This Sunday our Gospel reading shows us Jesus travelling many miles, up north from Galilee to the coast at Tyre and then back south again towards Jerusalem through the mainly Greek districts of the Decapolis, east of the Jordan. The previous time Jesus travelled in the Decapolis he had freed the man Legion from the torment of possession by multiple personalities, disposing of them in drowning a herd of pigs, and the locals begged Jesus to leave the area. This time the people seek Jesus out, bringing a deaf-mute to be healed. They have had time to see and hear and gossip about the news of all the healing, teaching and blessing that Jesus has been doing. And Jesus takes the man aside, for this is not a publicity stunt for the crowds but a personal restoration, and he uses deliberate almost stylised actions to communicate with the man in a way that he can grasp, to open his ears and his tongue. When the people around the restored man see what Jesus has done, they are bursting to share the news.
36 Then Jesus[i] ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
This passage, which only appears in the Gospel of Mark, is part of the accounts of the opening up of God’s kingdom to gentiles as well as to the Jewish people: the inclusive nature of Jesus’ welcome and blessing for everyone and the promise of his restoration to full life of all believers as part of the family of God.
In the Benefice this month we see this welcome into God’s family and blessing in action as we delight in the first of a number of baptisms and thanksgivings, so long delayed by Covid. In baptism, the individual is washed in the water as a symbol of that healing restoration from God and receives the Holy Spirit as guide and shaper of life as a member of the body of Christ. In baptism, the individual is opened up to a new identity, enabled to hear God’s word and discover God in every moment. Their tongue is released to share in praising God and in talking about what it means to be a part of his family. The Church too is opened up in every baptism, reminded of what it means to welcome the precious gift of each new life.
37 ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’