Mark 7:37

and a profound impression was made on the people. “He has done everything well!” they exclaimed. “He makes even the deaf hear and the dumb speak!” 


overcome with wonder
we cease wondering

the wonder-working divine
is open for business

send in your prayer
indulgence sweetened

forcing promises to come true
is strangely unsatisfying

sometime who knows when
we just justify what is

wonder without joining in
is a starvation stopgap

revealing a demanding hole
unfillable from above

a wonder yearns
for a response


When we hear the people speak we need, in particular, to hear the poor speak. The Nicaraguan peasants in The Gospel in Solentiname389 reported by Ernesto Cardenal help us hear more openly.

FELIPE: “It’s the poor little people, the common people that go around saying that. They’re grateful for what he has done for them.”

OLIVIA: “The people that were already aware, that already had their ears open and their tongues loose. They weren’t the powerful, because to the powerful the liberation of the people is not a good thing.”

When we hear that Jesus has done “everything” well, more is being referenced than Mark has reported. This is a reference to a body of work, a congruence of word and deed. This event is simply a capstone to this particular arc of a larger narrative.

Even though “astonished” here is a different word than that found with a prior parallel story of Jairus’ daughter and later description of women fleeing an empty tomb, there is an experience of transformation in the crowd as well as in the one once deaf and, therefore, effectively silenced.

Here the word of astonishment, ἐκπλήσσω (ekplēssō), has the crowd “blown away” in the sense of having received a blow to their collective and individual consciousness. This pushes us out of our usual self-possession. It is when our world view, our sense of being helpless in the hands of implacable fate, finally shifts and we are collectively able to hear anew and speak/act anew—a time of liberation.

Mark 7:36

Jesus insisted on their not telling anyone; but the more he insisted, the more perseveringly they made it known,


what a silly Jesus
clearing speech
with extravagant
poking and spitting
hiding the spoken
within parable
and the silenced
until harvest time

until paradise next
we wait in unknowing
wrapped in suffering
mute and still
any divinity obscured
stature and status bowed
quieted and tamed
awaiting a sprouting


Myers83 comments:

The inclusive Jesus can make even Gentiles “hear” and “speak” (7:37; see Isaiah 35:5f). Yet we will soon see that his own disciples remain deaf (see 8:18). This irony begins to refocus the narrative on the real mission of Jesus: to bring people out of denial toward discipleship.

While appreciating the irony, this verse would have the new hearing and speaking stand on its own without an ulterior motive. This comment is more about a subsequent church than it is the work of Jesus teaching and healing where opportunity presents. Particularly in the healings of Gentiles we have a setting right or work of merciful justice.

These last two healings are more about need taking precedence to clan or faith. We have returned to the second seed parable where the seed comes forth automatically, by night and by day. Jesus can say, “Shh!”, until he is blue in the face—to have ears opened and tongues unfettered mandates their use to go beyond a usual morality, cultural norm, or instruction to, “Shush”.

Whether this event is public or private, whether the man was healed out of compassion or as a test, the change in him is metanoic — as repentance is a change in heart and life. It must be revealed.

Discipleship today is an institutional technique of the latest in purity laws to keep power systems consistent and persistent.

Wright99, is part of the current power system but awake or open enough to recognize:

When Mark urges his readers to follow Jesus, he envisages, not a boring life of conventional religion, but things happening that would make people astonished [Ephphatha-ed]. If we’re still too deaf to hear what he is saying, the problem is perhaps with us rather than with the message [euangelion].

Mark 7:35

The man’s ears were opened, the string of his tongue was freed, and he began to talk plainly.


ear bones connect to tongue bones
listen open eared
what is heard is spoken
so it is we grow
one another

another mystery
how we hear
beyond parents and peers
to claim a third ear
attuned to blessings

in a day of excited
post-truth fake news
deafening a sixth sense of meaning
a whisper can still reorient
to say what is meant

for too long we have fudged
a bit here a little more there
until who can tell
truth from falsehood any more
come away to be more here


Our marker friend “euthys” is present in one of its variants. Something of significance is happening BANG!, straightaway, right now.

Wright97–98 comments:

When you start thinking about secrets—people keeping silent, or speaking out—you realize that this little story has quite a lot of that sort of thing going on. The man himself is deaf, and can hardly speak (when Jesus heals him, Mark uses a graphic phrase which suggests that his tongue had been tied up in knots and was suddenly untied); but then he speaks plainly.

The scriptures are full of surprises when G*D is in a creative mood and mode; trees and snakes both outside and inside; floods and rainbows; youngest elevated and powerful thrown down; the discarded being pivotal to any next growth; and on and on, even unto our own time and life—any shift from being shut down and shut out to disentangling binding cords and releasing a plain word in the midst of the constraints of confusion is a blessing.

Listen into Bratcher243 reporting release in the language of peoples we may not have heard of and see if this helps give guidance for what shifts need making in both our personal live and the life of the community in which we find ourself.

In Huave… one must say “his tongue was softened”, in the sense of made pliable; in South Toradja it is said “his tongue became supple, mobile”. In other languages one may say “healed what kept his tongue from moving”….

Mark 7:34

Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to the man, “Ephphatha!” which means ‘Be opened.’ 


ephphatha
means
open up
now
what does
open up
mean


In which direction or to whom/what is Jesus addressing his, “Ephphatha”?

Speaking to a deaf person wouldn’t seem to have that much effect. They wouldn’t be able to join their hope to the intended opening.

Bratcher242 suggests this to be a passive command which might be “relatable to the ears”. If to the ears, then to the whole process of physically hearing, apart from the man himself.

If Jesus is relating to “heaven” this command is one that expects a shower of blessing to be dropping upon the man.

Finally, in a scene with only two people, with the other person, ears, and heaven accounted for, Jesus sighs or groans for it is his very own self-perception cracking that he is only to tell good news to one group of people. This scene, added to previous ones, begins to formally break open a limited view of Neighb*rliness and erase the separations that come with purity.

With the transliterated use of another Aramaic word we are at once here, off to the side in the open, as well as back in a young girls bedroom. Talitha cum (Awake!) and Ephphatha (Be Open!) begin to shimmer back and forth until each is better seen in the other’s light.

We are also back in Nazareth with those who knew Jesus as a youth and young man. They knew too much to suspend their disbelief. They were closed. We can even imagine Jesus using this word with them as they closed ranks against him or as he turned to shake the dust from his sandal at their lack of hospitality.

If we listen and understand our reading of Mark is also a rewriting of Mark in the context of our time and experience, we can hear this word, Ephphatha, still echoing. To hear a new word is to be challenged to also speak it for teaching deepens the understanding.

One of the on-going questions is how much dressing up the basics need for us to be able to hear them. We are addicted to “New”, “Improved”, and other superlatives. Would we be open to hear “Be Open” as well without it having the quaint, quasi-magical sound of an ancient language? Would we hear Jesus as clearly if he bowed and spoke to his inner depths instead of looking into a beyond (heaven)?

Mark 7:33

Jesus took him aside from the crowd quietly, put his fingers into the man’s ears, and touched his tongue with saliva. 


every healing is different
some it is better not to see
very much like making sausage

there are incidental healings
no one sees a hem touched
we cheer a word rolling up a mat

there are multi-layered changes
filled with finger ears and tongue
requiring second tries to clear trees

there are healings with and without
your or my or any faith component
much less active resistance

random vehicles to the same effect
each unique to avoid copycat technique
reducing life to standardized answers

draw apart
do the necessary
move on


While most of Jesus’ healings have been done in plain sight of a crowd, there are those that are not — Peter’s unnamed mother-in-law, an unnamed leper(?), Jairus’ unnamed daughter, the unnamed daughter of an unnamed Syrophoenician woman.

Jesus has also taken the disciples off by themselves after a teaching or practicum to deepen their discipleship (4:10, 6:31, 7:17). We might be witnessing the formation of another extra-church disciple such as the Geresene left to tell his story or an “anonymous Christian” as described by Karl Rahner.

Saliva has been used by mothers since time immemorial and some cultures, Bratcher242 reminds, see it as a “means of blessing (Shilluk) or therapy (Kiyaka)”. Sometimes it is difficult for us to deal with personal responses to what we name as gross.

This scene has also made it into the sacramental life of the church. Carrington159 notes:

It is read in the Greek liturgy during the season of Lent when candidates were being prepared for baptism. In Rome it passed into the baptismal ritual, and was enacted with the candidates … in the ritual called the Opening of the Ears…. The fact is that the power that was in Jesus and in his gospel could not express itself adequately in mere words; it activated his whole body, hands, fingers, eyes, and tongue. it communicated itself through gestures and physical contacts. There was an externalized ‘sacramental’ quality about it.

Mark 7:32

Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and almost dumb, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.


you who have ears
listen
speak what you hear

you who hear not
observe
mimic what you see

however imperfect
words and actions
their source
intimate creation’s resilience

unnamed sponsors
intercede
for one another
each myself writ larger


The word κωφός (kōphos, blunted, dulled), describes a blocked process of not getting sound waves through to comprehension. We know this also happens if we are intentionally or ideologically opposed to an alternative view or simply from distraction.

Mark, the artist, understands ways in which everything is connected to everything. Having just exemplified healing beyond faith and inclusion of a sassy mother in a patriarchal culture, he “anticipated that this radical message would fall on deaf ears.” Myers83 continues, “So it is no accident that his ‘telling’ (7:14ff) and ‘showing’ (7:24ff) the principle of inclusion is followed by the healing of a Gentile man unable to speak or hear!” [Let it be noted that, beyond a physical deafness, the same resistance to hearing can be applied to Jesus’ disciples, in particular, and other Jews of the day, regardless of their politico-religious sensibility.]

Perkins613 puts it this way:

Hearing and speech have a symbolic role to play in Mark’s narrative. The Syrophoenician woman was so skilled in speech that Jesus healed her daughter. Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, have shown increasing difficulty in understanding what Jesus is telling them. They clearly need some form of healing that will enable them to truly hear—that is, to understand.

When we hear that some people brought a deaf and mute man to Jesus there are echoes of friends lowering a paralyzed man through a roof and of one more trap (“Let’s see him try to heal this one [snicker–snicker]. It is not easy to engage in re-writing Mark. Our hopes and fears continue to limit how we understand Mark’s hopes and fears.

Mark 7:31

On returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went, by way of Sidon, to the Sea of Galilee, across the district of the Ten Towns.


life is more than a circle
it’s great circle route
experiences straight lines
as actual arcs

to move northerly
to arrive south easterly
continues to amuse
voyageur and pilgrim

such lost circling frees
our result-seeking mind
sniff the air ahead
along with passed roses

such is creation’s path
barren verdant continuing
neither distant nor at hand healing
demonstrates good news

it is as it is
incomplete wisdom
bewildering location
confused learning

everywhere along the way
we intentionally engage
as hearth and home
come feast and story tell


The Greek is clear. The significance of the route is not.

Presumably Jesus had not retreated far enough from the crowds of Galilee to yet be able to return. Wilderness retreats also face a testing as to whether they have accomplished what was needed. Sometimes we can return very soon after leaving. Sometimes we need to go further.

Edward Albee in Zoo Story, has Jerry say, “Sometimes it is necessary to go a long way out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”

Jesus travels further north to Sidon, away from the Lake of Galilee. When there he doesn’t just do a U-turn, but proceeds much further inland to finally come to the Lake from the East, from the realm of the Roman Deca-cities, a larger area than the Quad-cities of Davenport and Betendorf, Iowa with Rock Island and Moline/East Moline, Illinois (a 4-county area).

This journey would affirm the clamp Rome had on Palestine, how Rome had made the very edge of its empire into its own image. The cities were revamped into Roman design, having enough independence to commercially prosper through the Roman infrastructure. It is as if there were a noose or cone of silence placed around occupied Israel until it, too, would fully embrace Roman rule.

Mark 7:30

The woman went home, and found the child lying on her bed, and the demon gone. 


returning to a house
that had lost its status
as a bonafide home
for demons stole
a family member
breath is held
until a healing word
transforms euphoric
to everyday
differences and challenges
afforded by living people
in all their uniqueness
for most of us this ordinariness
when we pause to consider
is a continuing and deepening
exhilarated hope to shared joy


As we proceed through life we find opportunity after opportunity to declare life a tragedy or a comedy. All too often Christianity has turned an opportunity for comedy (seeing the rise of the outcast) into a tragedy (active ignoring of an individual or a group to double down on their exile from their inherent Neighb*orliness).

Here, in the midst of the trauma from the visitation of one or another demon, when we could do ourself in by acceding to legalize a communal norm against ourself and dear ones, we find a tragic situation redeemed with what Carrington157 calls “a sense of humour, courage, and a ready wit”.

All three of these are evidenced by Mark and his Jesus story as they explore their scripture base and keep finding a living G*D inhabiting one impurity after another. Feasts keep cropping up. Outsiders keep being brought into a house of changed lives.

When finding the demon gone and her daughter recovering, which do you project came first and which second—laughter or weeping to express relief and joy at a relationship restored that needed no faith and no visit to a religious authority for confirmation?

– – – – – – –

Jesus’ receptivity to her wisdom points to a critical truth: Oppressed people often have a profound analysis of social situations, and know the paths to justice. People in position of authority need to heed them…. ¶Similarly, it is when we finally allow ourselves to hear and heed the broken parts of our selves—[not casting them away]—that we can see more clearly the paths to our own inner healing. ~Myers85

– – – – – – –

This passage also reminds pastors, teachers, and others in positions of authority how to lose an argument. When Jesus recognizes that the woman’s argument is stronger than his own, he grants her petition. Many of us do not have nearly so much graciousness. ~Perkins611

Mark 7:29

“For saying that,” he answered, “you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”


recognizing we’ve been caught
in knee-jerk responses
built by a self-protective culture
is unusual enough to be remarked upon

expanding recognition to repentance
bypassing all expressions of such
including sorry and other excusatory phrases
refreshes all parties and next generations

the only recognition result
is changed behavior and restitution
ever here we usually can only
go so far as present forward

without a tangible recompense
past indiscretions leave an opening
to repeat bad behavior to another
bottom line no restitution no repentance

hooray for every small reversal
a slammed closed door
removed from gerrymandered lines
in such moments girls and boys smile


Matthew’s version of this episode points to “faith” being the turning point. This Gentile, Syrophoenician, woman with at least these three strikes against her was deemed to have “faith”. (Mt. 15:28)

Mark has no mention of faith. Tangling honestly with Jesus was plenty enough for him.

It would certainly be easy to turn a willingness to risk a second rebuke with a verbal riposte or saucy retort into a faith-based statement, but we are talking about a mother literally fighting for her daughter’s life and that carries as much weight as faith in something or someone else.

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon’s chapter in Anderson51 notes:

“For this saying [word, logos]” (7:29, RSV), Jesus says you may go home to a healed child, a healed Gentile child. (Jesus, too, seems to have experienced healing).

Not only was faith not noted, there is no mention of following Jesus, being a missionary in her own territory, or conversion to Judasim. In some sense this might have been the first Gentile exorcism of a demon, rather than the unnamed Geresene.

The inclusion of all promised by the prophets of old, is underway even as the healing was underway before Justa arrived home.

Mark 7:28

“Yes, Master,” she replied. “Even the dogs under the table do feed on the children’s crumbs.”


to all my siblings
who come to table
with washed hands and faces

you fool no one
after you leave
the floor is a mess

none us are mess free
nor any simply a mess
discernment wherefore art thou


A couple of technical matters are important.

When we hear “answered” or “replied”, it seems like a rational, straight-forward response. The Greek is far stronger, “certainly”, “assuredly”, “exactly”, “yes!”

This is an agreement with the previous statement that is not at all an agreement. Now we can hear the relationship, the play, the “Come on, get real.”

“Lord” is church lingo, The far better translation is simply a term of respect such as “Sir”. Practically, this is the only place this particular word, κύριε (kurie, a title of honor) is used. While the word is found in some manuscripts in 1:50, it is not used in translation. It is also found in 10:51 in some manuscripts but usually translated as if from Matthew or Luke’s version. Read this as you would “M’ Lord” or “Lady” in a Victorian novel.

Just because a healing is being looked for or has already happened doesn’t mean that the seeker or the healed will let the medium through which the healing happened become a deity. From the other side, though, there are apocryphal stories of some surgeons thinking they are G*D.

Justa follows her “Yeah!(?)” with the same “little dog” images and extends it to “crumbs” or “little bread”. In Mark there is a lot of feeding with bread. To reduce the Eucharistic overtones of this to a bit of bread too small to care about brings us back to earth, under the table rather than over it, as were Herod’s party or well-washed Pharisees.

We can almost hear her say, “Did you see what I did there?”

Other references to this back-and-forth are reported by Myers82:

Jesus’ insult may echo a rabbinic saying of the time: “He who eats with an idolater is like one who eats with a dog” (see also Exodus 22:31). But the stipulation that “the children must first be satisfied” suggests a deeper symbolic issue.

A twinkle in Jesus’ eye has been met with a gleam in Justa’s.