Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sermon for Trinity 12

Trinity 12 – Mark 7:31-37

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +

          So Jesus had been wandering through the north country, through Lebannon, actually – away from His homeland, away from His people, away from the Jewish nation.  There He had met the Syrophoenician woman – even little dogs get to eat the bread that falls from the master’s table.  And He comes back into the fringes of Galilee, and a man is brought to Him.  A man who is deaf, a man who has a speech impediment.  The crowds beg Jesus to heal this man. Now, when we see Jesus come across a deaf man, we jump to the end of the story in our minds.  There’s going to be a miracle – Jesus is going to walk right up and do a miracle!  Well, the miracle does come – but that’s not the first thing that Jesus does.  The first thing Jesus does is teach.  Let us see what Jesus teaches us this morning in His Word.

          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.  There’s a few things to note here.  First, let us note this man’s problem.  Can’t hear.  Can’t talk.  Think on what that would mean.  Think what happens in your life when the hearing goes – how you get cut off from other people, you can’t understand what is going on around you.  And think on what happens when you can’t speak well – it’s hard to let people know what you need.  The lines of communication break down.  That’s the situation of this man.  Even surrounded by the crowd, by people who wished him the best, he must have been terribly isolated.  He possibly was quite confused, when people suddenly come and grab him and drag him out.

          Also, these verses sort of make you wonder about the motives of the crowd.  We’ve seen people ask Jesus for healing before – fathers pleading for their children, the Centurion for his servant, friends lowering a man through the ceiling, even people for themselves.  There’s that direct tie to the person asking and the person receiving.  There doesn’t seem to be that sense here.  It’s almost as though these people just want to see a miracle, see if this Jesus is all He is cracked up to be – and they are thinking, “Well, what can we have him do?  I know, let’s go grab old deaf Chuck and see what this Jesus can do.”  Go on Jesus, lay Your hands on Him, let’s see what you’ve got.

          And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  Is this not just fascinating?  Here you’ve got the crowd hankering for a miracle, to see what this Jesus can do.  And what does Jesus do?  He takes the deaf man off privately.  Away from the crowd.  This miracle would not be a spectacle.  It would not be some type of Dog and Pony show.  That is Jesus teaching us.  That teaches us about how God works, how He operates.  When God shows care, when God shows love – He shows love.  Jesus, when He heals this man, has as His focus – the deaf man.  Jesus doesn’t do this miracle to impress the crowd – He isn’t like last week’s Pharisee bragging of what He does.  No, when Jesus acts, His focus is on what He’s doing.  If people were just coming to see a show – wasn’t going to happen.  Jesus was going to do what is important – Jesus was going to show love, not worry about entertaining the crowds.

          And then, once Jesus has pulled this man to the side, He touches the man’s ears, and not just touch, but reaches into the earhole and pokes around.  And He spits, and touches his tongue. And at first glance, that seems kind of strange.  There’s a man who needs healing Jesus, this is no time for charades or hand gestures.  Yes it is, it is precisely the time for hand gestures.  Why?  Because the man is deaf – he hasn’t heard the crowds begging for him.  He may not know what is going on.  So Jesus takes him away privately, where there’s less confusion, where there aren’t people jostling him around.  And when Jesus has this man’s attention, see what Jesus does.  He touches the man’s ear.  The man can feel, and Jesus by touch says, “This is about your ears, your hearing.”  Then Jesus spits, and touches the man’s tongue.  “See, this is about what comes out of your mouth, this is about that tongue that misfires.”  Jesus lets the man know what is going on – Jesus teaches.  And then, after the teaching, He heals.

          And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  One beautiful little note.  Jesus is always praying before miracles.  At the feeding, He gives thanks.  Before other healings He prays in a loud voice.  Before the miracle of the Lord’s Supper, He gives thanks.  And He does so here.  It’s not a long prayer.  Jesus simply sighs.  Luther once said that the best prayer is simply the heartfelt sigh of a Christian, because God knows exactly what it means.  Here, Jesus gives us an example of this style of prayer.  Just something to think about when you are struggling with words when you are praying – don’t worry about struggling – God knows what is going on – sigh, say “Thy Will Be Done” – maybe the entire Lord’s Prayer, and go on with life trusting that it’s in God’s hands.

          And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.  And Jesus charged them to tell no one.  But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.  And Jesus heals the guy.  And Jesus takes him out back to the crowd, and the deaf guy can hear, he can talk.  And the crowds are astonished.  They see what has been done and they are amazed.  And so they start running off to tell people, and Jesus says, “wait, don’t go off running, don’t go off talking,” but they do anyway.  So, why does Jesus tell them not to go tell anyone.  Is Jesus being shy here?  More, I’d wager, is that Jesus is just being practical.  The people were already pretty revved up, waiting to see a miracle, and then they just explode.  And do you know what comes next in Mark’s Gospel?  The feeding of the 4000.  Thousands of people come running – but they don’t bring anything to eat.  They come running, not prepared.  Jesus wants to teach – in fact, He’s going to teach for three days – and in their haste, these folks end up not being prepared.  We know the feeding of the 4000 thousand, it’s going to work out, but still, we shouldn’t be going off half cocked.

          Yet the people do understand that something important is going on, something other than a simple miracle.  They aren’t disingenuous.  And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  Think on Genesis.  And it was Good.  Creation restored.  Things made the way they should be.  The crowd gets this, they are excited because they see that Jesus isn’t some showboat, some huckster, He’s from God putting things back the way they should be.  And we know this too – we know these miracles just lead up and point to the great miracle that Jesus would do, the great fixing of creation, when He goes to the cross and pays the penalty for sin, when He rises from the dead and restores our relationship with God.  The crowd gets it, the crowd understands that something more than they were expecting is here for them.  And that fuels their excitement and eagerness.

          So, that is our text.  That is our lesson for this morning.  Now, let us ponder it a moment.  Who in this text are we most like?  Who do we relate to, who do we parallel in our lives?  And there are parallels we can draw between us and the crowd – we eagerly look to Jesus, and what He does for us is beyond our expectation.  That is completely true.  And we can compare ourselves to Jesus – and rightfully so, for it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  We show forth His love all the time, and we see the instruction that the love we show out should be individualized, personal, one on one – not to our own praise.  There’s a lot here in this text, but I don’t want to keep you here for two hours.  No, to close this morning, let’s compare ourselves to the deaf man.

          The man was deaf and mute – he had a hard time communicating.  How often that describes us.  That’s what sin does.  It isolates us from each other, cuts us off.  Sin makes us quick to turn a deaf ear to the hurts and wants of our neighbor.  Sin stops our mouths from saying a kind word, or worse, Sin has us speak vileness and words of hatred and anger.  Sin does spiritual and emotional damage to us just as much as it did to that deaf man physically.  But just as Christ cured this man physically, He comes to us – for Jesus is the great physician of both Body and Soul, and He treats our spiritual malady.  Jesus makes us to hear.  Through His Word, Jesus opens our ears; His forgiveness rips the sin away, unplugs our ears so we can hear – we can pay attention to the needs of others.  He teaches us to hear – He continues to teach us to hear His Word all of our life.  And Jesus also teaches us to speak.  I love the introduction to Matins – the first lines.  O Lord, open my lips/ and my mouth will declare Your praise.  This is what God does for you.  He opens your lips, so that you can now speak forth words of love to each other and words of praise to Him.  This is one of the reasons He gave you His Holy Spirit at Baptism – so that His Word, that same Word which you have heard, would be on your lips.  God is present here among us in His Word, and He is shaping and changing and building us into who we are to be.  He does this constantly – He does this over and over by His Word.  He does this by His Supper.  This is training, this is healing.  In His Word and in His Sacraments God gives you forgiveness, gives you His strength, does it for you now, here, this time, this day. Now, O Zion, is the day of Salvation, here and now, O Zion, is the taste of heaven, here and now, O Zion, your Lord calls you out of the hustle and bustle of the world, takes you aside, and gives you healing in His Word, in His Supper, gives you strength for the coming days, He gives you forgiveness.  And that indeed, is a fantastic thing.

          Dear friends in Christ, see and learn today that our Lord both teaches and heals.  He wishes people to know what He is doing in their lives, the miracles He does.  And our Lord wishes you to know and understand the miracle which He gives you – the miracle of the forgiveness of your sin, the restoration of your soul.  He teaches you as He forgives you, the two are always intertwined.  He teaches and forgives you in His Word, and He teaches and forgives you in His Supper.  And thus, having been opened by Him, our lips give praise.  Our hearts having been cleansed and renewed, we sing His praises, both now this morning, and on through all eternity, with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven.  This is your hope and joy in Christ, which none shall take away.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost+ Amen.   

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