And looking up to heaven, He sighed...””— Mark 7:34
Down the street from our condo here in the valley sits a row of our top stops. We have our friends at Trader Joe’s, our local diner where owner, John Saffell, greets every table with the day’s specials and an update about his kids. And then we have our UPS store. They know me well there. They even check my box when I forget my key. Total VIP. Around here, I’m known. Fuggedaboutit.
Last week on my usual walk I came upon caution tape and sawdust. “UPS is temporarily around the corner. We are making some necessary upgrades.”
New mailboxes? That’s probably what they’re doing. The place was rundown. More room for the oversized copier in the lobby area? I bet that’s it. As I was imagining the obvious possibilities, the manager on duty interrupted my thoughts:
”Yeah, some people said something and complained that we weren’t up to standards, so here we go.”
“Yeah, ADA, or whatever. Gotta do what ya gotta do, am I right?”
He disappeared into the back and I began my walk home carrying boxes of heavy irony. While aesthetics would have been fine and expected, the store was not ADA compliant. Basically, if you were a wheelchair user, you would have no way of entering the front door. For over a decade, the very spot I’ve been shipping out goods and materials wasn’t special-needs friendly. His words bounced around my brain, “Some people said something.”
Arguably my favorite stories in the Bible have anonymous heroes. From the generous widow, to the Samaritan, to the friends that tore through the roof, the unnamed always seem to be the ones that make a difference. As Alistair Begg says, “The work of the Gospel is undertaken, not by names and significant popular individuals but by a vast anonymous throng. Unknown to us. Known to God.”
“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. 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. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).” (Mark 7:32-34 emphasis mine)
A few things from this story are to me both caution tape and sawdust. First, some people that brought the man to the one performing miracles were given no credit. Nameless. Awesome in obscurity. If this were a Broadway show, they were the extras in case the extras got sick. These days that probably wouldn’t fly.
Hey, uh, Mark? If you’re taking notes, name’s Jimmy, last name, Peña. That’s P - as in…uh…Paul, E - as in Everyone will know me now, N - as in Not gonna lie this feels pretty good…you get the point.
We don’t know if Jesus gave away kudos to his friends, but we do know that he took the man away from the crowd. He then proceeded to speak to him using sign language and communicated in a way the man would understand. I love the visual of Jesus stepping into the man’s quiet world.
In fact, as Jesus gets face-to-face with the sufferer, turn the volume all the way down in your mind until the silence is ringing in your head. Watch as he puts his fingers into the man’s ears. “See these?” Jesus motions. “These are about to work.” Then he touches the man’s tongue. “Yes, this too.” As Jesus looks up, I picture the man following Jesus’ eyes and tilting his head back as well. And then it happened. Jesus sighed. My favorite part.
NOT FOR LONG
The sigh is a response to despair. Max Lucado says of the sigh, “In Heaven, you will be healthy. You never have been. Even on the days you felt fine, you weren’t. You were a sitting duck for disease, infections, airborne bacteria and microbes. This is a sigh of sadness, a deep breath, and a heavenly glance that resolves, “It won’t be this way for long.”
It’s true. On earth, we have never been healthy. Jesus knew that. And his compassion and amazing pity came through that day for the deaf and mute the same way it showed up when Jesus cried outside of the tomb of Lazarus. His heart breaks at the thought of ours stopping. We lose our memory, eyesight, and coordination. Cancer overtakes us and anxiety overwhelms us. Sleep eludes, fear consumes and minds forget. The result of sin’s presence by the fall of man rears its ugly head until we can’t lift ours from the pillow. Such susceptibility took Christ’s breath away.
Scientifically, a sigh is the brain’s way of telling the lungs to re-fill themselves, and it comes at times of great sadness and emotion. When some people begged, pleaded and implored of Christ on behalf of their needy friend, Jesus sighed as deeply as He cared. But rather than roar like Aslan, He tugged on ear lobes and touched a quiet tongue. It won’t be this way for long.
Oh, and I walked by UPS yesterday. There’s a new ramp and rails and the doors will open automatically. I doubt they wore capes or had super human strength. They could have rolled in on skateboards with ball caps. But some people just came into town and said something.