Study in Mark’s Gospel. Presentation 24. A Sign Of Things To Come Chap 7v31-37. Presentation 24. Introduction.
What were the purpose of Jesus’ miracles? We know that Jesus didn’t want the reputation of a wonder worker and for people to be so blinkered by the effects of his power that they were unable to take in the significance of his wider ministry of salvation.
Jesus is no showman! His miracles were never intended to be an end in themselves but to act as signposts pointing to who he was and indicating the transforming significance of his ministry. John in his gospel purposefully uses a Greek word ‘sameion’, which means ‘sign’, to describe Jesus’ miracles.
The miracle in our passage took place in the region of the Decapolis. Why is that detail important? Ch.5 describes Jesus’ last visit to this area. He healed the demoniac but the people of Decapolis made it clear that they did not want Jesus meddling in their lives. They had been terrified by his raw power. There was a lot of misunderstanding and prejudice to be broken down in their hearts. Jesus had been told in no uncertain terms to leave the area. He left, but not in a fit of pique that would indicate, ‘you’ll never see me again’. He purposefully, left behind the healed demoniac who was to become a daily reminder of the wholesome, creative power of the stranger they had rejected. This exposure to a transformed life surely made them think again.
You simply could not live for long beside the man who for years had been the biggest disruptive force in the community and who now was as gentle as a lamb and continue to be terrified of the one who had changed him.
As prejudice was bulldozed away, a hunger for Jesus’ help developed in their hearts. God’s grace at work in men’s hearts will always be attractive to others. You may be the only Christian in your office, family or street. As God transforms your life, and removes what is unwholesome, selfish and prickly from your character, others will take notice and God may dismantle the prejudices in their hearts.
Many people think Jesus has washed his hands of them because they had rejected him at an earlier point in their lives. It is possible to develop a jaundiced picture of Jesus, despite being brought up in a Christian home or attending Sunday School. Many youngsters develop friendships where it isn’t ‘cool’ to admit to being interested in Jesus. Young people start courting and interest in Jesus is conveniently dropped.
But a day comes when they see how wrong they have been. Then they wonder, ‘Is it too late for me? I have treated Jesus badly, will he now reject me?’ Such thoughts must have made the people of Decapolis uneasy. And so this deaf-mute is brought to Jesus as a test case.
A young girl came across her brother’s set of felt pens
and a colouring book that had not been tidied away. She found a page he had painstakingly coloured in and set about ‘improving’ the finished work. She destroyed the artist’s great original. When the deed was discovered,
the artist was both broken-hearted and angry –
something that he had invested so much of himself
in, had been brutally vandalised.
Now if that is the reaction to the destructive work of a toddler who did not know what she was doing how much more must God be heart broken and angered by the disfigurement that has been introduced to his world, his great original. Jesus’ sigh reflects that.
But how do we explain Jesus’ strange behaviour in healing this man? Imagine a trip to hospital for an operation? If the world of medicine is a mystery to you and you are understandably more than a little apprehensive. But the day before the operation the surgeon comes to visit. He sits at your bed side and takes time to explain what will happen. That knowledge begins to quieten your fears.
Jesus is doing something like that here in dealing with the deaf mute. He spoke in the only language the man he understood ‘sign language’.
Jesus’ fingers are placed in the man’s ears and then removed meaning, ‘I am going to remove the blockage from your ears’. The spitting and the touching of the tongue meant, ‘I am going to restore your speech’. The glance heavenward said, ‘It is God alone who will do these things’. Jesus wanted the man to understand that it was God’s grace and not some magical rite that had healed him. But Jesus also knew this was the best way in which to excite and quicken faith the man’s heart. Faith was the bridge over which God’s blessing would come into his life!
Jesus knows how best to quicken and excite faith in our hearts. Just as he drew this man apart and spoke through signs to gain his attention, he can draw us apart and speaks through signs to gain our attention - an illness, bereavement, disappointment, something to make us sit up and listen.
There is a further important dimension to Jesus’ sign language. Isaiah prophesied concerning blessing of the gospel era that ‘the ears of the deaf would be unstopped and the tongue of the dumb would shout for joy’
[Isa. 35v5-6]. Jesus fulfilled that prophecy and the
deaf mute could hear the music of God’s creation
and sing the praises of his Creator. The restoration
process of redemption had begun.
You may be tempted to think,
‘not many of us are deaf or dumb and so the application of Jesus, as one who gives hearing and speech has little relevance for me,’
but remember Jesus’ miracles are to be understood as signs that reveal a deeper spiritual truth.
We are all by nature spiritually deaf and dumb and unable even to stammer the praises of their Creator. It is the work of Christ through his Holy Spirit that enables those, who are spiritually deaf, to hear God’s voice.
A person may be sitting listening in church or reading their Bible at home and all of a sudden God’s Word leaps out grabs their attention. And it is as real to them as if they had heard an audible voice. The world of spiritual truth that for years had been foreign to them takes on new meaning. Paul wrote to the Corinthians;
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. 1Cor.1v21
Do you need your ears unstopped by Jesus? Many deaf people are embarrassed by their deafness they do not want to admit their need and pretend that they understand all that is going on around them.
The same is true of those who are spiritually deaf. It is a sore embarrassment for many people to admit, ‘the whole realm of spiritual truth is alien to me. I cannot honestly say that God speaks to me through his word’.
Then ask Jesus to unstop your ears.
As soon as our ears are unstopped then our tongue is unloosed. For the first time we discover that we are not simply singing hymns but actually praising God from our hearts.
We may not sing more tunefully but for the first time our singing becomes praise for we are responding to what God has revealed of himself through his Word. God’s grace revealed generates praise.
The response of the crowd, was to say that Jesus had ‘done all things well.’ They had been so apprehensive about the kind of reception they would receive. Now they knew! Jesus had worked quietly, modestly and graciously. How much greater should our response be as we recognise that beyond the healing miracles lies a deeper spiritual significance. Jesus, in response to living faith, makes us spiritually whole. He begins to equip us to be the kind of people God originally intended. Should not the song of a forgiven, redeemed people surpass that of the crowd who said, ‘he has done all things well’?
Are you spiritually disfigured and in need of restoration, forgiveness and grace? Do you long for Jesus to exercise his creative power and rule in your life? Are you wondering what sort of reception you might receive?
Then surely the test case from Decapolis will encourage your heart. Without any fanfare Jesus drew the man aside, put him at ease, encouraged his faith and began his work of restoration. His healing is the gospel in miniature, a sign of a far greater spiritual transformation. Have you faith to believe that Jesus might do his transforming work in you?