“Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him” (Mark 7:31-32 NAS).
When this story takes place, Jesus has already healed many and word has quickly spread. People who had seen or heard of His miracles must have talked about them constantly. Surely there was not a day that went by that they were not discussed and marveled over. Can you imagine what it would mean to be in need of healing and hear that there was one who was able to heal every need, no matter how long-standing or serious? That there was nothing impossible with this man named Jesus? He could touch a person or simply speak a word, and people were made whole.
I like the way the New Living Translation (NLT) words Mark 7:33: “Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue.” I like the NLT version because it makes it very clear that Jesus wanted to be alone with the man, to get him away from all distractions so he could focus on the One who would heal him. Think about the noise of the crowd and their shuffling for space to get a clear view of what was sure to be another miracle. Since the man could not hear, he would have to be very centered on Jesus to understand what was happening. And Jesus had more for him than bodily healing and He didn’t want the deaf and dumb man to miss it. He had the greatest gift of all–healing for his soul.
This healing involved more outward actions than usual. He may have put his fingers in the man’s ears to let him know what was about to happen—that He was going to open them. He may have touched the man’s tongue with His sacred saliva to indicate power would leave His body and flow into the man’s body. Whatever His reasons, we can agree with The Pulpit Commentary: “We may be assured that, in the case before us, these signs used by our Lord were intended to awaken the afflicted man’s faith, and to stir up in him the lively expectation of a blessing.”
There was one other case of healing where the healing was of one both deaf and dumb (or mute). It was of a demon-possessed boy, told in Mark 9:14-29. In verse 25, it says this: “When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, He rebuked the evil spirit. ‘Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,’ He said. ‘I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again’” (NLT)! This was one of the many healings of demon possession and that topic will have separate coverage.
Were both situations caused by evil spirits? I don’t think so. Scripture says Jesus spoke to a spirit in the child–a demonic possession. There was nothing in the first healing that indicates it was anything but a physical abnormality. He simply touched the man’s ears and tongue and he was healed.
Writing about the man deaf and dumb reminds me of a personal experience. Quite a few years ago, I served as the church director for the Exceptional Department, a ministry for mentally challenged adults. Most of the men and women lived in group homes with house parents and the house-mother from a home called one day saying one of the women there, Margie, wanted to talk with me about Jesus. The Holy Spirit was moving through the Exceptional Department, as one and then another wanted to profess faith in Jesus and be baptized. Now Margie was asking for that same thing. I knew Margie’s father was still alive so I asked the house-mother what he thought about this. She said she had talked with him and he very much wanted Margie to have this chance to talk to me about her understanding of Jesus. Margie wasn’t deaf, but she did suffer from a speech impairment so severe I could hardly understand a word she said. This caused me great concern on how we would communicate. Certainly, I prayed about our coming time together, but when I got to the house, I asked Margie if Sandy could meet with us and help me if there was anything I couldn’t understand. Sandy had just a mild disability and she was a favorite friend of Margie’s. Margie quickly nodded her head that it would be fine for her to join us. However, on that day, Jesus opened my ears just like He did the man of Mark 7:32. For I understood perfectly every word Margie said, and there in her room, she gave her heart to the Lord. That was a day I stood on holy ground.