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A Deep Sigh

Date: Sep. 29, 2019

Author: Bob Henkins

Mark 7:31-37

Key Verse: Mark 7:34

He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).

Who among us have seen any “Peanuts” cartoons? In them, Charlie Brown, the main character, can often be found sighing, exclaiming his famous phrase, “Good grief.” People often sigh, but what exactly is a sigh? It can be used as a verb, as in “She sank into a chair and sighed with relief.” Or in can be used as a noun such as “He let out a long sigh of despair.” A sigh can be described as a long, deep, audible exhalation expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or a similar feeling. So, some researchers wanting a deeper understanding asked the question, “Why do we sigh?” and Psychology Today reported what they found; sighs are associated with a negative mood—a sign of disappointment, defeat, frustration, boredom, and longing. It’s just like Charlie Brown has been portraying for many years. And yet, while it is an expression of resignation and frustration, the researchers discovered that it CAN also be a benefit to us, as it can also act like a physical and mental, reset.

And interestingly, in our passage this morning, we come across Jesus sighing as he heals a deaf and mute man. This is intriguing to me because, we don’t usually see God sigh. And given the definition and the context of the usage I mentioned already, it made me think about what going on here and why is Jesus sighing.

Our passage starts out today in verse 31 it reads, “31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.” As we remember from last week’s passage, Jesus left Israel and headed north into the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon, which by the way, are the 4th & 5th largest cities in modern-day Lebanon. The people of Tyre were known for producing rare and extraordinarily expensive purple dye, which they made from the shells of the Murex shellfish. This purple dye was highly valued and held royal connotations in the ancient world. As a result, it gave the Phoenicians their name from the Greek “Phoinikes” which means "purple people".

The city of Tyre is mentioned 59 times in the Bible, the first time in the book of Joshua all the way up to the book of Acts. In the time of King David, around 992 BC, the city was Israel’s ally and a source of cedar for David’s palace. Likewise, Tyre also supplied David’s son Solomon cedar for building the Temple. But during the time of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, & Ezekiel (around 700 BC), Tyre had become Israel’s enemy as God prophesied judgment against the them. As for Sidon, it’s mentioned 49 times in the Bible. The first time in Genesis as Sidon is the great grandson of Noah. Sidon’s father was Canaan (Ham’s son), who is the ancestor of the Canaanites. They did evil in the eyes of the Lord as they worshiped Baal, Moloch and other evil gods. Eventually Tyre and Sidon would be destroyed by Alexander the Great around 333 BC. He wiped out the coastal city and then built a land bridge for his siege weapons and took out the island city. Then around 64 BC, Tyre and Sidon were rebuilt as the area became a Roman province. It became popular because of it’s famous “Arch of Hadrian” and had one of the best hippodromes in the region. For those of us that don’t know, a hippodrome is an ancient stadium for horse & chariot racing.

After this, Jesus moved on to the area of the Decapolis. Even though Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis were Gentile, pagan cities, however when Jesus visited them, he found several people who had faith in God, such as the woman from last week’s passage and the people we see this morning. Take a look at their response to Jesus’ arrival in verse 32. “32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.” By now, Jesus wasn’t a novice when it came to crowds. He was used to them because they followed him everywhere. Often, he was swamped and overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion due to their demands. And these people were no different for they brought to Jesus a deaf man that had a speech impediment. We’re not sure of what happened to this guy. Maybe he could hear in the past, but before his speech could develop, he lost his hearing so it never fully developed. However, one thing is clear, they sincerely believed that Jesus could heal him.  So, they pleaded with Jesus to heal him. They were real friends, willing to humble themselves for their friend. It’s good to have friends like this.

We might wonder how did the people in this Gentile region hear about Jesus. Well, if you remember when we studied chapter 5, Jesus was in the Decapolis once before. That was when he ran into the Gerasene demoniac who was possessed by 6K demons. Jesus cast those demons out of him and into a herd of 2K pigs, after which they ran down the hill and into a lake and drowned. The people were fearful and upset about their financial loss, and asked Jesus to “Please Leave.” But the demon possessed man had been profoundly changed, healed and “in his right mind.” He wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus didn’t let him. Instead he said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mk 5) And so that’s what he did. Maybe he went to all ten cities of the Decapolis and told how much Jesus did for him and the people were amazed.

Let’s see what happens, take a look in verses 33-35. “33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.” The first thing we notice is that Jesus took the man off in private away from the crowd. He didn’t try to exploit the situation. Maybe make money off of him, or use the situation to make himself more famous. Jesus did a strange thing, he put his fingers into his ears. You don’t usually put your fingers into someone’s ears unless you know them really well. Jesus stood face to face looking the man in his eyes. This is very intimate, personal and up close.

I’m not even sure this man knows what’s going on. How could his friends have communicated what they were trying to do? It says that he spit and touched the man’s tongue, other Bible translations say that Jesus spit on his fingers and then touched his tongue. Either way, it was a strange scene, but not out of the ordinary for Jesus. In John’s gospel Jesus spit on the ground and made mud and put it on a man’s eyes to heal him. Jesus commanded “Be Opened!” and by the power of God immediately the man could hear and speak well. Jesus restored this man’s life and made him whole again.

After Jesus healed the man, he tells them not to tell. Take a look at verses 36-37. “36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”” The people were overwhelmed with amazement at this healing miracle. They couldn’t stop talking about it. I find it ironic and funny that Jesus just gave this man the power of speech and yet he told him not to talk. Jesus told them not to mention this story to anyone. He already had a hard-enough time of going around, he didn’t want to make it any harder.

Before Jesus uttered the command, he did something I never expected, he SIGHED. Maybe I would have expected a prayer or a praise to God but I didn’t expect a sigh. Instead the Son of God, looked up to heaven (almost as if to make eye contact with his Father expressing, “do you see this”), paused and let out a sigh, and not just a sigh but a DEEP sigh as he exclaims “Be opened.” To me, this reveals something deep is going on within Jesus that expresses more than words. You know how they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” sometimes an action can do the same. To be honest, I never thought that God sighed. To me, God is one who displays his power by issuing commands, by creating something out of nothing. God is one who heals, by giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the dead. But I don’t picture his as one who sighs. So, this one word really STOOD OUT to me.

I imagine many of you have sighed at one time or another. If you’ve tried to fight temptation, you’ve probably sighed. If you’ve ever had your motives or reputation questioned, you’ve probably sighed. If your love was ever rejected, you’ve probably sighed. Even our dog Tibs sighs. He’ll lean up against you and go (exhale). I don’t have a clue what he has to sigh about, but he still sighs. And I too have sighed many times. When I’m sad, or hardship at work, or even when my expectations aren’t met. I sigh in sadness or grief.

I understand that we can sigh for many reasons other than sadness or grief. For example, we may sigh out of relief, or out of joy, or simply out of exhaustion, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus is doing here. So, what does it mean that Jesus sighed? To me, this is the heart of this message.

The word sigh is mentioned six times in the Bible and all of them are used as an expression of sadness. Job, after he lost his children, his flock, everything, said, “For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water.” (Job 3:24) And King David in his distress said, “All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9) Mike mentioned that Spurgeon said that grief is a mixture of anger, sadness and love. So, I think Jesus’ sigh is his expression of his frustration, his disappointment, his sadness, but also his love when he sees this world. Jesus sighed when he saw fall of humanity. In Genesis 6, God grieved when he saw how wicked mankind had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. God’s sigh is a mixture of anger, sadness and love.

Jesus sighs when he sees helpless people suffering under the power of sin and how God’s creation is oppressed by evil and tormented by the painful struggle of survival. And how deafness and other diseases, and even death itself are the consequences of sin. Jesus sighed because he knew his father never intended for human life to be this way. That mankind wasn’t created to be separated from its creator, ears weren’t made to be deaf, and tongues weren’t made to stutter and death wasn’t meant to be permanent. Jesus sighs when he sees his creation subject to death when it was never supposed to be part of their experience.

Jesus sighed when the religious leaders demanded signs to prove that he was the Messiah. But how could they ask for more signs when they couldn’t even interpret the ones right in front of them? Even the prophet Isaiah told them, “When you see the lame walk, the eyes of the blind opened, the mute speak, the Messiah is in your midst.” (Isa 35:5-6) Jesus sighed in sadness at their rejection. The shortest verse in the bible says, “Jesus wept.” (Jn 11:35) Jesus said this when he came to visit his friend Lazarus who died a few days before he got there. Did he weep because he missed his friend, or because came to late to help him? No, Jesus wept because of the people’s unbelief. Jesus sighs because people don’t really listen to him. They are amazed and in awe of him, but we don’t really listen to what he is trying to teach us. Jesus is like a grieving parent who sees their children suffering because of their mistakes.

And yet in spite of all out mistakes “… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) The prophet Isaiah prophesied, “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11) Jesus was the one that Isaiah was talking about. Jesus was the one who came to make things right. So how does God solve the problem of pain? How does God solve the problem of disease that should not have been? How does God solve the problem of death that should not have been? When on earth, Jesus was the answer. Jesus healed the blind, the leper, the deaf and lame. Jesus raised the dead to life. Jesus’ healing was a picture of the good that is to come.

In the Garden before his arrest Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup (of your holy wrath) from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mk 14:36) Then after His arrest, trial, the scourging and while being nailed to the cross, what happened? For three hours the sky turned black and the earth shook. God turned his face away from his one and only Son. Jesus knew. That’s why he cried out… ‘why have You forsaken me?” Jesus was forsaken and abandoned by his father and stood in our place as he took upon himself the huge weight of all the sins of the world. On the cross, Jesus gave his final sigh, as he exclaimed, “It is finished.” (Jn 19:30) This was a sign of relief as he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Jesus solved the problem; he took it all and finished it. He saved the world. On the cross, Jesus paid the price for every sin committed, every lie told, every theft committed, every lustful thought, every hateful act, every betrayal, every evil thing we’ve ever done. And God accepted the perfect sacrifice of His and only Son so that the world might be set right and all sins forgiven.

Thank God for his love to rescue us and replace our sighing with joy and gladness. If Jesus hadn’t sighed, we would still be stuck in sin, and life would hopeless. But thank God for Jesus who came to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, motion to the lame and life to the dead. Like the hymn we sang this morning says, I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more, But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me, now safe am I. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, Love lifted me! I can only thank God for his wonderful grace and mercy to a sinner such as I that he loved me so much to go through such hardship so that I have been lifted up.

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Genesis 14:1-24

Key Verse: 14:20

  and blessed be God Most High,
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And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

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