Mark 7.31 thru 37 The Ears of Christ
The Ears of Christ
Mark 7:31-37 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. 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. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means, "Be opened!”). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ears are an interesting part of our body. They are made up of the very smallest bones in our bodies. These bones have very strange names for that matter; they are called the stirrup, hammer and anvil. Now what are all those tools doing in our ear? They are part of an incredible design that God gave us to hear. This is really quite miraculous the way the human ear is designed, as is our entire body designed in a miraculous way. But let’s look at the ear in particular for a moment. This odd appendage can be quite funny looking if isolated and not covered by hair or adorned with an earring. My family is actually known for our big ears on one side of the family and ears that stick out on the other. So when my mother was pregnant with me she had a dream that I was going to have huge ears like “Dumbo” the elephant. She dreamt that I was crawling and I kept putting my knees on them and falling over. As much as we might be concerned about how they look, in the end, ears are most importantly to hear with. These ears are very important in our functionality in this world. We use them to hear all sorts of things. We need them to hear warnings. We need them to hear when danger is approaching. We need them to hear instructions throughout our lives. And we need them to hear a whisper that tells us someone loves us. Or even a yell that tells us someone is not happy with us.
God gave us these ears so that we could hear. This is their function, and the greatest thing that we can do with them is to hear His word. Yet more than “natural” hearing is needed for this; the ear may hear and yet be deaf. He tells us in Isaiah that His people can “be ever hearing, but never understanding.” God Himself decides whether to open the ear for understanding and faith and He “will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you.” He makes it clear that we should attune our ears to His law and not listen to unprofitable talk. He also tells us that deaf ears will be opened in the Messianic age. He tells us in prophecy of the healing of deaf ears which takes place in our gospel message. Isaiah prophesied, “then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” This is good news for those that don’t hear the word of God at all and even for those that don’t seem to really hear His word when it is spoken. Throughout scripture what distinguishes those who hear with faith and understanding from those who hear only with natural ears is an awareness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and His divine Lordship as it is visibly and audibly set before them in the person of Him who proclaims it…
How about God, does God have ears? The psalmist says it’s obvious that he does in saying, “Does He who implanted the ear not hear?” We see through Jesus…the ears of God and the way that they can hear. Through Christ we see that God always hears our prayers. God does listen to us and he hears everything, even our cries, our sighs, and our “whys”… Why me? ...Why this? ...Why now? We see through Christ that He always heard the cries, the sighs, and the whys of the people He met in His ministry. Take for instance the friends of the deaf mute in our Gospel message. Jesus heard them and took him aside and healed him. Throughout His ministry Jesus heard His people. Time and time again he listened to their requests and healed them and even the people that others might of spoke for.
Sometimes we don’t believe that He hears us or that He wants to hear us. We are sometimes convinced that our needs are too trivial to bother the creator of the universe with. But He tells us in John that, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” We don’t have to hold back on our prayers. He wants to hear even the most everyday needs that we have. He wants to hear about our need for a parking place or for the blister on our foot to go away. We know from the story just before our gospel of the Syrophoenician woman that it doesn’t matter who we are either. This woman was of a race that for centuries has had bad blood between them and the Jews. But Jesus heals her daughter without hesitation.
Let’s look at Jesus’ ears specifically and see what He heard. He was 100% human and had human ears just like ours. We humans like to hear encouraging words, like when our spouse or families tell us that they love us. We like to hear our boss tell us, “You did a good job” or our friends tell us, “Your thoughts and ideas are important to me.” Jesus also heard some encouraging words from those who heard and followed Him. When he asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” the ears of Christ heard Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ.” When a man came seeking healing for his son who was suffering convulsions, the father sighed into the ears of Christ, “If you can do anything, have pity on us.” To which Jesus replied, “All things are possible to those who believe.” Then the father spoke faithfully to the ears of Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Martha, at the death of Lazarus expressed her faith in the hearing of Jesus when she said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” At the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus hears the crowds and the children crying, “Hosanna to the son of David!” These words must have been comforting and encouraging for Jesus to hear.
But the ears of Christ also heard opposition from the scribes and Pharisees. They were not comforting words that these men used. They were words that were used to undermine Jesus and His ministry. They were words that were used to attack Him and scheme to do away with Him. Their ears were deaf to His words and they had no understanding of His words. They asked, “Why do your disciples transgress the traditions of the elders?”…”By what authority are you doing these things?”…and “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” They were accusing words like, “He casts our demons by the prince of demons.” Even His disciples were often confused and perplexed by Jesus rather than supportive. After hearing a parable Peter said, “Explain this parable to us.” And right after Peter confessing, “You are the Christ,” and Jesus telling him about the passion, Jesus hears Peter’s words rebuking Jesus. Finally, when the time came, Christ heard His disciples desert Him and the crowds turned on Him. His ears heard Peter’s boast, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Then they heard the rooster crow after Peter had denied Him three times. Christ’s ears heard Judas saying, “Hail, Master” as he kissed Jesus in a signal to betray Him. And now instead of crowds shouting “Hosanna”, he hears a crowd crying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
The ears of Christ heard both the pleas for mercy and all the curses directed to Him. But the ears of Christ did not need the approval of people to remain obedient to the Father. Jesus tuned His ears to the Father and heard Him give His approval at His baptism when He said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Many times Jesus went out into the hills to pray. The ears of Christ did not need the accolades and compliments of people to give Him power and perseverance. Instead the ears of Christ had to hear the words of the Father often, to gain strength to meet all the cries, the sighs, and the “whys”.
But the ears of Christ finally had to hear silence…even from God. Just as we sometimes feel that God has abandoned us or He does not hear our prayers, Jesus also shared that pain with us on the cross when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Finally the ears of Christ became deaf to all sounds. They could not even hear the silence of the tomb in which He lay. He suffered the deafness of death which our sins had thrust upon Him. Listen for the sounds that the ears of Christ heard during this Lenten season. Then your ears can be truly opened and your tongue can be loosened. Then you will hear the absolute and complete love of God in Jesus Christ. And you can speak again true praise and worship of God and speak words to share this love with others. The Christ who used His ears to hear is now alive forevermore, and speaks His saving word…“Ephphatha”…May our ears “be opened” and “Let anyone who has ears hear!”
Now, may the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds unto life everlasting, Amen.