Mark 7: 31-37
“And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him ‘Ephatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.'” v. 34
Why do people sigh? All sorts of studies have been done to explore this basic human activity. Experts say we sigh to express frustration, adjust our breathing, or clear our minds. I sigh when I’m tired, frustrated, or perplexed. How about you? But why did Jesus sigh. Here in our story today we see a crowd bringing a man who was deaf and mute to be healed. Jesus took the man outside of town, away from the crowd, and looking up toward heaven, he sighed, then healed the man. Why did Mark bother to tell us about this deep sigh from our master? Why did Jesus , the Son of God, sigh? Why do you and I sigh? What does this tiny detail suggest to us about our Lord, and about ourselves? Let’s speculate on some of the possible reasons that he sighed. What kind of sigh was it?
- The sigh of fatigue? Jesus was fully God and fully man. As impossible as this is for our finite minds to grasp, we accept by faith that Jesus was divine, yet subjected himself to the full experience of being human. Was all the walking on water, battling with hypocrites, and casting out demons taking a toll on him? The reason our Lord would often go into the wilderness alone, was in part to rest. Our master knew when it was time to come aside and pray, rest and recharge. Perhaps this sigh was simply a reminder that we all get weary and do well to stop once in awhile to rest. If you ever become too busy to rest in God, you are too busy period. Take a hint from the master. If he became tired and needed time to rest, so do you. But then, maybe his sigh had to do with the crowd.
- The sigh of frustration? The crowd ran to Jesus with this man and begged him to touch him. Why did they do that? It seems hard to believe that this was the only man in the Decapolis needing help, so why didn’t they bring others? I can’t prove this, but it makes me wonder if perhaps they were just looking to see a miracle. Not that they didn’t care for the man, who knows? But it’s possible that they were all about seeing a sign from God, an extraordinary miracle. This may be why Jesus took the man away from the crowd and healed him in secret, then told him to keep it quiet (yeah, good luck with that.). I wonder if he sighed deeply in frustration because the people, like so many, were only wanting to be entertained by Jesus with no desire to really know him and follow him. Are you and I looking for Jesus, or just for what he can do for us. It could be. But what if Jesus sigh was about the man himself.
- The sigh of compassion? I wonder if the sigh that came from Jesus was motivated by his deep love. Many times, when Jesus performed a miracle the scripture says Jesus was moved with compassion. This is no magician, out to make a name for himself. The Son of God ministered out of his love for even the least of us. In Hebrews 4:15 he is described as the high priest who has traveled the road before us and knows our pain. He is touched by our struggles. It just may be that he allowed himself to experience the dark silence that enshrouded this man’s life suffocating his dreams. He felt the aloneness of inexpressible thoughts that characterized this man’s existence, shutting him off from society. It’s popular for us to say to our friends, “I feel your pain.” or “I feel ya.” But Jesus feels our pain in a way that is more deeply personal than any of us. The great thing is that our Lord not only feels it, he can do something about it. He said to the man, “Be opened” and the world changed immediately.
When we get down to it, we don’t know what made our Lord sigh deeply within himself. But we know the sigh, however motivated, was born of love. And whatever makes you sigh deeply, he feels it, and he cares for you. Perhaps even now he is looking into your life and sighing deeply, wanting you to rest in him, trust in him, and be set free in him.