By J.R. Miller
The activity of Jesus was intense. He was never in a hurry; for hurry is wasteful of time and strength. It spoils one's work. It hinders speed. The man who hurries--does not begin to accomplish what the man accomplishes who never hurries. Jesus never hurried. He moved quietly, calmly--as if he had days and days for His work, and yet He never lost a moment. We have all this in the three or four words at the beginning of our passage. "Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis." Some men lose time between duties--Jesus never lost a moment. If we would get this lesson for ourselves, it would add years to our lives. It is in the gaps between tasks--that we waste time.
The world is full of broken and imperfect lives, of people who lack or have lost certain powers or faculties. One has lost an arm, another a leg, another lacks an ear, another has only one eye. Here it was his ears the man had lost. "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." He could not hear. The loss of the sense of hearing is a most serious one. It is easy to think of what a man loses--who cannot hear. We who know what pleasure comes to us through the words of others, through words of friendship reaching our hearts through our ears and giving us thrills of gladness, inspirations of love, feelings of trust and confidence. We can imagine in some measure, what it would mean never to hear such words anymore. We who receive the exquisite sensations which come to us through voices of sweet song, through the notes of birds, the music of nature which we hear as we walk through the forest or stand beside the sea or listen to the soft breezes and the wild roar of the storm--can understand a little what we would miss if this were a silent world to us. Blindness is the sorest of all losses of the senses--but the loss by deafness is also very great.
This man who was brought to Jesus was deaf. He seems to have been totally deaf. Then, besides, he had an impediment in his speech. What has been called dumbness results usually from deafness. The organs of speech are perfect--but those who cannot hear, cannot be taught nor trained to speak. The words here, however, seem to imply that there was some disturbance or some impairment of the organs of speech, so that the man could not make articulate or intelligible sounds.
We should always bring to Jesus--our friends who have any defect, or problem. This man's friends brought him to Jesus. That was beautiful. To pray for our sick or our suffering, from whatever cause--and not to use the means that science and medical or surgical skill have brought without our reach--would be to mock Jesus, declining the help He has offered and asking Him to heal in some other way. We are not authorized to pray God to do anything for us--that we can do for ourselves. God never works unnecessary miracles, nor can we ask that divine grace will do for us--what we can do without special grace. This does not mean that we are not to bring our friends to physicians, nor to use any means that are known for their cure or recovery. Men are accomplishing wonders in these days, in the way of healing. This does not show that Christ is any less the healer now than He was when He was here in the flesh. It means that He is giving His power to men who, with their science and their skill--are now doing the wonderful things.
The friends of this poor man, brought him to Jesus and besought Him to heal the man. We see at once our Lord's sympathy and interest in the way He received the deaf man. "They begged Him to place His hand on the man." His response was instant and most gracious. "He took him aside from the multitude." His gentleness and considerateness for the man's infirmities, appear in all His treatment of him. The deaf man could not hear the words of Jesus and would miss the tenderness and cheer which those who could hear received from His words and tones. Hence Jesus took other ways of giving him encouragement and confidence. "Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue." There was something in each of these acts which would help the man to understand the purpose of Jesus. He was deaf--the touching of his ears would suggest to him that Jesus intended to cure his deafness, and started in him expectation and faith. His speech was disturbed--the touching of his tongue by Jesus with the moisture of His spittle would indicate to the man that He was about to cure the defect. Jesus' looking up to heaven was a prayer--and would turn the man's thought to God as the only Healer. The sigh or groaning of the Master showed the sufferer His sympathy with him in his trouble.
After Jesus had spoken to the man in signs instead of words, on account of the man's deafness, He spoke the one word, "Ephphatha!" This word is Aramaic. The writer of the Gospel gives the very word which Jesus used. It means, "Be opened!" He spoke to the deaf ears and the disordered speech, and instantly these organs recognized their Master. "At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly!"
Thus the cure was complete, and the man made altogether well. This is another illustration of the power of Jesus over all the functions and conditions of the body. It may not be His ordinary way of working, to cure such physical defects; yet we need not question His power to do so. There have been instances when, although the deafness remained, the use of the other senses has been so quickened that the deafness has been practically overcome.
The case of Helen Keller is perhaps the most remarkable of these in all history. She was blind and deaf. She was taught altogether through her sense of touch, through finger-spelling into her hand. She also learned to speak--the method being that of making her feel the vocal organs of the teacher. She learned to speak well, and to tell, with some assistance from finger spelling, what some people say by feeling their mouth. Her literary style became excellent; her studies included French, German, Latin, Greek, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, history (ancient and modern), and poetry and literature of every description. Miss Sullivan was 'eyes and ears' at all times, by acting as interpreter, and this patient teacher had the satisfaction of seeing her pupil pass the entrance examination of Harvard University! To all time the success attained in educating Helen Keller will be a monument of what can be accomplished in the most unfavorable conditions.
We do not call what was achieved by Helen Keller a miracle. It shows, however, what, no doubt, may be accomplished in other cases through wise and unwearying diligence and through love, helped by the divine blessing. We must note also that the advances of science have put marvelous power into the hands of men who treat diseases and defects of the ear, who now can do what in earlier days, it was impossible to do. We hear it said sometimes that certain physicians have produced miracles of cure. They have not produced miracles, however--but secrets of nature have been discovered, so that help once impossible, is now possible. It is all the work of Christ, whether done by supernatural power or through the imparting of knowledge by which the once impossible results, are now within reach.
Jesus charged the man's friends not to tell any man of what He had done. He often did this. Probably His purpose was to avoid the notoriety which would follow such remarkable miracles, if they were talked about. Such publicity was distasteful to Jesus. Some men like to have people talk about the great things they do--and enjoy the excitement that is created by the spreading abroad of the news of their achievements. Jesus, however, shrank from having His good deeds talked about. He sought to do His good works quietly, secretly, and continually asked people not to tell anybody what He had done.
He also encouraged His friends to do their good deeds in the same spirit. We are not to sound a trumpet before us when we do our alms deeds. Our life is to be like the dew that falls silently, making no noise, sinking away and disappearing, leaving no record except in the freshening of every blade of grass, and the sweetening of all the flowers. So Jesus Himself sought to live and love and serve--and slip away unnoticed, only remembered by what He had done. In this case His request was unheeded. So grateful were the friends of the dumb man for what Jesus had done--that they could not be quiet about it--but the more He charged them not to tell it--the more they published it. "People were overwhelmed with amazement. 'He has done everything well,' they said. 'He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!'"
The feeding of the four thousand is not the same miracle as the feeding of the five thousand told in all four Gospels. The place of this miracle was in Decapolis. The many cures Jesus had performed, had drawn throngs to Him. There was again a great multitude. The country was wilderness and desolate, and "they had nothing to eat." Jesus could not look upon human distress with indifference. "I have compassion on the multitude," He says, "because they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat." He might send them away; but if they started homeward unfed, they would faint by the way. We know that the heart of Jesus has not changed, and that He still has the same compassion on those who are suffering. "Does God care?" people sometimes ask. Does He care when people are hungry? Here the question is answered.
It seems strange that His disciples had forgotten the other occasion, when their Master had provided for five thousand hungry men. "But where in this remote place, can anyone get enough bread to feed them?" Why they did not remember what Jesus had done only a little while since in similar circumstances, seems strange to us. But that is just what most of us do. We do not learn from experience. We forget yesterday's goodness, in today's recurrence of need.