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Today is the Sunday of the Deaf Mute. There’s a man in the region of Decapolis who can’t hear. He can’t even speak. He’s suffering and truly helpless. But he’s got some good friends, some friends who had heard about Jesus through the healing of the Gadarene demoniac. Remember that guy? He would be the stuff of a horror movie. He cried out with a loud voice. He lived among the tombs, and possessed superhuman strength – breaking chains and cutting himself with stones. Scary stuff! So Jesus showed that man mercy, and by the power of His Word, performed an exorcism, and sent those demons packing – into pigs – who rushed down into the sea into a watery death.

That demon-possessed man was possessed no more. He was healthy, in his right mind, and wanted nothing more than to follow Jesus. But Jesus sends this healed man in a different direction. “Go home,” he says, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you. Tell them of the mercy He has had on you.” And that’s just what he did. He became an evangelist for the Gospel, by going home, bearing witness to the grace of God, and proclaiming throughout the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And many people were called to faith.

Well, this is where our Gospel picks up today. Because those same folks have another man who is suffering. He’s deaf, he’s mute, he’s got a speech impediment. He can’t talk. But thankfully, that suffering man has some good friends. The sort of friends that we should all pray and hope for. The kind of friends that bring you to Jesus. That’s what they did. They brought this deaf and mute man to Jesus, confident He could help.

And even though we know our Lord can heal and bring life by the simple power of His Word, here we seem Him get up-close and personal. You see, for the Lord of Life there is no social distancing. Not in this miracle. So Jesus takes this man aside. He gets His hands on him. Plunges His fingers right into the man’s ears. He spits and touches the man’s tongue. And looking up into heaven, He groans, and prays to His Father in heaven, “Ephphatha,” an Aramaic word that means “be opened.”

Immediately the deaf man’s ears were opened. He could hear. He could sing. All who heard and saw what had happened were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He does all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

It’s an amazing healing! It is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in our first reading this morning: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see … they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.”

Isaiah’s words should help us understand the bigger picture here. Because the healing of this deaf-mute man isn’t just some isolated miracle from a couple thousand years ago. No, something bigger is going on here.

Look at that deaf-mute man. That deaf-mute is a picture of sinful man – that’s you and I, rendered deaf, dumb, and blind because of the stain of sin – which has debilitated us so badly.

There’s our Lord, His hands upon him, His eyes lifted up to the heavens. And He groans. He groans over all mankind, from Adam down to every last one of us.

In the Garden, God got His hands on us when He made us – formed us from the dust of the ground and breathed into our nostrils the breath of life. But we turned away – plugged our ears to the Word of God – invited the devil to preach into these ears of ours instead – and so we turned away from the God of love and became turned in upon ourselves, wretched, sinful, and rebellious – spiritually blind in every way. Blind even to the needs of our neighbor.

If God was to help us, He would have to recreate rebel man. So God sent His Son, a second Adam. A man of the dust just like us. But His ears wouldn’t be plugged up like ours, deaf to God, but with ears open, listening attentively to the voice of His Father in heaven. His tongue wouldn’t be tied up like that fallen Adam and this deaf-mute man – but loosed to speak a resounding Yes to the will of the Father.

When this Savior came, He wasn’t afraid to get down in the dirt with sinful man, get His hands on them to heal and to bless. Just look at Him with the deaf-mute man, grabbing ears, tongue, spitting, praying, and doing miracles. In the same way, our Lord is not squeamish at the notion of getting close to you either.

Because what was done for this deaf-mute man was done for you in your Baptism. Because there God really got a hold on you. Like the man today, some people who loved you brought you also to Jesus. And what a sad state you were in – even as a little child, deaf, dumb, and blind – crippled by the power of sin, death, and the grave. So a pastor put the sign of the holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. Your Old Adam went to a watery death as God’s name splashed upon you in Holy Baptism. God was saying Ephphatha – that is – be opened. Be recreated. And you were.

Every time a pastor stands before you and speaks those words of absolution, it’s Christ really getting His hands on you. Because every time that word of forgiveness is spoken – it’s Ephphatha – and the gates of heaven swing wide open, for where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.  

Every time you come to the altar, it’s Christ the Lord getting His hands on you, reaching out to you His body and blood in the Sacrament. There He is to bless you, heal, you, and raise you up.

Someday, when we fall asleep in death, our Lord will come again, Ephphatha, He’ll say – be opened – and every grave will be opened – everybody will be raised, and those who have lived and trusted in Him will be raised up, seated with Him in the heavenly places, in the splendor of paradise.

Today you’re not tongue-tied, are you? You’re forgiven and set free. Free to speak loudly and clearly of the love of Christ. For He who sighed and breathed His last on the cross has risen. And He has opened our lips, that our mouths may declare His praise. In the name of Jesus. Amen.



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