By Randy Dillon
Mark 7:31-37 /Mark 8:22-26 /John 9:1-7
The New Testament is replete with many miracles performed by Jesus and the Apostles. There are three miracles which are often cited together because of a similarity which is not recorded in the other miracles. It is these which we now examine.
In the chapters noted above are three healings which are not too different from one another. They are however different from other miracles of Jesus recorded in scripture.
First, the similarities. In Mark 7 the afflicted man was both deaf and dumb, unable to hear or speak. In Mark 8 the man was blind, as was the man in John 9. Notice that these afflictions are those of the communicative senses; the eyes, ears and tongue.
Second, in each case Jesus uses saliva or spit as a method of transacting the healing.
Third, these three miracles were not accomplished immediately as were the rest of the recorded miracles in the Gospels. Instead of immediacy, secondary steps were taken to effect theses miracles.
This “delayed process” is the subject of our inquiry. Do these delays indicate something about the ability of Jesus to heal these senses? Why the extra procedures in these cases? Was there a lack of faith on the part of the recipients? Did Jesus, perhaps, have an ulterior purpose for the delays? What might the short delays tell us about God’s working in the world and in our lives?
We first accept on faith and see in every other miracle by Jesus that He certainly had the power to heal immediately if He so desired. Certainly, healing the eyes, ears and tongue are remarkable events. But not as startling as bodily resurrection, as with Lazarus. It is therefore the case that these additional procedures were likely based on some purpose other than lack of ability.
It is possible that there could have been a lack of faith on the part of the recipients. Mark does not note in his account the length of time that the two men were afflicted, but John indicates blindness from birth. It might therefore be the case that the expectation of a miraculous healing was so far beyond the expectation and comprehension of these men that complete faith had to first arrive in the form of hope before it could be fully realized in genuine faith.
There are those who suggest that the delays in these instances were for definite reasons. On the one hand they may have been delayed for a short amount of time in order for the recipients to understand what was happening. Just as likely is the idea that Jesus was portraying to his disciples that all healing is not necessarily instantaneous but might occur over time as God purposes it to be. Finally, it may be that Jesus uses these cases to demonstrate that as healing faith may take time, so saving faith may also come to a sinner over time. This is not to deny God’s ability to heal and save spontaneously but rather to indicate that He achieves His purposes on His own timetable according to His will and not according to ours.
It is also conceivable that these three healings, which involve the senses of communication, are delayed to indicate that humans depend much more on these attributes than they do in the physical healings of the body such as being lame, withered, palsied, beset with leprosy and other such physical ailments. These three communicative illnesses are specifically mentioned in Isaiah 35:5-6: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. . .”
Finally, the miracles in John are called “sign” miracles because they point to something more than just physical healing. In Mark 8 we can see such a sign when Jesus opens the eyes of the blind man in a physical sense, but also opens the eyes of the heart to recognize who Jesus really is. Likewise in Mark 7 the ears are opened physically but also in a spiritual sense to allow the Word of God to enter the both the physical ear and the spiritual heart.
Thus, we are challenged in these accounts to comprehend the unique manner in which God works to achieve His purposes; this in spite of our own expectations of how God should work. In our own limited understanding we should therefore magnify how unlimited God’s power is in this world and how that power should cause us to honor and glorify such an omnipotent creator. 8:22-26 / John 9:1-7