|Photo by Tim Samlaska|
Have you ever stumbled over a word in Scripture that you didn't quite know what to do with?
It happened to me over the weekend. As I read through a set of passages to wrap my mind around something specific, I tripped right over one word. I couldn't get past it.
Believe me, I tried, but my eyes kept going back to it.
Finding the answer to the original question that prompted my search promptly vanished. The one word would not go away. So I backed up, slowed down, and read the word in context:
"Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 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!"). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly." Mark 7:31-35 (ESV)
Quite a passage, isn't it? The man was deaf and had a speech impediment, so perhaps Jesus had to explain what he was about to do through gestures. In kindness, Jesus took the man away from the crowd, safe from prying eyes.
But right before Jesus reached out to heal the man, that one word stopped me again. Jesus did something I never noticed before.
That reaction seemed out of place considering the miracle He was about to perform. Perhaps I thought Jesus would have praised the faith-filled actions of the people who brought the man to him for healing. Or prayed a profound prayer.
Instead, he sighed.
I have never thought of God as one who sighs. He commands. He weeps. He calls forth from the dead. He battles with Satan.
But a God who sighs?
When I sigh it's usually a sign of being tired or exasperated. Even fed up. I've sighed when feeble resistance to temptation fails. Or when loved ones hurt my heart. In the Bible, Job sighed when he endured severe trials (Job 3:24).
I bet you've done your fair share of sighing, as well.
Max Lucado describes sighing this way: "Man was not created to be separated from his Creator; hence he sighs longing for home. The creation was never intended to be inhabited by evil; hence she sighs, yearning for the Garden. And conversations with God were never intended to depend on a translator; hence the Spirit groans on our behalf, looking to a day when humans will see God face to face."
Perhaps when Jesus looked into the eyes of that man, sighing was the only appropriate thing to do. His sigh spoke volumes:
...beloved, it was never intended to be this way.
...your ears weren't made to be deaf.
...your tongue wasn't made to stumble.
It's a sigh that lies somewhere between a fit of anger and a burst of tears.
Oddly enough, knowing Jesus sighs gives me hope. It reminds me that He loves you and me enough to feel the burden of our suffering and sin-filled condition. When I'm rebellious, He doesn't wash his hands of me and turn away. Perhaps...he sighs.
...beloved, there's a better choice.
...trust me, I'll never hurt you.
...lean on me, not your own understanding.
That holy sigh assures us that God still groans for His people.
And that brings me comfort today.
What about you?.