Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 12 (August 10, 2008)
Mark 7:31-37 The Healing of the Deaf Mute
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TITLE: “God’s Word Never Fails”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the healing of the deaf/mute, with focus on these words: He has done all things well.
It’s always amazing to reflect on the relationship between hearing and speaking. How does a child learn to speak? A child learns to speak by hearing. So whatever goes into their ears is probably what is going to come out of their mouths. Now as long as good stuff is going in, everything is fine. But a few TV shows that shouldn’t be watched, or language around the dinner table that shouldn’t be used, and presto, you have a real problem on your hands.
This is the way that children learn to speak, and this is also the way that faith is created and sustained, or lost as the case may be. What goes in must come out. Or, as St. Paul puts it, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Faith that saves, real faith in Jesus Christ, can only come when God through His Word puts it in you. Now He does this in different ways: Baptism, preaching, the Word of God, the Sacrament of the Altar, Absolution. But all of these things have something in common: they give you Jesus, and they come from outside of you.
The problem of sin, of course, is that sin stops up your ears and your mouth. Sin fills your ears. You can’t sing God’s praises because you can’t hear what God is doing for you in Jesus Christ. You by nature are deaf, blind, mute, and unable to hear God or speak back to him in prayer. But God in His mercy opens your ears to hear His Word and opens your lips to sing His praises.
Now maybe that seems obvious to you, but it is not so obvious. Take the example of the deaf/mute in our text. Now here was a man who could not speak and he could not hear. His life was hard, very hard. He was mocked and ridiculed for his infirmity. He had to be taken care of by others. He couldn’t communicate. His mouth was stopped up.
What does Jesus do for this man? First of all, He takes him aside from the multitude. He doesn’t keep the man on display for the world to see his problems. Secondly, Jesus put His fingers and the man’s ears and touched his tongue. In other words, Jesus showed the man that He knew what was wrong, and that He was going to do something about it. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said to the man, Ephphatha, that is, be opened. Jesus, the very Word of God made flesh, opened the man’s ears to hear the Word of God, and opened His lips so that He could speak the praises of the one who healed him.
So let’s bring this down to the real concrete here for a minute. You can’t hear God’s Word if you aren’t in Church. Your children won’t hear it if they don’t see this place as the very house of God. In a world of pop spirituality and good feelings that are passed off as the Gospel, the concreteness of how God works to create faith is quite out of step with our world. Martin Luther once said about this text:
Let us, therefore, take careful note of this miracle and learn from it so that we truly become Christians by the Word and by our professing of it. For this can come about in no other way than through the Word set in motion in the church by pastors and preachers, and in the home by fathers and mothers. With these fingers and spittle, Christ again and again brings it about in Christendom that the deaf have their ears opened and the mute become fluent. That is why we should cling to the Word tenaciously, since that is the best and surest way for our ears to be opened, our tongues freed, and for us to be saved.
God binds Himself to His Word. There is no God for you outside of the God of the manger that comes to you by His Word. God never promises to come to you in any other way, to give you faith anywhere else, or to work through any other means besides His Word and Sacraments. That is how God comes to you. The only way to get to heaven is to get there by the door of Jesus Christ in His Word.
Now at first hearing, that may sound limiting, even depressing. I mean, if God really cared, why doesn’t he speak to us and create faith by a beautiful sunset or a special moment with a friend or whatever other means it may be? He doesn’t promise to come in those ways and places because we could never trust that it would really be from Him.
Let me use an analogy to explain it. In every job, in every office, in every work location, there is also a temptation to take some things that are really, really important and to say that they are everyone’s responsibility. I mean, if it’s that important, shouldn’t everyone be involved? Or think of in your own house. Everyone is responsible to make sure that the trash gets out by 7:15 a.m. Monday morning. What happens in a case like that? Everyone being responsible means that no one is responsible. The buck has to some somewhere. Otherwise, you just don’t know and can finally trust that the trash will get out on time.
This is how it is with God’s Word. God, theoretically, could have used the whole world to communicate His goodness and grace in His Son, Jesus Christ. He might have. But He didn’t, because God knows how truly, truly important this Gospel is to you. It is so important to you that He wants to make absolutely certain that you know that when you hear His Word, you know it is a message for you from Him, and not from the devil or the world or your own sinful desires. In the same way, God gives you a pastor, a preacher to give you His Word, so you don’t have to wonder if the guy on TV is really speaking for God or not. God loves to work in the concrete, so you never have to wonder.
That’s what Jesus did for this deaf/mute. He put His fingers in the man’s ears and spoke the Word, be opened, and it happened. Right then, right there, for him. And this is what our Lord says to you this day: I forgive you, He says. Take and eat, this is my body, given for you for the forgiveness of sins. I make all things new, he says. Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, he says.
God grant that His Word ring forth throughout all the world, so that that a thousand voices in this and every place may sing His great praises. Be opened, He says. And He does it for you. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.