Trinity 12 – September 2nd and 3rd, 2017 – Mark 7:31-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
So Jesus is just walking by, on His way to wherever He is going, and suddenly, the people bring to Him a man who is deaf and mute. Can’t hear, can’t talk. These people beg Jesus to lay His hands upon him, to heal this poor man. These are good people, these are good folks. They are utterly kind to this deaf man, bringing him to where he might be healed. They are good and faithful folks, trusting in the goodness of our Lord. And of course, they expect Jesus to heal the man, as do we. But let’s look at what Jesus does in how He heals this man.
First, we hear this, “And taking him aside from the crowd privately”. The very first thing Jesus does is He pulls the man apart from the crowd. Consider what life would be like for the deaf-mute. He has a hard time communicating – he can’t understand, he can’t speak and let his own wants be known – he is cut off. And then, his friends come, and they rushedly bring him out to Jesus – do you see how this might be confusing? So what does Jesus do – first thing, he takes the man aside. There’s not going to be a whole crowd for this man to see and try to take in – Jesus brings this man’s focus onto Himself. And then, what do we see? “… He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.” I really do think that this is one of the most beautiful things in Scripture. Well Pastor Brown, why is jamming your fingers in someone’s ear and spitting and grabbing his tongue beautiful? Because Jesus lets this deaf man know exactly what He is going to do for him. You can’t hear, can you? Well, you can feel – do you feel My fingers going into your ears – well, in a moment My Word is going to come into your ears and open them. You can’t talk, can you? Well, you can see. Can’t spit out the words – well, after I speak My Word, this tongue that doesn’t work right will be able to spit those words on out. It is wonderful care and compassion – it is the Great Physician letting His patient know what He’s going to do. And Jesus didn’t need to, I suppose – He could have just healed the guy right away – but now the man will understand this healing, understand the love that God has for him.
“And looking up to heaven He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘be opened.’” A little bit more visual demonstration – see, I am praying, see, my movements tell you what is going on. And then the Word is proclaimed – “And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” The Word of God once again takes effect. The Word of God, which brought all things into being in the beginning is spoken once again, and there is recreation. Sin, death, the falleness of the world, these all try to destroy creation – try to break it. This man couldn’t hear – broken. This man couldn’t speak right, had an impediment – broken. And then the Word of God comes in, and creation is restored, things are made once again to how they ought to be, those ears that were meant to hear hear again and lips that were meant to speak speak again.
So, what does this mean? What do we learn from this? We see that Christ Jesus, out of His great love, will speak His creative and restorative Word to people to heal them. And this is true for you. Consider your own body. I’d wager that quite a few of us here woke up with aches and pains today, bits and pieces where our own bodies no longer quite work right. I know that some of you, like the man in the lesson, don’t hear so well – and some of you don’t hear nearly as well as you think you do. I’m not immune – I’ve got myself a speech impediment, and I know aches are coming and my ears, my eyesight are all going to be going soon enough. We are sinners in a sinful world, and as such the impact of sin ravages our bodies. That’s what this world brings us – we talk about 40 being over the hill. No, really once you hit around 23, 25, the body’s not improving and growing anymore – it’s starting its slide down towards the wages of sin. And that’s simply where we’d be ending up – but for one thing. Christ Jesus our Lord delights in speaking a Word of creation and restoration. Sometimes we see this in healings here – people getting well again from things they had no right to get well from. Many of us probably could have been dead already, and if it weren’t for God’s care and compassion and healing, we would have been. I should have died at birth; my heart stopped. Yet here I am. It’s why we pray for folks every week – every day. But it's even more than that, dear friends – “and I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come.” The full and complete restoration will come then at the last day when we hear our Lord with the cry of an archangel raise us from the grave, restore our Bodies, restore not just hearing and speech but every sense and every power and every faculty to these bodies here – whether we are alive when He returns or whether our bodies have been long decayed. Either way – spoken unto life again. This is God’s great love for you. You too shall be healed, and it will be for all eternity.
But this text, dear friends, while speaking directly to physical healing, also teaches us and reminds us of more than just our physical healing. This text, this lesson, is an image of the spiritual healing and creation that goes on in your life as well. Spiritually speaking, when you were born, you were born Spiritually deaf and dumb – sin had you cut off from God, cut you off from man. And that’s what sin does – it makes you deaf to hear. It makes you unable to speak rightly. And what happened? Someone brought you to Jesus, someone brought you to where the crowds were gathered around Christ Jesus. Again, this deaf mute wasn’t left to find Jesus on his own, he was brought to Him. Of course, this man had to be brought to Jesus – he wasn’t going to find Jesus on His own. Likewise, someone came to you – perhaps your parents before you can remember, perhaps a friend, and you were brought to Jesus.
Now, let’s keep thinking about this. Brought to a place where crowds were gathered around Jesus – do we know a place where people all gather around Jesus, even today. . . oh, yeah, Church. And what happens to you in God’s Church? God deals with you directly. The Word of God is proclaimed, and you are given faith – your own callous, sinful ears are pierced and opened by the Word of God, and you understand the forgiveness He has won for you upon the Cross with His death and resurrection. And Christ Jesus Himself, through one of His servants, didn’t spit, but took water and spoke Christ’s own Word, and baptized you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – and you were washed clean of your sin, made a child of God, restored to the community of the faithful.
And this isn’t just a thing of the past. Are you still a sinner in a sinful world? Yes, indeed. Satan still tries to clog your ears, tries to tie up your tongue. How about it? This past week, anytime you turned a deaf ear to anyone, anytime you failed to speak words of love and care to another? Of course, and if you think you hadn’t failed this past week, you need to think again. So what does Christ Jesus do? He brings you again to His House, to His Church, where He speaks His Word into your ears to open them, where He places His own Body and Blood upon your tongues so that you are forgiven and may show forth His love. This place is all about how we receive from God through the Word, through the Sacraments (which are nothing other than God’s Word tied and joined into something physical for physical people like us), how we receive from God the love and forgiveness which Christ Jesus won for us upon the Cross. The same sort of things that this deaf man received, the same pattern holds for us here today in what we receive here.
Now, I would like to just take a moment before we conclude to do a little teaching, a little explanation. I have mentioned that I think it is beautiful when Jesus sticks His fingers in the man’s ear, when He grabs the fellow’s tongue. These actions, these physical actions tell and teach what Jesus is going to do. Here in God’s House, we have physical actions that tell and teach us about the faith. Consider – what happens before the Gospel reading? Those who are able to rise do so. Why? What does that movement teach – that something wondrous and worthy of respect and honor is going to happen – the Words of Jesus will be proclaimed. That is worthy of respect. That teaches. In a few moments, I will ask you to rise – why? Because you will receive a blessing from God – and that too is worthy of respect. When I give that blessing – I will make the sign of the cross. Why? Because that tells and teaches you that because you are baptized you can be assured that you have this blessing, that you have God’s peace which surpasses all understanding. These movements, standing or sitting, the sign of the cross – when I kneel in confession, whether I face y’all to speak the Word to you or whether we all face the altar in prayer towards God – these things all teach and focus us upon the receiving of God’s Word – so that even if our minds wander, our bodies move and pull us back onto track. Even these little things, like bowing of our heads in prayer are designed to continually focus us back upon the love and mercy that Christ Jesus has for us.
And so, with this in mind, my dear friends in Christ Jesus – when you hear and consider this text today of the healing of the deaf mute – know that the same Christ Jesus who healed this man does the same for you. He cares not only for your body, which He shall raise again on the last day, but with the power of His Word He has spoken faith into you, brought you into His Church, where our lips are opened and we proclaim the glories of the God who has brought us redemption and forgiveness. For this we shall give Him praise with all the heavenly hosts, even forevermore. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +