Jesus’ encounter with the deaf-mute gives us a helpful picture of salvation. The Bible says that in the beginning humans conversed with God personally and lived in a world full of God’s Word. In that initial pristine state we would have perfectly heard God’s eternal message of love for us, and been able to perfectly with lives directed in every part towards love. This conversation of love is a picture of eternal life. However, sin made us deaf to God’s Word. Just like with the deaf man today’s Scripture, this deafness also means that we can’t speak our praise in return to God. We are thus shut out from eternal life. When we come to faith in Christ, Jesus heals us, enabling us to hear God’s Word once more and speak love in reply.
1. A Picture of Christ’s Humiliation
Jesus made himself unclean by touching the Gentile man’s tongue. This hints at Jesus’ humiliation in the incarnation and his passion. That humiliation was fulfilled when Jesus actually entered into our deafness when, on the cross, he could no longer hear the Father’s love and cried out in dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Through his submission to death he was able to also say “Ephphatha!” to the grave and to Heaven.
2. The Power of The Cross To Open Ears
Jesus wanted the man to understand that he was going to heal him and so did it in a way he could understand, spitting and touching his tongue and ears. The cross of Christ does a similar thing for us, not only saving us but communicating God’s intention to save by portraying his perfect love in a way that spiritually deaf humanity can understand. Nothing can open our ears to God’s word of love like the cross of Christ. Just as this man’s friends brought him to Jesus, so we should bring those we know who don’t know Jesus, or are struggling in their faith under the sound of the Gospel of the cross. Likewise we should carry them to Jesus in prayer, begging him to heal them.
3. Our Healing Isn’t Finished
Unlike the man in the reading, our healing is not finished in one go. There are seasons in the Christian life when we find ourselves more or less deaf to God’s love for us. We cry out like the psalmist, “I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak… ” (Ps 38:13-14)
Jesus’ dealings with the man give us reason to hope. He takes him away from the crowd, in the same way we should remember that Jesus deals with each of us individually, and not be discouraged that God deals with each of us differently. Jesus groaned as he healed the man, thus we should be assured of the Lord’s compassion and his intercession for our sanctification. As already mentioned, Jesus condescended so that the man could understand Jesus’ intentions. In the same way we can trust God’s intentions for us because of the cross. He who gave his only son for us while we were sinners will not abandon us now that we are his children. All of these things enable us to respond with hope, even when we cannot hear, just as Jesus did on the cross. We can say with the psalmist, “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.“ (Ps 38:15)”
4. A Guiding Light to Heaven
This picture of salvation helps to guide our walk with God. In what parts of your life are you deaf to God’s love? What parts of your life do you return to him in praise? He will one day piece every part of our lives together in and one perfect and never ending conversation of love. In the meantime we can pray and cooperate with him in that work.