Monday, September 10, 2018

Sermon - Pentecost 16 - Mark 7:31-37

Mark 7:31-37
“He Does All Things Well”

Perhaps you know someone who is what they call a “Jack of all trades”. Maybe you are that someone. It certainly isn't me. The “master of none” part fits me just fine. For most of us, we can do some things pretty well, some things ok, and many things we just have no clue about. I can change a tire, but not spark plugs. I can change a light bulb, but A/C repair is beyond me. I can re-format a hard drive, but don't ask me to build a computer. And usually, we have that one skill or set of skills that helps us pay the bills. And good for you if you also enjoy that activity.

But look at what they say about Jesus in Mark 7. He heals the deaf and mute man, and the people who witness declare, “He has done all things well...” Jesus is no “Jack-of-all-trades, but master-of-none”. He is Master of all. Lord of all. King of creation. And so it shouldn't surprise them that he can do this miracle, or any miracle, really, if they believed in him. He has done all things well. That's really quite an understatement!

Jesus has been busy. He has, already in 6 chapters of Mark, been baptized and tempted, driven out evil spirits and healed many of various diseases. He has preached good news to the poor, cleansed a leper, healed a paralytic and a man with a withered hand. He calmed a storm, cast out a legion of demons, healed a woman with a flow of blood and raised a little girl from the dead. He fed the 5000 and cast out a demon from a little girl without even seeing her in person. And now he heals the deaf and mute man. And of course, all along the way he'd been teaching them in sermons and parables. You can see why the people were impressed. You can see why they said, “He has done all things well”.
But more than the spectacle of it all, more than the wonder at these mighty works, is the fulfillment of prophecy.
He has done all things well – in terms of all those things that are marks of the Messiah. Here, he fulfills the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 35:5:
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;”
He has done all things well. This is one of those unwitting prophetic sayings that happen from time to time in Scripture. Like the crowd that cried out, “his blood be upon us and on our children” - yes, it was to be upon them, but not in the way they meant. Or Caiaphas, who advised the Jews that “it is better that one man die for the people”. While they perhaps meant, “He has done all things well” as a general sort of atta-boy, an adulation of praise, even, we could apply it much more deeply and broadly to Jesus.

Jesus' attention to detail in fulfilling the scriptures even shows as he hung, suffering, on the cross. “In order to fulfill the scripture, he said, 'I thirst'.”
Yes, he did it all – was born of a virgin – Isaiah 7 check! Was born in Bethlehem Micah 5 – check! Was a suffering servant – check many places in Isaiah. Was forsaken by God – check Psalm 22! Gave the sign of Jonah and rose again – Check – Jonah 3! And we could go on and on and on. Even the whole Old Testament speaks of him, foreshows him, points to him the Messiah, the Christ, the long-promised savior.

More than that, he has done all things well – in procuring our salvation. He keeps the law perfectly, down to the smallest detail. He offers the perfect sacrifice – a lamb of God without spot or blemish – a lamb that is slain for the people, whose blood washes over us, and washes us clean. He does what no one else could, what no one else can, what no one else would, or could even imagine. He bears the sins of the world. All of them. He has done all things well. He even conquered death, snapping its strong bands to tatters as he arose in glory. He has done all things well.

And then there's you. You and I, who have not done all things well. Hold us to the same standard, in fact hold us to almost any standard, and we don't come out looking so good. The Ten Commandments strip down any supposed good works we could hope to offer. We can't even get past the first one – have no other gods. In spiritual terms, the only thing we can do well is sin – pervert and abuse God's good gifts, turn away from him and in on ourselves. We can't love God or our neighbor as we should. We don't. The Old Adam doesn't really even want to. We sin in thought, word, and deed. We have well earned sin's wage of death.

And like the deaf man who cannot hear - we are so deaf to God, so dead in our trespasses, that we cannot even hear his word, let alone speak it. Of our own devices we are spiritually blind and deaf and mute and dead. I cannot by my own reason or strength. Helpless and hopeless until Jesus comes along. But he does. He takes our bad works and gives us his good. He takes our death and gives us his life. He opens our eyes and ears and loosens our tongues to faith – a faith we could never have without him, and his Spirit.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. And even though we are spiritually deaf by nature - the word of God itself creates what it demands. The Gospel itself is the power of salvation. It cleanses hearts, gives life, opens ears to hear.

And so Jesus speaks to a deaf man – and think of that – speaks to his deaf ears and commands them to hear. He brings into being, by the power of his word, that which was not. And it is so.

He speaks also to you. His word reaches the cold, dead ears of your sinful nature, and whispers “Ephatha”. And faith comes. Suddenly you can hear. And hearing you believe. And believing, you also speak.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. And all your not-so-well is covered by his everything-well.

The word, “well” in the Greek “kalos” is the same word, “good” (Adverb, Adjective), that Greek uses for the Genesis account, when God made everything and declared it “very good”. And just think of that. That God the Son, by whom all things were made, and who made everything good, and with man, even very good – this God become flesh in the person of Jesus – has done all things well, and for your good. And to restore you to the good, even the very good he meant for you to be. It's no accident that the book of Revelation pictures our eternal home as a restoration of that ancient paradise – complete with the reappearance of the tree of life – and its fruit year-round and leaves for the healing of the nations.

Of course, you don't see this right away. Your ears of faith hear it and believe it – but faith is the assurance of things unseen. Your heart still stammers and stutters to believe the words and promises of Jesus. Your mind doubts like Thomas, and says, “show me”. An outward healing is hard to deny. But inward healing, a declaration of forgiveness, a promise of a resurrection... is harder. And so we waiver. We doubt. We say, “I believe Lord, but help my unbelief.” And so it bears repeating. We must hear the word, the law and the gospel, over and over. Let our ears be drenched with this word of God, until that day when death comes and the flesh can no longer struggle against the Spirit.

Jesus doesn't just heal the ears – he also fixes the tongue. He cures the man's speech impediment, and we hear him speaking plain as day. So too does this gift of faith he gives to you – loosen your tongue to confess Christ, freely, faithfully, and boldly.

You confess him formally, in creeds and catechisms, and as the very words of Scripture roll off your tongues. You confess him informally, giving answer to the hope that is within you. Your faith speaks in actions – as you love your neighbor, show mercy to the weakest and least among us. You even proclaim his death until he comes again when you kneel to receive this cup and this bread, which are his Body and Blood. Your participation is your “amen, yes, it is so!” to his gift and promise.

So, forgiven sinners, read and meditate on that word of life every day. Gather around the word of God each week, humbly confessing and begging forgiveness, as Christ speaks that word of life to us again. Hear the Gospel read, and preached, as the Spirit works to convict and console you, to accuse and pardon you. Hear Christ say, “here's my body and blood for you, to forgive your sins.” and come forward saying, “I'm a sinner. I need what Jesus is giving!” And once again your ears and heart are opened, healed, revived in him. Come this day. In Jesus Christ, Amen.

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