Mark 7:31-37

Key Verse: 7:34-35


“People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”



Last Sunday we heard that Jesus healed a woman’s daughter by driving out an evil spirit from her. Jesus blessed the woman’s faith and humble prayer and healed her daughter. In today’s passage Jesus heals another man who was deaf and could hardly talk. Jesus had compassion on him and opened his mouth and ears. I pray that through this passage we may accept Jesus who opens our deaf ears and mute mouth.

After healing the woman’s daughter Jesus left Tyre and went north to Sidon. Then he went down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. The Decapolis was a group of ten cities located on the east side of Jordan River. Previously Jesus had been in this region and healed a man who was possessed by many demons. Jesus had mercy on him and drove all the demons out of him sacrificing 2000 pigs. But when the townspeople heard how the man had been healed they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region. They were afraid of losing all their remaining pigs. Jesus had to leave but he left one man there who had been restored from demon possession.

When Jesus was about to leave the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus didn’t allow him and said, “Go home and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” The man listened to Jesus. He went and told not only his family members but all the people in the Decapolis how much Jesus had mercy on him and how much he had done for him. This former demon possessed man was passionate and energetic. Before he met Jesus he didn’t sleep at night and jumped on the tombs and went up and down. After he met Jesus he turned that energy to going around the ten cities and testifying what God had done for his life. He told people, “You know I was once demon possessed. I cut my body with stones and cried among the tombs night and day. I was out of control. People wished that I would disappear. My life was worth nothing. But Jesus had mercy on me. He drove all the demons out of me and restored my life sacrificing 2000 pigs. I am a living witness of Jesus’ mercy and power.” All the people of the Decapolis who had known his past saw God’s grace in him and were amazed.  

People have a tendency of forgetting things. Students forget appointments and home work. Husbands forget their wives’ birthdays and get in trouble. People also forget their past when they lived as a slave of sin and Satan. They forget how miserable they were and how much God had mercy on them and saved them. Then their hearts become lukewarm and feel burdened to go and tell others what Jesus has done for them. Or they just keep God’s grace to themselves. But this man was different. He remembered how miserable his life had been and how Jesus had mercy on him and saved him from demon possession. He knew he got a new life through Jesus and felt owed to Jesus. Whenever he remembered what Jesus had done for him he was so thankful that he went out and told people. Through this one man’s testimony many people heard about Jesus and came to know him. We can see the fruit of this one man’s testifying to Jesus in this passage. These days Tony talks about bringing his friends to Bible study and telling people about Jesus. He eagerly waits to transfer to UMCP to invite students to Bible study.    

Jesus revisited the Decapolis where he had been rejected previously. The townspeople had seen the crazy man healed and the huge herd of pigs drowned in the lake. They were afraid and asked Jesus to leave their region. Jesus had to leave even without a break. So this time Jesus could have avoided the region by going around. But he went to the Decapolis again perhaps to see how the former demon possessed man was doing. We can also see Jesus gave the people another chance. He doesn’t easily give up on those who reject him. He visits them again and invites them. The Bible says, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2Peter 3:9). I remember what Lawson said that he had rejected bible study invitations several times until missionary Sarah Chang invited him. Though he rejected again and again God kept sending him Bible teachers until he accepted one. We should not easily give up on those who reject us and keep on looking for an opportunity to invite them to Bibles study so they can meet Jesus.


When Jesus revisited the area second time the people’s attitude toward Jesus was changed. He might not have revisited the same location. But it is most likely that the people of the Decapolis heard about Jesus and their hearts were open to Jesus.  Previously the people begged Jesus to leave because they concerned about their business and economy more than one man’s soul. But this time they came out to him and welcomed him. They brought to him a deaf and mute and begged him to heal him on behalf of the man. They had compassion on this man and wanted him to be able to hear and speak. They had faith in Jesus that he could open this man’s ears and mouth. And they begged Jesus to heal him as if the man’s problems were theirs. They had pure motive and compassion for this pathetic man.   


The man the people brought to Jesus had a serious life problem. He was a deaf and could hardly talk. He had hearing and speaking problems. He had two ears but couldn’t hear anything. When I came to America I experienced what it is like to be deaf and mute. When I heard Sunday messages in English I couldn’t understand them. I couldn’t laugh while others laughed. When I laughed no one laughed. I was out of sync. When I couldn’t understand what the messengers said I began to be spiritually thirsty and hungry. And I couldn’t get a job I wanted. One time I was hired as a cashier at a Shell gas station in College Park. An employee trained me for three days. He explained to me how to operate the cash register. But I couldn’t understand his explanations. As a result after three days of training I was fired.


Though I couldn’t understand English at least I could hear and speak. But this man’s case was far more serious. He couldn’t hear anything. He had a mouth, but he couldn’t express himself. He must have been frustrated about himself not being able to express himself. People who talked to him were also frustrated.


Hearing and speaking are closely related. If a man is unable to hear and understand he can’t speak. Communication is a two way conversation. Hearing and speaking are important because through them we can communicate with others and understand each other. Through communication people get to know each other and build up relationship. Without communication people feel left alone. He was misunderstood by people who didn’t know him and received many unfair treatments. Because of this and his disabilities he had many wounds and scars in his heart. People wouldn’t come near him and talk to him. He lived in isolation and loneliness.


If this passage only talks about Jesus’ physical healing it is not related to most of us because we aren’t deaf and mute. This passage talks about more than just physical healing. There are many who have physically sound ears and mouth but unable to hear and talk. They are so called spiritual deaf and mute. Who are spiritual deaf and mute? They are those who hear and see but can’t perceive and understand. For example, Jesus talked about his death and resurrection to his disciples again and again. But his disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus spoke about. Because of their human thinking and personal dream they couldn’t understand and accept Jesus’ death. They could finally understand the meaning of his death after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. But for a long time they couldn’t understand and accept even though they heard the same message again and again. They were like spiritual deaf and mute.


Jesus well describes the condition of the spiritual deaf and mute in Mark 4:11-12. “He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.” Spiritual deaf people are those who hear but never understand. Though they see they never perceive. If they understand and perceive they will accept and be forgiven.


Spiritual deaf are also those who hear but don’t obey. If you speak to a physically deaf person he can’t hear anything. Even if you shout to the ears of the deaf he doesn’t respond. Eventually you get tired of talking to him and want to give up.  Since a deaf can’t hear anything his sense becomes dull and his heart is hardened. Likewise spiritual deaf people hear with their ears but they don’t listen. One example is Cain. When God didn’t accept his offering he was angry with God. God counseled him, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Cain should have thought about why God didn’t accept his offering and repented. He should have taken God’s warning seriously and avoided sinning. But he didn’t listen to God’s counsel. Instead he went out to a field with his brother Abel and intentionally killed him. As a result he suffered all his life from senses of guilt and fear.


What does it mean to be spiritually mute? To be spiritually mute is to not speak up for God and the truth when we have opportunity or obligation to do so. In our country we have the freedom of speech. We can share our faith in Christ without any threat of being arrested or deported. This is not true in communist or Muslim nations. Even though we have this freedom of speech, in our human nature we are much more comfortable to speak about what is politically correct, like sports or the weather, since these are not offensive to people. Fear of rejection can rob a man of speech and make him silent. Remember Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest? He was spiritually mute. He could not speak up for Jesus. Rather he lied, saying he didn’t even know Jesus. Later, after Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Christ, they were threatened by those in authority not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Spiritually mute Peter became a bold and joyful preacher of the gospel of Christ. If we only talk about worldly things, then we are spiritually mute. But when we come to Jesus and receive the word of God we know what to say.


How did Jesus help the deaf and mute? He took him aside, away from the crowd. Then Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephatha (which means, be opened.). New American Standard version says, “After spitting, he touched the man’s tongue with the saliva.” Jesus could have only said, “Be opened”. Why did he do such weird and unclean things? The deaf and mute couldn’t hear and understand. The only way he could understand things was through his eyes and feelings. He could see what Jesus was doing. It was a folk remedy that people put saliva on the affected spot to heal in Jesus’ time. Jesus gave him his special attention by taking him away from the crowd. Jesus gave him his personal touches on his ears and mouth as he did for the leper. Jesus understood the man’s agonies and wounds in his heart and helped him in the best way.   


What happened to the man? At this the man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. When Jesus said, “Be opened, suddenly the man began to hear everything clearly. He could understand what people were talking. His hearing problem was gone. He could hear birds chirping, streams’ flowing and the sound of the people’s amazement. It is like going into a theatre where you can watch a movie with surrounding sound systems. The whole world looked different. When his ears were opened his mouth was opened too. He began to speak plainly and fluently. He could freely express himself and began to communicate with others. Now he could get any kind of job he wanted depending on how much he made efforts. Most of all he could talk freely about what Jesus had done for him. He could live a life that glorified God.


Through the former demon possessed man and this former deaf and mute we learn that God gave us ears to hear and understand his word. He also gave us a mouth to tell others what God has done in our lives.

After healing the man Jesus told them not to tell anyone. But the more Jesus did so the more people kept talking about it. People were utterly astonished with amazement. They said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful.” “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.

Through this event Jesus proved that he is the promised Messiah the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 35:5, 6. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lamb leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” The prophet Isaiah prophesied what the Messiah would do 7 or 800 years before Jesus came. The Messiah would open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf and the mouth of the mute so they could shout for joy. Through healing this deaf and mute Jesus proved that he is the one who was to come.

Last Sunday in our Welcome Back worship service we heard three testimonies. One of them, Joshua Park shared how he could accept the death of Jesus. Though he had heard the message of Jesus’ death numerous times he couldn’t understand and accept it. Then he attended a Bible conference in Korea and heard a testimonial message who spoke it with tears. While hearing the message he understood the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross and accepted it. It took many years for him to understand and accept. But Jesus opened his spiritual ears to hear and understand so he can believe and be saved.  

In the past I was also like this deaf and mute. I tried to find the meaning and purpose of my life through conversation. But when I found out what people talked was only jokes and lewd talks I was disappointed and stopped talking. When I couldn’t find the meaning in life I lost desire and hope to live and to do anything. Even at home I rarely talked. But when I accepted God as my Creator he revived my heart and life. Suddenly I became talkative inviting friends and students to Bible study. When I came to the US about 15 years ago I faced language barrier. I went to campus to invite students to Bible study. Our conversation started well. But after conversation started I talked less and less and became silent. I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t understand what they said and the students began to sense that. Saying “Excuse me, Pardon me” once or twice in a conversation is ok. But when I kept on saying these students felt annoyed and stopped talking to me. I had ears but couldn’t understand. I had a mouth but when I couldn’t talk when I couldn’t understand. As I said earlier I was fired at a Shell gas station because of my inability to understand. Then one day while reading the Bible I read Jesus opening the ears and the mouth of the deaf and mute. I was greatly encouraged by Jesus who opened the deaf and mute and began to pray to him to open my ears and mouth so that I could teach the Bible. Then Jesus began to help me in practical ways. For example about a month after I came to U.S. he sent me one humble Ph. D student to Bible study.


In America I was fired three times. I was fired twice because of inability to understand English. Two weeks ago on Sunday Abraham Lee talked about several phobias in his message. I heard that some POWs who were tortured suffer from nightmares of being tortured even after they are released. It is same with fear of being fired. When I got a Database Administrator position in a big IT company I had this phobia. My work order manager and mentor spoke five times faster than Abraham Lee speaks. Besides I had never heard of the technical stuffs he explained before. I had to depend on God everyday by coming to prayer meeting in early morning and cried to God to open my ears to understand what he said. Then God slowly opened my ears and helped me to understand. God helped me through my mentor to open my ears. He even corrected my grammar I wrote in my emails. When I couldn’t understand what he explained he even used visual things such as books and CDs to help me to understand. After I was trained by him for 2 years I wasn’t afraid of anyone’s speaking speed. My hearing got a lot better compared to my early days in US. I began to enjoy Sunday messages and Bible conference messages. I could laugh when others laughed. We were in sync. Sometimes I don’t see a distinction between hearing in Korean and English. I am not saying I speak like an American. I still pray to God to open my ears to understand. My point is that Jesus opened my ears and mouth to speak. Each week God has sent me four or five students to Bible study so I can freely talk to them and study the bible with them.


In conclusion Jesus is the Messiah who opens our deaf ears and mute mouth. He opens our ears to hear his word and understand. He opens our mouth so that we can declare the wonderful grace of Jesus for our lives. I pray that he may open student’s ears to hear and accept Jesus as the Son of God. I pray that we may bring many spiritual deaf to Jesus so that they may hear his word and be saved.


Let’s read the key verse 37