31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus  charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 and they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:31-37 (ESV)
“He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” “Oh Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51) No if the Lord does not open our ears, we will never have ears to hear, and if he doesn’t open our lips, our mouth will never declare his praise. But this is precisely what Jesus does for us, when he pours water over our heads even as infants. When he runs us through with the two edged sword of the word and leaves our old Adam, our sinful flesh for dead on the floor, trying to hold his entrails in, that the new man may walk in the newness of life that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this that he does as he feeds us his body sacrificed for our sins, and pours his life blood out for us to drink in Holy Communion. There in these things he takes us, as deaf and dumb as we are to his word, puts his fingers into our ears, spits and touches our tongues, cries our Ephphatha, and gives us ears to hear, and tongues to tell of his righteousness and of his praise all the day long.
See this whole story is a picture of sorts, an illustration of what Jesus does for us. We walk through this world deaf, dumb and most often blind to boot. We have a notion that there is a god, perhaps. But most often disinclined to believe, or search that out at all. Sin so effects our soul that the thought of God scares us, like Adam and Eve we want to run and hide from him. We know we are guilty. And this guilt it has a tendency to cloud our thinking, and muffle our ears. Because we can’t hear the word of God properly, we can neither speak his praise.
“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” They can’t do it for themselves. They are helpless to change their situation. Someone has to intervene. Of course today many deaf people have the opportunity to hear. There are new procedures coming about that make this possible. And yet, not all want to hear either. There is a phenomenon here that has incredible parallels to our sinful state. Deaf people are often offended if you imply there is something wrong with them. They don’t want to be fixed. They have made it through so much of their lives as a deaf person that they really don’t see a need to hear. And there is no debate with a deaf person when they say “I was born this way.”
It’s hard to say how this deaf and mute man felt about his condition. He was not the one who sought out Jesus to be healed. One wonders if he knew anything at all about what was happening to him. His friends brought him to Jesus, and only then did this man have opportunity to be healed by Jesus. He did not seek it himself, his friends sought it for him.
But this is the way the gospel works in this world. His friends had heard Jesus. The had had their ears opened, they had ears to hear, eyes to see. They believed. And those who believe with their heart, well they confess with their mouth! And to confess with your mouth is to tell others about Jesus, to bring others to him, or bring him to others as the case may be. And then the miraculous happens. And it happens through such insignificant means as to be almost imperceptible as a miracle, but if a miracle is God intervening, well then everyone of you here today is testimony to a miracle, one that happened for many of us before we could even remember, when our parents out of love for us, brought us to Jesus to be baptized by him, touched by him that we would have ears to hear, and mouths to declare God’s righteousness and praise all the day long. For others of us it was a friend who invited us to church on Sunday, maybe they visited us in the hospital when we were sick and shared a devotion, said a prayer. Perhaps it was after a particularly embarrassing episode of life when you thought no one could possibly love you for what you had done. And it was a Christian you found was the first not to judge, but to be a friend, a Christian who reached out to you with forgiveness and love. We need that. Because it is only the forgiveness and love of Christ that can heal us from our condition. And often it is only after he has stuck his fingers in our ears, spit and touched our tongue, and exclaimed Ephphatha! That we know how problematic our situation was, but then our hearts are opened and our sins are exposed to him, and he doesn’t turn us away, but points us to the cross and says, see that there? There I exchanged your guilt for my righteousness, there I died to atone for your sins, now come eat my body given into death for you, and drink my blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. And it is there that we are given ears to hear, and with a heart cleansed of sin, a clean and good conscience, we are given open lips to declare the praise and righteousness of God all the day long, because now his righteousness is our righteousness, his death our salvation, that just as he is risen from the dead we too might walk in the newness of life. Amen.