Trinity 12 – August 30th, 2009 - Mark 7:31-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
So, what is Jesus’ job? What does He do? That is one of the great questions of history. Many religions will call Jesus a prophet – that’s what the Muslims call Him. Many people will call Him a great teacher – that’s the respect He’s generally accorded by many non-Christians around the world. And these are both true. Jesus is a prophet – two weeks ago we heard him speak to the destruction of Jerusalem – that is prophetic. Last week we heard Him teach on self-righteousness and His desire to show mercy. But neither of these titles, prophet, teacher, really hit to the heart of what Christ Jesus is all about. No, our Lord is a healer, as we see in our lesson today.
Then He 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. The Decapolis was a gentile region, it was off far away from Jerusalem. And note here what the people’s approach is to Jesus. They don’t approach Him as a teacher, simply asking for wisdom. They don’t approach Him like He’s merely a prophet. No. They bring a deaf mute, one who can’t hear, who can’t speak. Now, bear in mind for a moment how horrid it would be to be a deaf mute 2000 years ago. Today, we have an active deaf community. There’s sign language – there’s an understanding that a mere disability like being deaf should be no hindrance to one participating fully in society. Wasn’t like that in Jesus’ day. To be deaf meant you could not hear, meant that people couldn’t communicate with you. And only 10 percent of the population could read, so it’s not like people could simply write things out for you – even if you could read (and if you can’t hear, who would have taught you), most people couldn’t communicate with you that way. And then you cannot speak – it’s not even as though you have lost your hearing but you still remember words, can still talk yourself – you would have been all but cut off from society.
This is the person they bring to Jesus. Behold this deaf mute, Jesus. He’s in a sorry state. Do something for Him. We know who you are – you are the One who heals. Heal Him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. This may actually be one of the most beautiful verses in all of scripture. The poor guy probably doesn’t know what’s going on – he can’t hear, he can’t talk. He’d be utterly confused. It doesn’t even say that it was his friends that took him to Jesus, it may have simply been people saying, “Oh, look, it’s Jesus, quick, grab that deaf guy, maybe Jesus can do something for him.” And Jesus pulls him aside, privately. And Jesus puts His fingers in the guy’s ears – feel this, we are here to deal with your ears. He spits, and then he grabs the guy’s tongue – see, we are here to deal with your tongue, with your ability to speak. This is just such a wonderful demonstration of Christ’s personal care. Our Lord deals with this man gently and lovingly, sees to it that he understands.
And then our Lord heals him. 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. Again, the pantomime so the fellow could understand – ah, Jesus is looking to heaven and sighing a big sigh, He must be praying – and then – Jesus opens His mouth and speaks – and something wondrous happens. The man hears. The Word of Christ our Lord bores through the man’s deafness, and suddenly he can hear. The Lord’s Word blasts through the block on this man’s tongue – freeing it, releasing it. And the man can both hear and speak, and he is healed.
Yes, indeed, our Lord is a great healer. But why? Why does our Lord come healing? It’s not to garner praise and recognition – indeed, Jesus instructs them to not brag about the healing. No, there is a reason why Jesus is a healer – and that is because He is God Almighty, because He is the very Word of God which created all things – and He has to heal things. That’s who He is. Consider this – why was that man deaf? Ultimately, what was the reason that man was deaf? He was a sinner in a sinful world, and in a sinful world things get broken, things don’t work right. Stuff happens here. And so, consider what Christ sees when He looks at this deaf man. We would see someone who has gotten a rough break in life. We would see something sad, maybe even tragic. Christ sees sin messing with His world, with His creation. And so, as the Word by Whom all things were made, He goes about fixing His creation. He created the world, and when it gets messed up, by George He is going to fix it. And how does He fix it? Same way He made it – by the Word. The Word of God goes forth, and suddenly there is something new. First, there is deafness – which really isn’t a “thing”, but it’s a lack. If you are deaf it means you cannot hear, it means the stuff that should be there to let you hear isn’t, or isn’t working. First, there is a lack. Then Christ speaks, and everything is full. The exact same thing as what happened in Creation. No light – Let there be light – oh look, there is light. No hearing – be opened – oh look, there is hearing. When we see Christ healing, when we see Christ restoring, we see Him doing the same thing that He has always done – create and preserve.
But even then, we shouldn’t think of Christ’s healing as being limited just to things physical – for when our Lord made us, He made us to be both body and soul. Indeed, calling Jesus a healer doesn’t always get the full picture, because when we think of healers we often think only of the Body – but Christ heals both body and soul – He saves us, He is our Savior. Indeed – rather than just dealing with deafness, with the result of life in a sinful world, our Lord drives to the heart of the matter and deals with sin itself. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; Who, seeing that the world is plagued by sin, enters into that world, takes on a Human Body and becomes Man, so that He can handle sin, so that He can deal with it. And He takes up sin, all sin, every sin, ours, your neighbor’s, everyone’s – and He carries it upon His shoulders to the Cross, and there upon the Cross He dies for it. He swallows it up – that’s how Scripture describes it – does away with it. Christ gets involved in the world to rescue it from the sin that has attacked and messed with it – sometimes in specific points like healing this deaf man, but ultimately in winning forgiveness for sins.
So then, what does this mean for us? Each and every one of us here is impacted by sin – and there’s many different ways we can talk about this, but let’s use the image of being deaf and mute. Now, some of us have these actual physical issues – many of you have hearing aids, and even then, not so good. Some of us here have speech impediments, myself included. We see even in our own physical life the impacts of sin – and we look forward, as we say in the Creed, to the resurrection from the dead, when we are raised, when we are in perfected and glorified bodies – and we won’t need hearing aids anymore, I won’t have to worry about my “S”s getting sloppy, or my Rs turning into Ws. There will be a restoration of Creation, our bodies recreated into what they should have been.
But more than that, Christ our Lord is working healing, is working a new creation in us right now – and no, I’m not going to go all televangelist on you and call you down front and smack you upside the head and say, “Hey, you’re healed.” No, I am talking here spiritually – Christ has already begun His work of recreation in you. Spiritually, sin makes us deaf, sin makes us mute. When we think according to sin, we don’t hear like we ought – we turn a deaf ear to the needs of our neighbor, we turn a deaf ear to their apologies and instead remain bound in anger. When we think according to sin, we don’t speak like we ought – we do not speak words of love, we speak words of hatred and anger. But Christ does not leave us in our sin, leave us in our spiritual deafness and muteness – rather this. Just as He healed the deaf mute by His Word, so too Christ Jesus comes to us in His Word, and He says “I forgive you.” And this really is the parallel, the connection we are supposed to make here. Just as Christ heals the body, He also heals the soul through forgiveness – and if we all spoke Greek, this would be plain as day. The word for “Be opened” is a word that deals with your mind being opened, with coming to understanding, with realizing, with thoughts through your thick skull. When Christ speaks His Word, it sinks in, we are opened, we understand – we understand that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, we understand that He is our Savior who loves us. When it the deaf man’s tongue is released – that is the same word for being forgiven. Think on Matthew 18 – Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. The word for “released” and “loose” is the same word in Greek, exactly the same. We are forgiven by Christ’s word, we are released from the bondage of sin, it isn’t tied to us anymore. We are set free, we are forgiven.
This is what God has done for you, this is what Christ Jesus has won. We are hounded by sin, we are hounded by the effects of sin. Christ has dealt with it. Our sin is paid for – behold, Christ has died. Sin wrecks our bodies and we die – yet Christ has risen from the dead, and so we know that we shall too. But this is not just a future promise, a future thing. This very moment, Christ Jesus has forgiven you, He has opened your ears, opened your mind to His Word, so you can know God’s Will, can strive for it. He has loosed you from sin, so you are free to love your neighbor, free to grow in love. And when your sin pops up and gets in the way, as it does so often in this life, He forgives it, does away with it – says, “Here, take and eat, take and drink, receive my Body and Blood, the very medicine of immortality, the cure that gives Eternal life” – and receiving His Body and Blood we grow in love and faith – grow more and more like Him, until the day of the resurrection of the dead, when we will be like Him in full. This is the love that Christ Jesus has shown, this is His healing that He is working upon you. Now may Christ Jesus, who has begun this good work in you, keep and preserve you until He completes it upon the last day. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.