At that time, Jesus going out of the coasts of Tyre, came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring to Him one deaf and dumb, and they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him. And taking him from the multitude apart, He put His fingers into his ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, He groaned and said to him: Ephphetha, which is, Be thou opened: and immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. And He charged them that they should tell no man: but the more He charged them so much the more a great deal did they publish it; and so much the more did they wonder, saying: He hath done all things well; He hath made both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.
Verse 32. Dumb. The Greek signifies one that speaks little, or with difficulty. Wi. — They besought him. In the Greek it is, they beseech him, which agrees so well with they bring, that we have every reason to believe that this was the original reading.
Verse 34. Ephphetha, a Syriac word. Jesus Christ, in the cure of this man, uses many and various actions; but as of their own nature they are no ways equal to such a cure, they shew: first, that the cure was miraculous; and secondly, the virtue, which his divinity communicated to his sacred body. V. — We must not suppose that our Saviour here groaned on account of any difficulty he experienced in working this miracle, but only from commiseration for the man, whom he was about to heal; as likewise to shew, how very difficult is the cure of those who are spiritually deaf and dumb by sin. He was affected in a similar manner when he raised Lazarus to life, to shew with what difficulty a man, dead and buried in sin by evil habits, can arise from that miserable state. Dion. Carth.
31. And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, He came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. 32. And they bring unto Him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put His hand upon him. 33. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers into his ears, and He spit, and touched His tongue; 34. And looking up to heaven, He sighed, and saith unto him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36. And He charged them that they should tell no man: but the more He charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37. And were beyond measure astonished, saying, "He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."
Theophylact: The Lord did not wish to stay in the parts of the Gentiles, lest He should give the Jews occasion to say, that they esteemed Him a transgressor of the law, because He held communion with the Gentiles, and therefore He immediately returns. Wherefore it is said, “And again departing from the coasts of Tyre, He came through Sidon, to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis.”
Bede, in Marc., 2, 31: Decapolis is a region of ten cities, across the Jordan, to the east, over against Galilee [ed. note: It appears, however, from Reland, Pales. v.1, p198, that a portion of Decapolis, including its metropolis, Scythopolis, was on this side Jordan, and therefore this text of St. Mark may be taken literally.] When therefore it is said that the Lord came to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis, it does not mean that He entered the confines of Decapolis themselves; for He is not said to have crossed the sea, but rather to have come to the borders of the sea, and to have reached quite up to the place, which was opposite to the midst of the coasts of Decapolis, which were situated at a distance across the sea.
It goes on, “And they bring Him one that was deaf and dumb, and they besought Him to lay hands upon him.”
Theophylact: Which is rightly placed after the deliverance of one possessed with a devil, for such an instance of suffering came from the devil.
There follows, “And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers into his ears.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He takes the deaf and dumb man who was brought to Him apart from the crowd, that He might not do His divine miracles openly; teaching us to cast away vain glory and swelling of heart, for no one can work miracles as he can, who loves humility and is lowly in his conduct. But He puts His fingers into his ears, when He might have cured him with a word, to shew that His body, being united to Deity, was consecrated by Divine virtue, with all that He did. For since on account of the transgression of Adam, human nature had incurred much suffering and hurt in its members and senses, Christ coming into the world shewed the perfection of human nature in Himself, and on this account opened ears, with His fingers, and gave the power of speech by His spittle. Wherefore it goes on, “And spit, and touched his tongue.”
Theophylact: That He might shew that all the members of His sacred body are divine and holy, even the spittle which loosed the string of the tongue. For the spittle is only the superflous moisture of the body, but in the Lord, all things are divine.
It goes on, “And looking up to heaven, He groaned, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.”
Bede: He looked up to heaven, that He might teach us that thence is to be procured speech for the dumb, hearing for the deaf, health for all who are sick. And He sighed, not that it was necessary for Him to be any thing from His Father with groaning, for He, together with the Father, gives all things to them who ask, but that He might give us an example of sighing, when for our own errors and those of our neighbours, we invoke the guardianship of the Divine mercy.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He at the same time also groaned, as taking our cause upon Himself and pitying human nature, seeing the misery into which it had fallen.
Bede: But that which He says, “Ephphatha, that is, Be opened,” belong properly to the ears, for the ears are to be opened for hearing, but the tongue to be loosed from the bonds of its impediment, that is may be able to speak. Wherefore it goes on, “And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” Where each nature of one and the same Christ is manifestly distinct, looking up indeed into Heaven as man, praying unto God, He groaned, but presently with one word, as being strong in the Divine Majesty, He healed.
It goes on, “And He charged them that they should tell no man.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: By which He has taught us not to boast in our powers, but in the cross and humiliation.
He also bade them conceal the miracle, lest He should excite the Jews by envy to kill Him before the time.
Pseudo-Jerome: A city, however, placed on a hill cannot be hid, and lowliness always comes before glory. Wherefore it goes on, “but the more He charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it.”
Theophylact: By this we are taught, when we confer benefits on any, by no means to seek for applause and praise; but when we have received benefits, to proclaim and praise our benefactors, even though they be unwilling.
Augustine: If however He, as one Who knew the present and the future wills of men, knew that they would proclaim Him the more in proportion as He forbade them, why did He give them this command? If it were not that He wished to prove to men who are idle, how much more joyfully, with how much greater obedience, they whom He commands to proclaim Him should preach, when they who were forbidden could not hold their peace.
Gloss.: From the preaching however of those who were healed by Christ, the wonder of the multitude, and their praise of the benefits of Christ, increased.
Wherefore it goes on, “And they were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”
Pseudo-Jerome: Mystically, Tyre is interpreted, narrowness, and signifies Judaea, to which the Lord said, “For the bed is grown too narrow,” [Isa 28:20] and from which He turns Himself to the Gentiles. Sidon means, hunting, for our race is like an untamed beast, and “sea”, which means a wavering inconstancy. Again, the Saviour comes to save the Gentiles in the midst of the coasts of Decapolis, which may be interpreted, as the commands of the Decalogue. Further, the human race throughout its many members is reckoned as one man, eaten up by varying pestilence, in the first created man; it is blinded, that is, its eye is evil; it becomes deaf, when it listens to, and dumb when it speaks, evil. And they prayed Him to lay His hand upon him, because many just men, and patriarchs, wished and longed for the time when the Lord should come in the flesh.
Bede: Or he is deaf and dumb, who neither has ears to hear the words of God, nor opens his mouth to speak them, and such must be presented to the Lord for healing, by men who have already learned to hear and speak the divine oracles.
Pseudo-Jerome: Further, he who obtains healing is always drawn aside from turbulent thoughts, disorderly actions, and incoherent speeches. And the fingers which are put into the ears are the words and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, of whom it is said, “This is the finger of God.” [Ex 8:19; Luke 11:20] The spittle is heavenly wisdom, which loosens the sealed lips of the human race, so that it can say, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, and the rest of the Creed. “And looking up to heaven, he groaned,” that is, He taught us to groan, and to raise up the treasures of our hearts to the heavens; because by the groaning of hearty compunction, the silly joy of the flesh is purged away. But the ears are opened to hymns, and songs, and psalms; and He looses the tongue, that it may pour forth the good word, which neither threats nor stripes can restrain.