Mark 7:24-37 Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go-- the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Reflection I wonder if when Jesus said to the deaf man, “Ephphatha … be open,” I wonder if Jesus was also speaking to himself? Having just walked away from his heart and mind opening encounter with the Syrophoenician mother, might Jesus have also been coaching himself? “Be thou open, Don’t let there be any boundaries or borders between yourself and others. Eschew any line of demarcation between humanity and divinity.”
That last would be the border crossing that got Jesus in the most trouble, acting on behalf of God, incarnating the will and the way of God, teaching, healing and forgiving sin. That is why the religious and political officials had to execute Jesus. It was their job to draw and protect the borders and boundaries of their laws. Today we call it gerrymandering, defining borders or boundaries to establish advantage for a particular group. And Jesus crossed the line. He refused to be bound by social, political or religious borders.
Jesus says, “Ephphatha… be open.” Any boundary or border that diminishes the humanity of another human being is to be transgressed. This is the will and the way of God; to be open to comfort, care for and heal every human being, especially the most vulnerable. The question before us today is, what borders or boundaries must we cross to be open, “Ephphatha…” to be open as was Jesus? What Maginot lines have we drawn imagining we can protect our privilege by keeping others at bay?
When Jesus invites us to “Follow me,” he might well add, “Ephphatha… be open. Put on the hands and feet and skin of God. Dare to cross borders to care for and comfort, teach, heal and forgive the sin of others. Refuse to be bound by borders and boundaries that diminish the humanity of another human being, that diminish the humanity of your true self.
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