Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
22. August 2010
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
“He Even Makes the Deaf Hear and the Mute Speak”
Dear Christians, the beautiful Gospel text for today, recorded for us according to St. Mark, is a unique miracle. Normally, Jesus heals simply by His Word. He speaks and the deed is done. Normally, He only says “Ephphatha” and the ears are opened.
This should be no surprise to us. Jesus is the very creative Word of God dwelling bodily among us. Jesus is the Word that God spoke into the darkness, creating the heavens and the earth. Jesus is the Word that was promised to Eve, the Word that would crush the serpent’s head. Jesus is the Word that restored the infertility of Sarah. Jesus is the Word that divided the Red Sea. Jesus is the Word that brought quail and manna in the wilderness. Jesus is the Word that brought Israel to repentance. Jesus, the Word made flesh, does what He says.
Usually, when Jesus goes about making all things well by healing the lame, the blind, the sick, and the mute, He does so by merely speaking His Word, the Word that makes and remakes. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus takes it one step further. In today’s text, Jesus uses physical means of fingers and spit. Jesus teaches us that He works through His body. His Word is not simply words on a page. The Word took on human flesh and dwells among us in this body. This Gospel is a wonderful comfort to those who fear Jesus is absent. It shows God is present here now to make all things well for you. He is present because your sinful flesh must be made new in His own flesh in order that you may believe and remain in this faith.
JESUS PHYSICALLY HEALS THE SPIRITUALLY DEAF TO CONFESS THE WORD.
1. Jesus’ Word has power to heal our physical illness.
As Jesus went about teaching and preaching, His Word was accompanied with great signs and testaments to His two natures. Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity. He is called the “I AM.” St. Thomas calls Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus does the things only God can do. He heals many and casts our demons. He creates from nothing. Lazarus lay dead for days but Jesus has the authority and power to grant to him life where no life remains. So also, with Jairus’s daughter.
Second, Jesus is true man, born of the virgin Mary. He eat, slept, and drank. He worked, He washed, and He wept. He feasted and drank wine at the wedding of Cana. He shared food at the table of Nicodemus. He celebrated the Passover with His disciples. He cooked and ate fish with His disciples after His resurrection. Jesus is found sleeping in the boat. He rested and prayed in the desolate place. In Gethsemene, he wept tears and sweated blood.
But most of all, He suffered the agony of His torture and crucifixion. He suffered for the sake of all people, even unto death. As only man can do, Jesus died. He died to suffer the punishment for our disobedience to God’s Law. But as only God can do, He rose to new life. By His resurrection, Jesus overcomes both death and the devil for us.
Jesus, true God and true Man has all authority in heaven and on earth. Thus, only Jesus has the power to heal our physical diseases. The creative Word, Jesus incarnate, creates and recreated. His Word resurrected and restored His own flesh. So too, His Word restores and refreshes us bodily. Jesus can restore this flesh just as He restore His own flesh. In His wisdom, Jesus restores our flesh in this life to love Him and love our neighbors by serving them.
Other times, in His wisdom, Jesus withholds this healing. He places this life of suffering on us so that we never fail to trust Him and to seek Him in our infirmity. We suffer so that our hope remains on no one other than Jesus. We suffer so like Job our lives can be a testament to others of the hope that is in us.
Do not be deceived dear Christian. We all suffer physically. We suffer in the body. We all suffer under our flesh. This corrupt nature coughs and wheezes. It groans under headache and arthritis. It is sore and bruised. It is weak and sick. This corrupt flesh is cancerous and addicted to poison. No good can come of this flesh. From birth, we have only bodies of death.
Some have it easier, leading mostly healthy lives. They are athletic and young. They still suffer physical temptation, especially to sin sexually with the their flesh. This temptation is their flesh trying to hasten their death. Satan himself uses this corruption to lead us to all shame. This shame leads many to reject God and fall into utter corruption. Do not be deceived. The sexually impure can not inherit eternal life.
Repent. Repent of those seemingly innocent glances. Repent of the immoral thoughts of your flesh. Repent of the adulterous thoughts and deeds. Repent and turn back to the pure and chaste life Christ intended for your flesh.
Yet, even in repentance, you still remain sick. Even after repenting of the flirting, the coveting, and unfaithfulness, your dirty heart of flesh returns like a dog to its vomit. Even in repentance, desiring to sin no more, you repeat the deadly offenses.
This is because we have a far worse condition: our mind and heart rejects God and His Word. We are just like the deaf-mute man. Our flesh is deaf. It has no power to hear the Word of God. We are tongue-tied to confess Jesus as Lord. Our sinful bodies utterly reject God and His Word for us. This flesh fails to keep His commands. It steals, covets, commits adultery, lies, dishonors parents and destroys every good thing. It also fails to trust in His promises, refusing to call upon God in every trouble. It speaks falsehoods of God, adding lies to God’s clear Word. It refuses to hear his Word every Sabbath and each day that the Lord has made.
Our true nature is foreign to the world. Our flesh says that we can fix our problems. We think we can repair the heart. We think we can correct the deformity. We think we can heal the disease. And often, it appears as such. The whole self-help culture doesn’t get it. The whole parenting-through-love culture doesn’t get it. Eastern meditation practices don’t get it. We can’t help ourselves. We can only repent. We can only desire to do better. And even that doesn’t heal us.
2. Even greater, Jesus’ Word opens our ears to confess His name.
But God did not leave us in the misery of this flesh. He sent His Son to crucify this flesh, this body of death. This good news, this Gospel, has been given to us. Jesus today is active here in this place to heal our bodies.
“He put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting, touched his tongue. And looking 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” (Mark 7:33-35).
His very Word preached is the finger of the God-man stuck into our ears. This finger has the authority of Christ’s Spirit to open the blockage. This finger remakes our flesh. It restores our sinful hearing to once again hear and trust in His Word.
Christ’s Spirit works in us repentance that does not only desire to do better but is given power to abstain from the vices of our flesh. Only by the Spirit of Jesus does our repentance have any effect. Christ’s Spirit active in His Word opens our ears and restores all our flesh to trust in Him.
Just like He came to the deaf-mute man, Jesus comes to us with His body for our body. Christ cares for our bodies not only to preserve us in this body. He cares for our flesh so that we might hear and believe. He cares for our flesh so that we not continue in temptation and vice but be restored to new life that lives according to His Word.
Just like the deaf-mute man, Christ unties our tongues from the impediment of timidity and fear. Christ loosens our tongue to not be ashamed of Him and His Word. What specific Word do we confess? We confess that Word, God made flesh in Jesus. This is the God who sent His son in the body to suffer and die for our flesh. He is the God-man who knows that try as we might, our attempts at self-help and self-improvement fail. He is the God-man who knows that our repentance and desire to do better is weak and frail. He is the God-man who restores our flesh and makes in us a clean heart to serve God and to serve our neighbor. Only by the grace of the crucified and resurrected Jesus do we have relief from our suffering. Only by this grace do we find relief from the temptations of the flesh. Only by this grace can we receive all that God has for us joyfully and trusting.
“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” (Mark 7:32). The crowds of the Decapolis who brought the deaf-mute man to Jesus were faithful hearers of the Word. These Gentiles believers did not go to Caesar to heal their friend. They did not take him to the healing baths. They didn’t try out the pagan temples and their rites.
No, instead, they heard and trusted that Jesus was the only one who had the authority to help their friend. Did they only seek relief for his suffering? No, they new they knew the prophecies. They knew that God would restore His people, opening the eyes of the blind. They knew that the lame would leap like deer (Isaiah 35). They knew that the deaf would be restored to hear the Word (Isaiah 29:18).
These faithful Gentiles knew that Jesus was the one prophesied. They knew Jesus was the one who would heal their friend so he could hear and come to understanding. They knew Jesus was the Holy One of Israel who would loosen their friend’s tongue, the tongue that had never spoken, so that this formerly deaf-mute would speak plainly of the glories of God. Thus they confessed, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37).
We have this same confidence through Christ toward God. We too are “astonished beyond measure” (Mark 7:37). Christ has opened our ears by the finger His Word, preached in the flesh by His chosen ministers. The Spirit of Christ restores our body to new life in Him.
So too, Christ works through the means of His flesh to loosen our tongues to confess His holy name. We were washed in His blood in Holy Baptism. Our flesh is being restored daily through prayer and study of Christ’s Word. We have witnessed the glory of God present in the flesh of Jesus, broken and shed for us for our forgiveness in the Holy Sacrament. His Holy body and blood placed in our mouths unties our tongue. Thus, dear Christians, we have confidence and a sure hope in Christ.
May God grant to us the same open ears to His Word as the deaf-mute man. May God grant us the same tongue of the Spirit to confess His holy name. May God grant us the same restored flesh that trusts in the Word and brings those in need to Jesus. Let us beg Jesus to lay his hand upon them, place his fingers in their ear, and loosen their tongue. Let us be zealous and proclaim this great Gospel, the good news of a new heart of the Spirit. This is the gift no self-help program can bring. The power unto salvation is from God alone in the body of God-man, Jesus. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind steadfast in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.