Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel just read from St. Mark chapter 7. We focus on the words of the text, “He has done all things well.”
Every parent knows that the path to teaching their children obedience is through listening. A child cannot learn what their place is, what they are to do and not do, without learning how to listen. “Listen with your eyes,” my mother told me when I was young. What she meant was, Listen with your whole body. Don’t say you are listening when really you are a thousand miles away.
Yet listening is a lost art, isn’t it? Everyone once in a while, you’ll see someone described as a good conversationalist. What that really means is that they are a good listener, and that they are good at asking questions to keep the conversation going. But for the most part, listening is harder and harder to do. Listening becomes a chore when we want to do other things. Listening becomes a bother when the other person annoys us. Who wants to listen?
And yet, when we are in need, when we are hurting or alone, there are few things on earth more comforting than a good friend who is willing to simply listen to what is going on. Listening, perhaps more than about anything else, is a sign that you are important to the listener, and that they are ready to stop everything to hear what you have to say.
So here we have a man with a dreadful problem, both physically and spiritually. He cannot hear, and he cannot speak. In Jesus’ day, he would have been called a deaf/mute. Today we would probably say he was differently abled or something like that. Either way, the man is in a terrible way. He cannot hear, and he cannot speak.
One can only imagine the physical problems and inconveniences that this must have meant for him. The world was a closed book, for the most part. At the time, deafness was a sign of not only physical problem, but of a spiritual problem as well. To be deaf means you cannot hear the Word of God. Now today, we would kind of scoff at that. We have American Sign Language, and lots of ways of trying to beat the system and make the deaf to hear. But even today, with all of our advances in medical science, we lose our hearing. How many here have hearing aids, or know someone who does? My guess is that everyone here falls into that category.
So the man cannot hear anything, but especially he cannot hear the Word of God. This is the great sadness of our text. The man is cast out, seen as unclean or unworthy to be in God’s presence. What kind of sin did he commit, to have such a terrible curse leveled upon him? Those were the questions asked behind his back.
Truth be told, we are often quite deaf to hearing God’s Word as well. For us it is by choice, though, not by illness. How many family bibles lay packed away in a box or gathering dust on a mantel somewhere? How often do you pray for each other by name, read the Scriptures together as a family, or simply listen to what our Lord has to speak to you? Sadly, hearing the Word of God is rarely a priority in our lives. We have more important voices to hear. How can I listen to Jesus when there’s a Kardashian or a Rush or an O’Reilly, or Ellen or Oprah or someone else oh so much more interesting and entertaining? How can I hear God where there’s so much more out there that seems relevant and even important?
But Jesus knows your weaknesses and mine. He knows that even if we have ears to hear, we forget how to use them. And if we cannot hear God’s Word day after day, how can we be expected to declare His praises? How can you proclaim His victory over sin and death when our Lord’s promises to you and your family remain a closed book, so that you are deaf to hear and therefore dumb to speak His praises? Repent.
Yes, our Lord knows our weaknesses, and the weakness of this man in front of us in our text. The deaf man’s friends beg for Jesus to help, and He does. He takes the man aside from the crowd. This isn’t a show or a game to be displayed. He takes the man aside and then does something that to our eyes and ears seems, well, it seems pretty weird. Jesus takes His fingers and puts them in the mans ears, and then He spits and puts the spittle on the man’s tongue.
I think that the technical term for that is “ewwww.” But this is actually quite important. When Jesus comes to help this man, Jesus is willing to get dirty. He communicates that He knows what’s wrong by pointing to the ears and the mouth.
When our Lord goes into something, He goes all in. He doesn’t commit until it is inconvenient. He doesn’t waver or wonder if He can get this done. No, He simply goes in. He goes in, and He sighs.
You have to admit, that doesn’t sound like really divine behavior. Sighing? We could translate it as groaning. It’s a little word, but in that word, all of Jesus humanity comes out. He sees this hurt, broken sinner, and He aches for him. Just as He aches for you in your brokenness and need.
It is easy to get to that point where you wonder if God is that deaf/mute. It is easy to feel with the Psalmist:
“To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.” (Psalms 28:1 ESV)
God is not silent. He hears your cries, and He speaks His Word to you. To the deaf/mute He said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.” To you He says the same thing. Be opened. He opens your heart to hear His Word. He opens you up so that you may receive His Word of blessing and forgiveness. He does all things well, and what He does for you is give you the greatest of all treasures: He gives you hope.
In ancient times that word, “Ephphatha,” was actually a part of our baptism rite. I don’t think parents would like me sticking my fingers into the ears or on the tongues of their children, but there is something to be said for the practice. God promises His grace and peace. He opens you up, scoops out the gunk of our lives, and fills you with Him. Sing His praises with the saints old and new. Come to the table of Grace, because His Word has invited you to partake of His great salvation.
Come and rejoice! He has done all things well. And He has done it all, for you.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, to life everlasting. Amen.