Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
We have not exhausted everything from this little passage. Last devotion we meditated on the use of the Aramaic. There’s an irony going on that Jesus uses a word closed to our ears, but open to the deaf man. But Mark adds the “that is” and modern translators translate that into English. Without the latter two, we are deaf to Jesus’ words. Which is to say, the opening of our ears occurs by the Holy Spirit’s Pentecostal work, of multiplying the Gospel proclamation through many tongues. The modern translator is as much, if not more, the hand of the Holy Spirit for us than St. Mark or even Jesus, the historical Jesus that is.
As Jesus said, “greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. …I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, …I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” This substantiates my point from last devotion. “I will come to you.” The Jesus who speaks through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John is, yes, the historical Jesus, but it’s the historical Jesus ascended on high and still living in the Church, which is also a historical entity.
All this is to say, the opening of our ears is by the words of ministers first, apostles second, and Jesus third, if we pull back the layers going back in time. Jesus says words in Aramaic we cannot hear. Apostles speak Jesus’ words in Greek that we translate. Ministers today preach the words in English we understand and hear. The opening of our ears is the ordained ministry, which again, means nothing but that the living Jesus is completely behind their ministry.
Now, switching gears, we have to look at a detail in the Gospel. Jesus wasn’t looking at the deaf man when He commanded, “Ephphatha,” that is “dianoichtheti,” that is “be opened.” Look at the text: “Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ ”
Where was He directing His gaze? Heaven! It’s not like He was speaking into the man’s ears and yelling, “Be opened!” He was looking to heaven.
You can see where this is going! But let’s put some meat on this.
In Luke’s Gospel, the same verb for “be opened” is used when Jesus was with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and with the disciples later that evening. He “opened up” the Scriptures to them. Furthermore, for the two disciples, when Jesus broke bread, their eyes “opened up” just before Him disappearing from them.
That understanding of “be opened” nicely parallels what Jesus was doing with the deaf man. He was opening His ears to hear the Gospel. But there’s another interesting use of “be opened” related more to that to which Jesus was directing His words, the heavens. In both Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ baptism, we hear that the heavens opened up. The Greek word is not exactly the same, but close – the prefix “dia” isn’t added as it is in the miracle account, so it’s effectively the same word (Greek does that a lot).
When Jesus was baptized, heaven opened up. Or as the event is interpreted in John: “you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus’ baptism is the opening up of heaven. Why? Because there He and John fulfilled all righteousness. But why in baptism? Because even as the old creation emerged out of the waters, and the type of the new creation emerged out of the waters of the flood, so will the new creation emerge out of the waters. Jesus is the fulfillment of the new creation; He fills all things; His resurrection is the first day of the new creation.
His baptism is like the beginning, the “let there be light” of the new creation, the foundation for all the other creation effects, its restoration. For at that moment the light dawned. As it is written, “And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”
What is true for the eyes is also true for the ears. The deaf man on behalf of all of us is deaf to heaven’s voice. Not so at Jesus’ baptism. “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ”
Here, Jesus is the Second Adam, the restored son of God, the forefather of a new race. He who sinned against God is now pleasing to God. All that remains is for a new generation to arise from these new loins. The generation arising from old Adam’s loins, well, of them we hear over and over again in the genealogy, “…and he died.” The new generation will live forever.
But they have to be born of the Second Adam…born again…born from above. “ ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.”
And that’s why Jesus looks to the heavens, sighing, and saying “be opened.” Heaven needs to open its womb and give birth. Yes, it’s in pain – the sighing, the cross. But opened it will be. The man is born again. The man joins in Jesus’ baptism, as Jesus shares His eternal waters with him – His spittle. For, all of us are drying wells. But Jesus’ spit will never dry up. What is spit? 98% water. It qualifies for baptismal elements by any standard – how many byproducts are in tap water? How much non-water was in the Jordan?
Jesus was sharing His baptism with the deaf man, sharing the opened heavens with the deaf man, embracing the man in His baptism with His spit. Recently we pondered if Jesus was spitting at the devil. Well, both interpretations can stand. The waters of baptism are also a rebuff at the sinful world and Pharaoh’s armies, the devil’s world. But arising from those same waters is a new creation, born from above, an “above” that is now opened to us, so that down the ladder might come the life-giving Spirit in Christ, and up the ladder might go our ascended persons, also in Christ.