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Trinity 12 – Mark 7:31-37

by pastorjuhl ~ August 28th, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Human nature wants to focus on what is happening now rather than what will happen later. Looking ahead to something yet to happen gets lost when you see and hear wonderful things happening right before your eyes. Perhaps Jesus wants the bigger picture of the Kingdom of Heaven not to get lost in the little things like healing a deaf-mute man or feeding five thousand (even four thousand) men with meager food stuffs. All these miracles, and the many other signs Jesus performs in His earthly ministry, point toward the resurrection. Yet the joy of the resurrection is lost in the wants and needs of here and now.

You have lost the big picture too. You look for signs and wonders in the present time, forgetting that Jesus promises greater things when He returns to judge the living and the dead. The prophet Isaiah says in the Old Testament reading: In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah is talking about the day of resurrection, the beginning of everlasting life. We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. This new home is future glory, while also being a present reality. Nevertheless, present reality trumps future glory. We see this when well-meaning people follow supposed Christian “ministers” who promise “your best life now.” Suffering is described as a lack of faith. Illness means you have too much sin that needs to go. Yes, suffering and illness will happen this side of eternity. However, in the midst of suffering and illness God is present to provide sure and certain hope in the midst of tragedy.

The hope of an end to suffering and illness isn’t enough for you. What’s the harm of letting someone who claims to have special healing powers from God lay their hands on you? If you have enough faith, then they might be able to heal you. Notice the qualifying language in that last sentence. Dependence falls on you, not on God. You have to believe. You have to want it. You may not have what it takes to be healed. You had better find a way to believe that you can be without physical impediments.

No wonder so many people are disenchanted with the Christian faith. They have heard one too many stories of failure rather than the Good News of an end to sin, sickness, and death in the resurrection. Preachers and hearers have misled themselves to believe that wonder working must appear in the Christian Church in order to show that Christianity is true. This is chasing after the wind and a quest for glory. This is the way of the devil. This is also not to say that miracles do not happen among Christians. But where are the miracles of the modern-day Christian Church?

Martin Luther has the answer. “God has shown us no other way by which we can come into heaven than through His precious Word, the Holy Gospel. Whoever gladly and diligently hears and receives it, and who loves and delights in it, will be helped. That is the one miracle that daily still takes place in Christendom, that our ears, which the devil stopped up through sin, are again opened by the Word, so that we receive it.”

You are a witness to a miracle in the Christian Church; a miracle that you probably didn’t even suspect was a miracle! You don’t enter eternity through witnessing or even being the receiver of some sort of spiritual hocus-pocus. You enter eternity through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. His Good News of death for your sin and resurrection for your justification opens Paradise for you. All that is necessary for eternal life is gladly to hear this Word and receive it, believing that this Word of reconciliation is your glorious treasure.

The Word tied to water and the mandate of Christ washes you clean from sin and everlasting death. Your Baptism is your passport to everlasting glory. The font stands as a witness to the miracle of new life for you. It is your Ephphatha moment, the moment when Jesus opened your ears and your mouth to hear the Word of God and gladly speak that Word back to Him in praise of what He has done. He opens your mouth so you may confess that Jesus is Lord, telling others the hope that is put in you with the Word that can never die.

The Word tied to bread and wine and the mandate of Christ take away your sin and give you life and salvation. Eating His Body and drinking His Blood show forth the death of Christ until He comes. In this Holy Communion Jesus feeds you with medicine that delivers eternity. It is your Ephphatha moment, the moment when Jesus puts His mandate of forgiveness into your mouth and opens your ears to hear His Word of pardon for you.

Saint Paul writes, our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. The healing of the deaf-mute man in today’s Gospel is an image of our healing in the ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of righteousness. Paul continues, if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. Lack of hearing, speaking, and seeing has an end in Jesus Christ, the first-born from the dead. His Word is permanent and certain. He has done all things well, even today. He does all things well to forgive sin and bestow eternal life. We cannot help but speak what we have seen and heard the Lord do among us. This is the ministry of the Spirit that continues to all eternity, the ministry that delivers Jesus as the Healer of death and Bestower of life.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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