spending time with god

Ephphatha—Open Up!

Mark 7:31-37 (NRSV)
Mark 7:31-37 (The Message)

You’re most likely reading this on the Internet in some fashion, through Facebook, e-mail or directly from the blog. If you’re like me, this is not always the most conducive environment for slowing down and spending time with God.

A computer or smart phone can buzz with activity. Other windows, apps or browser tabs may be open, streaming music or television. Little pop-ups may be appearing and disappearing, telling you “important e-mail” or alerting you to an incoming instant message. These glowing screens are like mirrors on the modern life, a swirling reflection of information overload.

Try something before you read any further. What you’ll experience is really important as we look at today’s text. Find a way to sit in silence, even if just briefly—say, five minutes. It helps to take some deep breaths.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

My premise today is a simple one. We are like the deaf man in our story in Mark. We’re just deaf for a different reason. He had a physical problem. We have an environmental problem that causes spiritual deafness.

Something had stopped up his ears. Perhaps it was disease. Perhaps it was a head injury. He began to speak as soon as he was healed, so he apparently remembered sound and speech. But at some point in his life, the sound had no longer come in and intelligible words had stopped coming out.

The cure was not a simple one, not even for Jesus the miracle worker. This was no time for spectacle, for show. Jesus pulled the man aside to a private place. (It strikes me that the deaf man must have had little understanding of what was going on; he had to trust Jesus.) Imagine what it would feel like to have Jesus stick his fingers in your ears. Imagine what it would be like to have him take his spit and put it on your tongue.

Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus pray for you in the common Aramaic his very common people spoke, a prayer so deep that it comes out in a groaning command: “Ephphatha.” Open up!

When it comes to hearing Jesus, to really hearing what God has to say to us, we’re stopped up, too. The world is in our ears. We’re clogged with work, sport and school schedules, with plans, with worries, with diversions like television, Internet and video games. We’re so stopped up that we’re in danger of remaining deaf to God’s continuing call on our lives until the day we die.

This deafness also makes us spiritually mute. How can we declare what we have not recently heard?

On the day the deaf-mute man was healed, the people who witnessed the transformation remembered what the prophet Isaiah had said about the time to come, the time when all things would be set right, the time when God would return to his people and establish the kingdom that would save the world. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5-6)

And no one, not even Jesus, could keep them from proclaiming the signs they were seeing. (Was the deaf-mute man their keynote speaker as they ran about?) Their excitement was too great; they could not restrain themselves.

May we go to private places with Jesus long enough that our ears be unstopped. May we hear his message well. And may we declare the message of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with great excitement.