ONE OF THE ODDEST stories in the Gospel of Mark is the tale of Jesus healing a deaf man who could hardly talk—and then asking him not to tell anyone.
Why do you think Jesus asks the healed gent who could suddenly speak clearly to keep his mouth shut?
Here’s how I paraphrased the story in Mark 7, which I released last week for the Casual English Bible.
Healing a man with a touch of spit
7:31. Jesus left the area of Tyre, traveled up to Sidon, and then headed back to the Sea of Galilee and to the region of the Ten Cities.
7:32. Some people brought to Jesus a deaf man who could barely speak. The people pleaded with Jesus to put his hand on the man and heal him.
7:33. Jesus met with the man privately. Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then Jesus spit on his own fingers and placed those fingers onto the man’s tongue.
7:34. Jesus looked up toward the sky. With a heavy sigh he said, “Open!”
7:35. Instantly, the man’s ears opened; he could hear. And his tongue started moving; he could speak clearly.
7:36. Jesus told the man who had just learned to speak not to tell anyone. But the more Jesus told people to stay quiet, the more they didn’t. News about Jesus spread everywhere.
7:37. Absolutely astonished, the people said, “Whatever he does, he does it well. He’s the healer who gives sound to folks who can’t hear and words to folks who can’t talk.”
Q&A, from Leader’s Guide & Atlas
To heal a man who was deaf and unable to speak clearly, “Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then Jesus spit on his own fingers and placed those fingers onto the man’s tongue” (7:33). That’s odd. Why do you think Jesus did something like this? Normally, all he had to do was provide a touch or a word.
Some Bible experts speculate that Jesus did this to help build the faith of people by using techniques and remedies that were familiar to them. Here’s what the footnote to this verse contributes to the discussion: “Saliva was an ingredient that shows up in many remedies preserved from Roman writings in the first Christian century. One example from a collection of science books written by a man named Pliny (AD 23-79): ‘To cure inflammation of the eyes, wash the eyes each morning with spit from your overnight fast.’ Source: Natural History, Remedies from Living Creatures, book 28, chapter 10.”
Once again, Jesus tells someone he healed to keep the healing a secret. But with this particular healing, it seems incredibly inappropriate to make that request. “Jesus told the man who had just learned to speak not to tell anyone” (7:36). That’s like telling someone who wakes up one morning singing like Julie Andrews in the “Sound of Music,” and dancing like Ginger Rogers in any of those routines with Fred Astaire, to put a cork in it, stretch out on the couch, and watch the Hallmark Channel. Did Jesus really think the man was going to keep quiet?
It’s hard to explain why Jesus would say something like this to a man who had just learned to talk clearly. In fact, it sounds cruel. But, maybe Jesus was using some of the sarcasm he may have used with that lady in the area of Tyre. Or maybe he was that desperate to dial down his profile so he could get his message out before the Jewish leaders could knock him down and hang him up.
 7:31. Sidon is a coastal town in what is now Lebanon, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Tyre.
 7:31. Decapolis. See the note for Mark 5:20.
 7:33. Saliva was an ingredient that shows up in many remedies preserved from Roman writings in the first Christian century. One example from a collection of science books written by a man named Pliny (AD 23-79): “To cure inflammation of the eyes, wash the eyes each morning with spit from your overnight fast.” Source: Natural History, Remedies from Living Creatures, book 28, chapter 10.
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