They brought to [Jesus] one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in 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.” Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. … They were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Mark 7:32-35, 37
You may have read this story in Mark and thought that Jesus’ way of healing was a bit strange. The multitude brings to Him one in need. This type of scenario isn’t unique. What is interesting to me, though, is the way Jesus dealt with this particular man. He does something completely unconventional, and it’s so wonderful in its compassion and tenderness. This man was mute and deaf, and things were no different back then than they are today. A person like that can often become a spectacle, someone who is gawked and stared at. But Jesus does a very sensitive and compassionate thing here because He doesn’t want him to be a spectacle. He takes the man aside, away from the crowd, and communicates with the man on his own level.
For a man who can’t speak or hear, touch is going to be an incredibly important part of the communication. And here again, we see the gentleness of Jesus. He brings this man close, touches his ears, the very place where the problem is, and then He does this really bizarre thing: He puts spit on his tongue, the man’s other area of need. We don’t know why He did, but we see Jesus connecting with this man on a very intimate level.
What does a sigh imply?
The verse says that He looked up to heaven and sighed. What does a sigh imply? In this case, I believe His was empathetic. And in this, we see the heart of Jesus—He was sighing over the state that the man had lived in. Then He utters the words, “Be opened, be loosed,” and that’s exactly what happened. The beauty of this whole story is to see the sensitivity of the Lord. God doesn’t want to make a spectacle of people; He doesn’t publicly shame or embarrass us before others. Often, He will take us aside and deal with us privately. He’ll meet us in those areas of weakness and vulnerability. And He’ll come and very intimately and tenderly put His hands on us, giving us the very thing that we need. In this case, this man needed a touch from the Lord, and Jesus gave it to him. And in the whole process, He healed him.