Jeremiah 21 & Mark 7

Jeremiah 21

    This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying, “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”

    Then Jeremiah said to them: “Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. Afterward, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.’

    “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’

    “And to the house of the king of Judah say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O house of David! Thus says the LORD:

    “‘Execute justice in the morning,
        and deliver from the hand of the oppressor
        him who has been robbed,
    lest my wrath go forth like fire,
        and burn with none to quench it,
        because of your evil deeds.’”
    “Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
        O rock of the plain,
                                                                                                                                                                    declares the LORD;
    you who say, ‘Who shall come down against us,
        or who shall enter our habitations?’
    I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds,
                                                                                                                                                                    declares the LORD;
        I will kindle a fire in her forest,
        and it shall devour all that is around her.”

(Jeremiah 21 ESV)

Mark 7

    Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

    “‘This people honors me with their lips,
        but their heart is far from me;
    in vain do they worship me,
        teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
        You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

    And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

    And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

    And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

    Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

(Mark 7 ESV)

Mark 7: Immediately following His encounter with a Syrophoenician woman, Jesus encounters (and heals) a disabled man who was unable to hear and could hardly talk. Here in this Gentile region, we observe two very different healing miracles. For the woman’s daughter, Jesus just declares with His Word that she has been healed without even interacting or visiting with the daughter at all. For the man who was deaf and mute, Jesus pulls him aside and performs what seems to be some sort of healing ritual. Why the difference? Why does Jesus heal this man in such a ’touchy-feely’ way rather than just with His Word as He did for the woman?

Although we can only speculate, we can comfortably assume that Jesus, as the Wonderful Counselor, knows and gives each of us what we really need. Jesus doesn’t perform this ritual with the man because He needs to do it, but rather because the man needs Him to do it.

Think about it. Because of his disability, this man has more than likely feared the spotlight of public attention his entire life. Jesus knows this and therefore, takes him out of the spotlight and into the comforts of privacy. He then proceeds to touch the man’s ears and mouth. Jesus is speaking the man’s language. This man has never been able to hear or speak. His entire life has been one of nonverbal language, and so Jesus is connecting with the man on a deep personal level that he can understand.

The Syrophoenician woman had broke through all barriers of cultural correctness in a humble boldness that expected Jesus’ help out of her hope in who He was. This disabled man had not approached Jesus at all but rather was brought to Him by his peers who then proceeded to ask Jesus for His help. The woman only needed His affirmation, but the man needed His affection. Jesus is truly the Wonderful Counselor who gives each of us what He knows we really need.