On his return journey from Tyrian territory he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee through the territory of the Ten Towns. They brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, with the request that he would lay his hand on him. He took the man aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into his ears, spat, and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, Ephphatha, which means Be opened. With that his ears were opened, and at the same time the impediment was removed and he spoke plainly. Jesus forbade them to tell anyone; but the more he forbade them, the more they published it. Mark 7: 31-36
From Tyrian territory he went by way of Sidon. Jesus doesn't play it safe; he's passing through, and active in, a non-Jewish area. And it's in these non-Jewish areas that he often encounters remarkable faith. Surprise!
They brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. This was probably a poor Greek man, but his greater poverty was his inability to hear and speak. And if he had suffered the handicaps from birth, the poverty would be deeper still.
He took the man aside. Jesus is trying to avoid the crowds because what he does is easily misconstrued. But I like this image of Jesus taking the man aside because it suggests a great sensitivity and intimacy on the part of Jesus. The man has likely endured a lifetime of ridicule and torment. In this moment Jesus gives him a break from all of that.
Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears, looked up to heaven and sighed. A sigh can be a prayer. A groan. A tear. A shudder. A laugh.
Ephphatha ~ Be opened! We open lots of things: the refrigerator, a book, the mail, the spring time windows, our wallets. Then it gets personal: Open your heart. Open your mind. But I'd suggest there's more than just the opening of the man's physical ears and his no longer being tongue-tied. Be opened can signify a great readiness, an eager willingness, a felt desire to become an individuated person. Remember the definition:
Individuation is the process by which the individual in the course of his life is pressed to realize his innate capacities to the full and become what he has it in him to become.
Innate means: what we're born with. What could be more pleasing to God than that! Saint Irenaeus wrote: The glory of God is the human person fully alive. Sad when the culture thinks this means, "Oh thank God, I now have the nose I always dreamed of, the whitest teeth, the shiniest hair, the softest skin, the sexiest physique, the most fabulous job...."