10.01.24 Mk. 7:31-37; Mt. 15:31 Galilee and the Decapolis
DEAF MUTE HEALED
Mk. 31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, He went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him a deaf man who also had a speech difficulty, and begged Jesus to lay His hand on him. 33 So He took him away from the crowd privately. After putting His fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, He touched his tongue. 34 Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (That is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his speech difficulty was removed, and he began to speak clearly. 36 Then He ordered them to tell no one, but the more He would order them, the more they would proclaim it.
37 They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well! He even makes deaf people hear, and people unable to speak, talk!”
Mt. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the deformed restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they gave glory to the God of Israel.
“The region of the Decapolis.” Jesus now made His third withdrawal from the Jewish communities to preach to the Gentiles, although these cities did have a small Jewish population. The fact that Jesus went into the heart of the Gentile cities must have astounded the leading Pharisees because, in their arrogant eyes, a devout Jew would not defile himself by going into a pagan city.
There was no great love between the orthodox Jews and their Hellenistic Jewish and Greek neighbors, as contention went deep on both sides. Attitudes were secured by age-old hostilities. The Greeks established a trade embargo against the Jews in the year A.D. 1. They also were the oppressive people who, with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, persecuted the Jews prior to the Maccabean Revolt. Furthermore, they took strong opposition against the Hasmonean rulers of Judea, not to mention that they considered the pig to be their sacred animal. There is no question that the Jews hated them as much as the Samaritans. Into these cities, Jesus boldly walked preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God.
By this time Jesus had already established a favorable reputation and a news of His visit spread, large crowds came to Him for healing (Mt. 4:25). Upon His arrival, He was given an outstanding welcome because the Greeks were not encumbered with the religious traditions of the Jews. While they did have their gods, they had never seen a man like Jesus who was a healer beyond anything they believed Asclepius, Apollo, or Caesar could do. Yet Gentile writers like Philo made comments of both Apollo and Caesar:
But no doubt he with great felicity gave new representation of the medical skill of Apollo, for this god was the inventor of healing medicines, so to cause health to men, thinking fit himself to heal diseases which were inflicted by others, by reason of the excessive mildness and gentleness of his own nature and habits.
Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius 38
This is Caesar, who calmed the storms which were raging in every direction, who healed the common diseases which were afflicting both Greeks and barbarians…. This is he who gave freedom to every city, who brought disorder into order, who civilized and made obedient and harmonious nations which before his time were unsociable, hostile, and brutal.
Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius 38
Jesus demonstrated Himself to be greater than Apollo or Caesar. When Mark described this to his Gentile audience, he described various Jewish customs (7:2-4; 15:42) and Aramaic words (3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 15:22) so they would understand the context of the events. He is the only gospel writer who recorded this account because it took place in a Gentile community and he demonstrated that Jesus is also the God of the Greeks and Romans. They believed Asclepius and Apollo were great healers of mankind, but Jesus demonstrated otherwise.
“After putting His fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, He touched his tongue.” Jesus not only fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, but also demonstrated that He, and not man-made gods, healed eyes and ears as the Hebrew prophet who said,
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
For information as to why Jesus may have used spittle or spit and mud, see 11.02.21.Q1, and the reason for the two-step healing of a blind man is covered in 10.01.28.Q1.
He did this again in Mark 8:23. The ancients healed with creams, salves, and oils. It is interesting that Jesus, to a limited degree, appears to have mimicked the methods used by Greek and Roman healers, but demonstrating that He was the true Healer. He healed hundreds, if not thousands, who testified of Him, whereas the pagan healers had only legends and no living persons who testified of a healing. In John 9:32 the Jews specifically stated that, throughout history, no one had ever heard of a blind person being healed.
“Tell no one.” Jesus was not interested in self-promotion. His acts should speak for themselves. That is why He once again told those whom He healed not to tell anyone of this incredible miracle. It has been suggested, and this writer agrees, that since Jesus told them not to tell anyone, this indicates that the recipient of the healing was Jewish. Jesus told Jewish people not to tell anyone but He did not say this to healed Gentiles. The reason behind this strange request was because, while both Jews and Gentiles were looking for a political-messiah, but the Jewish perception of a political-messiah threatened the Romans. Jesus did not want them to think He was that person.
The Jews had absolutely no idea that the messiah would come in the form of Jesus because they were expecting a military-figure who would overthrow the Romans. Since the Romans were aware of this, they were quick to kill anyone who might be considered a messiah by the people, hence, the cautionary words not to tell anyone. For further study on their expectations and studies, see 05.04.02.Q1 “What were the Jewish expectations of the Messiah?” and 03.05.19.Q1 “What biblical prophecies were the rabbis studying at this time and why were they expecting the Messiah?”
. See “Decapolis” in Appendix 26.
. Pellett, “Decapolis.” 1:811.
. Yonge, C. D., ed. and trans. The Works of Philo. 784.
. Yonge, C. D., ed. and trans. The Works of Philo. 770.
. See comments on Mt. 8:1-4 and the Psalms of Solomon.