Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Be Opened

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 [8] 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.”
And so we are here, you, me, Laeticia who just this morning had the fingers of Christ stuck in her hears, the spittled finger of Christ touching her tongue, that even out of the mouths of babes it would be confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Jesus makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak plainly, and each and every time it is just as much a miracle as when he healed the physical deafness and muteness of this heathen.
Mark records the journey. Jesus walking the land of the heathen like a man who just bought a field. The message was clear. Jesus wasn’t here for Israel alone. Samaria, Phoenicia, the land of the Hittites, and the Caananites, the land of the Greeks and the Romans. He passes through them all, claiming them all. No difference. It was the practice. When God gives the land to Abraham, promises it to him and his descendants, Abraham wanders across it. We tend to do the same thing, don’t we? You bought it, it’s yours, you go looking for the stakes, the property markers. You behold it like a gem. Jesus walks the long way around, Tyre, Sidon, then up and over to the other side of the sea of Galilee, days on end through heathen territory, gentile land. People deaf to the gospel, who can’t speak what they don’t hear.
Can’t speak what they don’t hear. 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [3] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 (ESV) So Paul writes to the Romans emphasizing the need for pastors and missionaries. Emphasizing the need for gospel proclamation.
This is what Jesus illustrates with the healing of this deaf and dumb person. He wasn’t totally dumb. Most deaf people can make sound. But if they can’t hear, it is hard for them to know what to say, how to say it, how to manipulate their voice to speak the language. And as your hearing goes, so does your voice. It’s hard to hit a note you can’t hear. If you hear it improperly you hit it improperly. You are out of tune. So it is with the gospel, the word of God. And speaking it can take a lot of practice, a lot of listening, a lot of hearing. This man couldn’t speak because he couldn’t hear. The same way a person cannot confess with their mouth if they have not believed, and they cannot believe if they cannot hear.
Ephthatha! Be opened, so Jesus says as he sticks his fingers in the man’s ear, as he touches the man’s tongue with his spittled finger. Ephthatha! Be opened. It’s what his gospel says to those who cannot hear. It is what his gospel said to Laeticia this morning, as the waters of his grace poured over her head, that her heart would hear his voice, the Holy Spirit proceeding from him and the Father, who brings faith through the work of the gospel. The same Gospel given and shed for you in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The same gospel spoken for you from the pulpit, that you too might hear, but then that you might also be brought to speak plainly, to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he might touch others in your life too, that they may be released from the darkness, the imprisonment, that the gag of the devil would be removed. That they too can share in the astonishment of the gospel, and know that Jesus does all things well.
Yes, he does all things well. He takes those who cannot by their own reason or strength believe. Those who are helpless in and of themselves to hear and speak. He gives to them his word. That they too would believe. Even these little one to whom the kingdom belongs, that we would learn to receive the kingdom like them, the kingdom that knows no bounds, the kingdom that spreads to the ends of the earth as Jesus travels through those he sends to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all the ungodly, to all those who have not heard, to baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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