The Blindness of Unbelief

Theme: Hidden in Plain Sight
Mark 7:31-37
To the lover of mystery novels, part of their appeal is the challenge they present: to solve the story’s puzzle using the clues scattered throughout its pages. The solution can always be deduced from information the author has provided—train schedules, ticket stubs, furniture arrangements, missing manuscripts, clothing of a telltale color. But the reader must determine which clues reveal the truth, which have no bearing on the case, and which will deliberately lead to the wrong conclusion. The answers are there, but they are mixed in with falsehoods and irrelevancies, “hidden in plain sight.”


Most of all, Jesus’ true identity and mission were hidden because of the blindness of unbelief that surrounded Him. Who He was and why He was there were plain from His words and His deeds, yet it was as if everything was performed before a people deprived of every sensibility, a people with ears that heard nothing, eyes that saw nothing, hearts and minds that could not comprehend what they were told. It was not so much that He concealed Himself as it was that sin and hardness of heart kept humanity from seeing who it was who stood before them. In this way, Jesus was hidden in plain sight.
The nature of unbelief and its eternal implications figure prominently in the incidents Mark records in chapter 8. We learn about the way Jesus dealt with faithlessness through two unusual miracles, and we also learn a great deal about the spiritual issues involved in the way He dealt with His dull–witted disciples. The time was coming for Jesus to state clearly that He was God come to earth and that He had come to die for the sins of the world. Jesus knew very well that whether a person received that message in faith or in unbelief would determine his or her eternal destiny.
Jesus’ healing of the man who was deaf and dumb (7:31- 37) sets the stage for a fuller revelation of Him. This is a simple story of a healing. Why did the Holy Spirit include it in the gospel record? If we want an illustration of the power of Jesus Christ, we can go to other passages for much more dramatic examples. There was the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the nobleman’s son who was dying until Jesus healed him from a distance. There is Lazarus who had been dead for four days when Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth.” If we wish for illustrations of the power of Jesus Christ, we have them in abundance, and in power that seems much greater than the power manifested here.
In this particular story we must go beyond the physical and come to the spiritual aspects, because this man with his handicaps is a picture of the human race, which is deaf and dumb. In Adam all sinned and became deaf to the calls of God. In the first chapter of Romans we learn that, “although they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22). Here is a picture of the impotent race.
In this particular instance of healing, the Lord Jesus Christ used physical means to cure the man. He put His fingers in the man’s ears, spat upon His own finger, and touched the man’s tongue. Why did He do it this way? Perhaps He wanted us to see that He was not bound by any one method to accomplish His purposes. Jesus was always in perfect control of the situation and could use whatever means He wished. On several occasions, Jesus healed people at a distance, but here, in the most intimate fashion, He takes the man away from the crowd, touches Him, and “looking up to heaven, He sighed” (v. 34). Why did He sigh? I don’t think He sighed only because of this one man; this sigh encompassed His love for the whole human race, a race that does not hear His call.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is an admonition often repeated in Scripture, but we are often so busy listening to other things that God must make a silence in our lives so that we may look up to Him.
He does this in many different ways. God’s voice came to this man in his deafness, and the Lord Jesus had to touch him. One man told me that the stock market crash of 1929 had changed him from a millionaire to a man who had to move in with his in–laws. “But in it all,” he said, “I found God and God found me.” Another man told me that his uncle had died and unexpectedly left him a fortune. He said, “When I suddenly realized that I had control of several million dollars” (he was a simple man, and he realized his limitations), “I said, ‘O God, I’m not capable of doing this by myself; I need Thee.”’ With one man it was the loss of his fortune; with another man it was the coming of his fortune that brought him to Christ.
I know a man who said, “I was never interested in listening to God until my child died.” And another who said to me, “It was the day in the hospital when they brought that little bundle of life and put it into my arms, and I thought, ‘God, I’ve got a son here!”’ In the one case it was the taking away of a child; in the other case it was the giving of a child. God works in infinite variety, but always His purpose is to put His fingers in our ears and unstop the deafness, because if we are without Christ, we are standing on the precipice of hell. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
After unstopping the man’s ears, Jesus did a second, remarkable thing. He took spittle and put it on the man’s tongue. Why? I asked Dr. Everett Koop, “What’s the function of saliva?” He said, “It keeps the mouth wet.” He told me that a lack of saliva is the rarest of all congenital diseases. In all his experience as a pediatrician and a surgeon, he had heard of only one case in medical history where a baby was born without salivary glands. You can’t speak if your mouth isn’t wet. When Jesus sighed,
“‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘be opened,”’ (v. 34), the man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed, and he spoke. God wants us to speak. God wants the unregenerate to acknowledge Him. You cannot be a secret believer. If Jesus Christ has saved you and you know it, speak!
Why then does Jesus command the man to be silent about his healing? (v. 36) Jesus knew that not enough hatred had been stirred up against Him yet to crucify Him. But meanwhile, there were other—equally unwilling to bow before Him as Jehovah God—eager to install Him as king for their own ends. Still, the news got out, and the people were right in saying, “He has done all things well” (v. 37).


  • What is the unregenerate man blinded to by his unbelief?
  • Are we able to perform miracles of healing like Christ? Why or Why not?
  • Why does Jesus ask the man to be silent about the healing?

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