Messiah Lutheran Church, Kenosha, WI
August 26, 2012
Grace, mercy and peace.... greetings to the people of Messiah, etc.
Today's Gospel reading from Mark 7 relates one of the miracles of Jesus, the healing of a deaf-mute man. It happens before the “secret is out” so to speak, and so Jesus does it privately, and tells him to keep quiet about it (at least for now). The time wasn't right yet, though soon Jesus would be telling his disciples to “go and tell”.
It is, like Jesus other miracles, a “calling card”. His miracles are not why he came – but they point to him like a big flashing sign that says, “here's the Messiah”. They fulfill some of the prophecies about the Holy One of God in the midst of them, and also show Jesus' great compassion for people.
But they also teach us about the true character and nature of this Jesus. He is always giving out blessings, in word and deed, healing, forgiving, making whole.
And how precious few are the times the New Testament quotes the actual words, the vocables, of Jesus. There aren't many. “Talitha Cum” Little girl, arise. “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani”, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And today we hear what Jesus said to the deaf man, “Ephatha”, that is, “be opened.”
The powerful word spoken by the Living Word of God, the word that does what it says, gives what it commands. The same word that spoke creation into existence – let there be light, there there be this, and that – is the word and the speaker that recreates this man's broken sense of hearing.
But the problem and the solution are deeper. Illness, disease, deafness, and death are all fruits of the same tree – wages of the same work, and that is sin. The root cause of all our suffering and trouble in life. Sin. If you are struggling with something, stressing about something, feel bad about something, if there's anything wrong in your life – you don't have to look far to see the connection to sin.
Often, it's our own sin. I cause many, maybe most of my own problems in life. And as I look in the mirror, well, St. Paul says it best – the letter kills. The letter of the law. The truth hurts. I am conceived and born in and struggle with my sin, and will until I die.
But sometimes it's the sin of the world around us, the brokenness of creation. Sometimes people are born broken, and sometimes disease takes away our health later in life, and sometimes cancer strikes even the young, bringing suffering and trouble and even death.
But sin always meets its match in Jesus Christ. Sin and its wages of death, disease, trouble, hardship, curse, brokenness, blindness, deafness – all are made right again in Jesus Christ.
For God turned a deaf ear to his own Son, suffering on the cross, “why have you forsaken me?” We know why. Your sins, mine. Jesus Christ, the savior, came not just to heal and have compassion, but to give his life as a ransom for many. He came to suffer and die to take away suffering and death. He came to defeat death once and for all.
And when Jesus was buried, God showed that his sacrifice was acceptable, and he said, “Ephatha” to the tomb, rolled away the stone, and raised Jesus to life in a glorified body. So, too, as the firstborn of the dead, will Christ speak, “Ephatha” to our graves, raise us from the dead to a glorified body, to live with him forever in righteousness and holiness.
This is the light at the end of all tunnels for the Christian. This is the promise that no matter how bad life gets here, there is a better day ahead. No matter how deaf God appears to the sounds of our cry, in Jesus Christ, he hears, and he will answer, will restore, and give us eternal blessing.
By his word, even now, he has opened your ears and your heart, his Spirit speaking that “ephatha” to bring you to faith. For spiritually we are all blind, deaf, utterly helpless, unable to see or hear or know of God on our own. But his grace and mercy come to us in a powerful word and perform a miracle – bringing faith and life where there was only sin and death.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear – and by faith you do. By faith, God gives you the ears to hear his word, the heart to believe it, the eyes to see what is unseen, and the hope to grasp his promises. He gives it in word, and in bread and wine, and in water. He gives and gives, always giving, always blessing.
He opens what is closed. This is our Jesus, opening the ears of the deaf. Opening the graves of the dead. And giving health and wholeness and life, freely and forever. In his holy name, Amen.