P.T. Barnum made history when he toured the United States in the mid- 1800s with his self-proclaimed Greatest Show on Earth. Barnum invented the art of the spectacle with curious exhibits and straight-out hoaxes that drew enormous crowds clamoring to buy tickets. In contrast, Jesus had no such desire to be viewed as a local showman.
When Jesus met the man with deafness and a speech impediment, He pulled the man aside from the crowd. He was already attempting to retreat unnoticed in a house in Tyre and Sidon. Jesus takes him “away from the crowd” to restore the man’s ears and eyesight (v. 33). But despite Jesus’ command that they should not tell others, news of the miracle spread quickly. “People were overwhelmed with amazement” (v. 37). By doing this miracle in private, the Lord’s acts of compassion could not be viewed as mere crowd-pleasing gimmicks. Further, His instruction against telling others disassociated Jesus’ miracles from common tricks. Jesus’ purpose for healing was not to amuse and entertain crowds, but to clearly bear witness to the power of God.
At the beginning of today’s passage, Jesus responds to another request for healing from a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman. The woman is grieving because her daughter suffers from the possession by an evil spirit. Here Jesus shows that His ministry to Israel did not limit Him from a simultaneous ministry to Gentiles. The woman received the requested healing for her daughter.
In both cases, Jesus clearly showed the power of God, for both salvation and for physical healing. He also set a precedent for the way we do ministry. Powerful ministry can take place in private as well as in public. In fact, much of ministry takes place in quiet places where the public will never see.
Jesus taught that what we say and do in private matters, and that serving Him is not about gaining public recognition! When you serve God, it should not matter that there is no audience. Can you do a quiet act of service today? Maybe it is helping restack chairs after a church gathering or sending notes of care to those who have been sick.