31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it.
37 They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (CSB)
Why does Mark (and Mark alone) give us this miracle?
The important thing, of course, is that one Gospel writer does record this miracle. Doubtless Jesus worked many miraculous “signs and wonders” not recorded in the Gospels. But this one does echo both Old Testament prophecy and the response Jesus gives to John the Baptist when John, in prison, starts to wonder whether Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.
John the Baptist’s Doubt
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt 11:2-6, ESV)
Why would that answer be meaningful to John the Baptist?
Isiaih 35: 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. (ESV)
Jesus’s miracles do at least 4 things:
- Show his pity and mercy on those suffering, his compassion
- Show his divine ability and power
- Show his divine authority, validate his truth
- Fulfill prophecy
- Sometimes by his words (e.g., calming the storm),
- Sometimes at a distance (e.g., the Centurion’s servant),
- Sometimes by touch (e.g., the raising of the widow’s son, the woman with the hemorrhage),
- Sometimes with mud or spit (e.g., the man born blind, or this miracle).
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (Jn 3:1-2)
The miracle accounts help us to have confidence that Jesus is indeed divine, the son of God, a teacher with authority, and the one (and only one) who can save us by his own perfect righteousness applied to you and to me.
Jesus does what only God could do:
The Lord said to him [Moses], “Who placed a mouth on humans? Who makes a person deaf or mute, seeing or blind? I it not I, the Lord”? (Ex 4:11, CSB)
And this makes all the difference. Why is it so important that Jesus worked miracles, especially the greatest miracle of his Resurrection? A noted scholar on miracles of Jesus, Prof. Habermas explains,
Like other examples of religious or political faith, the disciples believed and followed their leader's teachings. But unlike all others, the disciples had more than just their beliefs - they had seen the resurrected Jesus. This is a critical distinction; Their faith was true precisely because of the resurrection…. unlike the world faiths, which rest on certain beliefs being true, the disciples had both heard unique teachings and seen the resurrected Jesus. Jesus was the only founder of a major world religion who had miracles reported of him in reliable sources within a few decades. But most of all he confirmed his message by rising from the dead.
 Gary R. Habermas, “Is The Transformation of Jesus’ Disciples Different From Other Religious Transformations?” in If God Made the Universe, Who Made God? (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012), 173.