The Messiah Foretold
Today’s story of the cure of a deaf man with a speech impediment is a good example of how much is contained in a simple miracle story. The Greek word mogilalos appears only here in all of the New Testament. It is a technical term referring to someone with a stammer. It is also used only once in the entire Jewish scriptures, in the passage that we read today as our first reading from Isaiah. Clearly, by his choice of this precise word Mark wants us to recognize that what Jesus is doing is the fulfillment of what Isaiah had predicted centuries earlier. In fact, Mark wants us to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by Isaiah and the other Jewish prophets of old.
The word ephphatha, “be opened,” used to describe the restoration of the man’s speech, is another example of a subtle allusion to an earlier prophecy. This time the prophecy in question is from Ezekiel, when he foretells that in the messianic age, “your mouth shall be opened to speak” (24:26). The sophistication of Mark’s narrative is further revealed when we realize that there are multiple levels within a single reference. Mark not only draws our attention back to Israel’s prophetic past, he also points to the initiatory practice of his contemporaries by his mention of such things as spittle, touching of ears, and the use of the word ephphatha, all of which were practices incorporated into the early Church’s baptismal ritual.
© J. S. Paluch Co.