Posted on February 12, 2014
#41: Hearing-Impaired Disciples
A customer stepped up to my counter, and I greeted her with “Hi! Can I help you?” As soon as she began to speak, I recognized the distinctive guttural sounds of a hearing-impaired person. She struggled to make me understand what she needed, and I struggled to get her meaning. I wanted to be helpful and she knew it, but the barrier was great.
Finally, she pulled out a pad of paper and wrote several words of explanation. I pointed her in the right direction. As she walked away, I wondered how many times a day she navigated the frustrating process of life in a hearing world.
Her daily challenge helps us appreciate the difference Jesus made in the life of a man who needed to hear. Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study through Mark’s gospel. Glad you’re here!
Get your Bible and read Mark 7:31-37.
Jesus traveled to the Decapolis (“Ten Cities”), a region southeast of the Sea of Galilee, to minister. As always, people began coming to Him for healing. One group of friends brought a man who was “deaf and could hardly talk,” much like my customer. Though deafness (like all physical impairment) carried a stigma in that day, this man had friends who loved him past the social disgrace of his disability. They begged Jesus to touch and heal him.
They acted as interpreters for their friend, assuming he’d have trouble making Jesus understand his need. But the first thing Jesus did was take him aside by himself. Jesus needed no interpreter; He could look straight into the man’s heart and perceive his deepest need. Mark wrote, “Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!‘ (which means, ‘Be opened!’)” Why the deep sigh? Perhaps this man needed more than his ears to be opened; maybe his heart and mind also needed unstopped.
Open Ears, Open Heart
We may be spiritually hearing-impaired, hearing only what we want to hear and turning a deaf ear to the rest. We may be deaf to His offer of salvation, or we may resist hearing how to live out the salvation we’ve received. He wants to help us, but the barrier is great. How often has Jesus seen our closed hearts, rolled His eyes toward heaven and sighed, “Be opened!”
A relationship with Christ can be very inconvenient—downright uncomfortable—at times, with its
• guilt over unholy activities we happen to enjoy (“It’s not hurting anyone!”)
• call to service that’s outside our comfort zones (“You want me to do what?”)
• pressure to love the unlovely (“But she’s so annoying—and dirty.”)
• pull to forgive someone we’d rather resent (“Did You see what she did to me, Lord?”)
• command to avoid gossip, malice, and slander (“You mean I can’t tell anyone what I heard about …..? I mean, just so we can pray for her?”)
• sacrifice of personal time for Bible study and prayer (“Give up my favorite TV show? or a half-hour of sleep?”)
• call to give at least a tithe (“I need that money to pay bills. You understand, don’t You, God?”)
• need to attend and be involved in church (“But Sunday is my only day to sleep in!”)
You could add other examples of stubborn resistance; so could I. We hearing-impaired disciples can be very willful about such things, and very deaf to Jesus’ teachings and example. Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” I’m sure He yearns to open our ears and hearts in many ways.
Do I Have Ears To Hear?
One helpful practice for me is to change the way I approach His Word. As a teacher, my first thought has often been, “How could this help my students? How could I apply this in a lesson?” Now, my intentional first thought is, “How does this apply to me? Open my eyes, open my ears.” I want to get the log out of my own eye before I try to remove a speck from the eye of another (Luke 6:41-42).
This week, before you read His Word, picture Jesus touching your ears, looking up to heaven with a deep sigh and saying, “Be opened.” What does He long for you to hear? Ask Him to teach you all He wants you to know, and to give you ears to hear it.
© Diane McLoud 2014