15th Sunday after Pentecost, September 9th, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
God Comes and Saves You, Mark 7:31-37, Vicar Jason Toombs
“Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” The opening words from the Prophet Isaiah for us today. The important thing that you should remember is that “God will come and save you.” God made this promise to the Old Testament saints and fulfilled this promise when He came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah, the anointed one, would perform many miracles. Jesus performed many miracles throughout His ministry and today we see two miracles that Isaiah prophesied. The ears of the deaf were unstopped and the tongue of the mute sang for joy.
St. Mark writes that Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. He was healing the sick, teaching them in parables, and with a word casts out a demon. A man who was deaf and had a speech impediment was brought to Him. They begged Jesus to lay His hand on the man and heal him. Jesus took the man aside from the crowd so that He could heal him. He didn’t do this in front of a large crowd to draw more attention to Himself but took the man aside so He could heal him privately.
The way in which Jesus healed this man was different. Jesus healed some people with His touch and a word. He healed many people with only His word. This healing was different. This time Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Jesus touched the source of the man’s ailment. The man could not hear and Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Jesus spits. Then He touched the man’s tongue. Jesus touched another of the man’s ailments, his tongue. The man had a speech impediment and could not speak. His tongue was bound and he couldn’t communicate with others. Jesus had touched the non-working ears and tongue of a man who was both deaf and mute.
And looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” Jesus looked up to heaven to show the man where the source of the healing could be found. Jesus, the man who came down from heaven, is the source. Then Jesus sighed, that is, He groaned. He groaned in much the same way that we sometimes do, where the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He opened His mouth the same way that the man would in a moment. He sighed and His tongue was loosed and said to the man, “Ephphatha, be opened.” He said this to the man’s ears and tongue, “Be opened.” He confronted the ailments of brokenness in this man’s life and opens and releases them. An amazing miracle is performed where this man can hear and speak.
But it wasn’t just the man’s physical hearing and speaking that Jesus touched and healed; He opened not only the outer ears of the flesh, but also the inner ears of faith. He loosed the man’s tongue, not so that it could wag or gossip or worship a false idol, but so that he could confess Jesus Christ as Lord. But if Jesus loosed the man’s tongue to confess, then why does He command the man and his friends to keep silent? In part because it is not yet Jesus’ time for glory and honor. And even more because no one can understand the true significance and meaning of this miracle until a greater miracle of healing and restoration has taken place on a cross and in a tomb outside of Jerusalem. Jesus heals this deaf and mute man as a foretaste of His passion when He takes more than broken ears and a mute tongue upon Himself. He will do more than speak a healing word, He will shed His perfect blood and give up His life for the sin of the world. On that first day of the week, a new creation dawns as Jesus’ resurrected body bursts forth from the grave as the perfect man, a perfect living specimen of restored humanity.
We are not born into this restored humanity. We are born into a world where there is deafness, blindness, and mouths unable to speak. We are born into a world where sin rules. Sometimes babies are born physically deaf, blind, or mute, but everyone is born deaf, blind, and mute, just not in a way that we normally think about. We are born with a deaf ear to the gospel, a blind eye toward faith, and a mute tongue to our neighbor. We are born only to care about ourselves and those closest to us and this love is not, of itself, a bad thing. It can be a bad thing when we don’t love other people as God has called us to love them. The devil, with his limited power, tries to keep it this way. He tries to keep everyone from hearing the saving message of the gospel. He tries his hardest but ultimately has no power.
The devil has no power because Jesus has all the power and authority in heaven and earth. Jesus opens the eyes, ears, and mouths of His chosen people in Holy Baptism. God comes and saves you in your baptism. He opens the eyes of your heart so that you can see Him as the Savior of the world and the One who went to the cross to take away your sins. He opens your ears so that His saving message can be implanted in them. The little seed of the gospel is powerful and active. It can bring unbelievers to faith because it contains the Promised One, our Savior. It needs to be constantly in your ears because the world focuses on anything but Jesus. He opens your mouths, the mouths of His saints, to spread this message. His message is spread wherever the Bible is read and His saving gospel is proclaimed. His message is spread by His blessing now.
In today’s gospel lesson Jesus charged the man and his friends to tell no one. That no longer applies. It no longer applies because Jesus has overcome sin, death, and the grave in His death and resurrection. Now is the time of Jesus’ glory and honor. He took the sin of the world upon Himself on the cross. He took man’s blindness, deafness, and all of our other infirmities into Himself and put them to death. His death and resurrection are at the center of His saving message, He died and rose for your forgiveness. And in His resurrection He has made all things new.
By His shed blood on the cross you are healed and redeemed and made new in baptism. Yet your sin still clings to your flesh, the devil continues his attacks on you, and the world presses you to look to anything but Jesus for salvation. Your sicknesses, diseases, and pains continue to be real struggles for you. You and I live in the world with all of our struggles. But remember, we are saved out of the world by Jesus. He who overcame the world through His death and resurrection has come and saves you from this fallen world. He has begun this new work in you and will bring it to completion on the last day.
“He has done all things well.” He has done everything perfectly. He perfectly kept all of the commandments and restores you to perfection and holiness. What was lost in the fall has now been restored, but we can’t see it with these earthly eyes that we have. We won’t be able to see it until the last day when He returns and makes all things new for us to see. Then we will see with our own eyes the new creation that Jesus Christ has made in His death on the cross for us. On the last day, God will come and raise you up to live in that new, perfect creation where sin and satan no longer have power, because in the new creation, God reigns.
God comes and saves you from the sin of closing your ears to the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He comes and saves you from the sin of not sharing the faith of Jesus with those around you. He comes and saves you from all these sins and so many more. He comes and saves you through the washing of water combined with His saving Word. He comes and saves you through His body and blood given for you in His Holy meal meant for broken, sinful, repentant people with painful, shattered lives, and hurting hearts. Hear your Lord’s Word, “you are forgiven, I love you,” and come and be healed and strengthened in body and soul. Then with your believing heart and comforted conscious confess that the Lord your God has “done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Amen.