Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.
And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
Gospel for 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
The Messianic secret in Mark’s Gospel – Jesus telling people not to reveal who he is – has occupied scholars for some while. And presumably will continue to do so, for no entirely persuasive account or explanation has been forthcoming.
My own view is that the ‘Messianic secret’ is born of an anxiety that enthusiastic embracing of the glory of Christ comes at an expense of accepting the (often) high cost of discipleship., and the Cross is so important in Mark’s Gospel.
Was it historically the case that Jesus asked this of people. Perhaps. But for sure it is something Mark exploits to ironic effect as he tells the Gospel: people ignore Jesus even as they proclaim him – but the community of Rome, for whom traditions suggests the Gospel was written, has fallen silent, following a time of persecution!
In these days of the New Evangelisation we are regularly urged not to keep the good news to ourselves. But what do we say?
- What are the good things of which we might speak?
- And to whom?
12C enamel of St Mark. Collection of the Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris