Our Lord Jesus seldom staid long in a place, for he knew where his work lay, and attended the changes of it. When he had cured the woman of Canaan’s daughter, he had done what he had to do in that place, and therefore presently left those parts, and returned to the sea of Galilee, whereabout his usual residence was; yet he did not come directly thither, but fetched a compass through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis, which lay mostly on the other side Jordan; such long walks did our Lord Jesus take, when he went about doing good.
Now here we have the story of a cure that Christ wrought, which is not recorded by any other of the evangelists; it is of one that was deaf and dumb.
I. His case was sad, Mark 7:32. There were those that brought to him one that was deaf; some think, born deaf, and then he must be dumb of course; others think that by some distemper or disaster he was become deaf, or, at least, thick of hearing; and he had an impediment in his speech. He was mogilalos; some think that he was quite dumb; others, that he could not speak but with great difficulty to himself, and so as scarcely to be understood by those that heard him. He was tongue-tied, so that he was perfectly unfit for conversation, and deprived both of the pleasure and of the profit of it; he had not the satisfaction either of hearing other people talk, or of telling his own mind. Let us take occasion from hence to give thanks to God for preserving to us the sense of hearing, especially that we may be capable of hearing the word of God; and the faculty of speech, especially that we may be capable of speaking God’s praises; and let us look with compassion upon those that are deaf or dumb, and treat them with great tenderness. They that brought this poor man to Christ, besought him that he would put his hand upon him, as the prophets did upon those whom they blessed in the name of the Lord. It is not said, They besought him to cure him, but to put his hand upon him, to take cognizance of his case, and put forth his power to do to him as he pleased.
II. His cure was solemn, and some of the circumstances of it were singular.
1. Christ took him aside from the multitude, Mark 7:33. Ordinarily, he wrought his miracles publicly before all the people, to show that they would bear the strictest scrutiny and inspection; but this he did privately, to show that he did not seek his own glory, and to teach us to avoid every thing that savours of ostentation. Let us learn of Christ to be humble, and to do good where no eye sees, but his that is all eye.
2. He used more significant actions, in the doing of this cure, than usual. (1.) He put his fingers into his ears, as if he would syringe them, and fetch out that which stopped them up. (2.) He spit upon his own finger, and then touched his tongue, as if he would moisten his mouth, and so loosen that with which his tongue was tied; these were no causes that could in the least contribute to his cure, but only signs of the exerting of that power which Christ had in himself to cure him, for the encouraging of his faith, and theirs that brought him. The application was all from himself, it was his own fingers that he put into his ears, and his own spittle that he put upon his tongue; for he alone heals.
3. He looked up to heaven, to give his Father the praise of what he did; for he sought his praise, and did his will, and, as Mediator, acted in dependence on him, and with an eye to him. Thus he signified that it was by a divine power, a power her had as the Lord from heaven, and brought with him thence, that he did this; for the hearing ear and the seeing eye the Lord has made, and can remake even both of them. He also hereby directed his patient who could see, though he could not hear, to look up to heaven for relief. Moses with his stammering tongue is directed to look that way (Exod. 4:11); Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb or deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Have not I the Lord?
4. He sighed; not as if he found any difficulty in working this miracle, or obtaining power to do it from his father; but thus he expressed his pity for the miseries of human life, and his sympathy with the afflicted in their afflictions, as one that was himself touched with the feeling of their infirmities. And as to this man, he sighed, not because he was loth to do him this kindness, or did it with reluctancy; but because of the many temptations which he would be exposed to, and the sins he would be in danger of, the tongue-sins, after the restoring of his speech to him, which before he was free from. He had better be tongue-tied still, unless he have grace to keep his mouth as with a bridle, Ps. 39:1.
5. He said, Ephphatha; that is, Be opened. This was nothing that looked like spell or charm, such as they used, who had familiar spirits, who peeped and muttered, Isa. 8:19. Christ speaks as one having authority, and power went along with the word. Be opened, served both parts of the cure; “Let the ears be opened, let the lips be opened, let him hear and speak freely, and let the restraint be taken off;” and the effect was answerable (Mark 7:35); Straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and all was well: and happy he who, as soon as he had his hearing and speech, had the blessed Jesus so near him to converse with.
Now this cure was, (1.) A proof of Christ’s being the Messiah; for it was foretold that by his power the ears of the deaf should be unstopped, and the tongue of the dumb should be made to sing, Isa. 35:5, 6. (2.) It was a specimen of the operations of his gospel upon the minds of men. The great command of the gospel, and grace of Christ to poor sinners, is Ephphatha-Be opened. Grotius applies it thus, that the internal impediments of the mind are removed by the Spirit of Christ, as those bodily impediments were by the word of his power. He opens the heart, as he did Lydia’s, and thereby opens the ear to receive the word of God, and opens the mouth in prayer and praises.
6. He ordered it to be kept very private, but it was made very public (1.) It was his humility, that he charged them they should tell no man, Mark 7:36. Most men will proclaim their own goodness, or, at least, desire that others should proclaim it; but Christ, though he was himself in no danger of being puffed up with it, knowing that we are, would thus set us an example of self-denial, as in other things, so especially in praise and applause. We should take pleasure in doing good, but not in its being known. (2.) It was their zeal, that, though he charged them to say nothing of it, yet they published it, before Christ would have had it published. But they meant honestly, and therefore it is to be reckoned rather an act of indiscretion than an act of disobedience, Mark 7:36. But they that told it, and they that heard it, were beyond measure astonished, hyperperissos—more than above measure; they were exceedingly affected with it, and this was said by every body, it was the common verdict, He hath done all things well (Mark 7:37); whereas there were those that hated and persecuted him as an evil-doer, they are ready to witness for him, not only that he has done no evil, but that he has done a great deal of good, and has done it well, modestly and humbly, and very devoutly, and all gratis, without money and without price, which added much to the lustre of his good works. He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak; and that is well, it is well for them, it is well for their relations, to whom they had been a burthen; and therefore they are inexcusable who speak ill of him.