Have you ever noticed that when you’re sick or tired, if you can get your brain to focus for a while, you seem to notice things you’ve never seen before? I’ve been out of it for a few days because of a sinus cold. While reading my Bible, I’ve caught a few phrases that have made me think.
Someone may write back and call what I’m about to say heresy, but I can’t help but wonder if Jesus performed a miracle (and probably still does) reluctantly. I get this thought from a small phrase in the story of His healing a deaf-mute, and you can read the whole story in Mark 7:31-36.
Jesus was probably traveling home, a journey from the Mediterranean coastline to the Sea of Galilee. Along the way a man is brought to Him. He is described as deaf and having a speech impediment. (Of course, my first instinct is that a deaf man will obviously have trouble speaking, but I digress.) Through a small series of actions, Jesus heals the man. “Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly” (verse 35).
Sounds like a mostly typical day in the travels of Jesus. Sure, He stuck His fingers in the guy’s ears, put spit on his tongue and cried out in a strange language, but what else is there that is different?
Like I said, my thoughts stem from a small phrase. Take a look at the first part of verse 34:
Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed . . .
What makes Jesus sigh, just before He radically changes this man’s life? Did Jesus perform a reluctant miracle?
Before I get into that, I should probably explain that I took the time to look into the meaning of the word used in this verse.
>> Warning: Ancient Language Content <<
The word used here is “stenazo” (phonetically: sten-ád-zo), and is translated in the King James Version as “groan” 3 times, “sigh” once (here), “with grief” once, and “grudge” once.
Some versions translate the phrase in Mark as Jesus “groaned mightily.” They’re taking their cue from the other uses of the word, but I don’t think they’re understanding its usage. Each time stenazo is translated “groan,” it’s in the writings of Paul. In these instances (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 5:2, 5:4), it is used as a yearning, as if to express that what is now is unsatisfactory, is lesser than what is known and desired to be. In that yearning, we are reluctant to be where we are, doing what we are doing, wishing we were in that future glory.
With that understanding, I wonder if Jesus looked at what might come of this miracle and, in performing the miracle as an act of compassion on the deaf man, did so reluctantly because of what was to come.
Allow me to ask you a question to get you thinking. When you pray for God to do something, how far into the future do you consider the consequences of that prayer being answered? You might pray for God to give you a new car. But did you consider that a new car will have to be insured, if it’s really nice it might later be stolen, or you could get into an accident in the car and hurt someone else or yourself. Now, some of those things are items to consider when trying to get a car; others would keep us from ever doing anything, living a life ruled by fear.
When praying for someone to find salvation, it is common to pray, “Lord, do whatever it takes to bring them to You.” If you have prayed that prayer, have you considered the implications? What is the most it could take? What impact could it have on others? Are you prepared to possibly join in the suffering so that this one might be saved? The noble answer is Yes. But what is your real answer when you weigh the possibilities?
Now imagine that you get to meet with Jesus face to face and ask Him to do something for you. You probably only have your present situation in mind, having thought of all the good that could come of His meeting your need. I wonder, what does Jesus see when you bring Him that request?
Don’t forget that even while on this earth, Jesus had access to the omniscience of God (knowing all things). Remember His discussion with the woman at the well, knowing her past and present without it ever passing from her lips. He didn’t only know who would betray Him, but how and when and for what purpose.
If there were ever anyone who could see all the angles, know all the possibilities and even the actual future outcomes, it was Jesus. The hearts and minds of men were not hidden from Him. He knew what would be done with the words He spoke, the actions He performed, and the lives He touched.
What could cause Jesus to hesitate before healing the deaf man with the speech impediment? Jesus was about to open the door to two drastic life-changers in this man’s life.
First, his ears would be opened, and he would hear. The man would at last be able to enjoy another’s voice, music, the sound of the leaves in the wind, birds, and a thousand other sounds. At the same time, his mind and heart would be open to the hurt that one person can cause another with a simple word, a harsh tone, a cruel joke, or a blatant lie. He had never heard a scream of terror or injustice, beheld the wail of a widow mourning the death of her husband or a mother of her child. True, the man’s life was deprived of some fine and noteworthy elements without his sense of hearing. Yet it had provided a sense of shelter, of protection, from the harm of the tongues of others. (If you need a refresher on the power of the tongue, read James 3.)
But the second life-changer was more likely the cause of Jesus’ heart sigh. Worse than being open to the evil the tongues of men could do to him, this man was now able to do them unto others. How many lies would be spoken, which hurtful phrases would he pierce another’s soul with? Jesus knew each one, and the devastation it held for the life receiving it.
As I finished reading the chapter in Mark, I closed my Bible and prayed a simple prayer. Maybe you need to echo it today.
Father, help me to trust in Your plan. May I never cause You to give me anything that will cause a sigh to pass from Your heart. Amen.