Jesus spit on his fingers, then touched the tongue of the man with a severe hearing and speech impediment—and healed him! Maybe that’s where many so-called faith healers come up with their crowd-wowing antics. But they miss a key point: Jesus first led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. Jesus never used people for show; he was more interested in their restoration as cherished children of the Heavenly Father than his own ratings as Israel’s messiah. There was no arrogance whatsoever found in Jesus, only humility, the greatest virtue. The next time you see an arrogant religious leader in action, turn off the TV or turn around and walk away. And the next time you’re tempted to think, feel, act or speak in any manner other than true humility, learn a thing or two from Jesus.
The Journey: Mark 7:33-35
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!
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. 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 spoken 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 the Lord 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. But the woman, who is from a much wealthier, more prestigious culture than this simple Galilean’s, humbly makes her request of Jesus, who grants her request.
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 deaf ears and dignity of the human soul.
Nothing turns God off like arrogance. And nothing turns God’s 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,
Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
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 than true humility, go back and read Mark 7. And as Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4
In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.