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“He Makes The Deaf Hear”

  • International
  • September 9, 2012
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As we read the Gospels we come across the numerous cures which Jesus performed. In fact we have no record that Jesus ever turned any sick person away, no matter how tired he may have been, no matter how imperfect the faith of the one who asked.

The Gospel writers were always aware that the healing miracles of Jesus were performed in a context, and that context was the presence of the ‘reign of God.’ In fact the ancient prophets, Isaiah particularly, had foretold this: one of the signs that the messiah had come was that the sick and the crippled would be healed, and that those so afflicted would recover their sight and their hearing.

And Jesus it is who brings about this ‘right relationship’ with God (which we call God’s ‘reign’ or ‘kingdom’) through his preaching and his healing, even though he himself avoids undue publicity, and discourages people from boasting about their cures.

In the episode recorded by Mark in today’s Gospel, Jesus is in pagan territory, outside the borders of Israel. A deaf mute is brought to Jesus – someone with a speech impediment – and Jesus is asked to lay his hands on him and heal him. Jesus takes the man aside, and does even more: he puts his fingers into the man’s ears, spits, and touches his tongue. Then he looks heavenwards, sighs, and cries “Be opened!” And the man recovers his speech and his hearing. The crowd is astonished, and the news of this cure spreads everywhere.

Why does Jesus go through such a ritual of healing? Why does he not ask for faith from the patient, as he otherwise does? Why does he forbid the man to speak about his healing?

One answer is to remember what Mark calls ‘the messianic secret’ of Jesus. Jesus hides his identity as messiah and healer from the public, always wary of popular sentiment and misunderstanding. Perhaps too, the ritual of healing seen in this miracle reflects the practice of the early Christian community, called upon to witness to the Lord both by preaching and healing.

Touching and anointing acquired a sacramental form. Finally Mark intended this miracle to indicate the coming of the messianic age foretold by the prophets, an age which would bring salvation to all, Jews and Gentiles alike, even as this deaf mute was.
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