“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37).
Jesus continues his journey to the edges of Israel, and in today’s Gospel he is in the district of the Decapolis (10 cities). His reputation has gone before him, and people bring him a deaf mute, begging Jesus to “lay his hand on him.” Touch is significant, as we have seen in earlier miracle stories where people surge around Jesus in hopes of touching him or even the edge of his cloak.
The healing reminds us of the creation stories in Genesis. God creates the universe by verbal command, but when the moment comes to create human beings, God forms clay into Adam (earth) and breathes life into him. It is an intimate, personal act, and the creature possesses the “image and likeness” of the Creator. Adam is a son of God.
Jesus encounters the deaf mute in much the same way, putting his finger in the man’s ear, touching his tongue with his own spittle. Jesus looks up to heaven and sighs, emitting a deep exhalation of breath as he says, “Epbphatha” (“Be opened!”). Only the raising of Lazarus equals the effort and care this astonishing miracle evokes from Jesus.
Mark’s intent is to show Jesus as recreating the world. Wherever he goes, by word and touch he restores creation to its original state, before sin and death distorted everything. God walks within his own creation in Jesus, and his physical presence reveals what the “new creation" looks like. Grace is unblocked and flows into everything and everyone.
It is an unfinished work, and as Mark’s Gospel continues, we see that Jesus is not only transforming the world, he is also absorbing the damage of sin and death into himself, so that when he dies on the cross he will take evil with him. His final breath from the cross will open ("epbphatha") the world to God’s love once again.
The church, his body in the world, has this same power to touch, heal and open. We, as members of that body, are sent each day to the edges of the world to announce the Good News by touching the lives of everyone we meet.