jesus wanted the man to understand that it was not magic but God’s grace that healed him.”
Then Jesus sighed. This could be translated that Jesus groaned. He groaned because of the pain. He identifies with us and feels our pain.
Hebrews 4:15 NIVO For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
This man had suffered the pain of silence, the pain of trying to communicate, yet being unable to talk. Jesus felt the pain. He felt the pain of our sin and the terrible consequences that sin has brought upon the world. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. Jesus would go to the cross to bear the pain of our sin. Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
As he looked up to heaven to let the man know that it was God alone who was doing this for him, Jesus spoke the first words that this man heard: “Ephphatha.”
Mark 7:34 ESV And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
“Ephphatha” was not a magic word. This was simply the Aramaic that Jesus was speaking. In chapter four, he had said in Aramaic to Jairus’s dead daughter, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” Now he says to the ears of this deaf man, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.”
Mark 7:35 ESV And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Immediately, the silence ceased. Sounds filled the void. The auditory nerves suddenly experienced intense activity. The man could hear!
Not only could he hear, he could also speak. The impairment was gone. Literally, the text says that the shackle (chain) on his tongue was broken. Not only could he speak, but he spoke plainly.
We can only imagine the first words that came from this man’s mouth. His tongue is loosed and for the first time he speaks clearly. “No doubt he was praising and glorifying God.”
Perhaps it was this miracle that inspired Charles Wesley to write the hymn
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Text: Charles Wesley
- O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
- Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold your savior come,
and leap, ye lame, for joy.
- My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.
The Command to Be Silent
Mark 7:36 ESV And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
Jesus tells the people to tell no one! You will remember that when he healed the man of the tombs, he told him,
Mark 5:19 ESV …”Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Now he tells the people to keep quiet. What’s going on here?
The first time that Jesus went to the Decapolis, the people rejected him. They asked him to leave. So he left, but he left the man who had been set free to be a witness to the people.
Now he is strictly charging the people to tell no one. Why?
This is not the first time that Jesus ordered people to be quiet.
- Jesus told the leper that he had cleansed to “say nothing to any man” (Mark 1:44).
- When he raised the little girl from the dead, “he strictly charged them that no one should know this” (Mark 5:43).
Now among the Gentiles, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.
“The command to silence to both Jew and Gentile is a reminder that knowledge of Jesus by his wonders alone is inadequate knowledge… The great differences between Jews and Gentiles on points of law, purity, and [ethnic identity] fade before the truly human question and most significant issue of all, which is the question of faith in Jesus.”
It is not enough to know that Jesus works miracles. It is not enough to believe in his miracle working power. We must come to an understanding of who he is and why he came. We must understand the truly human problem of sin and our need of a Savior. It is not until we come face to face with Christ on the cross bearing our sin and shame — it is not until then that we arrive at saving faith.
Earlier in chapter 7, Jesus had called on the people to “Hear me, all of you, and understand” (7:14). His own disciples are slow to understand. Again and again, Jesus asks them why they do not yet understand:
- “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (4:13).
- “They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (6:52).
- He will yet ask them again, “Do you not yet perceive or understand?” (8:17, 21).
James Edwards comments that…
The hearing and understanding commanded by Jesus are made possible only by Jesus. Faith in Jesus is a difficult matter; indeed, it is the most difficult matter in all the world. Some, like the disciples, are in close and constant contact with Jesus but still cannot see. Others like the Syrophoenician woman and this speech- and hearing-impaired man are in dark and distant lands… What does it mean for all these to hear and understand (7: 14)? It means that whether Jew or Gentile, near or far, knowledgeable or [new disciple], only the touch of Jesus can enable true hearing, seeing, understanding, and witness.
The One Who Does All Things Well
Mark 7:37 ESV And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Jesus does all things well. The Bible tells us that Christ was the agent of creation.
Colossians 1:16 ESV For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
When God created the world, day by day through the six days of creation, he saw that “it was good.” He does all things well.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the region of the Gentiles and of the time when God will come:
Isaiah 35:4-6 ESV Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
The word for mute (μογιλάλων) in this passage is only used one more time in the Bible and that is here in Mark 7:32, “a speech impediment.” The people are declaring that Jesus “has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” But Isaiah says that this is what God will do: “the ears of the deaf are unstopped… the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
“Salvation thus comes to the Gentile world in Jesus… the only categories adequate for Mark to describe the person and work of Jesus are ultimately the categories of God.”
Has Jesus done all things well for you?
a. Given you rest for your soul?
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
b. Saved you from you sins? – Mk 16:15-16
Mark 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
c. Given you the peace the world cannot give?
John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Come to Jesus. Let him open your ears that you may hear and understand what he has done for you. Your tongue will be loosed to give praise to God. You, too, will be…
Mark 7:37 ESV …astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
 Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 464.
 Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Ferguson, Mark, 116 in Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (pp. 161-162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4297-4298). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.
 Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4308-4312). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.
 Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 4267). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.
See also “Gospel of Mark”: