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Trinity 12 – Mark 7:31-37

by pastorjuhl ~ August 29th, 2009

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

If an earthly gift brings joy, consider our heavenly Father’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus takes on flesh to give us the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. When Jesus walked among men as a man, He often gave gifts to other men and women. Today’s Gospel features Jesus giving the gift of hearing and speaking to a deaf-mute man. We expect miracles from the Son of God. What is unexpected about this particular miracle is how Jesus heals the man’s deaf ears and mute tongue.

Saint Mark says Jesus took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. There’s no doubt this miracle was an unexpected gift. No other man but the Son of Man can heal someone’s deaf ears and mute tongue. How Jesus healed the man is peculiar. The crowd begged Him to put His hand on him. Jesus does more than lay His hand on him. He sticks His fingers in the man’s ears. He spits and touches the man’s tongue. He speaks a word. That’s much more than merely laying a hand on the man. Jesus invades the man’s personal space.

We treasure intimacy. We flinch when someone touches us. Someone crossed the boundary of intimacy. It’s one thing when a family member crosses that line. We trust them. We know they want to show affection. However, when a stranger or someone we see occasionally invades our personal space, we might be offended or at least embarrassed. What would you think if instead of putting the Body of Christ on your tongue, I touched your tongue and said, “Be opened”? You would think I’m crazy. I invaded your personal space in a disgusting way.

Maybe that’s why we sometimes shy away from our Lord’s public displays of affection. The rites and ceremonies of the Church stimulate the senses. We use ceremonies to fill the eyes with what we believe because doctrine cannot be seen. Things like crosses, candles, incense, vestments, laying on hands, gestures, bread, wine, water, and the spoken word convey our Lord’s gifts. Yet we might be a bit skittish about pastor touching his hand to my head, or pastor putting something directly in my mouth. We crave a personal Savior, but that personal Savior must come to me on my own terms. Don’t touch me. Don’t stare at me. Don’t put anything in my mouth or my hand. Try not to look so handsome. Just wave your hand and say something in my general direction. That’ll be good enough.

If we were to say something similar to someone giving us a gift, Emily Post would roll over in her grave. It’s poor etiquette to gripe about a gift in the giver’s presence. That’s exactly what we do when we tell God how He is supposed to deliver His gifts of forgiveness and salvation to us. Perhaps that’s why our Lord takes the deaf-mute man apart from the crowd. Perhaps another reason why is so He may give the man what he desires up close and personal.

Jesus breaks through the barriers we put up to protect our personal space. Rather than just laying on a hand, He puts His Means of Grace upon us and in us through His called and ordained servants standing in His stead. As we sang a moment ago in the Chief Hymn:

Word that caused blind eyes to see,

Speak and heal our mortal blindness;

Deaf we are: our healer be;

Loose our tongues to tell Your kindness.

Be our Word in pity spoken,

Heal the world, by sin now broken.

(LSB 545:3)

Naaman thought Elisha was a fool when the prophet told the Syrian leper to wash himself in the Jordan seven times and he would no longer be leprous. Naaman’s servants reassured him that he would be healed. If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” Jesus gives the man hearing and speech. He receives the gift with no word of complaint. Jesus gives us deliverance from the evil foe. We receive His gift and say Amen. Gift received. The Word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah is fulfilled in us. In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. The humble also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

The Word of God comes down to earth today to release us from the chains of sin and death. The ministry of life casts out the ministry of darkness. The veil of Moses is lifted today in order to see the Lord our Righteousness. Christ’s blood and righteousness is sufficient to deliver us from death to life. Psalm 34 describes the joy we have in our Lord’s gift of deliverance. I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

The Lord has done all things well. As Jesus brought hearing and speech to a man who could not hear nor speak, so He heals our deaf ears to hear the Voice of the Good Shepherd and loosens our tongues to speak a word of praise and thanksgiving. The God Who saves violates our personal space to deliver His lavish washing away of sin in baptism, His forgiving Body and Blood in the Supper, and His Word of peace and joy in preaching. These glorious mysteries pass through the transitory things of this world to prepare for the glory that is yet to come in heaven.

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

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