“And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (Mark 7:31-37)
We have before us the story of a remarkable cure wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, the cure of a man who was a deaf mute. It is a story told only by Mark.
“Departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.” — How quickly the Son of God passes by! While he is present there is hope. When he is gone there is none! He came into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. While he was there one lone Canaanite woman seized the opportunity. One lone woman came to the Master and obtained mercy. Now, he was gone! Mercy was gone! Grace was gone! The Son of God passed through the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, but did not stay long. What a warning! He came there to show mercy to that chosen sinner. Indeed, he showed mercy to every sinner who sought him for it. Then he left as quickly as he had come. Well might we cry with Fanny Crosby…
“Pass me not, O gentle Savior!
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by!”
Our Lord Jesus, while he walked on this earth, never stayed in one place for very long. When he had cured the Canaanite woman’s daughter, he had done what he came there to do. Then he went through the coasts of Decapolis; he came again unto the sea of Galilee, where he had so often performed miracles of mercy and taught sinners the way of life.
As our Lord’s departure from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon is a warning, his return unto Galilee is most hopeful and encouraging. The Son of God is often found in the same place and often performs his wonders among the same people. I cannot tell you how that inspires me as a member of a local church where the Lord Jesus has constantly manifested his presence for twenty-eight years. As I try to prepare my heart for worship, Sunday after Sunday and Tuesday after Tuesday, I come to the house of God with the prayer and hope, with the reverent expectation that Christ will meet with us again, that he will show himself again, that he will speak again, that he will again stretch forth his mighty arm of grace for the saving of chosen, redeemed sinners, that he might again embrace me in his arms, smother me with his love, and revive me with his Spirit!
A Very Sad Condition
The healing of this deaf mute by the Son of God is a tremendous picture, both of our Lord’s power and of his grace, full of spiritual instruction. In verse 32 we see a man in a very sad condition. — “And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.”
We are not told who these people were that brought this poor deaf-mute to the Lord Jesus. That is obviously insignificant. But someone had heard about Christ. Perhaps they had personally seen or experienced the Master’s miraculous healing, saving power. Whatever the case may have been, they knew who Christ was, where he was, what he could do, and how desperately this poor soul needed the Savior. So they brought him to the Lord Jesus, knowing that if he would just lay his hand on him, the deaf-mute would be healed. “Gracious souls,” Robert Hawker observed, “who know the Lord, do well to bring to Jesus those who know him not. He that hath unstopped your ears, and opened your lips, can do the same by others.” John Gill wrote, concerning those who brought this man to Christ…
“As the friends and relations of this man, having a great opinion of Christ, and a persuasion of his ability to relieve and cure him, bring him unto him, that he might put his hands upon him; so do such who know Christ themselves, and have felt the power of his grace upon their own souls, bring their deaf and dumb, their relations in a state of nature, under the means of grace; being very desirous that Christ would make bare, and put forth his mighty arm of grace, and lay hold upon them, and work a good work in them, and give them ears to hear his voice, and a tongue to speak his praise.”
Notice how the Holy Spirit directed Mark to choose his words. — “And they beseech him to put his hand upon him.” That is to be commended. They firmly believed that Christ could heal this poor man by merely laying his hands upon him. Yet, they made a big mistake, as we shall see. They dared to presume to tell the Son of God how to heal him! We must never do so. We must never presume to prescribe to God how to do his work, or even presume that he must always work his wonders the same way. Every child of God experiences the same grace, by the same means; but we all have differing experiences of grace. This man’s experience was truly singular. He experienced the grace and power of God like no one else in the world!
This poor, needy creature is a pretty good picture of all men by nature, representing unregenerate sinners, who are deaf to the voice of both the law of God and the gospel. All who are yet without life and faith in Christ are very much like this man.
He does not hear what God says by way of wrath and condemnation in his holy law. The unregenerate do not hear the command of the law. He will not and cannot obey the precepts of the law. And he is not moved by the menacing curse, condemnation, and terrible wrath and justice of the law. God says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” But that does not bother him. He is deaf. He is not at all affected and disturbed with such things. You might as well be talking to stones, when talking to unregenerate souls about the things of God. Indeed, you are talking to stones. Until God graciously takes away the stony heart, none can hear.
Like the deaf adder, unregenerate souls stop their ears to the charming sound of the gospel. The sweet sound of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, they utterly despise. They consider it a contemptuous, bothersome, irksome thing. They are totally deaf to all the instructions, directions, cautions, and exhortations of God’s Word, his servants, their dearest relations and their best friends.
Not only are all men by nature spiritually deaf, they are deaf-mutes. Try as they might, they cannot speak the language of Canaan. It is a strange language to them. They cannot speak it themselves; and they cannot understand it when others speak it. The things of Christ sound like much meaningless babble about nothing to them. And, having no true experience of the grace of God in their souls, they simply cannot speak of what they do not know.
“Nothing becomes more striking, in proof of a spiritual deafness and dumbness, than a poor unawakened sinner. He is like the deaf adder, which stoppeth her ears at the voice of the charmer; charm he never so wisely; for all the melody of mercy in the Gospel of Christ, nor all the harsh sounds of condemnation in the law of God, can affect his mind, And as he hears of nothing, either to allure, or to alarm, so no cry for salvation ever passeth his lips.” (Robert Hawker)
I think it is also proper to say that this poor deaf-mute is a picture, type, and representative of sinners newly awakened by the Spirit of God. When a person is first born again, we ought not expect him or her to walk and talk like an aged, experienced saint. Babes in Christ usually behave as such, though they may think they are very strong, mature, and knowledgeable. Children often think that way. And those who are under the first workings of the Spirit of God upon their souls are often as it were tongue tied. Through fear or bashfulness, or the temptations of Satan, they fear to speak; or with great difficulty are brought to speak of what God has done for them. When they do, it is but in a lisping, stammering way.
A Very Singular Cure
“And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain” (vv. 33-35).
This mighty miracle performed by our Savior was a clear demonstration of his sovereign power over creation and over all the elements of nature in creation. But, if all we see in this miracle is the fact that a deaf-mute was miraculously cured by the power of God, if all we see here is a picture of physical healing, we have missed the point altogether. There are precious, spiritual truths revealed here, lessons about God’s saving power, mercy, and grace in Christ toward helpless sinners.
The Holy Spirit intends for us to see here that the Son of God has power to heal the spiritually deaf. He can give the most hard-hearted, spiritually deaf sinner a hearing ear and make him delight in hearing the very gospel he once despised.
As he can heal spiritually deaf sinners, he can also untie the tongue of those who are spiritually mute. Jesus Christ can cause the most obstinate rebel to call upon him in faith. He can put a new song of grace in the heart and in the mouth of the vilest transgressor. And he can make the basest blasphemer a preacher of the gospel.
When the Son of God comes in saving power, nothing is impossible. We believe in and preach irresistible grace, grace that cannot be resisted. When God has a will to save, the sinner he comes to save has no will to resist. — “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth” (Psalm 110:3). Let no sinner regard himself as being beyond the reach of God’s omnipotent arm. Let us never consider anyone beyond hope. Jesus Christ, our all glorious Savior, is that One who is Mighty to save. He that healed the deaf-mute still lives.
I remind you again that our all glorious Savior is not limited to any one way of doing things. The peculiar means employed by the Son of God in healing this man may have many hidden lessons that I do not see, but this is the most obvious thing about it. I know that God saves chosen sinners by the appointed means of grace, as he has declared in Scripture. — “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Still, sometimes God works one way and sometimes another. Sometimes he works through the Word preached publicly. Sometimes he works by the Word spoken privately. Sometimes he is pleased to use the oral exposition of the Word, and sometimes the written exposition. Sometimes he uses great adversities and afflictions to bring sinners to himself. Sometimes he uses the gentle, loving persuasion of a friend or relative to arrest the attention of the chosen. But of this you may be sure: God almighty will not perform his wonders of grace like a trained seal in obedience to our whims and plans! As soon as we begin to think this is the way the Son of God works, by laying his hands on the needy soul, he uses something as despised by us as spit, and gives no account of his matters.
Look at the details of what the Lord Jesus did here and glean the spiritual truths set before us in this wonder of mercy. He took him aside, separating him from everyone else. When the Lord Jesus comes to save, he separates his people, like sheep culled out of a flock by the shepherd, from the rest of the world. He allures his chosen into the wilderness that he may speak to their hearts, that he may speak grace to the soul. He calls his elect out of the world, out of Babylon, and brings them to himself.
The Master put his fingers into the deaf man’s ears, as if to say, “I alone, who made the ear, can give the hearing ear to whom I will by the finger of my grace.” He puts his finger into the ears of his redeemed, when he opens them to hear “the joyful sound.”
He spat and touched the man’s tongue, as if to say, “Only that which comes forth out of me entering into you can loosen your tongue and cause you to know and show forth my praise.” As Hawker observed, “He truly toucheth our tongues with the spittle of his mouth, when he looseneth our lips to speak his praise.” What a humbling, but necessary picture!
The Lord Jesus looked up to heaven, as One who is the Servant of God on a mission from God, doing the will of God, teaching us that all grace and power, all good and perfect gifts, indeed, all things are of God. Then, he sighed. No doubt this is a picture of our Savior’s compassion, pity, and mercy for needy souls. It was a sigh for this man, but for many others as well.
Next, he looked at the deaf-mute himself and spoke a single word of sovereign power and authority - “Ephphatha!” The word means, “Be opened!” Immediately, the man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed, so that he spoke plainly. Those whose ears are opened and whose tongues are loosed by Christ speak plainly and clearly of what they have seen and heard, of what they have experienced and been taught by the grace of God. They can give a ready answer to any man who asks the reason of their hope. Mr. Spurgeon once told a story illustrating this beautifully.
“Once there was a poor man, a huckster, who used to go through country villages selling his goods. This poor creature, while going round on his journeys, heard some women singing a little chorus. It went like this…
‘I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.’
Jack said to himself, ‘That sure suits me.’ So he started to hum the tune to himself, as he walked along. By God’s grace, in time, the words of the little chorus worked their way into the poor huckster’s heart.
After some time he was converted and began to attend church regularly. Finally, he made up his mind to publicly confess his faith in Christ and join the church. So he went to see the pastor. The pastor asked him, ‘What can you say for yourself?’ ‘Not much,’ Jack replied, ‘only this…
‘I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.’’
‘You must tell me more than that,’ the pastor said. — ‘No, I can’t,’ Jack answered, ‘for that is all I know. That’s my confession of faith.’ ‘Well,’ the pastor said, ‘I cannot refuse you church fellowship, but you will have to come before the elders and deacons. They will have to see you and judge you.’
At the appointed time the poor huckster met with the elders and deacons. They wanted to see if they could find some fault with him. Being asked to stand and state his experience, Jack simply said…
‘I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.’
One of the old men asked, ‘Is that all you have to say?’ — ‘Yes, that’s all,’ he answered. The pastor said, ‘You may ask him some questions, if you wish.’ So another man spoke up. ‘Brother Jack, Do you have many doubts and fears?’ ‘No,’ Jack answered, ‘I can never doubt that I am a poor sinner and nothing at all, for I know that I am. And I can never doubt that Jesus Christ is my all in all, for he says he is. How can I doubt that?’
Then another man said, ‘But sometimes I lose my evidences and my graces, and then I get very sad.’ — ‘Oh,’ Jack said, ‘I can never lose anything, for, in the first place, I am a poor sinner and nothing at all. No one can rob me if I am nothing. And in the second place, Jesus Christ is my all in all. And who can rob him? He is in heaven. I never get richer or poorer, for I am always nothing, but I always have everything.’
‘But, my dear brother, Jack,’ another man asked, ‘Don’t you sometimes doubt whether you are a child of God?’ — ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I don’t quite understand your question. But I can tell you I never doubt but that I am a poor sinner and nothing at all and that Jesus Christ is my all in all.’
They were astonished at Jack’s simple, constant composure. They had a world of doubts and fears. When they asked him why he never doubted, he just said, ‘I cannot doubt but that I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all, for I know that, and feel it every day. And why should I doubt that Jesus Christ is my all in all? for he says he is.’
‘Oh,’ one of the men said, ‘I have my ups and downs.’ ‘I don’t,’ Jack replied. ‘I can never go up, for in myself I am a poor sinner and nothing at all; and I cannot go down, for Jesus Christ is my all in all.’
The deacons and elders kept trying to shake the simple man from his simple faith. ‘Why,’ said one brother, ‘I sometimes feel so full of grace, I feel so advanced in sanctification, that I begin to be very happy.’ ‘I never do,’ Jack replied. ‘I am a poor sinner and nothing at all.’ ‘Then, I go down again, and think I am not saved, because I am not as sanctified as I used to be,’ the brother continued. ‘I never doubt my salvation,’ Jack said, ‘because Jesus Christ is my all in all, and he never alters.’
They admitted Jack into the church, and he continued all the days of his life with this simple confession….
‘I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.’
That was all his experience, and you could not get him beyond it. For the rest of his days on earth, the poor huckster was called ‘Happy Jack,’ because of his happiness in faith. Happy Jack’s simple story is beautifully instructive. It sets forth a picture of plain, simple, clear faith in Christ. It exemplifies adherence to Paul’s admonition in Colossians 2:6. — ‘As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.’”
A Very Satisfying Confession
“And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (vv. 36-37).
This man who was healed and those who brought him to be healed went everywhere telling what wonders Christ had wrought for him and in him. But the Lord charged them to tell no man what he had done. Perhaps he did so because he sought not the praise of men. Perhaps he did so that he might try these people, to see whether they were truly grateful for his grace. Whatever the case may have been, this deaf-mute was not about to keep his mouth shut! He went everywhere confessing Christ for the praise of him who had wrought such wonders in him. He who is God our Savior “maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak!”
They also confessed, “He hath done all things well.” No doubt these poor souls no more understood the full meaning of their words when they spoke them than we do in repeating them; but what a satisfaction we find here for our souls. — “He hath done all things well!” Let us remember this when we think about the past, as we consider the present, and as we anticipate the future.
In that great and glorious eternal day awaiting us, we will fully see and gladly confess — “He hath done all things well!” In that great day we will understand the why and wherefore of all things. We will wonder at our past blindness and marvel that we could have even once doubted our Savior’s love and called into question his faithfulness.
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