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 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.”
Some people sought a blessing. Human compassion was operative here. Friends, family, perhaps bystanders, cared enough to bring the unfortunate man to the attention of Jesus. They cared and dared to approach Jesus on his behalf. There was no advantage for themselves. They must have had a keen sense of the kindness of Jesus. They sought a blessing upon the afflicted one perhaps limited to the laying on of hands and prayer, no doubt a common practice, but in recognition of Jesus as an uncommon person to be especially respected and trusted on the basis of his reputation. They requested a blessing but witnessed much more than they had expected.
Took him aside Something special was about to occur. A blessing could have been conferred immediately right where Jesus and the man were standing. But Jesus draws him aside. The man is bidden away from the crowd. Jesus can and did bless multitudes as he addressed them. But his primary concern was deeply individual. Jesus exemplified the personal touch and attention to detail in his pastoral care. His concern and compassion were, and are, close. He was actively involved in the plight of others and that fact contributed to moments of human exhaustion and the need for divine replenishment. “Touch” in terms of heartfelt sympathy, and physical contact where appropriate, are vital in the support of others – identification with their situation and awareness of their troubles with understanding. Jesus is moved and modest in his healing action. His withdrawal reveals his desire to work without sensationalism. The result will be a sign of his vocation as Messiah in accordance with Old Testament prophecy.
Put his fingers Jesus is hands-on in his ministering to the needs he encounters. God places his hand where it is needed. He presses it against our maladies to heal. He plunges it into our messes to bring order. Jesus stretched the man's ears symbolically so that he might recover the faculty of hearing by divine power. It is a beautiful image. Sound is so much a part of a full life bringing pleasure, contact, and warning. Audibility is a marvellous faculty we should hate to lose. But the inner ear must be caused to hear the word of God also and the fingers of Jesus illustrate this important point.
Then he spit Spitting seems to us an action that is rude and unhygienic. But in Jesus' action it is illustrative of a very personal gesture. He is giving something uniquely of himself to the man he is healing. Health will come from Jesus' own life. The man is cured by Jesus' own will and virtue. Healing is restoration. Salvation is the renewal of creation. Saliva, especially when mixed with dust of the earth hints at the universal, life-saving act of salvation performed by Jesus (cf John 9:6 and Genesis 2: 7). Mankind was formed from earth and moisture thus making clay. Dust without wetness could not result in the solid sculpted figure brought to life by the breath of God. In all the words and acts of Jesus ruined creation is being reconstituted.
He looked up to heaven This was the principal attitude of Jesus throughout the entirety of his life and ministry on earth. The Father had sent him and the Father must supply him with every resource for his assignment. The Father was his Guide and Giver of power. When we do not gaze to heaven first and continually in all that we entertain or enterprise matters go awry and mistakes occur. We must focus on heaven as we work on earth.
Deep sigh Jesus was a man of profound but controlled passion and emotion. The consequences of the world's rebellion against its Maker and Lord are disastrous and painful. The sensitive soul of the God-man registers the ravages of evil and the sufferings of humanity and sighs at all the evidence of moral and material devastation.
Be opened Who can estimate the power and importance of these words of the Saviour? They are instantly the cause of effective cure in a physical sense for the handicapped man before him. But they signal so much else in a social and a spiritual sense. For this individual Christ has opened the way to to connection and communication with others. He no longer lives in isolation and the pity of his fellows. He is integrated into society and his future is now filled with prospects. He is opened to new life in terms of a soul relating now to the God who has shown him mercy. In various senses Jesus has brought him release and restoration.
Not to tell anyone Jesus' command, though disregarded, served at least two purposes. He was no exhibitionist. His wonders were for the glory of God and not the entertainment of the people. He commanded silence to avoid distraction from his principal assignment of preaching. “The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent. And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea'” (Luke 4: 42-44).
The miracle enabled men to confess the Messiahship and Saviourhood of the Lord Jesus (cf Mark 7:37 & Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus fits the prophecy.