“Ephphatha!” – “Be Opened!”

Mark 7:31–37 31Jesus left the region of Tyre again and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of the Decapolis.

32They brought a man to him who was deaf and had a speech impediment. They pleaded with Jesus to place his hand on him. 33Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34After he looked up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”) 35Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was set free, and he began to speak plainly. 36Jesus gave the people strict orders to tell no one, but the more he did so, the more they kept proclaiming it. 37They were amazed beyond measure and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!”

Jesus is nearby! Dan, Joe, and Ben excitedly find their friend, Kophi. The last time Jesus was in the area, He healed two crazy men of their demon possession (Matthew 8:28-34).

Dan signs the name “Jesus” to Kophi. Kophi has been deaf from birth. His parents named him after his physical disability – “Kophi” – which is similar to “kophos,” the Greek word for “deaf.” Kophi’s deafness also created a speech impediment.

Kophi doesn’t quite understand what the big deal is about going to see this Jesus. Obviously, he hasn’t heard about any of Jesus’ healing miracles. But, he has nothing else to do. So, he joins his friends. On the way through the Decapolis, Dan, Joe, and Ben take turns signing to Kophi about all the healing that Jesus has been doing in their region and how Jesus is the promised Son of God.

The four friends find Jesus in Pella, one of the ten cities of the Decapolis. It’s easy to figure out where Jesus is in the city. A huge crowd is surrounding Him. It seems like everyone in the Decapolis is here bringing to Jesus their lame, blind, and crippled (Matthew 15:30). And Jesus is healing all of them.

Dan, Joe, Ben, and Kophi wait patiently in line to approach Jesus. Finally, when it is their turn, Joe pleads with Jesus, “My friend, Kophi, was born deaf. He can speak, but only the three of us can really understand him. You’ve healed so many today. Will you lay hands on Kophi to heal him, too?”

Jesus immediately takes Kophi away from the crowds to avoid all the commotion. Kophi can focus Jesus and Jesus can focus on Kophi.

Since Kophi can’t hear, Jesus does some visual actions to convey what He is about to do. He puts His fingers into Kophi’s ears as if to say, “I’m going to fix what’s wrong with your ears.” He spits and touches the Kophi’s tongue. “I’m going to fix that, as well.”

Kophi wonders why Jesus is using spittle. But, he thinks, that if his mom could use her spittle to wash his childhood face when it became dirty, then surely the spittle of the Son of God can fix his broken ears and tied tongue.

Jesus looks up to heaven to communicate from where this blessing is coming. He prays: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Then Jesus signs. Jesus is moved with emotion as He deals with the damage that sin has done to one of His children. Jesus shared in our humanity so that He could free us from the devil’s power and pain (Hebrew 2:14). He is a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3). He agonizes over the results of humanity’s fall into sin that have caused this extreme physical suffering upon His precious child. God’s beautiful creation has become damaged. Jesus sighs. He echoes the sigh of all creation at the fall into sin (Romans 8:22).

And now Jesus is ready to commence with the healing. To open Kophi’s closed ears, Jesus speaks a word – a funny-sounding word, “Ephphatha.” It may sound strange to our ears, but it is a powerful word – precisely because the Great Physician proclaims it. “Ephphatha.” It’s an Aramaic word, which is the language that Jesus speaks. “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And when the Son of God speaks, things happen.

The same fingers that formed man out of clay now reform Kophi’s inner ear canal. The same divine power that opened the floodgates to fill the oceans at creation, now opens Kophi’s ears to hear the flooding of sounds both strange and wonderful at the same time. The shackles of Satan are cast off Kophi. For the first time, he can hear sounds … words … music! He is released from his prison of silence.

Kophi’s name, which means “deaf” doesn’t really fit any more. He can hear for the first time in his life! Tears of joy stream down his face.

He starts praising God. And now he is even more amazed! He hears his own voice! His tongue is set free and he speaks … clearly. No learning how to enunciate or form vowels and consonants. No speech impediment. He can hear and speak clearly. What a joy! What a blessing!

Dan, Joe, and Ben can hear Kophi’s voice calling to them. They find their friend and they are hugging and laughing and crying and praising God. They are amazed beyond measure. They tell everyone they see about Jesus, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!”

Jesus does the same thing for us. It is always scary when we realize that we might lose our sight or our hearing or our memory or our independence. When we learn we have cancer, or a heart problem, or must replace knees or hips, we have confidence that Jesus is the Son of God who has the power to heal our physical ailments. He may heal us miraculously. He may use physicians and medicines. Or, he may allow us to remain with our ailments and then use those ailments to draw us and our family closer to Him in faith.   

We don’t know if it is Jesus’ will to heal us physically. Thankfully, we know that it is Jesus’ divine will to heal us of our spiritual ailments. 

What are those spiritual ailments? Sadly, they are ones that are often self-imposed. We tune out God’s voice so that we can live in sin with our boyfriend or girlfriend. We turn a deaf ear to God’s peace so we can walk in the door after work ready for a fight with our spouse. We close our ears to God’s love so that our hearts are filled with resentment and revenge.

We turn a blind eye to the beauty of God’s creation so that we may complain about whatever piddly annoyance aggravates us. We fail to see God’s overarching will for our lives so we are consumed with worry and doubt. We are so nearsighted looking only at the trinkets of this world that we miss out on the treasures of the world to come.

We shut up our mouths so that we do not give God the glory He deserves because of our lack of worship. We close our lips so that we do not avail ourselves of God’s almighty power because of our lack of prayer. We are afraid to speak God’s truths to our children so we don’t share our saving faith with them.  

We don’t read our Bibles. We skip worship. We don’t pray with our children. We have no clue what the voice of our Savior really sounds like. We have no idea what God’s holy will for our lives really looks like. We live for ourselves and let the Savior just walk on by.

We have become comfortable with our deafness. We have become complacent in our blindness. We have eyes, but fail to see. We have ears, but fail to hear (Mark 8:18).

Thank the Lord that this is why Jesus came. To fix what Satan has broken. To heal what humanity has hurt. To save sinners from their self-imposed damnation.

“He has done all things well,” the people said when Jesus healed the Kophi, who had once been deaf and mute. Jesus definitely has done all things well, but the supreme thing He has done well is to rescue, redeem and reclaim a world of lost, blind, deaf, and dying sinners.

The cross is the place where Jesus does the fixing. All the damage that Satan caused – disease and disability and death – Jesus reverses it. All the people not living right and enjoying their sin – Jesus saves them from it. All the spiritual blindness and deafness that we allow in our daily lives – Jesus heals us from it.

We humans are out of step with God. We disobey God’s will and rebel against our Creator. And everything is messed up– our bodies, our lives, even our souls. You are here today because you know you aren’t perfect. You realize that you need a perfect Savior. You need the Great Physician to heal your physical deficiencies and your spiritual diseases.

And that’s who Jesus is.

Jesus is the perfect Son of God who came down from heaven to be our Savior. He took on our flesh. He came face to face with Satan. He came finger to ear and spittle to tongue with the effects of our sin. He came to be buried in our death. He lived the perfect life of always having an open ear to the voice of His Father and an open mouth to praise His Lord. Jesus gave that perfection to us. His holiness covers over our sinfulness, our blind eyes, deaf ears, mute tongues, and hard hearts.

Jesus then went to the cross to finish the job of fixing us. With the scourge marks in His back and the crown of thorns pounded into His skull and the mails in His hands and feet – Jesus saved us. That’s why the sign langue for Jesus is no longer five letters. The universal sign language for Jesus is touching the tip of the middle finger into the palm of the other hand and doing the same in reverse. The sign for Jesus is the nails through His palms on the cross.

On the cross, Jesus bore the sins of our selfishness, our laziness, our lack of worship, our disobedience to His holy will, etc. He was the innocent who bore the penalty for the guilty. Jesus became our Substitute and our Savior. He spoke His own “Ephphatha” at His tomb and opened the grave so He could walk out. He has opened the graves for all those who believe in Him. Now, though the curse of sin will eventually kill us, the blessing of Jesus’ open tomb allows us to live once again.

Our physical ailments may continue to plague us and even kill us. But, our spiritual ailments have been covered, forgiven and, through faith in the Great Physician of body and soul, we will die not eternally in hell.

Ephaphatha. Jesus has slammed shut the doors of hell and opened wide the gates of heaven.

Ephaphatha. Jesus will open your graves on the Last Day.

Ephaphatha. Jesus has opened your heart to Him through Baptism and His holy Word. Now you can believe. Now you can hear. Now you can speak. Your ears have been opened to hear the voice of the Lord. Your tongue has been loosened to praise your Savior for what He has done for you. Your heart has been healed. Your soul has been saved.

But my once broken but now healed brothers and sisters in Christ, the best is yet to come. Because of Jesus you will soon see the glories of heaven. You will hear the praise of the angels. You will sing the song of the saints.

Ephphatha. Amen.

He who has an ear, let Him hear (Mark 4:23). Amen.