Sunday, September 06, 2015

Hyperperissōs: Above All Measure

This Sunday's Gospel lesson is Mark 7:31-37, and we are blessed to hear the record of yet another miraculous healing,

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

 Matthew Henry's Commentary from 1706 breaks it down,

He used more significant actions, in the doing of this cure, than usual. 
1. He put his fingers into his ears, as if he would syringe them, and fetch out that which stopped them up. 
2. He spit upon his own finger, and then touched his tongue, as if he would moisten his mouth, and so loosen that with which his tongue was tied; these were no causes that could in the least contribute to his cure, but only signs of the exerting of that power which Christ had in himself to cure him, for the encouraging of his faith, and theirs that brought him. The application was all from himself, it was his own fingers that he put into his ears, and his own spittle that he put upon his tongue; for he alone heals. 
3. He looked up to heaven, to give his Father the praise of what he did; for he sought his praise, and did his will, and, as Mediator, acted in dependence on him, and with an eye to him. Thus he signified that it was by a divine power, a power he had as the Lord from heaven, and brought with him thence, that he did this; for the hearing ear and the seeing eye the Lord has made, and can remake even both of them. He also hereby directed his patient who could see, though he could not hear, to look up to heaven for relief. Moses with his stammering tongue is directed to look that way (Exod. 4:11); Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb or deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Have not I the Lord? 
4. He sighed; not as if he found any difficulty in working this miracle, or obtaining power to do it from his father; but thus he expressed his pity for the miseries of human life, and his sympathy with the afflicted in their afflictions, as one that was himself touched with the feeling of their infirmities. And as to this man, he sighed, not because he was lothe to do him this kindness, or did it with reluctancy; but because of the many temptations which he would be exposed to, and the sins he would be in danger of, the tongue-sins, after the restoring of his speech to him, which before he was free from. He had better be tongue-tied still, unless he have grace to keep his mouth as with a bridle, Ps. 39:1. 
5. He said, Ephphatha; that is, Be opened. This was nothing that looked like spell or charm, such as they used, who had familiar spirits, who peeped and muttered, Isa. 8:19. Christ speaks as one having authority, and power went along with the word. Be opened, served both parts of the cure; “Let the ears be opened, let the lips be opened, let him hear and speak freely, and let the restraint be taken off;” and the effect was answerable (Mark 7:35); Straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and all was well: and happy he who, as soon as he had his hearing and speech, had the blessed Jesus so near him to converse with.
Now this cure was, (1.) A proof of Christ’s being the Messiah; for it was foretold that by his power the ears of the deaf should be unstopped, and the tongue of the dumb should be made to sing, Isa. 35:5, 6. (2.) It was a specimen of the operations of his gospel upon the minds of men. The great command of the gospel, and grace of Christ to poor sinners, is Ephphatha-Be opened. Grotius applies it thus, that the internal impediments of the mind are removed by the Spirit of Christ, as those bodily impediments were by the word of his power. He opens the heart, as he did Lydia’s, and thereby opens the ear to receive the word of God, and opens the mouth in prayer and praises. 
The reference to Grotius gives us an interesting bit of history,
In 1618 Grotius was sent to prison for his Arminian theological sympathies, by order of the Calvinist Prince Maurice of Nassau, but he escaped and settled in Paris. He wrote juridical, political, and theological works. His most famous book, intended as a handbook for the use of Dutch sailors traveling to the Far East, is De Veritate Religionis Christianae (On the truth of the Christian religion, 1627). In this book Grotius gives evidence of the truth of the Christian religion and refutes paganism, Judaism, and Islam. 
Getting back to Henry's Commentary,
6. He ordered it to be kept very private, but it was made very public (1.) It was his humility, that he charged them they should tell no man, Mark 7:36. Most men will proclaim their own goodness, or, at least, desire that others should proclaim it; but Christ, though he was himself in no danger of being puffed up with it, knowing that we are, would thus set us an example of self-denial, as in other things, so especially in praise and applause. We should take pleasure in doing good, but not in its being known. (2.) It was their zeal, that, though he charged them to say nothing of it, yet they published it, before Christ would have had it published. But they meant honestly, and therefore it is to be reckoned rather an act of indiscretion than an act of disobedience, Mark 7:36. But they that told it, and they that heard it, were beyond measure astonished, hyperperissos—more than above measure; they were exceedingly affected with it, and this was said by everybody, it was the common verdict, He hath done all things well (Mark 7:37); whereas there were those that hated and persecuted him as an evil-doer, they are ready to witness for him, not only that he has done no evil, but that he has done a great deal of good, and has done it well, modestly and humbly, and very devoutly, and all gratis, without money and without price, which added much to the lustre of his good works. He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak; and that is well, it is well for them, it is well for their relations, to whom they had been a burthen; and therefore they are inexcusable who speak ill of him.

Hyperperissōs (ὑπερπερισσῶς)  appears only once in the New Testament and means, "superabundantly, most vehemently, above all measure" (

Are we so superabundantly astonished when we hear this story today, or are our ears and hearts closed to the idea of miraculous healings from God through Jesus?

 Ephphatha my friends.

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