October 13, 2016 • Life for Leaders
After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.
Mark 7:32-35 is a short healing story in which Jesus healed a man who was deaf and who also had a speech impediment (which often happens with people who lose their hearing at a early age). The fact that Jesus healed a deaf man is not especially surprising given what he had already accomplished in the Gospel of Mark, including the raising of a girl who had died (5:35-43). But the manner of Jesus’s healing in this story is unusual, even perplexing. Rather than simply telling the man to be healed or touching him, Jesus took him away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man’s ears, and then, strangest of all, spit on his fingers and touched the man’s tongue. Why did Jesus do that?
I’ve heard sermons and read biblical commentaries that seek to answer this question. Some think Jesus was trying to let the man know what he was about to do. Others see Jesus as underscoring God’s authority to heal. Still others note that saliva was believed to have healing powers in the culture of Jesus. The truth is, however, that nobody really knows why Jesus did such a strange thing in this story. Surely he had his reasons, but we can only guess at them.
When I read this story in Mark, I’m reminded of the limits of my understanding. I’m humbled by remembering just how much I don’t understand about Jesus. May God protect me from pretending to know what I don’t know, or what cannot be known this side of Heaven.
We can know for sure several things on the basis of Mark 7:32-35. We can know that God, working in Jesus, has the power to heal. We also know the God treats each of us as individuals. He deals with us according to our unique situation, personality, and needs. Our God is not a cookie-cutter Savior! And we are not his cookies. Rather, God enters into a unique, personal, intimate relationship with each of us, meeting us where we are and helping us to experience his grace right at the point of our need.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What do you do when you can’t understand something in the Bible?
Are you comfortable with saying that you don’t know something about Jesus? Why or why not?
How have you experienced God’s care for you in a personal way?
Lord Jesus, I look forward to the day when I will see you face to face. Perhaps I’ll be able to ask you why you treated this deaf man in such an unusual way. Then again, perhaps questions like this won’t matter much when I’m in your presence.
Lord, there is much about you that I don’t understand. This story reminds me of my lack of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to your character and actions. Help me, I pray, to understand you more deeply and truly. In this process, may I be honest with you and with others when I don’t understand. And if there are things that are simply not mine to know, may I be satisfied to see you dimly, as in a mirror, knowing that one day I will see you face to face.
Thank you, dear Lord, for treating me as an individual. Thank you for working in my life in a unique way that reflects who I am. How good you are to me! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Healing in Luke
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.