Jesus doesn’t seem to find the rest he was hoping for, so he returns again to the area around the Sea of Galilee in Mark 7:31-37. In every miracle that Jesus has performed from the calming of the storm to the raising of the little girl from the dead, there was no incantation, no arm waving, nothing. Jesus merely spoke, and whatever he said happened. So when he encounters this man who could not hear, nor speak, we have come to expect the same thing. But this time it’s different. This time, he first, in verse 33, takes him away from the crowd. Jesus is careful to give this man some privacy. Then he puts his fingers in his ears, spits on the ground, and touches the man’s tongue. Jesus doesn’t do all of these things to put on a show, remember he isn’t around a crowd, it’s just him and this guy. This man can’t hear, so Jesus uses something this man can understand, he uses touch. He uses non-verbal speech to help this man understand. Sign-language didn’t exist, so Jesus works in that realm of communication. The word used to explain this man has “deaf and with a speech impediment” is only found here in the New Testament. The only other place it is found is in the Old Testament in Isaiah 35:5.
Read what this passage says in Isaiah 35:4-6 and note particularly where it says, “the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
Mark has included this story in his retelling of Jesus’ ministry to carefully teach who Jesus is. He isn’t a miracle worker who has come to heal people. Remember that over and over the question “Who is this?” has arisen about Jesus. Well, you see the deaf man hear and the mute tongue shout for joy. This Jesus is none other than the King of Heaven. He has come to bring salvation and judgment. When the King comes, the blind will see and the deaf will hear. He will bring retribution. In other words, he will set everything right. This story along with the story of the Syrophoenician woman work together to teach this theme. The King has come. He is the great King, not only of Israel, but of heaven and earth. He brings salvation to any who come to him. He sets everything to rights. And he will forgive and restore us if we come to him in belief and repentance. If we don’t let our pride keep us from living with the King, he has made a way for us to be forgiven and to live with him forever. And, we can begin to experience this forever kind of life today when we respond to Jesus by believing in him and aligning our lives with his plan.