Summary: The communicated images need both hearing and speaking aid in order to translate the composition of image and perception from one to the other.
The world was shocked by the assassination of Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. The media carried the news of Mr. Kadirgamar as “a hero of our times, who waged a relentless struggle against terrorism in all its forms, despite continues threats to his life; a national leader, who combined intellectual vigour, political courage and personal integrity of highest calibre and so on”. On the other hand, the media called the murders as “cowards, international terrorists, criminals of war and racism, who did not believe in human rights and so on. It’s here that certain amounts of images are being created in our minds about Mr. Kadirgamar and about the perpetrators. These communicated images need both hearing and speaking aid in order to translate the composition of image and perception from one to the other. It could result either positively or negatively, which either celebrates or bring destruction to life in its wholeness.
Jesus’ healing the man of deaf and mute is quite crucial importance in our scenario, since while affirming life in its fullness and to celebration it both positively and creatively, the composition of image and perception is of vital importance. Since, one could attribute certain characteristics to X and other characteristics to Y, only through image and perception paradigm. Even as we browse through the Sitz im Leben of this exegesis of Markan narrative, I would encourage you to keep this perspective of “image and perception” in its context.
Most of the biblical scholars choose to argue convincingly, the geographical locations that Mark indented to portray extensively the journey of Jesus, in routing from Tyre via Sidon to the Sea of Galilee. This route takes into consideration several possible places in and around the gentile lands north and east of Galilee, which includes “the middle of the territory of the Decapolis”. Mark indented to bring out this setting in order to make his audience clear that Jesus did not want to work publicly in a Gentile territory, primarily because Mark guards against the technicality of Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles. Hence, Mark does not depict Jesus publicly pausing along the route either to teach or to heal till the end of the journey.
However, the depiction of this particular miracle event i.e., “at the middle of the territory of Decapolis”, in a gentile setting denotes the fact that although Mark was constrained to his loyalty to the tradition of Jesus’ mission, yet he shows the legitimacy in Jesus’ ministry of word and deed that extends far beyond the socio-political boundaries of Judaism.
The proper event begins at vs.32, where the identity of the person and those responsible in bringing him stands anonymous. Understanding the possible settings of the narrative, both the man and those brought him to Jesus could be Gentiles. Obviously, they could have the knowledge of Jesus’ reputation to heal. Looking closely at the man, one could understand the fact that he was mute, was more likely due to his deafness. In any case, the man’s hearing and his speaking ability needed healing.
In order to actuate the healing process in the man, Jesus takes the man away from the crowd privately. Biblical scholars have attempted several probable reasons for Jesus to dislocate from the crowd. (1) May be Mark wants to take Jesus away from the crowd, while narrating the story, or (2) It could be a part of Mark’s Messianic Secret, or (3) to avoid the curiosity seekers in the crowd, or (4) a means to preserving the secret process of the healing. However, the secrecy motif could correspond possibly shaping the event in a “Hellenistic” context, a context that is appropriate for Jesus’ healing of a Gentile in a gentile territory. The possible usage of the two gestures of Jesus in healing, by putting his finger into the man’s ear and spittle touched his tongue, implies the fact that Jesus touched the man’s impaired organs to establish contact for healing. The gesture of touch offers hope of healing, where mere words would have been inadequate and Jesus’ spitting connotes a better possible gesture of communication, supposedly a therapeutic function in the Greco-Roman world. Thus each gesture represents an integral part of the healing miracle in the “Hellenistic” context.
Vs. 34 introduces yet another two gestures that combines “looking to heaven” and the “sighing”. The gesture “looking at the heaven”, is a gesture of prayer, while the gesture “sighing” denotes the gesture of receiving of super-human power. In fact, this was the power that fed the multitudes and raised the Lazarus from the dead. Hence, some interpreters put the gesture of sighing as an expression of “pneumatic excitement” that associates with “prayer-like gesture”. It’s a sign of deep distress that lead to prayer that apparently provides healing.
Now, it’s vital to understand that either any one of the gestures or all of them (i.e. touching the affected organs, spitting, looking to heaven or a deep sigh) could have been the means of healing. It could accumulate to the therapeutic gesture forming the process of healing. But the actual healing takes place through Jesus’ authoritative word. The word “Ephphatha” is assumed to be an Aramaic word; hence Mark translates for his audience as “Be Opened”. Jesus’ usage of the Aramaic word in the Hellenistic social settings vocalizes the contextualization of his mission. Therefore, Jesus’ intelligible usage of this word perfectly supports the historical settings of the time, which commanded healing. The healing follows the description of the man’s immediate use of his faculties. Literally, his hearing was opened and he began speaking properly.