And again, departing from the borders of Tyre and Sidon, he came to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. And they bring to him someone who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they implore him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude and put his fingers into his ears, and having spit he touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and says to him, "Effatha," (that is, "Be opened"). And immediately his ears were opened, the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. 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 astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." Mark 7:31-37
In Mark, chapter 7, we have the account of Jesus healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. But notice how Jesus healed this man. He didn't just put his hand on him and heal him; Jesus took this man aside from the crowds of people where He could have his full attention. He put His fingers in the man's ears so he would understand that Jesus was going to open his ears that he might hear. Having spit with His mouth, Jesus touched his tongue, indicating that He was about to take away the impediment in his speech. And Jesus looked up to heaven so that this man would know that Jesus was calling upon God to do this miracle and God would receive the glory.
Jesus then sighed and said to the man: "Effatha," (that is, "Be opened"). And the Scriptures tell us that "immediately his ears were opened, the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly."
The people who saw this mighty work of Jesus were astonished. Even though Jesus told them to tell no one, they couldn't help themselves and told everyone what Jesus had done.
It was truly an amazing thing when Jesus opened the ears of one who was deaf or opened the eyes of one who was blind. But even more amazing is when Jesus opens the eyes and ears of those spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear with understanding His life-giving word!
It happens when Jesus takes us aside from the noise and distractions of this world and speaks and applies to us His life-giving Word, words of forgiveness and life through faith in Him and His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of all. And in the Sacraments, He does so in a very personal and descriptive way, washing away our sins in the waters of Baptism and giving us, in the Lord's Supper, to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world.
Consider Jesus' words in John 5:25-27: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and is now, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And those who hear shall live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of man."
Though people close their eyes and ears to the Word of God and are often hardened in their foolish unbelief and without understanding (cf. Isa. 29:9-12), God, through the preaching of His Word, opens the eyes of those who are spiritually blind and the ears of those who are spiritually deaf. It is as St. Paul writes: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
Isaiah, in chapter 35, verse 5, prophesied of Jesus and His work, saying, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." And, in Isaiah 29:18, we read, "And in that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness."
Through the preaching of the Word of God, our Lord Jesus opens the eyes of the spiritually blind and the ears of the spiritually deaf. He raises the spiritually dead to life. He creates faith in men's hearts and unlooses tongues to sing His praise.
It is as the Bible says of Jesus in John 1:4: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men."
And, Jesus said in John 6:63: "It is the Spirit that revives. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life."
So today, Jesus, through the preaching of His Word, calls people to repent of their sins and place their faith in Him as the Messiah and Savior of the world for pardon and forgiveness. He calls people to come to Him in faith and receive life everlasting; and the Holy Spirit, working through the Word opens blind eyes and deaf ears to see and hear.
Jesus calls, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
Think of Luther's explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith: in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the last day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life."
To most, the Bible remains a closed book -- they may have read from it and studied it but do not understand its message. But, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God's Word, Jesus still opens eyes, unstops ears and gives understanding that people might see their utter sinfulness and repent, looking to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal.
God grant you eyes that see, ears that hear, hearts that understand and believe the message of His Word that you might obtain pardon and eternal peace through faith in Jesus' name. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matt. 11:15). Amen.
[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version. More of Moll's devotional writings can be freely read at https://goodshepherdonline.org, or heard on the Good Shepherd Online podcast. Moll can be contacted by email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.]