Jesus headed further into Gentile territory—the Decapolis—and had a miraculous and tactile encounter with a deaf man. Mark 7 began with Jesus’ delineating what (and who) made a person unclean. He emphasized that it’s the inside of a person that causes his or her defilement. In the progression of the chapter, Jesus continued to prove His assertion by healing a Gentile woman’s daughter, and now, a Gentile man.
The Deaf Will Hear
Isaiah 35:3–6 says:
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
See the word mute in Isaiah 35:6? In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint, a version for Jews who primarily spoke and read Greek) the word translated is mogilalos. The only other time mogilalos occurs in the Bible is with the Gentile man from Decapolis in Mark 7. Mark tied the work of Jesus directly to the prophecy of Isaiah, emphasizing to the hellenized Jewish readers that Jesus was explicitly fulfilling the works of Messiah. The twist, though, is that the healing work of Messiah—the Anointed One destined to save the Israelites—extends beyond the people of Israel, providing restoration not only for Zion, but for the Decapolis, Tyre and Sidon, and by extension, the Gentile nations. Mark 7 is a credo on opening the borders of salvation and tearing down the walls that prohibited Gentiles from experiencing God.
The Jews, however, weren’t ready to hear about this wall tumbling down, and Jesus endeavored to keep private this Decapolis man’s healing (Mark 7:33, 36). Notice that when Jesus healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, it was a private healing as well (7:30).
Shh! Don't Tell!
Why would Jesus want to keep healing, or His role as Messiah, a secret?
Inaccurate expectations from the Jews. The Jews were living under Roman occupation and longed for a political Messiah to liberate them. They desired an independent state. Jesus is indeed King of kings, but He was also the suffering servant as described in Isaiah 53. The Jews were not looking for a persecuted and murdered Messiah.
Fulfillment of prophecy. In Mark 4:11–12, Jesus said, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” Jesus was fulfilling the words of His Father, spoken to the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9–10.
Ministry pragmatism. Jesus had a specific agenda for His ministry. If He made His Messiahship explicitly known, He would probably have been apprehended by Roman authorities and charged for treason after the Gentiles wrongly presumed that He was making a claim for the Roman throne.
Jesus is the Holy One of God—and there are aspects of His being that we can’t fathom. Isn’t He gracious for touching our lives and healing us with His power anyway?
Based on the prophecy in Isaiah 35:3–6, what should the people have understood when Jesus healed the blind and deaf man? Why did Jesus tell people to keep their healings secret? Why so much secrecy?
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