Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trinity 12 (Mark 7:31-37)

“He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning is the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the seventh chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Dear friends in Christ, “He has done all things well.” That is what the people said, that is what they told their friends, their neighbors, their children. “He has done all things well.” They saw with their own eyes deaf ears now opened, bound tongues now released, released to tell the world about Jesus. This man told them of Jesus spiting and touching his tongue, he recounted how Christ thrust His fingers into his ears. He couldn’t hear the groans of our Lord, he didn’t hear the Word which opened his ears; he couldn’t even vocalize to Jesus his plea for help. But even if he couldn’t hear the voice of the Creator standing in creation, that Word did what it said. Ears—opened! Tongue—loosened! “He has done all things well!” Jesus sternly instructed him not to tell anyone; the first words he heard was a command that he and his friends didn’t obey. They couldn’t stop praising; he who before couldn’t speak rightly now gave right praise to Jesus, he spoke the truth about his Lord. His ears were opened by the Word to hear the Word, to believe in Jesus, and His tongue was released from bondage to sing His praises: “He has done all things well!”

The world scoffs at these words, it mocks the joy of the crowd. Has He? Has Jesus truly done all things well? That’s a pretty big claim for people who have seen a grand total of one miracle. He has done all things well? Let’s do the math. There is one incident in all of Scripture, Old Testament or New Testament, where a deaf man has his ears unstopped. One man. Certainly, the Gospels allude to others; when Jesus receives the messengers of John the Baptist, He tells them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” All right, so we can admit that probably more than one deaf man was healed by Jesus, but how many deaf people do you think lived in first century Palestine? Certainly a lot more than Jesus ever healed. He has done all things well? All things? Did He heal every disease, did He stop every death, did He feed every hungry belly? No, His miracles, as amazing as they were, were only drops of healing in a bucket of suffering.

Consider the man formerly deaf. Did he live forever? Having been touched by Jesus, did he relax in comfort and security the rest of his life? He could hear and talk, certainly, but that was not the end of the dangers that would face him. How do you think he died? Did he starve, or was he killed by robbers, or did he perish in the violence of the Jewish revolt? The chances aren’t good that he died in his bed. He died like so many others did, those whom Jesus didn’t help, those whose town Jesus didn’t visit, those who missed his ministry by a generation or a century. He has done all things well? It appears He has only done a few things well, for only a few lucky people, and even they still died.

This line of thinking makes us uncomfortable, it makes us squirm in our pews. We mumble something about ‘spiritual healing,’ that Jesus is really only concerned about our souls, not our bodies, but that isn’t very comforting, is it? Doesn’t the world have a point? He has done all things well? It certainly doesn’t seem like it when you look at your own life. Has He done all things well when your nerves, or your joints, or your heart or your lungs decline and fail? Has He done all things well when you receive a diagnosis of cancer, when you suffer a heart attack, when you have a stroke? Has He done all things well when you are depressed, or filled with anxiety, or bound with the chains of addiction? Yeah, He healed a deaf man a long time ago, but has He healed you?

Has He done all things well when your spouse lies in a hospital bed, quickly approaching death? Has He done all things well when your friends betray you, leaving you alone when you needed them the most? Has He done all things well when terrorists blow up café’s, when airplanes disappear, when tornados rip through churches? Has He done all things well when Planned Parenthood kills and then rips apart unborn children for parts? Every disease, every disaster, every instance of suffering cries out against the joyful words of the crowd in our text. He has done all things well? These people have seen a grand total of one miracle; you read of more suffering that Jesus doesn’t stop on the front page of the Lincoln Journal Star each and every day. A Jesus who seems to care only about your soul, who healed a few people in first-century Palestine, but does nothing about all the other suffering that fills our world—can you really say that He has done all things well?

Yes, yes you can. He has done all things well—all things. There is absolutely nothing that He has not done well. Your eyes cannot see it, the world cannot believe it, but it is true: He has done all things well. By the power of His Word He opens your ears to hear the truth that lies behind the mess of sin and suffering that is all your eyes can see. You are brought to Him, unable to hear rightly, unable to speak rightly, unable to even cry out to Him for mercy, and He acts in compassion. Your need is great: you cannot hear the truth of God’s Word, you cannot speak rightly about God; like the world all you hear and all you can speak are lies. But Jesus has compassion upon you, He looks up to heaven and He groans. He groans because He knows what it cost to heal you; He knows the price that was required of Him to open your ears and loosen your tongue. He groans because He felt the burden heavy upon Him, He knew what lay ahead, but He refused to be moved from the path set before Him and He went forth to accomplish the salvation He now delivers to you.

He touches you with water, splashing it upon your forehead, and He says, “Ephphatha—Be opened!” He speaks His powerful Word to deaf ears, and they are opened by its power. Your ears are opened by the Word to hear the Word, the Word which is truth. You hear the truth about your Jesus, what His groans mean, what it cost to redeem you, both body and soul. Water washes over your body, but it is not simply a bath. He cleanses your soul in Baptism, and He also claims your body as His own, promising you that all who are baptized into His Name will be healed, they will even live when they die. Your ears are opened to hear the Word which proclaims to you Christ’s victory over every evil that fills this world and your own life.

You hear of the Jesus who spat at the evil of this world, showing His contempt, His anger at what sin had done to those whom He loves. You hear of how evil spat back, as sinful men mocked Him and struck Him, scourged Him and nailed Him to a cross. What your ears tell you your eyes cannot see, that Jesus hung upon the cross to destroy the power of sin and death, to defeat every disease, to overcome every cause of suffering in this fallen, corrupted world. He took all of the evil of this world into Himself and put it to death with Himself on the tree, then left it behind in the grave, as He rose in victory. You hear of the resurrected, victorious Jesus, who passed through death and the grave and then rose, in His body, to guarantee your resurrection. The world tells us that Jesus healed only a few who happened to cross His path; Easter preaches to us that Jesus will heal all believers on the Day of the resurrection of all flesh. He has done all things well. He has accomplished salvation, groaning on the cross to conquer and destroy all that corrupted God’s perfect creation, guaranteeing perfect healing for all for all who believe.

The healings of Jesus are temporary, to be sure; all who were healed by Jesus during His ministry eventually succumbed to some other malady and died. But they received a foretaste of the healing and restoration to come; the healing they received was a preview of an eternity where disease, suffering, and death itself are no more. What Jesus demonstrated through His healings is that suffering will end, the reign of evil will be finished, victory is coming. The Creator stands in His creation, in the flesh, to heal it of its brokenness. He certainly cares about your soul, but He also cares about your body, and He died and rose again to redeem both and give to you the gift of an embodied eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. He has done all things well. Christ may in mercy bring a limited end to your sufferings here in this life, but a Day is surely coming when He will bring an end to all evil, raising you up perfectly healed and restored, never to suffer again, never to die again. He will wipe away every tear from your eyes. And until that Day, we will not cease saying, “He has done all things well!”

He has done all things well! He has opened your ears to hear the proclamation of His victory over sin and death, to believe what His Word says, not what your eyes see. And He has loosened your tongue to sing His great praises. “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Right hearing leads to right praise; when you hear the Word of God in its truth and purity, what you speak, the praises you sing, will proclaim that truth. Right hearing and right praise go together; wrong hearing always leads to wrong praise. Jesus makes deaf ears hearing ears, opening them with the very power of the finger of God, and He makes impeded speech, speech poisoned by the lies of this world, into right speech, speech that speaks the truth about God and gives Him great thanks and praise. He touches those tongues with His Body and Blood, loosening them to give Him the thanks and praise that He is due. Our eyes do not see the truth; that is what our ears hear, from His powerful Word, and that is what our tongues confess. They have been loosened for this very purpose, loosened to sing His praises, to rejoice with the great Te Deum of all the saints, joining an exuberant crowd in the Decapolis so long ago, saying to Jesus: ‘You even made me hear your Word and speak your praises! You have done all things well!’ In His Name, Amen.

No comments: