Jesus is still traveling in the area most Jews considered pagan. It was in that area of the 10 cities [Decapolis] some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk. “…They begged Jesus to place his hand on him. 33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”
Imagine how confusing this whole situation must have been to this man. He certainly hasn’t “heard” about Jesus. His life must have been like our watching TV with the sound off; the visual chaos of a lot of unexplained activity. That makes it easier for me to imagine his situation. Bless those people that brought him to Jesus.
Bless Jesus for his kindness and sensitivity to remove this man from that visual chaos he must have been experiencing and to protect him from the audible chaos of the crowd at the moment his ears were opened. Away from the distraction of the crowd Jesus could use his hands to show the man what he would do in a silent mime. Jesus’s voice would be the first one heard. It’s a marvelous story of physical healing with just that one word spoken,..“Ephphatha!”
It was interesting to discover that one word, “Ephphatha!” was in Aramaic but the word that explained it was the Greek version “dianoigō,” It seems this healing was too big for just one language. It took both languages to convey the purpose Jesus had in mind as he stood face to face to heal this man…”to open so as to connect.”
Jesus had an even greater purpose for this man’s life…and ours….to understand when he speaks in our lives it’s ”to open so as to connect.”
Mark 7 – There was a mother whose little girl was possessed by an impure spirit. She was a gentile. The story reminded me Jesus was in gentile territory. Ordinarily a Jew would walk miles out of their way to avoid being in this place Jesus had chosen to go.
Then I found this piece of information was brand new to me. “The earthly Israel had failed to gather in the people of Phoenicia; now the true Israel had come upon them. It was not a strange land into which Jesus came; it was a land which long ago God had given him for his own. He was not so much coming amongst strangers as entering into his inheritance.”
Jesus had clearly taught the right food had nothing to do with whether a person was clean or unclean. Now the true Israel tells a different story of what makes a person clean or unclean. It’s not “right” birth or right location that makes a person clean or unclean. That’s a good thing but why is his response to the gentile woman is so harsh?
27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Jesus was confronting this gentile woman to consider the inferior circumstance she’d lived under her whole life. Slavery then wasn’t so unlike the slavery we’re more familiar with. If you tell people for centuries they’re inferior it takes something more than history for them to believe they have the right to deserve more and ask for it.
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
What Jesus saw in this woman’s response was courage defined by her faith in him. That was the only thing she had to offer. It wasn’t faith determined by rules or race. She had faith that defied all the odds of her circumstance…and that mattered to Jesus.
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Mark 5:24 – 32. You surely know this story of one needy woman in a large crowd following Jesus. With one timid touch her life is changed forever after years of suffering being unclean because of bleeding that no amount of doctoring or money could cure. She was left unable to participate in any of the life affirming rituals of Jewish law. And Jesus says…
30b “Who touched my clothes?”
34b “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
There was a life and death principle to the Jewish purity laws. This woman wasn’t unclean because of anything she’d done. She was impure because her years of continual bleeding were viewed by law as the loss of potential life and kept her perpetually separated from the ritual practices that could connect her to God.
Her need was so great that she was willing to take one timid step to reach out and secretly touch Jesus’s clothes. She knew Jesus would be defiled by her touch and that act could be punishable by death. A timid step and a secret touch was enough for her new beginning!…but when Jesus stopped and turned around to ask who’d touched him she was terrified. Now what had been one secret touch became a far more public risk she had to take…confess. She “came and fell at his feet “and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
We don’t subscribe to ritual purity anymore but this woman’s story is the story of faith today as well. Faith still begins by taking one timid step in belief Jesus has the power to respond to our need. It’s in confessing the whole truth of our need for that relationship with Jesus that we are freed to enjoy the potential of life God intends for us, without depending on ritual.
You probably know the story in Mark 5:1 – 20
Jesus is confronted by a demon possessed man of great strength. This man lived in the tombs, and had broken free of his chains and irons. Night and day he wandered among the tombs and in the hills crying out and cutting himself with stones. The demons begged Jesus to let them come out and go into the pigs and they all rushed into the lake and drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported to the town’s people who went out to see what had happened. They saw the healed man sitting there, dressed and in his right mind and they were afraid. They pleaded with Jesus to leave but the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus tells him “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.
Jesus knows when evil is present and evil is clever enough to try to use God’s name in an effort to play on Jesus’s sympathy. Jesus is interested in more than just confronting evil – he must destroy it in order to save a man from the demons that bedevil him and give him the courage to speak of how much the Lord has done and the he has shown.
Mark 3 The Red Thread – Rag Tag Unity
•“Stand up in front of everyone.”
•“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
•“Stretch out your hand.”
•“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
•33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
•“Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
1. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character.
“a ragtag group of idealists”
What an varied assortment of characters there are in this chapter. First and foremost is Jesus, a carpenter turned itinerant minister from an obscure background causing a stir everywhere he went. The ragtag list continues: a man with shriveled hand, the “them” watching to find a way to accuse Jesus, crowds from all over, impure spirits, 12 ragtag men we call disciples, some of Jesus’s own family who are worried about his behavior and teachers of the law who find him both irritating and threatening. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a book that is still the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed according to Guinness World Records.
That’s the story though. God assembling his own ragtag community of people then…and now…for the essential purpose of keeping them close to himself. Essential ragtag people who manage to live together in ragtag unity because of one essential person, Jesus, the son of God, our Savior.
There’s an argument still made today those essentials are fine, “if you need them.” Recently I asked my pastor about how to respond to that. He gave me an answer I’ve never even considered before – embrace the need. I can’t give you proof that God exists or that Jesus can really change you. I can tell you about the need of one woman with a ragtag history who’s heart is being rebuilt with these red letter words of Jesus. It’s a ragtag unity I share with other “untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied” people who find red letter words filling in the blanks of their lives too.
“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” Rupertus Meldenius, author of the 17th century tract in which the quote first appeared.
Posted in Mark, Sunday, The Red Letter Version
Tagged Community, Essential, Heart, Jesus, Need, Ragtag, Rebuilt, Story, Unity
NASB Romans 8:Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
The whole chapter of Romans 8 and especially these verses are part of the treasure of my life of faith. They are the reality of a very special dream I had. I don’t know how much credence you give to dreams but this one changed my life as a relatively new believer more than half a lifetime ago.
Jesus had come to take me to see something with him. I felt secure. I was with him and he held my hand as we looked together at a grotesque museum-like head and shoulders statue on a pedestal sitting alone in the room. It wasn’t until we were leaving and I turned to look again at that ugly thing…one last time…that I saw it was me.
I awakened from the dream with an actual physical feeling of love for Jesus. He loved me enough to hold my hand until I understood that ugly statue was no longer me. That dream became My Love Song for him. There are more lyrics and I hope I still have them written down…somewhere…but this verse and chorus are the response of a full heart I will always remember.
My Love Song
You came to me in a dream and showed me what I could be
You taught me that I could love myself because of your love for me
And now I’m ready to share what I’ve learned
Of how filling your love can be
Through the miracle of love set to music
Flowing from you through me.
This is my love song for you Lord.
I sing it for the joy of loving you.
The words and the music you have placed in my heart
Are the gift that I give now to you.
You are the beat and the rhythm.
You are the lyric and tune.
You are the music singing in my heart
You are the song.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The other minor prophets are going to have to wait. I need a break after Hosea. Something like going back to New Testament basics. I did learn valuable things about the character of God and his enduring love and desire to teach, train and correct us despite, and because of, our circumstances. I learned first and foremost his heart is to equip us to be able to walk on our own two feet…but always with him…never alone. It’s a total picture of what righteousness training looks like.
It’s good to know that the Word is more than one book. It’s not just a long list of painful reminders of the results of bad choices, hard lessons and needed corrections so we’ll be afraid to step out of line. God has chosen Jesus to provide that independence for each of us. Jesus gives us a personal, independent identity with God that reveals our unique spiritual gifts “that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”