The Greatest Virtue

Read: Mark 7

Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said … “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! (Mark 7:33-35, NLT)

It would be normal for us to focus on the unusual healing methods Jesus employed to heal this man with deaf ears and tied tongue.  What a strange thing—Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears, then apparently, removed them, spit on them and then touched his tongue.

Yikes!  I’m glad Jesus wasn’t setting a pattern for praying for the sick today.  What Jesus did for this man—or more accurately, how Jesus prayed for this man—has nothing over some of the strange antics and overt showiness of some of today’s so called faith healers.

But don’t miss the first thing Jesus did when this poor man’s friends brought him to Jesus for prayer: He pulled the man aside so he could minister to him in private.  Obviously, Jesus didn’t want his methodology to be the thing the crowd focused on.  Nor did he want to turn this man into a sideshow or use him as a trophy that could build a greater following for Jesus.  The Lord never used people in that way, so he simply, quietly healed the man in the most respectful way possible.

So why the weird methods?  I’m not really sure, since Jesus could have simply spoke a word and the man would have been healed.  But he had his reasons, and the bottom line was a man who had been victimized by this horrible physical bondage was miraculously, fully and gratefully set free.

Nor should we miss the greater message behind this event.  It is a message, in fact, that runs throughout the entirety of Mark 7.  What is that message? It is that God values “humility”.  It is the lack of humility that frames the opening encounter between the religious elite and Jesus. When the scribes and Pharisees criticize Jesus and his disciples for not observing the man-made minutiae of the Jewish Law, Jesus rebukes them for their arrogant, manipulative and abusive misapplication of God’s true law.

On the other hand, it is the presence of humility that moves Jesus to respond to the woman who comes to him to get her daughter delivered from a demon.  Jesus initially puts this Syro-Phoenician lady through her paces in order to bring out her faith—actually telling her she doesn’t deserve to be healed (really—check out Mark 7:27, NLT). But the woman, who is from a much wealthier, more prestigious culture than this simple, uncouth Galilean, won’t take “no” for an answer, so she humbly makes her request of Jesus, who grants gladly grants it.

Then, as we’ve seen with the healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment, Jesus rejects any form of showiness by doing in private what God does—restoring not only hearing to deaf ears but dignity to the human soul.

Nothing turns God off like arrogance.  And nothing turns God on like humility.  That’s because nothing is closer to the core of God’s character than humility, which the Apostle Paul reminds us of in Philippians 2:1-11 through the example of Jesus. That is why humility is arguably the greatest virtue.

The next time you see an arrogant religious leader in action, turn off the TV or turn around and walk away if you are in their presence.  Next time you see a person humbly appeal for help, turn toward and humbly serve them as the Servant would.  And the next time you’re tempted to think, feel, act or speak in any manner other that true humility, go back and read Mark 7.

“In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Paul (Philippians 2:3-4)

What If God Took Over?

Ask God to reveal any form of pride that may reside in your life and remove it from you.  Then humble yourself before him and ask for his help in exhibiting the attitude of humility exemplified by Jesus.

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