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.’
(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
I wear two digital hearing aids which were free, and I am very grateful to the Health Service for their quality and for the ability to change the volume, click to 'crowd control' (to talk to someone in a noisy crowd), or to link into a loop system at church. They're not absolutely perfect but the fact I can walk into the hearing department for adjustments with no appointment is also a huge benefit. How deaf am I? Well, I cannot hear the water in the shower when it's on full blast!
Now imagine what it must have been like to be profoundly deaf like the man in today's reading. He must have been, extremely deaf for we learn his speech was affected, so it's likely he went deaf in later life, for if he was completely deaf from birth he would have been unable to speak at all. Just think, there would have been no speech therapy to teach him to speak clearly, and no hearing aid. Worse still, people in Palestine often covered their faces, whether because of the wind and sand or because of modesty, so lip-reading would have been difficult. It would also have been harder in poorly lit houses. Today, people often don't have patience with those who are deaf, unlike someone suffering from an obvious physical weakness or deformity, and it may also have been the same then.
We don't know why Jesus healed the man in this way - was it a mime of what he would do? But what we do know is that after a prayer to God the man was healed, and Mark wants us to connect this healing with Isaiah's prophesy of the coming of the Messiah:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. (35.5-6)
When Jesus heals someone, all they can do is shout or sing for joy!
Lord Jesus Christ,
who healed a deaf man
and changed his life.
We come to You for healing.
Heal us mentally,
Heal us physically,
Heal us spiritually,
according to our need,
or give us the strength
to bear what pain is given us,
and show us how to use it
in Your service.
You might like to look at the map above:
Or at this information on some of the towns around Galilee: