Jesus continues his sojourn outside the borders of the Holy Land to the Sea of Galilee in the region of the Decapolis. The Gentiles have heard the word how Jesus has healed the young girl with the vicious evil spirit. Great crowds come, bringing every kind of handicapped person to the feet of Jesus (Mt 15:30), including a very unusual one upon whom Mark focuses:
“They brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him” (Mk 7:32).
Jesus is no trinket vendor hawking his wares in a mob of fans at the carnival. Notice here the intimate, almost invasive never-ending love of God in what happens:
“And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue” (Mk 7:33).
We all have heard the metaphor for receiving the Holy Spirit as the “breath of God.” Here we have a physical manifestation of receiving the Spirit that is so personal and intimate, where Jesus literally shares part of his physical self with this total Gentile stranger. This is so powerful it brings tears to my eyes.
“And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is ‘Be opened’” (Mk 7:34).
This is a command!
Five years ago, when I was writing Streamside – Finding Peace through Perfect Unity, my thesis was that when God sends us the Holy Spirit upon believing in Jesus as Lord, Savior, and King, he is planted in our hearts forever; but, that our flawed human nature blocks the flow of the Spirit out of our hearts over and over again. It is up to us to repent to unblock the Spirit and allow him to flow outward. Hence, the Cycle!
So to me, this story of the deaf and speech-impaired man is a metaphor of the intimacy we can have with Christ when we repent having blocked the flow of the Spirit outward from our hearts.
For five years, every single morning, when I wake up, my first prayer is always to ask the Lord to unblock the flow of the Holy Spirit out of my heart, saying, “Be unblocked!” I have always thought of this as repentance, but never as a command!
Today, that prayer changed to “Ephphatha!”
I am commanding my heart to get out of the way; evil has no power over me as long as I reject the temptation to disobedience and disunity from God.
The handicapped man on whom Jesus bestows his touch and his saliva so passionately is I, and he is you, as we live our lives learning from our mistakes on an upward spiral to perfect unity with God.
We cannot tell God or Jesus or the Spirit what to do – they are all God, three in one. But we can command our hearts to be opened to allow the Spirit to flow out and heal us – and others!
The word “Streamside” represents the mighty river of the spirit of perfect unity that will flows outward, first as a tiny stream from a repentant heart. The never-ending love of God ensures that this small tributary will join other tiny streams released by repentance.
The result is restoration, not only physically as in the case of the man in this story, but in a rushing river of perfect unity with God.
Do not be discouraged! We are growing closer to God, Jesus, and the Spirit every time we grow in repeating the Cycle.
And every time we command, “Ephphatha!”