We may also find ourselves “labeling” people based on their physical ability—like seeing or walking or comprehending. We use the terms disabled and whole to divide people. We lump all those who cannot participate in certain activities due to varying degrees of capability into one group. “We,” on the other hand, who may be unable to do many other things but can hear or speak or read do not consider ourselves disabled but “whole” people. This way of separating people is as irrelevant in assessing a person’s worth as considering financial status or documenting someone’s birthplace.
Today’s story concerns Jesus healing a man who cannot hear or speak. A group brings him to Jesus and begs for his touch. Jesus takes the man away on his own and commands him, “Ephphatha—be opened!” The man can hear and speak. Yet the story is not over. Jesus goes on to command both the man and his friends to be silent and tell no one. But they disobey Jesus. They tell everyone about it, and the more Jesus implores them to be silent, the more they proclaim it.
The irony of this story is hard to miss. Those who were already “whole” by our standards are lacking; they fail to obey Jesus’ commands. While their epithet that Jesus “does everything well” may be correct, they do not understand it—they refer only to his ability to bring hearing and speech. Being able to speak well or to hear is not fundamentally good or bad. Our goodness and wholeness stems from our ability to obey Jesus’ commands. Being a good neighbor is not about bringing others to Jesus for healing; what truly differentiates us as followers of Jesus is our obedience.
Lord, we know that wholeness comes not from our abilities but from our willingness to follow your commands. Amen.
It has become an uncomfortable subject for many in our society, but God does have ethical standards. The author of Proverbs declares that those who act unjustly, particularly if they oppress the poor, will provoke God’s judgment. The psalmist repeats the refrain that God blesses the righteous but is not pleased with those who choose a consistent lifestyle of rebellion against God. James challenges us practically on this point. Do we judge people by their wealth or status? This is not from God. Truth faith shows no partiality and prompts action. Jesus models this in Mark when he heals two Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles generally remained separate (an ancient form of racism), but Jesus did not discriminate based on their ethnicity. He cared only about their hearts.
• Read Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23. How has God shown you that there is no difference between persons who are rich and persons who are poor?
• Read Psalm 125. When have you seen righteousness in someone your church or community has labeled “wicked”?
• Read James 2:1-17. How do your works support your faith in God?
• Read Mark 7:24-37. God calls us to love all our neighbors, no matter their abilities or place of origin. How can you be a good neighbor to those your community has excluded?
Respond by posting a prayer.