Open your ears before you speak – Ordinary 23 B

Mark 7:24-37

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

In an earlier post I have addressed the conversion of Jesus by the Syro-Phoenician woman. This time around with the Gospel, I would like to attend to the deaf man from one of the ten towns of the Decapolis.

To the modern ear the linkage of the man’s deafness and a speech impediment is redundant. We all know that if your cannot hear properly, or at all, there is no way you could learn to pronounce and sound words correctly. In Jesus day the causal link was not that clear.

I am however, thankful for the redundancy for it gave me pause to consider the link between having one’s ears opened, one’s tongue released and then being able to speak plainly.

If I was to move from the literal story to the level of allegory and metaphor, there seems to be wonderful pathway of spiritual experience outlined in this miracle. Given that all miracles are signs that the Divine Domain of God is present, then here is a process that is consequential to that presence in the life of every pilgrim who encounters Jesus.

Jesus touches the man in ways that are quite tactile and visceral. He puts his fingers in his ears, spits, touches the mans tongue and then tells him to be opened. “Ephphatha.”

An interesting word that, Ephphatha. Especially considering that most of what seems to go on in the church is our command to people to do the opposite, “Be Closed”, we say. (How I wish I knew the Aramaic for that!) Anyway, Jesus says the opposite, “Be Opened” and the church says be closed.
Be closed to anything that does not fit the cultural status quo. You can make your own list of the things we say, “Be closed”, to.

I am also intrigued by the sequencing of the healed response. We are specifically told that his ears were opened, his tongue released, and then he spoke.
On the day I created this blog and chose the name The Listening Hermit, I had just read the WordPress homepage and seen just how many million words were being blogged. It made me wonder if there was anyone listening! It is now almost four years later and there is still not much listening going on.

Could it be that this miracle sequence is a parable that shows that Jesus would have us first listen before we open our mouths to speak?
My late Grandfather used to say, A still tongue makes a wise heart”
My Grandmother used to chime,
“The wise old owl sat on the oak,
the more he listened the less he spoke,
the less he spoke the more he heard,
why can’t we be like that wise old bird?”

Could it also be true that this miracle show that plain speaking can only come as the product and fruit of listening.

I would like to believe that is true.

Open up with all your being,
listen deeply,
speak plainly.


7 responses to “Open your ears before you speak – Ordinary 23 B”

  1. lyn Stephenson avatar
    lyn Stephenson

    I cannot tell you Peter how much your posts have meant to me over the past few years. My thinking and perception has gone through a radical change in that time and your words have often helped me articulate my own thoughts and feelings.

    Sometimes your posts are challenging, at times comforting, but always insightful and wise. It is obvious to me that your writing comes out of your own ability to listen, so rare these days.

  2. Ann Whitaker avatar
    Ann Whitaker

    Thank you for an insightful blog. Listening …

  3. Ramon avatar

    I am listening and I always appreciate your insights into the Word of God. Thank you.

  4. Peter avatar

    Hey Barbs
    Thanks for the affirmation
    The Listening Hermit is not planning to retire even when Peter Woods retires (early@55) from pastoral ministry.
    So I am interested to see how The Listening Hermit sees things when Peter isn’t preaching every Sunday!
    Bless you for your encouragement

  5. Irene avatar

    Thanks for once again reminding us to listen well, to listen deeply.

    I have a couple of friends and I am sure most of us can identify with this, you start telling a plain uncomplicated story but they so busy jumping in with their version and firing unrelated questions that had they been more attentive with their listening would have heard a plain simple story… but in the end the story becomes complicated from the fact that you keep bringing them back from the crazy directions they keep taking, i have even said PLEASE JUST LISTEN…we waste so much energy (both parties) trying to make yourself understood and them actually hearing you…
    I wonder if we do this all too often with Jesus, yet he brings us back with huge amount of grace and patience. Yes there is wisdom in the still tongue making a wise heart… in learning to Be still and knowing God…
    I will strive to listen more deeply

    Be Blessed

  6. barbsfalkiner avatar

    I am listening! I love your blogs, and am intrigued by the conversion of Jesus by a Syro-phoenician woman – will have to dig in the archives. I listen to your words and I use them in my talks at church and I am asking that you don’t retire – not just yet 😉 Be encouraged. I LOVE the Listening Hermit. A voice of reason amongst a lot of garbage 😉 Barbs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: