Sunday, August 26, 2007

Trinity 12 - Mark 7

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Nowadays, when people speak about Jesus, especially here in America, they tend to quickly talk about Christ’s power, about Christ’s might – how Jesus could do anything He wanted. It’s almost as though they view Jesus as some sort of superhero – able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But in scripture, dear friends, the focus isn’t really upon Christ’s power. Of course He has power – He’s God. What were you expecting? Of course God has power. No, in the Scriptures the thing about Jesus that has the larger focus is His humility – that this Almighty God would let Himself be born of a virgin, grow as a helpless infant – that God Almighty would let Himself be scourged and crucified. No, the fact that Jesus humbles Himself is much more astonishing. And then we have our Gospel this morning. And we see Jesus using the power, the authority He has – but note how Jesus uses it. Dear friends, even in His use of His power, Jesus is Humble. Watch and see His humility, as He doesn’t seek His own glory here, but rather as He shows love to this deaf man. Christ Jesus our Lord acts with humility and love, humility and love that we are to emulate, and humility and love that we benefit from.

Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tounge. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “ephphatha,” that is, “be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Such an interesting miracle. There Jesus is – and by this point in His earthly ministry He is well recognized as a great healer, a miracle worker. And Jesus comes into this area, and they bring Him a deaf man who can’t speak well, and they ask Him to heal this man. And here, Jesus does some things that are seemingly strange. He takes the man aside, and pokes the guy’s ears, and grabs his tongue. No, dear friends, these are not strange, but they are humility and love. Behold what Jesus does. He comes upon a man who is suffering – and the crowds wish to see a great miracle – wish for entertainment. But Jesus will not make a spectacle of this deaf man – Jesus deals with Him privately. The first thing which this deaf man hears will not be the roar of a crowd, but simply Christ. And note how carefully Jesus handles this man. Right here, your ears that don’t work – I will take care of them. This, your tongue which doesn’t work, I will take care of it. And then, the beautiful part – Jesus sighs. While the deaf man is watching Him, Jesus takes a big, deep breath, and looking up to heaven, He sighs. See, I am praying to God – see and understand what I am doing. And then, only when this deaf man can understand what is happening, does Jesus speak. And speak He does. Ephphatha! Be opened! And the man hears – hears this healing Word from Christ. And the man is healed.

Then we have something else that is interesting. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Jesus tells them not to talk about it, not to go and tell everyone about it. It seems strange, doesn’t it. Aren’t we supposed to talk about Christ? Well, yes. Indeed we are to speak about Christ. But let’s look at this miracle in particular for a moment. Christ’s concern throughout isn’t demonstrating that He is in fact God – He’s not trying to prove anything. Christ’s focus with this miracle isn’t upon the crowd, but rather is simply upon the deaf man. Everything Christ does, He does for this deaf man – indeed, that this deaf man may hear the Word of God. Christ here isn’t seeking adulation, Christ isn’t looking for pats on the back. He is humble, and He seeks at this moment only to show love – and so He lavishes care upon this deaf man, treats him with love and respect and dignity. The love that Christ shows – He shows it not for accolades or praise, but because He is Jesus Christ, the One who created all things, and the One who restores His creation – the humble Lamb of God.

In this, dear friends, let Christ Jesus be your example – for here He is the ultimate and most perfect example of love and humility. When you act, when you show love – show love as Christ shows love here. Do not draw attention to yourself, do not seek praise or pats on the back. Rather this – show love to people. Show love to them as individuals – as people who are in need of care and compassion. Handle them gently, in ways that they can understand – just as Christ dealt with this man in a way he could understand. Your ears, your tongue, that’s what I will heal. Likewise, when you show love, when you show care, deal with the person you are helping – and let that be that.

This is something that is hard for us humans to do – for we love praise, we love recognition – and we are tempted to act in ways where we draw attention to ourselves – where we pander to the crowd. We all too often want to bask in the praise of others – rather than doing the simple, quiet work that God gives us to do. No one praises the mother for changing the child’s diapers – blue ribbons don’t drop from the cab ceiling in the tractor – bells and whistles don’t sound at the kind words spoken to a friend. Yet these, dear friends – these simple acts of love – these simple tasks that fill our days – service to family, service to friends and neighbors, diligent studies, good hard work – these are what Christ lays before us – and these are what we are to do – in quiet humility out of love towards God, and love towards our neighbor.

And how often we fail in this. How often we seek praise. How often we shy from showing love to another – because what will people say if they see me talking to THAT person. How often our own ears are deaf to the pleas and cries of those in need How often our own lips are impeded, how often we fail to speak words of compassion and love like we ought When we see this, when we see our flaws, we remember something wonderful dear friends. Jesus Christ is not simply an example – He is not simply a guide that we follow. No – in addition Jesus Christ is our Savior – He is the One who in humility and love came down from heaven and went to the Cross to suffer and die for our sins. Whereas we lack humility – Christ humbles Himself unto death. Whereas we lack love – Christ demonstrates His love for us in this – that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. Christ Jesus works for your forgiveness, and He lavishes this upon you.

And note how Jesus gives you forgiveness. Just as Jesus took the deaf man aside and dealt with Him individually – Christ takes you and brings you His forgiveness individually. Think on your baptism. You were baptized by name, as a specific individual – God pulled you aside and dealt with you personally. Think on the Supper. Christ’s Body and Blood is placed upon Your lips, upon Your tongue, for the forgiveness of Your sin. Christ deals with you individually. You aren’t part of just some faceless mob, you aren’t name on a register – but God desires to come to you individually. Indeed, should you ever want it, knock on my door and I will, as part of my duties as pastor, give you Christ’s forgiveness to you personally as well. Christ is intimate in how He deals with you – He never wants you to be lost in the crowd, He never wants you to be isolated and alone – He never wants you to think as though you are not worth His time. He loves you in the same way in which He showed love to this deaf man – personally. He loves you, and He opens your ears so that you might hear His Word, that you might see clearly in the Scripture His love for you. All that Christ does, He does so that you yourself might know and understand that He is the God who has purchased and redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature – that He has done away with your sin and opened the gates of heaven unto you and that He is indeed with you, now and through eternity.

This is how Christ shows love. He shows love with great humility, with His focus being simply upon care and service. In our text, we see His care and service to a deaf man. In our lives, we see His care and service to each one of us – as He has claimed us as His own in Baptism, as He speaks His Word to each of us, as He gives His blessed Sacrament to each of us. Behold how God loves you, and rest secure in the salvation He has won for you. Amen.

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