Pentecost 1618 (PR18) – “Antidote to Numbness.” Mark 7:31-37
Pentecost 1618 (PR18) – “Antidote to Numbness.” Mark 7:31-37
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Mark, the 7th Chapter.
“31Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.””
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What does it take to amaze you today? We often take for granted the commonplace things. We forget that not too long ago these were just dreams in someone’s mind or plans roughly sketched on a napkin in a restaurant.
I remember in eighth grade English class we had an assignment to come up with a specific product to sell. We had to describe what it would do and if possible have something made to use for a demonstration. We then had to present our product in a sales pitch in from of the class. One guy was rather creative and humorous. He invented something that could be used for eating while dinner and watching television. He held up a paper plate with stems attached to it so you could hook it on your ears. This held the plate at mouth level so that all you did was scrape the food into your mouth without having to look at your plate. You would never miss a minute of your favorite television show.
I on the other hand was somewhat less humorous but no less technical. My product was a hand-held recording machine. It was the size of a small box about the size of a video tape. It was a picture and sound recording device with a screen on which you could play back and listen to what you recorded. I know at the time that video recorders were quite large and expensive. Televisions were also somewhat larger than being hand-held, too. The technology was just beginning to be downsized from vacuum tubes to solid state. Sadly, I never thought to take out a patent.
Today technology has downsized even further from solid state to micro-processing. Today we have such recording devices in quite small packages. Everyone who has a cell phone has one. You can record sounds, take pictures, send messages and talk to your family and friends, or ignore them and become self-absorbed with the game apps you can download from the internet and play. We are not easily amazed today.
In truth we are probably numb to the other than ordinary. We are numb because our senses are overloaded with the stimulation that is only a fingertip away. We can pick up our little piece of technology and in a moment’s notice have instant information from any source who posts messages on the internet. Such messages do not have to be true. They could be fabricated to encourage and sway our thinking to believe what the writer wants us to believe. Sadly, people do believe everything on the internet is true.
Just as sad is the truth that we are so connected for so long that our minds no longer react. We give some news a glance and swipe the screen to move on to the next item. Here’s another ISIS article. Here’s another classified e-mail found on Hillary’s server. Here’s another picture of The Donald’s fly-away hair. The President hasn’t said anything about … yet. Another police officer has been killed. Flip … flip … flip … and the numbness creeps in.
How numb are we toward our God? How often do God’s encouragements and words fall on ears that no longer listen? Where is your amazement at the power of God to change lives and heal souls? Would that we could return to the days of simplicity like the people in the Gospel reading today and be amazed once again that God actually touches our lives and brings us to new life in Jesus Christ.
This was the blessing received by the deaf man in the Gospel reading. Mark writes that this man could neither hear nor speak understandably. Consider what this means for a deaf person. They are literally cut off from society in this part of their lives. They hear no sounds, no voices, no animals, no words or no wind. They see mouths move and lips change shape as they make word, but there is nothing more. They feel the wind as it blows past their face, but they do not hear the rustling of clothes or leaves. They see animals open their mouths but do not know the sound of a dog barking, or a bird chirping. Perhaps they feel the vibrations but they cannot tell you the source of the sound.
This man never heard his parents call to him. When he was hurting there were no words to give him comfort. When he laughed he could not hear others laughing with him. When he was injured he could not tell where he hurt. If he was sick he could not say his stomach hurt or his head ached. Words and sounds are foreign to him. The only thing he has are signs made with hands, fingers, and facial gestures.
Jesus changes this man’s life with a word. He begins with signs. Taking the man aside privately, Jesus places his fingers in the man’s ears. Then Jesus spits and touches the man’s tongue with his finger. Jesus then looks up to heaven and sighs deeply. All these things to indicate the work Jesus was about to accomplish in this man’s life. Jesus is telling this man to be prepared for what will happen. Jesus will give the man hearing ears and will loose his fettered tongue. This Jesus does with one word. Jesus looks at the man and says, ““Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened!”” from that moment on the man’s ears were opened and his tongues was released and he could speak plainly.
For you and for me who already speak plainly this may not seem significant. However, think about this for a moment. This man had no previous ability to hear or to speak Aramaic let alone any other language. Perhaps he could read lips and gain some basic understanding of what people were saying. But he was unable to repeat these same sounds to express his thoughts, needs or feelings. Perhaps we are also a little numb and miss the point of the term “speak plainly.” Literally, the word “plainly” means: correctly, properly, rightly. Jesus gave this man perfect hearing where there was no hearing. Jesus gave this man perfect speech where there was once only garbled sounds. Are you still numb?
What you might fail to realize is Jesus did this same miracle in your life. Once, your ears were closed and your tongues were bound. You lived in the silence of sin and the chains of death. You would not utter one word of praise to God. Nor would you hear God’s voice. Your ears were closed and your tongues were under the rule of sinful rebellion and denial of God. All this until you were brought by your family or a friend to throne of God’s grace and mercy in Holy Baptism. Through the voice of the pastor and touch of his hand pouring over you the water of life, Jesus spoke the same heard by the deaf man. Jesus said to you, “Ephphatha, be opened.”
By the power of that spoken word Jesus opened your ears to hear the good news of salvation, mercy and grace. Such things were earned through the blood bought sacrifice of Jesus Christ who sighed as he touched the life of the deaf man groaned upon the tree of the cross to bring life to a sin hardened world. This we must also remember concerning this miraculous healing. There is meaning to Jesus sigh. Jesus is distraught at the effect of sin in the world. As he touches this deaf man, Jesus is mindful of the work he came to accomplish. In that sigh Jesus reveals how deeply God is troubled by the fall of His creation. In that sigh Jesus reveals his fervent desire to bring His saving work to fulfillment. Jesus desires to lift the burden of sin from our lives and restore to perfection what was lost to sin.
On the cross Jesus lived the words he spoke to the deaf man. Jesus lived those words, “Be opened!” Jesus called upon His Father to weigh the sacrifice of the Son of Man in the balance of God’s righteousness and judge it more than sufficient payment for sin. Jesus called upon His Father to open the gates of eternity that were once closed to man because the Key of David removed the dividing wall of hostility in his body broken and his blood shed on the altar of the cross.
Jesus did this so that sinners might have perfect hearing and perfect speech. Ears opened by Jesus to hear the voice of God coming to them in pages of Scripture to touch them with the Word of Life and the means of Grace. Tongues loosed by Jesus to speak of the wondrous things God wrought them in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hearts and minds that are in awe and amazement that God would consider sinners worthy of His attention, mercy and grace. Lives renewed and raised up by God to bear witness to the living hope of a living God who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Way, the Truth and the Life in Jesus Christ.
For all this Jesus sighed as he looked up to heaven and spoke those healing words to the man once deaf and mute. For all this Jesus groaned upon the tree of the cross to bring healing and life to those dead in trespasses and sins.
God grant that we never become numb and unfeeling toward this saving work of Jesus Christ. May God daily and richly apply His grace that we are moved to live in and speak of the one who opened deaf ears and loosed tangled tongues.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen