In the Gospel Reading, Jesus does a miracle: a man who was deaf and impaired in speech becomes able to hear and to speak plainly. But the way in which Jesus does the miracle seems undignified or even silly. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears and his spit on the man’s tongue. He looks up to heaven; he groans; and he says “Be opened!” before the man’s ears are opened to hear.
What happened to the elegant kind of miracle where Jesus just says a word, and a person is healed? Why this dumb show, which looks embarrassing for Jesus?
The answer lies in the question, doesn’t it? What Jesus does is literally a dumb show. It has to be. Jesus is trying to communicate with someone who can’t hear. In other cases, before Jesus does a miracle, Jesus talks to the person for whom the miracle will be done. In this case, he does charades.
The charade begins by letting the deaf man know that Jesus is putting a part of himself into the deaf man – his fingers into the deaf man’s ears, his spit into the deaf man’s mouth. By this means, Jesus invites the deaf man to accept Jesus into himself -- literally. And then Jesus looks up to heaven, to show the deaf man the source of Jesus’ power. It doesn’t come from some magic in Jesus’ fingers or spit. It comes from God, whose power is in Jesus, who is in the deaf man, by means of this charade.
Even the groaning and the speech of Jesus to the deaf man make sense if we think of them in this way. First, the deaf man sees Jesus open his mouth to make the inarticulate sound of groaning. Then he sees Jesus speaking an articulate word to him, to the man who cannot hear. By this means, Jesus is inviting the deaf man to trust in Jesus, to choose to accept the miracle – to choose to hear, first the groan and then the word.
And so Jesus humbles himself to share the limitations of this one deaf man. By undignified dumb show, the love of the Lord heals the deaf man’s soul as well as his ears.