I recently preached on Mark 7:24-27 and in this portion of Scripture there are two miracles. The first miracle Jesus casts a demon out of a little girl because of the faith of her mother. This is mind blowing all by itself, but then Jesus does something you would not have expected.
Jesus has been going about performing miracles without exerting much physical effort. He calms a storm by speaking to it. He raises a dead girl by commanding her to rise. He feeds 5,000 men (not counting women and children) by blessing a few loaves of bread and a couple fish, and so on. Then we come to a deaf mute.
When the friends of this deaf mute bring him before Jesus they beg Him to heal their friend, just like the mother in the previous miracle begged Jesus to cast out her daughter’s demon. Jesus takes this guy to the side and He sticks His fingers in the ears of this man and then He spits and touches his tongue. You have to wonder why Mark and the Holy Spirit would put this in the Gospel! It would be way easier to simply say, “And Jesus took the deaf mute to the side and healed him so that he could hear and speak plainly.” But that is not what God gives us, so we have to wonder.
In my studying I have come across various interpretations from the practical to the speculative. So, why did Jesus poke this guy in his ears?
One interpretation sees Jesus making this Gentile a member of His house by symbolically enacting the Law in Exodus 21:2-6. In this passage if you were a slave, and you worked off your debt, you were free to go in Israel. However, if you loved your master, and you didn’t want to leave him, he would take you to the door post of his home and take an awl, and drill through your ear into the door post, thereby making you a member of his household. Your life would then be completely given over to your master.
The connection being that Jesus’s fingers are like that awl. This miracle, which points ahead to salvation at the cross and resurrection, is making this deaf Gentile a servant of Jesus and a member of Jesus’s new house, the church. Well, perhaps.
What about the spittle? Why would Jesus spit? Part of the laws of cleanliness was that an issue of fluid that came out of a person was unclean. This makes sense after all. Think about the biblical theology here. Since we are dead in our trespasses and sins and our mouths are open graves, what is in a grave? A corpse. What do corpses produce, stinking fluids.
The Bible says that apart from the washing of regeneration you are dead and you stink. What comes out of us stinks. Your breath stinks, your pee stinks, your sweat stinks, your blood stinks, your spit stinks, it all stinks because inside we are dead. So, what is going on with Jesus’s spit? Well, He isn’t dead inside.
What does the Gospel of John tell us that flows out of Jesus? Rivers of living water (John 7:37-39 and John 19:34). What comes out of Jesus who is Life, but life itself? Jesus’s spit is not unclean because it does not come from a dead rotten heart.
Jesus’s spit, the water from His body, points ahead to the cross, when He would be pierced and blood and water would flow out from His side cleansing you, and me, and all who will fall before Him. Well, this is also a plausible interpretation.
And then there is also the practical side of all this. Perhaps this was the only way that Jesus could communicate to a deaf mute man. It is a crude form of sign language. Jesus takes him aside and to indicate what He is going to do for the man, He touches his ears and his tongue.
Well, maybe in another thousand years of studying Scripture we will know for sure.