Question: "What is the meaning of ephphatha in the Bible?"
Answer: Ephphatha is an Aramaic (or Syriac) word found only once in the New Testament, in Mark 7:34. Mark also gives the meaning of the word: “be opened.” Jesus spoke this word when He healed a deaf man who also had a speech impediment. Mark, more than the other gospel writers, included the exact words Jesus spoke. The recording of Jesus’ exact expressions shows the influence of Peter, an eyewitness, on Mark’s writing.
Jesus was traveling through the region of Decapolis when some people brought to Him a man “who was deaf and could hardly talk” (Mark 7:31). Jesus took the man aside, “away from the crowd,” and put His fingers into the man’s ears (verse 33). Then Jesus spit and touched the man’s tongue with the moisture. He did not have to go through such physical actions, and in other miracles of healing, Jesus simply spoke a word (e.g., Matthew 8:8, 13), but in this case, He chose to.
After touching the man’s ears and tongue, Jesus “looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’” (Mark 7:34). The posture of prayer signified Jesus’ connection to the Father, in whose name He acted. The deep sigh was a sign of Jesus’ commiseration with the man’s plight and of His sorrow over the sin in the world and its lamentable fallout.
When Jesus said, “Ephphatha!” the results were immediate: “At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly” (Mark 7:35). Jesus then commanded the man not to tell anyone about the healing (verse 36). But the man used his newfound speech to spread the news anyway. People were “completely amazed” (verse 37, NLT), and they praised the Lord, saying, “He has done everything well. . . . He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (verse 37).
It is interesting that Jesus rarely healed people in the same way. Sometimes He merely spoke (Matthew 12:13). Other times He laid His hands on them, and they were healed (Luke 13:10–13). One time He spit on the ground and made mud to place on a blind man’s eyes (John 9:6–7), and another time He healed a leper by touching the man and speaking to him (Mark 1:41–42). The details of each miracle vary slightly. The variety of methods Jesus used eliminates confidence in any one technique or modus operandi. Healing is not the product of any talisman, spell, or process. Healing comes from the power of God.