“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphaltha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’).” [Mark 7:33]
There are many stories of healing and cures in the Gospels. My pastor likes to remind us to pay attention to the details of a story because it will help us to better understand Jesus. As I read this passage from the Gospel of Mark, I am profoundly struck by the way Jesus physically touched the deaf man with the speech impediment. Since St. Mark doesn’t tell us the deaf man’s name, I’m going to call him David.
We’ve all heard the importance of touch, how babies who are given food but not touch or affection will literally fade and die, and how hospitals use therapy dogs to heighten the healing of patients, especially those with long-term conditions.
When recovering from surgery I was perplexed by how much I craved physical touch—and how physically distant people became. It felt like a direct correlation—the more I desired the gentle touch of another human being, the more that well-meaning person would step back and say, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Jesus knew how much David craved this physical contact. He took him aside, away from the crowd, to give him his full attention. I can imagine Jesus holding his hand, looking into David’s eyes with compassion and love. I picture him giving David a reassuring hug to communicate his intent, and waiting until David nodded his consent. Jesus didn’t need to touch David to cure his deafness or his speech impediment, but he did! He put his fingers into David’s ears. He spit. He touched David’s tongue. He went out of his way to touch him, and by doing so, he nursed David’s emotional and spiritual needs as well. David was cured of all his physical impediments, but above all, David was touched by Love.
Let me be your healing hands today, Lord, in how I touch and reach out to others.