Mark 7 closes with another healing. Returning from Tyre and Sidon to Galilee, he is met by a man who is deaf and also unable to speak. It may well be that his muteness is a consequence of his deafness and not hearing speech.
The context of the two healing miracles at the end of the chapter help us to think about the question “Why does Jesus make healing central to his ministry?” Obviously we can say that he heals because this is a demonstration of his power and we can talk about his compassion but there are still questions about why he heals some and not others. Was it that he was constrained by time? We know that this cannot be true for the Lord of Time and Space, so I would suggest that there is some selective intentionality and that Jesus’ healing ministry is intended not just as an outworking of compassion and power but to teach us some things.
This part of Mark has been all about what defiles us and what sanctifies us (makes us holy). We’ve seen that it is not the external things coming in from the outside, the rituals we keep, the food that eat that either defile or cleanse. Rather, it is the state of our heart that matters. It is what is on the inside that flows out in our conduct, our words, our thoughts etc.
Now Jesus meets a man who is deaf and mute. The temptation of many at the time was to assume that disability and disease was a consequence of sin. Now given that this man’s muteness was likely a result of his deafness, this would suggest he was born with the condition. It couldn’t be his own sin that caused sickness. This is not saying that he wasn’t a sinner, just that his disability was not caused by sin. Some people may have also been tempted to think that disease and disability put the person outside of God’s society. Indeed, some disabilities and diseases would lead to you being an outcast and some would prevent you from entering the Temple. In some cases, there was a fear that disease could contaminate you as well if you came into contact with the afflicted.
So, here we have Jesus coming up close and making physical contact with the man. He address him and commands healing. In doing so, Jesus demonstrates two things. First of all, we see that this man’s disability does not put him beyond Christ’s reach. He is not defiled by it and nor will he contaminate others.
Secondly, we see that whilst our defilement comes from within and whilst external rituals cannot cleanse us, we are dependent on something, or rather someone reaching in to pour lives from the outside. Jesus does work from the outside in because his touch reaches deep, beyond a surface encounter.
Here is good news for us. We are not beyond Christ’s reach, whatever our circumstances, whatever we’ve been led to believe. Here is a challenge for us. We should not look at others around us as defiled, contaminated, beyond his reach either.