As the Spring breaths its new life over a weary, wintered earth, things begin to open. Buds bravely begin the process of opening themselves from being tightly bound, exposing themselves to the outside air.
But buds are not the only tightly bound things. Hearts, hands, and souls are also bound and closed. Exposure to the brokenness of the world constricts the soul. Fears tend to tighten hearts in reflexive self-protection; however, exposure to Christ opens the soul in hope, eager expectation, and even a vulnerable love.
Dianoigo, the Greek word translated open throughout the New Testament, literally means the process of being fully opened.
A Bound Tongue Opened
In Mark 7, Christ is in Gentile-territory after having addressed the Jewish Pharisees who were missing the deeper meaning of the commandments for the letter of the Law. While familiarity and proximity to the Word of God only further blinded the Pharisees from understanding the Incarnate Christ, the Gentiles Christ encounters are filled with faith and able to see. After healing the Syrophoenician woman’s child in Tyre, Christ heals a mute and tongue-tied man in the Decapolis.
In an intimate and risky way, especially considering Jewish laws concerning defilement which have just been mentioned in this particular chapter, Jesus touches the mute man’s tongue with his own spit. He looks up to heaven and groans in sorrow at the brokenness that has fully invaded the world He had once spoken into existence. Then he cries out, “Ephphatha” which in Aramaic means “Be opened” (Mark 7:31-34). At once, his tongue and speech were opened, no longer constricted.
Jesus’s healing of a mute man whose tongue is bound demonstrates a similar approach to his healing of our hearts that are equally bound.
A Heart and Home Opened
The same Greek word used for opened is also used in Acts 16, threading together two very different stories of two very different lives who experienced encounters with the same opening Christ. In Acts 16, Paul, Timothy and Silas have just arrived at Philippi, “a leading city of Macedonia and a Roman colony” (Acts 16:12). Walking to the riverside on the Sabbath, they came upon a prayer gathering of women. Lydia, the apparent leader of the group, was a wealthy woman, “a seller of purple goods who was a worshipper of God” (Acts 16:14).
Luke records, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Then, after being baptized along with her whole household, Lydia, whose heart had been fully opened to the beauty of the gospel, then opened both her home and her purse to the trio.
When the Resurrected Christ was walking along the Road to Emmaus with the unknowing disciples who were deeply disappointed with the events of the crucifixion, this same word makes a few more appearances. Cleopas and his traveling companion had hearts constricted by sorrow. After all, the One whom they had hoped to be the long-awaited Christ, “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” had been brutally killed by his own people (Luke 24:19).
After having had Christ showed them how all the Hebrews Scriptures pointed to him, their eyes were opened (Luke 24:31) to the reality that the man talking and supping with them was, indeed, Christ Himself. As they recounted their experience, they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”(Luke 24:32).
In both these verses, Luke uses the word dianoigo. The eyes of their hearts were opened and burning with love and hope as the Lord opened up the Scriptures to them.
Closed mouths, closed hearts, and closed eyes were opened. The same God who opened these can have a similar Spring-like opening effect on our barely speaking mouths, partially seeing eyes, and tightly held hearts.
Hearts that are constricted in fear can be opened with gospel hope. Hearts bound tightly from poor experiences in vulnerability can be opened in security in the presence of the God who is a secure presence. Eyes that have been trained by the world to see fear can be retrained and reopened by regular exposure to the Word of God to see with faith.
This opening of hearts, minds, eyes, and homes is only possible because of Christ. The One whose heart had been fully opened to the Father from all eternity opened himself up to the pain, brokenness and devastation resulting from our defection from God. In an agonizing moment, he was cut off from the fullness of the Father. The Father’s heart was essentially closed off to him and his pain so that it could be opened again to us in free and full access.
This reality gives a whole new meaning to the open tomb from whence the Resurrected Christ emerged. The tomb is open. The Father’s lap is open. Our hearts can be opened again. Spring is springing, indeed!