Heart Overflowing With Praise
He touched the man’s ears and tongue, saying, “Ephaphtha,” “Be opened.” God’s ministry is summed up in this one word. The purpose of every life, of every day, and every minute, is summed up in the word: “Ephaphtha,” “Be opened”. It is the height of existence to have ears opened to hearing God’s voice and a mouth opened to praising Him.
Christ was travelling through the coasts of Decapolis. A crowd pressed close to him, and they brought him a man both deaf and with a speech impediment.
“And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain” (Mark 7:33-35).
This is the story of a secular person who encounters God.
What does it mean to be deaf? In an online forum for deaf poets, a young girl describes her experience.
“I heard not a thing in my silent world, not the sweet choir of the birds nor the swish of the wind blowing the grass; not the bubbling brook, nor the swaying trees…I wanted to hear…instead I was locked inside my quiet world; separated from the delight of creation.”
We all delight in hearing. We are so accustomed to common noises that we hardly think about it, but if you would cut it all off, silence everything, you would be nearly overcome by the loss. Hardly conscious of it, we savour an infinite number of noises through each day. The voices of friends, the birds chirping away, even the hum of the fan sooth us in no small manner. Imagine yourself enjoying a piece of music or walking along a brook. Sounds are one of the most unnoticed, yet magnificent part of life. Now silence everything. No more birds. No more familiar voices. It would be like blotting out the colors in life. The world becomes black and white. This is our plight in a secular world.
In our times, we are living half-blind, half-deaf. A world that once dazzled us as children can feel, so easily, meaningless and gray. Our culture has lost a sense of God behind the stars. Atheist spokesman, Richard Dawkins describes this modern feeling so well:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
Dawkins is not alone in his perception. Even we Christians, at times, can feel this weight of meaninglessness. Plugged into the world, absorbed in mindless television shows, bombarded by commercials and news media, or just the drone of arguments on facebook…there are are too many frequencies filling our ears. How can we hear God?
The Scriptures call this the hardness of the heart. Christ wept over this condition.
“For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).
Jeremiah describes our spiritual deafness with a potent word: “To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?” He asks. “Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen” (6:10). Our spiritual ears, our ability to tune into God, become “uncircumcised.” Not only are the ears plugged up. Not only can we grow senseless to God’s constant Word. The ears of the soul can build up a filter that screens out all goodness, truth, and beauty.
“And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him” (Mark 7:32).
What about muteness? The deaf man was unable to speak clearly. Everything came out garbled. The Psalter paints a picture of nature praising God day and night. “All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name” (Psalm 66:4). Psalm 148 describes the sun and moon, the earth, lightning, hail, and all the animals and birds worshiping God. Worship is embedded in the fibers of life. Yet, what about mankind? We are silent.
Christ has come to give us a voice.
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise” (Psalm 51:5).
Our Gospel this morning brings us a marvelous message. Jesus Christ can open our ears and our mouths. The young, blind girl longed to hear the choir of birds, the bubbling brook, and the wind in the trees. We have imagined the silence. Now imagine turning it all back on. Everything is lifeless without Christ. Now it is bursting with music. That is the gift of God’s presence in our lives, when we open to Him with thirst.
“And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:35-37).
There is something jubilant in this miracle. Christ tries to calm the man down, but how can he keep silent? He is ecstatic. Touched by Christ, he cannot restrain his longing to give God glory. “He hath done all things well!” This is a heart with Christ in it, a heart praising God along with all the heavens and the earth.
St. Irenaeus once said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” What joy it must have brought our Lord to heal this man, to know that he could listen to the wind in the trees and sing a hymn to heaven. Christ cherishes the same joy to reach out and heal you and me, every day, every moment. May Christ look down at our hearts longing to be opened, and touch them a little more, so that we can hear the sweetness of his voice and praise him with ardor.