Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
I. The Lord Jesus is not hid. The Old Testament contained one promise which like a thread of gold ran through the whole; a promise that was oft repeated, which was embraced by all believers, the blessings of which were grandly unfolded as time rolled on; and which, in the fulness of time was accomplished. It was the Messiah. The Dayspring from on high has visited us. The Sun of Righteousness has arisen with healing in His wings, and therefore the Lord Jesus is not hid. He is plainly seen by those who have eyes to see, and plainly heard by those who have ears to hear, although He is in the highest heavens.
II. The Lord Jesus ought not to be hid. Who shall declare how wicked is the attempt to hide the Lord Jesus, who said, "I am the light of the world." Do any attempt it? Yes, many have done so. The Scribes and Pharisees saw clearly enough that He was the Christ; yet they tried to hide Him by saying that He wrought miracles by the power of Beelzebub. This our Lord declared, but nothing else, is the unpardonable sin. The Jews wished Christ to be hid, when they quenched His costly life on Calvary; they wished His words to be hid when they beat the Apostles, and commanded them not to speak in His Name. The Church of Rome has endeavoured to hide Christ under a mass of superstition, and to prevent the people from seeing Christ in the Gospel by ministering to them in an unknown tongue, and by forbidding the people to read the Scriptures. Christ ought not to be hid.
III. Christ cannot be hid. All things prepare for the coronation of Christ. All things, consciously or unconsciously, are being attuned for the glory of Christ. This is God's mighty purpose which all events are unfolding. All things are for Christ and Christ in all things. He cannot be hid. For Christ the vast machinery of providence is kept in beneficent action; all persons, all things, all events, are under His beneficent rule. Over all men's conscience His purpose must prevail, His cause roll on. "He must reign."
J. Fleming, Penny Pulpit, No. 577, new series.
Reference: Mark 7:24.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 330.
Mark 7:24-30The Syrophenician's Daughter.
I. The Girl Herself. She was "grievously vexed with a devil." Her case was very sad and strange. All the gods, helpers and physicians, in Tyre and Sidon could not set this girl free. For anything man's skill could do she was beyond all hope and remedy. The sun shines on no sadder sight than a young soul that is the willing slave of Satan. Well may the Church of Christ weep over that soul, as the Syrophenician mother wept over her darling child, whom Satan was claiming as his slave.
II. The Girl's Mother. She was probably a widow, as no mention is made of the girl's father. The girl would thus be all the world to her mother. On earth there is no stronger love than a mother's for her suffering child. This mother was drawn by a secret influence to Jesus Christ. No wonder that she was allured to Him, for He was the Maker of home, the Lover of children, the Exalter of woman, and the Friend of all mankind.
III. The Girl's Saviour. We are surprised at first that Jesus did not hear her on the spot, for He was very ready to be moved by such cases. For once the disciples seemed kinder than the Master; they wished Him to grant the mother's request there and then. But he was wiser and more merciful than they, and therefore He delayed. God's delays are always full of meaning. He brought out this woman's faith and humility, and taught all men that the feast of His love is for Gentile and Jew alike.
IV. The Cure. Look on the girl before she was healed—a perfect picture of wretchedness; such is the soul in sin. Look on the girl after Christ had done His work in her. She lies upon the bed in peace, and her gratitude overflows. Such is the soul in a state of grace. This girl's cure was perfect; she was made whole. To be whole, and to be holy, mean the same thing; the two words come from the same root. Christ's salvation brings true health to the soul. Then Christ cured her, though she was at a distance from Him. Christ has healed many who could not give day and date. Dr. Livingstone tells that he once asked a chief how old he was. All the people around him burst into loud laughter. "The idea," they said, "of a man remembering when he was born!" But they knew that they had been born, though they knew not when. If you have the true signs of the new birth, never trouble yourself about anything else.
J. Wells, Bible Children, p. 213.
Reference: Mark 7:24-30.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 156.
Mark 7:28-29Lowly-minded Perseverance in Prayer.
I. Consider the example of faith we have set us here. Though Apostles were rejected entreating in her behalf, yet this woman "cries unto" our Lord, because He alone could save her. And though she had heard them say He was not sent to those of her race, yet she repeats her entreaty, as confident He could help whom He would; she did not say "Pray for me," or "Entreat for me," but "Help me," as believing the help was in Himself to bestow. But our Lord was pleased to try her yet further and more sharply. He answered, and said, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it unto dogs." Thus, when He did answer her, His words to her were at first more discouraging than silence. He calls the Jews now not sheep only but children, and her nation dogs. He no longer refers to the will of another, "I am not sent," but withholds what she asks, as though it were not in His own judgment meet that it should be granted. But the woman, so far from being disheartened, makes for herself a fresh plea from those very words of His "Yes, Lord, yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." She acknowledges herself a dog, and the Jews children, nay masters; but on this very ground she claims to partake a little of the blessed privileges of His presence and healing, so fully enjoyed, though so little valued by those whom she is not reluctant to call children, nay, even masters.
II. And now we may see, partly, why it was our Lord continued so long to refuse her. He knew she would say this; and it was His gracious will to give her occasion to exercise and show forth this faith and humility. Else, if it had been His purpose from the first to deny her, He would have refused her still, for He was not a mere man that He should repent and change His mind, so that it was not in sternness He kept silence, but in order to unfold the concealed treasure of her humility and faith; and also that we might draw from her history a full assurance that, however severe and repeated the discouragements we may meet with in prayer, and in our endeavours after holiness, we have but to persevere in faith with humility, and we shall obtain in the end an abundance of blessings, the more ample the longer our faith is tried.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 28.
References: Mark 7:24-30.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 65. Mark 7:27, Mark 7:28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1309. Mark 7:28.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 50. Mark 7:28, Mark 7:29.—J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 140. Mark 7:31-37.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 83; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 347.; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 161; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 237.
Mark 7:32-35I. The friends brought their suffering friend to ask for him the Lord's healing hand. He did not refuse their prayer. He gave them what they asked. But He sighed as He gave it—sighed, no doubt, with a sense of heaviness and pain, even while He cheered their spirits by granting the boon they asked for. They felt no doubt in asking. They thought they knew quite well that it would be a great blessing to their friend to be restored. The Lord knew more than they did, and He sighed while He granted their prayer. Can we not apply this thought to ourselves? We often wish for things and pray for things for ourselves and our friends, nothing doubting that this or that which we ask will be a great boon and blessing to us or to them. Sometimes the request is denied, and we are apt to be disappointed and perhaps repining. Sometimes the prayer is granted. May we not think that sometimes the merciful Lord sighs as He grants it, knowing what we little know, that perhaps it will turn out not for our good but for our hurt that we should have what we have asked? foreseeing that it will bring us perhaps into temptations and dangers, which otherwise we might escape.
II. But the particular prayer offered in the case before us seems to suggest still more particular reflections. The sufferer in this case was deaf and well-nigh speechless. The Lord gave him back both his hearing and his voice, and sighed to give them. Was a man sure to be better and please God better and die more happily because his restored power of hearing brought all this multitude of new things to his thoughts and knowledge? And, again, his loosened tongue, was it so sure that the gift of voice so long withheld would bring him nothing but good? Was it certain that the loosened tongue would always be employed in uttering good and wholesome words, and that a sacred watch would be set over the door of his lips, now at last made vocal with articulate sounds? No doubt it was in the anticipation of a future which man could not foresee that the Lord sighed even in the midst of His act of mercy, and gave the boon desired, but with fear and heaviness and distress of mind. The narrative may well set us on thinking how it may be with ourselves—whether, thinking of our own way of living and acting, our possession of all these precious senses and powers has really been and is a blessing to us, so that the Lord may be thought to have given them to us in love and mercy, or whether we should rather think that He sighed in giving them.
G. Moberly, Plain Sermons at Brightstone, p. 134.
Mark 7:32-37The Deaf and Dumb.
I. Our Lord healed the deaf and dumb man miraculously, by means at which we cannot guess, which we cannot even conceive. But the healing signified at least two things—that the man could be healed, and that the man ought to be healed; that his bodily defect—the retribution of no sin of his own—was contrary to the will of that Father in heaven who willeth not that one little one should perish. But Jesus sighed likewise. There was in Him a sorrow, a compassion, most human and most Divine. It may have been that there was something too of a Divine weariness—I dare not say impatience, seeing how patient He was then, and how patient He has been since for more than eighteen hundred years—of the folly and ignorance of man, who brings on himself and on his descendants these and a hundred other preventable miseries, simply because he will not study and obey the physical laws of the universe; simply because he will not see that those laws which concern the welfare of his body are as surely the will of God as those which concern the welfare of his soul; and that therefore it is not merely his interest but his solemn duty to study and to obey them, lest he bear the punishment of his own neglect and disobedience.
II. Christ had indeed some good seed in his field. He had taught men by His miracles, as He had taught them by His parables, to whom nature belonged, and whose laws nature obeyed. And the cessation of miracles after the time of Christ and His Apostles had taught, or ought to have taught, mankind a further lesson—the lesson that henceforth they were to carry on for themselves, by the faculties which God had given them, that work of healing and deliverance which He had begun. Miracles like prophecies, were to vanish away; but charity—charity which devotes itself to the welfare of the human race—was to abide for ever. Christ, as I said, had some good seed; but an enemy—we know not whence or when, certainly within the three first centuries of the Church—came and sowed tares among that wheat. Then began men to believe that man's body was the property of Satan, and his soul only the property of God. No wonder if in such a temper of mind the physical amelioration of the human race stood still. How could it be otherwise, while men refused to see in facts the acted will of God, and sought, not in God's universe, but in the dreams of their own brain, for glimpses of that Divine and wonderful order by which the Eternal Father and the Eternal Son are working together for ever through the Eternal Spirit for the welfare of the universe?
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 48.
Mark 7:33I. Our Lord seems to have taken this man apart. He may have intended the multitude to follow with their eyes that which He was about, that the might that there was in the action, the might that underlay the deed, should be dwelt upon, and so should sink more surely into their spirits. As we too follow the Redeemer, may we not feel that in our lives He has taken us apart from the multitude? We have had moments—awful precious moments they were—when something of God's mercy has made us feel that God and we exist alone, in this mighty universe, something that has shut out the crowd, drowned the noise, stopped the wheels of the world, taken us into a kind of sacred solitude, and made us feel in deepest earnestness, "I live, God lives; my God and my Lord." While God can have compassion upon numbers, while we can understand the Lord Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing the multitudes being moved with compassion, yet that same Blessed One is also the Good Shepherd who leaveth the heavenly Jerusalem, leaves the ninety-and-nine perfect of God's hundred beings, and going to seek and to save the one that is lost.
II. And yet, mark the sadness of the Divine Healer. He looked to heaven and He sighed. That sigh must be part of the perfect revelation of the Father. In that sigh, as in all else, there is a portion, a fragment, of God's love to us. May it not be that He was bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows at the very moment that He was healing them and having compassion upon them? And in this we learn the truth, that there is no self-sacrifice, there is no errand of mercy, there is no ministry of love, there is no work of goodness, there is no great deed of kindness, which does not involve painstaking and the giving up of self. Any alleviation of human woe must be at a cost. Imagine what lay upon His heart; imagine to the purest, holiest manhood what it was to come in contact with the man with the unclean spirit. And in all the ministries of our sorrowing and enfeebled humanity you may be sure that there are none that are Christlike that are not touched with the shadows of the Cross.
T. J. Rowsell, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 343.
Mark 7:33-34The Pattern of Service.
I. We have here set forth the foundation and condition of all true work for God in our Lord's heavenward look. We are fully warranted in supposing that that wistful gaze to heaven means, and may be taken to symbolise, our Lord's conscious direction of thought and spirit to God as He wrought His work of mercy. The heavenward look is (1) the renewal of our own vision of the calm verities in which we trust, the recourse for ourselves to the realities which we desire that others should see; (2) the heavenward look draws new strength from the source of all our might; (3) it will guard us from the temptations which surround all our service, and the distractions which lay waste our lives.
II. We have here pity for the evils we would remove set forth by the Lord's sigh. Mark how in us, as in our Lord, the sigh of compassion is connected with the look to heaven. It follows upon that gaze. The evils are more real, more terrible, by their startling contrast with the unshadowed light which lives above cloud-racks and mists. Habitual communion with God is the root of the truest and purest compassion. It at once supplies a standard by which to measure the greatness of man's godlessness, and therefore of his gloom, and a motive for laying the pain of these upon our hearts, as if they were our own.
III. We have here loving contact with those whom we would help set forth in the Lord's touch. Wherever men would help their fellows, this is a prime requisite—that the would-be helper should come down to the level of those whom he desires to aid. Such contact with men will win their hearts, as well as soften ours. It will make them willing to hear, as well as us wise to speak. Let us preach the Lord's touch as the source of all cleansing. Let us imitate it in our lives, that "if any will not hear the word, they may without the word be won."
IV. We have here the true healing power, and the consciousness of wielding it set forth in the Lord's authoritative word. The reflection of Christ's triumphant consciousness of power should irradiate our spirits as we do His work, like the gleam from gazing on God's glory which shone on the lawgiver's stern face while He talked with men. We have everything to assure us that we cannot fail. The tearful sowing in the stormy winter's day has been done by the Son of man. For us there remains the joy of harvest—hot and hard work indeed, but gladsome too.
A. Maclaren, The Secret of Power, p. 26.
Peculiarities in the Miracle of Decapolis.
I. It cannot have been without meaning, though it may have been without any efficaciousness to the healing of disease, that Christ employed the outward signs used in this miracle. Some purpose must have been subserved, forasmuch as we may be sure that there was never anything useless or superfluous in the actions of our Lord. And the reason why Christ thus touched the defective organs, before uttering the word which was to speak them into health, may be found, as is generally allowed, in the circumstances of the man on whom the miracle was about to be wrought. This man, you will observe, does not seem to have come to Christ of his own accord; it is expressly stated, "And they bring unto Him one that was deaf," etc. The whole was done by the relatives or friends of the afflicted individual; for anything that appears to the contrary, he himself may have had no knowledge of Jesus. Our Lord took him aside from the multitude, because His attention was likely to be distracted by the crowd, and Christ wished to fix it on Himself as the Author of his cure. The man was deaf, so that no question could be put to him, and he had an impediment in his speech which would have prevented his replying. But he could see and he could feel what Christ did; and therefore our Lord supplied the place of speech, by touching the tongue and putting His finger into the ears,—for this was virtually saying that He was about to act on those organs,—and by looking up to heaven, for this was informing the deaf man that the healing power must come from above.
II. Consider next whether the possession of miraculous power did not operate upon Christ in a manner unlike that in which it would, most probably, operate on ourselves. When He did good, He manifested no feeling of pleasure. On the contrary, you might have thought it a pain to Him to relieve misery; for the narrative tells us that, at the instant of giving utterance to the omnipotent word, He showed signs as of a burdened and disquieted spirit; "He sighed"—not, He smiled—not, He rejoiced; but "He sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened." It is no undue inference from the circumstance of Christ's sighing at the instant of working the miracle before us, when we take it as evidence of a depression of spirit which would not give way before even that most happy-making thing, the making others happy. Of all the incidental proofs of our Lord's having been "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," there is, perhaps, none of a more touching or plaintive character than is thus furnished by our text.
H. Melvill, Sermons on Less Prominent Facts, vol. i., p. 208.
Mark 7:34I. The general study of this story would furnish several very excellent and edifying lessons suggested by our Lord's action in working this miracle upon the shore of Decapolis. (1) We might note the wide reach of the Master's zeal. Jesus had just come from Tyre and Sidon, clear across in a heathen land; He was now in the midst of some Greek settlements, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Tiberius. We see how He appears thus going upon a foreign mission. (2) We might dwell upon the need of friendly offices in apparently hopeless cases. (3) We might also mention the manipulations of our Saviour as illustrating the ingenuity of real sympathy. (4) We observe our Lord's respect for everyone's private reserves of experience. "And He took him aside from the multitude privately." (5) We notice the naturalness of all great services of good. At the supremely majestic moments of His life our Lord became simpler in utterance and behaviour than at any other time. He fell back on the sweet and pathetic speech of His mother-tongue.
II. The singular peculiarity of this story, however, is what might be made the subject of more extended remark. Three things meet us in their turn. (1) Why did our Lord sigh when He was looking up to heaven. Everyone is aware of the pleasure it gives to bring cure to a chronic weakness, or give a hope in the place of humiliation. Somehow our Saviour seems depressed, and we look for a reason. But in the narrative there is furnished not even so much as a hint for our help. (2) We are left in this case to conjecture. And in a general way, perhaps, it would be enough to say, that there was something like an ejaculatory prayer in this sigh of Jesus' soul; but more likely there was in it the outbreaking of sad and weary sympathy with the suffering of a fallen race like ours. It may be He sighed (a) because there was so much trouble in the world everywhere; (b) because there were many who made such poor work in dealing with their trouble; (c) because He could not altogether alleviate the trouble He found; (d) because the trouble He met always had its origin and aggravation in sin; (e) because so few persons were willing to forsake their sins which made the trouble. (3) Christians need more sighs. They are a royal priesthood, and they have an office of intercession to exercise. There was a day when Jehovah sent an angel with an inkhorn by his side through Jerusalem, to set a mark upon the foreheads of those who, in their sad hearts, kept up a great masterful, pitiful yearning for sinners' conversion, and a cry against the abominations of sin.
C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 281.
I. This is not the only record of the sighs and tears and troubled heart of Jesus. We are told in the Epistle to the Hebrews that in the days of His flesh He offered up supplications with strong crying and tears. By the grave of Lazarus, when He saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also weeping, He groaned in the spirit, "and the silent tears streamed down His face." He wept aloud over the hypocrisy and crime of Jerusalem. Truly, He was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
II. But on two of the occasions on which we are told that Jesus sighed and wept, He was immediately about to dispel the cause of the misery. He sighed because He was not thinking only of the individual case. That He had power to remedy; but how many myriads were there of the bereaved whom He could not thus console? of the deaf and dumb who in this world could never hear and never speak? Even in the individual cases there was, to His quick sympathy, cause enough to sigh for the wreck caused by the sin of man and the malice of Satan, in deforming the beauty of God's fair creation. His sigh for these was not the sigh of powerlessness—it was the sigh of sympathy. But more than this, He was thinking of all the world, looking down to the very depths of its drear abyss of sorrow. His act of healing could be but a drop in the ocean.
III. In that poor afflicted man our Lord saw but one more sign of that vast crack and flaw which sin causes in everything which God has made. (1) Jesus had seen, laid stark upon the bier, the widow's only son. He had seen the little maid of Jairus lying pale and cold. He had seen Mary weeping for Lazarus dead. And as He looked out upon a world of death, can you wonder if, looking up to heaven, He sighed? (2) This, alas! was not all, and was not the worst. Sickness may be cured and pain assuaged; and Time lays his healing hand on the wounds of death. But the ravages of sin! there is mischief and unmingled mischief there. Can you wonder if, as Jesus looked on the world of sin, He looked up to heaven and sighed? (3) Our Lord saw all the sorrow; He did not ignore it; He sighed for it; He wept for it; He prayed for it; but not for one moment did He despair for it; nay, He worked to lighten it, leaving us thereby, as in all things, an example that we should follow His steps.
F. W. Farrar, Ephphatha: Sermons, p. 1.
Sorrow in Healing.
Our Lord sighed, we cannot doubt,—
I. At the thought of that destructive agency of which He had before Him one example. Here was one whom Satan had bound. Here was an illustration of that reign of sin unto death to which the whole world bears witness. This deaf-and-dumb man reminded Christ of the corruption that had passed over God's pure creation; and therefore, looking up to heaven, He sighed.
II. But there was more than this, as we all feel at once, in that sigh. That outward bondage was but the token of an inward thraldom. Whether healed or not in this life, no bodily infirmity can have more than a temporary duration. Death must end it. But not so that spiritual corruption of which the other was but a sign. That inward ear which is stopped against God's summons, that voice of the heart which refuses to utter His praise—these things are of eternal consequence. And while bodily infirmities and disorders are occasional and partial in their occurrences, spiritual disease is universal. It overspreads every heart. Christ's thoughts at that moment were directed to the sins of the whole world, feeling them as a sore burden laid upon His soul, and made by man's obstinacy too heavy even for Him to bear.
III. He sighed therefore, we may say, further, from a sense of the disproportion in actual extent between the ruin and the redemption. The ruin universal. All the world guilty before God. Every soul of man corrupted by estrangement from God. And yet the great multitude refusing to be redeemed. And again, through the simple negligence and cold-heartedness of the professed Church of Christ, to how few, comparatively speaking, does the message of life come at all! Generation after generation, since the word was first spoken which bade the Church go forth into all the world, and evangelise the whole creation, has fallen asleep utterly ignorant of that holy name, for lack sometimes of a sender and sometimes of a messenger. And this even until now; and even without remorse, without shame, without any vigorous or at least adequate efforts to repair the wrong. Might not He who foresaw these things sigh within Himself as He plucked one brand from the burning? Might He not sorrowfully contrast the price paid with the possession purchased—the multitude of the redeemed with the fewness of the saved?
C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, p. 279.
I. Our Lord may have sighed (1) As He contemplated the afflicted one before Him. (2) As He viewed the desolation and disaster which moral evil had been the means of spreading in the world. (3) The sigh may have been the result of that feeling of sadness which comes over our hearts even in moments when all things suggest joy. These feelings are more reasonable than we suppose. The tears that steal forth unbidden at the wedding feast, the sigh which love heaves over the cradled treasure of the nursery, are not empty exhibitions of a feeble hysteria. They have their roots in sober truth. It is the shadow of the future which calls forth that sadness. Life's experiences tell us that, notwithstanding all that hope has prophesied, there have been failures and mishaps—that many a golden morning has been followed by a stormy afternoon and a dark and disastrous eventide. It is the thought, though only half realised, of the shipwrecks of life which prompts the sigh and compels the unbidden tear. Thus it was, I think, with Christ. He knew, as we and all men know, that the boon He was about to bestow might prove no real blessing.
II. Yet Christ did not withhold the boon. If there crossed His mind all the evil, the rancour, derision, and scandal which the unfettered tongue might occasion, He did not on that account stay the hand of His benevolence. Freely, ungrudgingly, were His miracles of love performed, though it is too much to suppose that the recipients of His mercy always made good use of their restored senses or newly won faculties. Though the boon may be used for evil, Christ does not withold it.
III. There is a remedy for the evils that accompany our freedom. Christ, while He teaches us that the remedy is not to be sought in depriving man of the gift, points by His conduct where the real remedy is to be sought. It is by conferring an additional and guiding gift; not by withholding one boon, but by bestowing another, does He suggest to us the true course of conduct. There is another "Ephphatha." He speaks "Be opened," and the tongue is loosed; but the ear is unstopped also. The tongue is set free to speak, and it may be the instrument of untold harm; but the ear is open, and there is a voice which speaks truths in tones of unearthly sweetness, and that voice the sufferer can now hear. While therefore He bestows the faculty of speech, He bestows the opportunity of hearing those glad and soul-elevating principles of righteousness and forgiveness and love which will fill the loosened tongue with joy, and put a new song of praise in that silent mouth. The Ephphatha of gift and the Ephphatha of new opportunities for good go hand in hand.
Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Sermon Preached May 28th, 1876.
From the text we learn—
I. The duty of compassion. The world has, in all ages, deeply needed, and in this age still deeply needs, the lesson of pity. We profess and call ourselves Christians; have we yet learnt the simplest and earliest element in the sigh of the Saviour, the divineness of mercy, of compassion, and of love?
II. Yet we must learn the lesson not of compassion only, but of energy therewith. Compassion which ends in compassion may be nothing more than the luxury of egotism; but the sigh of Jesus was but an instant's episode in a life of toil. If His sigh binds us to pity all sin and sorrow, it binds us no less to bend every effort of our lives towards the end that sin may cease and be forgiven, and sorrow flee away. (1) The world is full of sorrow. The sigh of Christ pledges us, as our first duty, not to add to that sorrow, either actively or passively, either directly or indirectly, by our pride or self-indulgence, by cruelty or malice, for our gain or our gratification, by taking unfair advantages, or by speaking false, bitter, and unwholesome words. (2) The world is full of disease. The sigh of Christ pledges us not only to be gentle and sympathetic and helpful to all who are afflicted, but also to strive by pureness and kindness, by high example and sound knowledge, to improve the conditions which shall make life sweet and healthy, cheerful and genial, vigorous and pure. (3) The world is full of sin. The sigh of Jesus pledges us ourselves to keep innocency, and do the thing that is right; not to set examples which lead to sin; to lead men, both by our life and doctrine, to that Saviour who died for sin, and who can alone forgive it, and cleanse us from its guilt and power.
III. A lesson of hope (1) For ourselves; the perfect confidence with which each one of us may throw ourselves upon Christ's love; the infinite conviction with which we may each of us say, "Christ died for me." (2) For all the world. Who was it that sighed and said, "Ephphatha, Be opened"? Ah, it takes the fourfold Gospel to answer that question! It was He whom St. Matthew set forth as the Divine Messiah who fulfilled the past; and St. Mark as the Son of God, filling with power and awfulness the present; and St. Luke as the Seeker and Saviour, to all ages, of the lost; and St. John in the spiritual Gospel as the Incarnate Word. God is everywhere; and the footsteps of Him who sighed for the miseries of man have illuminated even that unknown land which every man must enter.
F. W. Farrar, Ephphatha: Sermons, p. 229.
There is one trait, and only one, in which, though it may be our necessity, and perhaps our privilege, yet it can scarcely be called our duty, to be like our great Master. And yet that trait is almost the largest in our Saviour's character—sadness of spirit; and the reason why we are not to copy our Saviour's sadness is evident: it is twofold. One, because He Himself is happy now, and the duty of being like Him as He is, is greater than the duty of being like Him as He was; so that we are most copying Christ when we are exceedingly happy. And the other reason is, that those sorrows of Jesus were the very materials out of which He was making the Church's joy. Therefore to imitate them would be as if a man should think to copy a rainbow by painting a shower. For when we are sad, we are so far frustrating the sadnesses of Jesus. In all our Saviour's sorrows—I do not enter now into the mysteries of Gethsemane and Calvary—but in all the sorrows of our Saviour's life among men, there are two features characteristic, beautiful, and instructive. (1) Our Saviour's recorded sadnesses were all for others. (2) His sorrow was never an idle sentiment. The sigh of Jesus when He healed the deaf-and-dumb man at Decapolis was—
I. The Sigh of Earnestness. Because it says that, "looking up to heaven, He sighed." Some connect the two words, and account that the sigh is a part of the prayer, an expression of the intensity of the working of our Lord's heart when He was supplicating to the Father.
II. The Sigh of Beneficence. He who never gave us anything but what was bought by His own suffering—so that every pleasure is a spoil, purchased by His blood—did now by the sigh, and under the feeling that He sighed, indicate that He purchased the privilege to restore to that poor man the senses he had lost.
III. The Sigh of Brotherhood. The scene before Him would be to His mind but a representation of thousands of thousands. His comprehensive thought, starting from that point, would travel on, till it embraced, in one dark union, all the miseries with which this earth is filled.
IV. The Sigh of Holiness. Do you suppose our Saviour's mind could think of all the physical evil, and not go on to the deeper moral causes from which it sprang? Doubtless, in those closed ears and that chained tongue, He read, too plainly written, the fall—the distance—the degradation—the corruption—the universal defilement of our world. He sighed. That is the way in which perfect holiness looked on the sins of the universe.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 198.
References: Mark 7:34.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 109; W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. ii., p. 49; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 152; C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 358. Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 394. Mark 7:36.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 314. Mark 7:36, Mark 7:37.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 76.
Mark 7:37Low Estimate of the Church's Work.
Let us compare the danger, to which we are open, of taking a low estimate of the Church with the popular view once taken of the ministry of our Blessed Lord.
I. There were few, when He was alive on earth, who came to Him in the spirit of Nicodemus, seeking truth. The greater number followed, like the multitude at Capernaum, not because they saw His miracle, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled. Two of the disciples owned how they were mortified at the loss of their political expectations from Jesus. Can we suppose that there was a more spiritual mind in those who cheered Him on this road with such applause as this, "He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak"?
II. Then, as to our own danger, what the miracles of Christ and His beneficence were to the witnesses of His ministry, the indirect but manifest effects of Christianity in the world are to us. Let us take the case of public charities in this and other Christian countries. Who would not point to them as evidence of the power of the Gospel? And yet, are these public charities a gauge of religion? Men give largely, or admire those who do so, under a vague impression that benevolence is equivalent to God. (2) Again, education is one of the most obvious benefits arising from the influence of Christianity in this age. But, great and precious as are the benefits conferred by education, let no one imagine that the best of schools atones for an ill-appointed Church.
III. There is a high and admirable sense in which the description of Christ in the text may be read. "He hath done all things well"—so the redeemed in heaven will say of Him. "He hath done all things well," and not according to the right and wrong of this world, but well according to the judgment of eternity—well, insomuch as the work answered perfectly to the design, the end to the beginning. When did He say that His work was finished? Was it when crowds followed Him whom He had fed in their hunger or healed in their sicknesses or raised from the dead? No; but at the moment when His admirers forsook Him, and left Him in the hands of His enemies. When the world stood only near Him that they might gaze on His misery, when He disappointed all popular expectations and was despised and rejected of men, then, in the hearing of God, when His voice alone of all His bodily powers survived His agony, He said of His work, "It is finished."
C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 121.
The Gift of Hearing.
I. It is Christ who enables any one of us to hear any of the common sounds that enter into our ears as we walk out on an August day. If you have heard the singing of the birds or the running of the stream or the voices of children, recollect it was Christ who caused you to hear them. He fills the earth and air with all melodies, and He gives to men the power of taking them in. By giving back hearing to this man who had lost it, He declared this: He said, I am the Giver of hearing, the power comes from Me. Think how wonderful that is.
II. There is another kind of deafness besides that which cannot take in sounds. We may hear sounds, and yet the words that are within the sounds may never reach us. They may float about us, and seem as if they were coming unto us. And then we may feel just the same as if they had never been uttered. As far as we are concerned, we might as well have been a hundred miles away. But if they are words of health and life—words that come from the good God—words that are to make us right and true men—words that are to make all that is past fresh and new to us, and what is going on around us good and not evil, and what is to be hereafter through all ages blessed,—it is a very sad thing, is it not, that they should be all lost upon us? But must it be so? Shall it be so with any of us? What, when it is written, "He maketh the deaf to hear"! When we can say, Lord, Thou hast sent us these words; they are Thine! Once more say, Ephphatha; Be opened! to, me and to all who have not received the good news of Thy New Testament into their hearts.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 10.
I. Our Lord, it is remarked, took this man aside, as in the eighth chapter He is represented as taking the blind man by the hand, and leading him out of the village, before He restored his sight, probably for this reason in both cases—that both patients might be moved out of the noise and bustle of the wondering crowd, and thus the lesson of the heavenly power and goodness of Him who healed them might sink more quietly and deeply into their hearts. Unlike the pictures of those workers of mere wonders which men's fancies have devised, the Lord is ever represented as anxious in His great works for this, almost above all things—that the healing of their bodies might be, for the cured, the outward and visible sign of His power to heal their souls. And He knew that for this purpose each character required its own peculiar treatment; sometimes the patient's temptation was to lose the sobering and hallowing impression in the midst of much talk, while he professed to be showing forth the mercy he had received among his friends and acquaintances; sometimes (as in the case of the demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, whose dwelling had before been in the tombs) the best help to the patient's holiness was to be found in the society of his friends, and in no solitary brooding over his state, but in telling to all how great things the Lord had done for him.
II. In the instance before us, the Lord's solicitude for the sufferer and regard for the peculiarities of his case seems, it has been remarked, to be shown even in the form in which He sets about the miracle. The man could not hear, and therefore the Lord spoke to him by signs; He put His fingers into his ears, and touched his tongue, and looked up to heaven, to let him more readily understand the blessing which was intended, and the source from which it was to come. He sighed, too, as He wept afterwards at the grave of Lazarus, thinking in both cases how vast was the amount of spiritual evil that remained to be vanquished, and how easy it was, comparatively, to cure men's bodily diseases, or even to raise them bodily after death to life again; how difficult to regenerate their souls. This mixture of anxiety to effect a spiritual along with a bodily cure is one great source of deep interest in our Lord's miracles. He is not, as we have said, the mere wonder-worker, manifesting His Divine commission by a supernatnral power that awes us into conviction. His power is not more remarkable than His love—a love which begins with the body, but is not at rest till it has laboured for the soul. And hence that curiosity is very natural which has led men to ask whether they cannot learn something as to the ultimate spiritual fate of those who were blessed to be thus the objects of His solicitude. But God has not thought fit to gratify this curiosity, and we may be content to leave the subjects of it in the hands of Him who so evidently cared for them, and who does all things well, both for our bodies and our souls.
A. C. Tait, Lessons for School Life, p. 183.
References: Mark 7:37.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 104; C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. ii., p. 273; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, p. 245; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 32; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 14th series, p. 5. Mark 7:37.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 114. Mark 8:1, Mark 8:2.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 254. Mark 8:1-8.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 146. Mark 8:1-9.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 13; J. C. Harrison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 321; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 165. Mark 8:1-26.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 237. Mark 8:2.—J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 189. Mark 8:2, Mark 8:3.—G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 47; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 225; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 41.
And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.
For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.
And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.
And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
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.
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.
And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;
And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
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;
And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.