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May 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 9, 2021



Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37

Intro: If you’re familiar the with gospels, what you see here instantly,

This is a strange healing miracle
– more attention is given to Jesus’ “method” than any prior healing
• and, he has never before this instance included spitting
◦ we’re going to have to revisit these things in a moment
• for now we are only interested in the fact, this man deaf
◦ and that most likely explains speech impediment (my friends)
– we are examining parts of this human body that is “fearfully and wonderfully”
• today we’re going to see what the Scriptures say about our ears

As we’ve seen, the Bible begins with the literal organ or limb

In the Law of Moses, there are two graphic regulations in which the ear is used literally
– in a ritual of purification for the priest and for a leper who was healed
• a sacrifice was offered, and some of its blood was dabbed on the right ear of the priest or leper
– the other regulation applies to an indentured slave that had served his time
• given the choice to leave or stay with his master, if he chose to stay,
then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave for life (Ex. 21:6)
• this became a physical sign that he was a permanent slave by choice
– several times in Old Testament we find earrings:
• Aaron (Ex. 32:2); Gideon (Jdg. 8:24); (Eze. 16:12)
• typically they were simply accessories (“ornaments,” Ex. 33:4-6) to adorn the body
◦ but they could also be cultic – a charm, talisman, or amulet (Gen. 35:4)
– in the New Testament:
• Jesus healing deaf ears
• and Peter cut off the right ear of a guard who came to arrest Jesus

Many times the word ear refers to its function

To speak in the ears of someone means to be heard (this occurs many times)
Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears (Gen. 44:18)
– also, the ears can be used to signify receiving a message or hearing something said
For you bring some strange things to our ears (Acts 17:20)
– three times God announced that he would deliver a message
at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle (1 Sam. 3:11; 2 Ki. 21:12; Jer. 19:3)
– then, to give ear or incline one’s ears meant to listen or pay attention (Acts 2:14)
– then, the ears discern truth — they examine or test things
Does not the ear test words
as the palate tastes food? (Job 12:11)
– if with the eye we perceive, it is with our ears we understand
Behold my eye has seen all this,
my ear has heard and understood it (Job 13:1)
– ears can be “opened” (Job 36:10, 15; 1 Pe. 3:12)
• or “heavy” (Isa. 6:10), or “stopped,” “shut,” or “closed” (Ps. 58:4; Acts 7:57)
• also, ears can be open but still not hear (Isa. 42:20)
◦ in fact, having eyes and ears are no guarantee of sight or hearing (De. 29:4; Isa. 43:8; Jer. 5:21)
◦ so Jesus says, He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Mt. 11:15)
• God is more interested in ears being open than sacrifice (Ps. 40:6)
– in the Book of Proverbs, ears can be trained to be attentive to wisdom
• the ear is an especially useful organ for gaining wisdom
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise (Pr. 15:31)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Their knowledge was recorded in easily understood sayings that could be readily remembered in an oral culture dependent on hearing. The texts had to be right for hearing; otherwise they would quickly be forgotten. The tight form, the doubled character of almost all sayings [parallelism], and many other rhetorical tricks served as ‘ear openers.’”

The function of ears is to hear, and purpose for hearing is to obey
– Hebrew kawhab can be translated hear or obey (1 Sam. 15:22)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (Jas. 1:22)
Staubli and Schroer, “Hearing and doing: this is perhaps the most important axis of the New Testament’s theology of the ears. Right hearing is proved in doing.” “Thus in the biblical tradition the art of listening, much like that of seeing, leads to genuine understanding, and understanding to action.”
– the great call of the Old Testament:
Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart (De. 6:4-6)
• perhaps it is helpful for us that in English we add only one letter to hear to get heart

The Scriptures have something to about God’s ears

And these passages frequently couple the ears with the eyes
. . . let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant (Ne. 1:6)
– God will incline his ear to his people’s cry for justice (Ps. 10:17-18)
• and he is asked to incline his ear to hear their prayer (Ps. 31:2)
• he not only sees the suffering of his people, but he hears their cry (Ex. 3:7)
– God speaks in the ears of his people and especially his prophets
Staubli and Schroer, “Ultimately it is God who opens and closes ears. The prophets are especially graced in this way. More than others, they are open to the power of God working among us; they are able to recognize God’s signs, hear and interpret God’s words.”
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens me;
he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear (Is. 50:4-5)

What I have to say next is going to be more intense

After last week’s talk, I felt disappointed
– it was too broad and general; it seemed to me that I had missed something
• Monday morning it came to me clearly, and that is what I want to share with you
◦ the Bible feeds us visual images and auditory sounds
◦ it does not give us mere data
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you (1 Jn. 1:3)
• visualizing and hearing the truth creates for us a fuller experience
◦ and experiencing the truth is what this is about
– the Bible does this for us, because there is more to see and hear
• but not with the physical organs of seeing and hearing
[one of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians was] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened . . . (Ep. 1:17-18)
◦ this is because there are realities that
no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined
yet these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
• Jesus told Nicodemus that
unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3)
◦ Nicodemus wrestled with this; he could not comprehend it; he could not see it
◦ John’s gospel is about teaching us to see and hear!
All four gospels are about teaching us to see and hear!
All of scripture is about teaching us to see and hear!
Staubli and Schroer, “Jesus sought not only with miracles, but especially by telling parables, to open people’s ears for the message about the reign of God.”
◦ what made it so difficult was that people, like Nicodemus were blinded by their culture
◦ and that has happened to us too
Arthur Deikman, “The religious framework that formerly defined meaning has been replaced by a scientific world view in which meaning does not exist. . . . According to this view, human beings are complex biochemical phenomena, of considerable scientific interest but not essentially different from anything else that science examines.” “ . . . it is possible that the conclusions of scientific materialism are wrong. From time to time we sense a larger reality than the one science provides, a subtle perception pointing to a better, meaningful existence.”
“Western psychotherapy, in basing itself almost exclusively on the world view of scientific materialism, has impoverished its model of human consciousness and lost the meaning and significance of human life. . . . our intimations of a larger existence ordinarily find no support from the scientific culture but, instead, opposition.”

In our text, there are fifteen definitive statements
– I am going set them side-by-side with fifteen statements in the next chapter of Mark (8:22-26):
they / some people
brought / brought
a man with a disability (deaf) / a man with a disability (blind)
they begged him / they begged him
to lay his hand on the man / to touch him
taking him aside from the crowd privately / he took the blind man out of the village
Jesus put his fingers into his ears / after he had spit
after spitting / on his eyes
Jesus touched his tongue / he laid his hands on him
looking up to heaven / he asked him, “Do you see anything?”
he sighed / “I see people like trees”
Jesus said “Be opened” laid his hands on him again
his ears were opened, his tongue was released he opened his eyes
he spoke plainly he saw all things clearly
Jesus charged them to tell no one Do not even enter the village

• notice that three statements in each story have no parallel in the other story
◦ otherwise, we have the same story, but with two different disabilities
◦ and some of these features are not found anywhere in the Synoptic Gospels
• why did Mark tell these two almost identical stories,
◦ only that one has to do with ears and the other with eyes?
◦ because they were meant to be seen as bookends
– what is sandwiched in between them?

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21

• in Mark 6, Jesus fed crowd a crowd of five thousand
◦ the disciples were there, but they did not benefit from what they had witnessed
◦ after that, Jesus calmed a storm
And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:52)
◦ and that is exactly the problem! Our hearts are hardened too
• there was something about the feeding of the crowd that the disciples should have seen and learned
◦ now they are given a second chance when Jesus warns them of the leaven
• did you notice that in chapter 8, verses 17-21, every sentence Jesus spoke was a question?
◦ it was like he gave them a pop quiz
◦ by it, he exposed what they had not learned or discerned
◦ they looked, but did not see; listened, but did not hear

Then there is this healing of the blind man that came in stages
(again, this was unique to this story)
– the disciples, still blind and deaf, could have feared it was a chronic condition
• but the One who points out their disability is One who does all things well
• it may perhaps be frustrating for the teacher and the students,
◦ but spiritual sight and hearing comes in stages
– Jesus asked the blind man if he saw anything
• this is also unique in all the healing stories
◦ it also echoes the questions he asked his disciples
◦ in fact, Jesus has another question for them
Who do people say that I am? (Mk. 8:27)
• this time, they get it right
◦ then he told them plainly what would happen to him
◦ but Peter’s response proves, they’re no more prepared to receive this message than the warning about the leaven
◦ Peter’s eyes needed a second touch
his heart was still hardened
his mind was culturally controlled (by what he thought he knew about the Messiah)
For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mk. 8:33)
– our “mind set” has a lot to do with what we’re prepared to see and hear
Arthur Deikman, “According to mystics, the fundamental reality underlying appearances is not accessible to the senses. It cannot be described in terms derived from the ordinary world, but is accessible to mystical intuition. The perception of that underlying reality gives meaning to existence . . . .”
“Although it is helpful to understand that meaning and direction exist and that a larger self and world can eventually be perceived, intellectual understanding is no substitute for the actual experience of reality. It is the task of mystical science to bring people to that experience.”
And, it is the task of the gospels!

In the Synoptic gospels Jesus used parables,
In John’s gospel Jesus used “hard sayings” (Jn. 6:60)
– he did this to create for his disciples a new consciousness
• an opening of the eyes of their minds and ears of hearts
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it (Mt. 13:16-17)

Conclusion: I realize that a few of you that I know well, see more than I see and hear more than I hear

I’m grateful for the times you have shared with me
what you have seen and heard
Do not be discouraged for the times you do not see clearly
or hear plainly
We are disciples, we are still learning
Just know that there is MORE
more that Jesus wants to show you
more that Jesus wants to tell you
And the better we focus and pay attention
the sooner we will see with our eyes and hear with our ears
and understand with our hearts

That the blind man did not see clearly at first is not difficult to understand. Oliver Sacks tells a story of a man who was blind from birth as a result of thick cataracts that covered his eye lenses. As a child, Virgil’s doctor believed that he had another eye impairment that prevented him from seeing. But later on, other doctors thought it might just be cataracts and that he would be able to see if they were removed.
Oliver Sacks explains that when the bandage was removed from Virgil’s eyes, he did not jump for joy. “Virgil told me later that in this first moment he had no idea what he was seeing. There was light, there was movement, there was color, all mixed up, all meaningless, a blur. Then out of the blur came a voice that said, ‘Well?’ Then, and only then, he said, did he finally realize that this chaos of light and shadow was a face—and, indeed, the face of his surgeon.
The rest of us, born sighted, can scarcely imagine such confusion. For we, born with a full complement of senses, and correlating these, one with the other, create a sight world from the start, a world of visual objects and concepts and meanings.”
We we do not remember, but we had to learn how to make sense of what we see in the first months of our lives. Sacks wrote, “It constitutes a huge learning task, but is achieved so smoothly, so unconsciously, that its enormous complexity is scarcely realized (though it is an achievement that even the largest supercomputers cannot begin to match).”
So it was that Jesus’ second touch was also a second miracle, that enabled the formerly blind man to comprehend what he saw clearly.

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