Good Morning! Happy August!
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus* ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
If we look at the map of Israel in Jesus’ time, we see that the region of Tyre and Sidon is to the north of Galilee, on the Mediterranean, in Syria. Jesus and the disciples would have had to come back south to northern Galilee, the region above the Sea of Galilee, and then on to the east and south to the area of the Decapolis. It would have been quite a journey on foot! (Even though one can tour the entire region of the upper Galilee in an afternoon in an air conditioned bus! We did!)
Mark’s point, however, is likely not the distance traveled but the fact that Jesus is teaching in another Gentile area, and there are crowds surrounding him just as there are in Galilee. This time he makes no protest about healing the man who is likely not Jewish, but a Gentile.
A man is brought to Jesus who is deaf and has difficulty with speaking. Those bringing the man, his friends or family, beg Jesus to help him – just to lay his hands on him. The process Jesus uses looks odd to us – he puts his fingers in his ears (I assume the man’s ears) and he spits and touches his tongue, and says, “Be opened.” And immediately (remember, Mark uses that word a lot!) the man could hear and speak plainly! Jesus told them not to tell anyone, but the more he admonished them not to tell, the more the proclaimed it, saying, “He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” This again references Isaiah – in Isaiah 35:5 we read, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” The disciples may not yet understand, but Mark leaves no doubt that Jesus is the promised one, the Messiah, the Son of God. We know him – he has worked miracles in our lives as well – even though Jesus told them not to tell, they did – do we tell what Jesus has done for us?