The Lord Opens the Ears of the Deaf Through His Word
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity - August 14, 2016
Texts: Mark 7:31-37; 2nd Corinthians 3:4-11; Isaiah 29:17-24
Vicar Jonathan P. Jennings


In the name of Jesus!  Amen.

God’s word is powerful. Yesterday and the previous Saturday we saw His word bring together a man and a woman, making them into one flesh. It was His creating word that made the ground you walk on and the sun that shines upon your face. It’s His word that continues to sustain you, and gives you and everything life. It was the Word made flesh who speaks the healing word “Ephphatha” in our Gospel text who comes among us today and opens our ears.


Southeast of the Sea of Galilee is the region of the Decapolis. It was in this region where Jesus previously healed the demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), and after that, this man was going around proclaiming all Jesus had done for him (Mark 5:20). It would’ve been difficult for the individuals that brought the deaf-mute to Jesus not to have heard of the demoniac’s healing.


The man these individuals bring to Jesus is severally impaired (Mark 7:32). First, he is deaf. In other languages they would say ‘his ears are closed,’ ‘he has no ears,’ or ‘his ears are stone.’  This man’s ears were closed to the many things we take for granted today: birds singing, beautiful music, or the voice of a loved one. Second, this man was mute. This means he couldn’t speak and was unable to form words.


The text doesn’t tell us how he ended up this way. What we do know is people of that day were quite certain that an individual’s sin was the root of various ailments, such as blindness and deafness. It’s precisely why the disciples ask Jesus in the story of the man born blind, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). Yet, it’s not that the deaf-mute man sinned or his parents (John 9:3), but it was a distant relative named Adam. This man and his wife sinned on account of a lie and subjected the whole creation to futility, under which it’s groaning to this day to be set free from its bondage to corruption (Roman 8:20-21). Things are no longer very good as God once declared (Gen. 1:31).

The Lord Opens the Ears of the Deaf Through His Word
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity - August 14, 2016
Texts: Mark 7:31-37; 2nd Corinthians 3:4-11; Isaiah 29:17-24
Vicar Jonathan P. Jennings


In the name of Jesus!  Amen.

God’s word is powerful. Yesterday and the previous Saturday we saw His word bring together a man and a woman, making them into one flesh. It was His creating word that made the ground you walk on and the sun that shines upon your face. It’s His word that continues to sustain you, and gives you and everything life. It was the Word made flesh who speaks the healing word “Ephphatha” in our Gospel text who comes among us today and opens our ears.


Southeast of the Sea of Galilee is the region of the Decapolis. It was in this region where Jesus previously healed the demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), and after that, this man was going around proclaiming all Jesus had done for him (Mark 5:20). It would’ve been difficult for the individuals that brought the deaf-mute to Jesus not to have heard of the demoniac’s healing.


The man these individuals bring to Jesus is severally impaired (Mark 7:32). First, he is deaf. In other languages they would say ‘his ears are closed,’ ‘he has no ears,’ or ‘his ears are stone.’  This man’s ears were closed to the many things we take for granted today: birds singing, beautiful music, or the voice of a loved one. Second, this man was mute. This means he couldn’t speak and was unable to form words.


The text doesn’t tell us how he ended up this way. What we do know is people of that day were quite certain that an individual’s sin was the root of various ailments, such as blindness and deafness. It’s precisely why the disciples ask Jesus in the story of the man born blind, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). Yet, it’s not that the deaf-mute man sinned or his parents (John 9:3), but it was a distant relative named Adam. This man and his wife sinned on account of a lie and subjected the whole creation to futility, under which it’s groaning to this day to be set free from its bondage to corruption (Roman 8:20-21). Things are no longer very good as God once declared (Gen. 1:31).


As debilitating as the deaf-mute’s ailments were, he wasn’t the first to suffer from them nor has he been the last. People today suffer from being deaf or mute. You may even know a few of these individuals. If not, many of us can still empathize as we have known family or friends who lost their hearing as they advanced in years or their ability to articulate clearly. In fact, you may be experiencing this yourself right now as we speak. Over time the organs in our body break down and we all succumb to various ailments. Along with creation, we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoptions as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).


As we have compassion for those who suffer, the friends of the deaf-mute had compassion as well. They were moved by both love and mercy, earnestly requesting Jesus to help their friend. Having compassion on the deaf-mute, Jesus takes him aside, away from the busyness of the crowd. Jesus then communicates with the deaf-mute via sign language - thrusting fingers into the man’s ears, spitting, and touching his tongue (Mark 7:33).

 

After this, Jesus doesn’t simply sigh as the text says but groans, an expression of deep compassion. His compassion is seen also as He weeps at the tomb of Lazarus and over Jerusalem. That compassion continues today over the various crosses you endure. Yet, in the midst of this compassion Jesus speaks a word “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened” (Mark 7:34). This word of Jesus penetrates the ears of the deaf-mute to open and his tongue to be loosened, revealing that Jesus does all things well. It wasn’t the faith of the deaf-mute that enabled Jesus to heal him but solely the word of Jesus. It’s this word that changes the life of the deaf-mute.


While we groan today, the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18). The words “it is finished” that Jesus spoke on the cross provides ultimate rescue for you from every evil of body and soul, proving once again He does everything well. When your last hour comes, you’ll be taken from this valley of sorrow to Christ in heaven.

 

The condition of the deaf-mute is actually worse than expected. Not only was he physically deaf and mute, but also spiritually deaf and mute. He couldn’t hear the words of Christ that create faith. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). If Jesus just healed him physically, the man’s ears would only be open to the false teaching throughout the world and his tongue would confess the idolatrous desires of his heart.
This is precisely what happened to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. These individuals, who were God’s chosen people, sought shelter in lies and falsehood instead of in the Word of the Lord. As a result of rejecting God and His word, God laid siege to Jerusalem, culminating with both death and destruction (Isaiah 29).

 

Great harm today continues to be done by the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison. It’s one thing that has never and will never be tamed by mankind. At times you use it to bless your Lord and Father when you come into His house. Then once you leave your tongue may gossip, verbally attack others, shade the truth, and refuses to pray. Ultimately, from the same mouth come both blessings and curses (James 3:8-10).


For this repent and cry aloud that God would open your lips, so that your mouth will declare His praise (Psalm 51:15). Repent and cling not only to the letter that kills, but also to the Spirit who gives life. The ministry of the spirit never leaves you spiritually deaf for ministers of the new covenant bring the ministry of righteousness. It’s the righteousness of Christ and is permanent in glory. Ministers are not sufficient for any of this but depend on God’s sufficiency. It’s that sufficiency which Isaiah already pointed out to us when He wrote, “For through the words of a book, the deaf shall hear, and out of your gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 29:18). Christ not only opens the ears and mouth of those who are physically deaf and mute, but the ears and mouth of those who are spiritually deaf and mute.

 

The ministry of the Spirit and righteousness reveals that through Jesus’ death on the cross, he destroyed sin, and opens the heavens that were once closed through the ministry of death and condemnation. Jesus does all things well when he speaks the words I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. At the baptismal font, Jesus speaks his Ephphatha upon you, bringing you who once were spiritually deaf to faith in Christ. You live in this promise today and return to it through the words of absolution. Here, Christ tells you himself, ‘you are forgiven.’  Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. The new covenant that St. Paul spoke of, the ministry of righteousness, is anchored in the New Testament of Jesus’ blood. As he gives you to drink of His blood, He continues to do all things well, even to open your ears and loosen your tongue.


Jesus opened the deaf-mute’s ears and loosened his tongue not just to plainly speak, but as the word fully means to speak rightly, truly, and correctly (Mark 7:35). Even though Jesus charged him and his friends not to say anything, the more zealously they spoke about Jesus and His healing compassion (Mark 7:36). The Word made flesh that came to these men comes also to you to today speaking his Ephphatha. He doesn’t give you this same charge but invites you to confess Him before men. You rightly confess your sin to Him. You rightly confess Him in the Creed with the Father and the Holy Spirit. You rightly speak your amen to His absolution and to His heavenly and forgiving food. You also rightly witness to Him with gentleness and respect for the eternal hope He gives you.


In the name of Jesus. Amen!

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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