Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pentecost 15 - Proper 18

Proper 18
6 September 2015
Mark 7: 31-37

"EPHPHATHA! - Be Opened!"

Hear him, yet deaf;
His praise, ye dumb
Your loosen’d tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior comes,
And leap, ye lame, for joy![1]

Lord, You have done everything well.  Help us also to see the depths of Your mercy and grace, that we understand them as gifts meant for all...

Last week's Gospel placed Jesus in Galilee as He was disputing with the Scribes and the Pharisees. He leaves Galilee. And this week. Having been in Tyre and Sidon, we find Him in the region of the "ten cities". He’s entering a new territory. He enters a pagan land.  But, wherever Jesus goes. His reputation precedes Him.

Jesus heals another person. This time in a Gentile region. Further emphasizing Jesus’ love for every race and kind of people. 

This serves as yet one more example of why we need to avoid the temptation to narrow the scope of the mission and ignore opportunities to reach out to those who are different from ourselves.  Jesus' healing of this man, immediately after He restored the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, underscores that He desires to love, cleanse, and heal all people.

Sometimes it is good to look at the end of the reading to start things off. The original translation of verse 37 literally reads, "Well! All things He has done!" A standard of excellence has been stamped on everything Jesus has done. He is able to make the deaf hear. This should not surprise us. Everything Jesus is doing is what the Father had promised to do when Jesus came to redeem His people.

And they carried to him a non-speaking one...begging Him to lend a hand.  Because of the deafness he had difficulty in speaking.” Instead of making a display of the unfortunate man. Jesus took him aside. And dealt with him in private. In the man's own language.  “And taking him from the crowd, he cast his fingers into his ears and spitting touched his tongue.” 

Notice Jesus’ actions. He's going to do what he's going to do.  But the pagans won't get it. This is why Jesus takes the man aside. Refusing to draw attention to Himself.   

Why do we pay athletes and entertainers millions? Because they do what most of us can’t. The pagans would always take the credit. And that makes sense. The better the miracle the greater the power. The Nobler the action. The Higher the praise. Miracles meant magic.

And Magic meant power. And power meant respect, praise, adulation, and admiration. It’s what this world seeks. Not Jesus. Jesus never performs a miracle for His own glory. He never takes the credit for Himself. The pagans will always draw attention to themselves. They want the recognition. Always claiming their own success. They covet the admiration and the stardom.
hat's how Jesus dealt with the man then. This is how He chooses to deal with you today. He speaks to you. According to your need. And in a way in which you will understand. He comes to you. Exactly when you need Him. Through His Word He speaks to you. And tells you exactly and precisely what you need to hear.

Mark tells us "He put His fingers into his ears and spit and touched his tongue, and looked up to heaven".  It's hard to miss our Lord's message even for the deaf man. Jesus says, "I understand your problem!  You've got ears that don't hear and a tongue that doesn't work.  I'm going to do some-thing about it!  I'm lifting up eyes to heaven 'from whence cometh our help'.  That's My Father's home. But I've left it to enter the world of the deaf and the blind and the dead in trespasses and sin!"
And looking up into heaven, he sighed and said, Ephphatha!”  "Be opened!"  Why the Aramaic?  It is the voice. It is a word accomplishing something.  Not that it was magic. It was the original.

He groans. As He carries our misery...see Romans 8 Paul reminds us “...the entire world groans...we ourselves groan wanting to be freed from this world...and the Spirit…groans for us with words too deep for words.” Its same verb. Je takes your misery to Himself and bears them.

This is what makes Jesus our Lord and Savior. John reminds us: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1)  Jesus came into our world to combat and defeat those forces, which held us captive. The devil. Our world.  And our sinful flesh. He came to forgive us and to set us free of all of these deadly forces.

Then comes the word,   "EPHPHATHA! - Be Opened!" And the rest is history! Yet, No! The rest is not history. The rest is Gospel! There is something similar about the word Ephphatha "be open" and the statement "it is finished," spoken at Calvary’s cross, where Jesus' very life-blood cries out Ephphatha for you. We are reminded, "God in Christ was reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting our sin against us"

It is this proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit in the Word and Sacraments continues to speak to the deaf and mute in spirit and the dead in trespasses and sin. There lies the power of God to open ears to the Good News of the kingdom and to loose tongues into a glorious confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

You might ask, "What is the point of all of this?"  As Jesus spoke that word Ephphatha "be open" back then, there is one mighty Ephphatha yet to be spoken. On "that day" cleansed by your baptism in Jesus' Name, you will stand with a robe washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. You will hear Him say, "By virtue of the merits of My blood-bought redemption, these have done all things well. Now, come and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"

The church has a name for this. It’s called "grace." And we are called to proclaim it. To celebrate it. Each day of our lives. And to believe it. Rejoice then this day.  For in Jesus Christ your sins have been forgiven! You are redeemed!  And heaven is now your home.

Once this man is relieved of his inability to speak, what speech is he now given to speak? It is none other than to proclaim Christ. And what other words are you given? None other than to speak and tell others of what Christ has done.

Jesus commands them not to tell. He knows the road He's on. He doesn't need to push the cross. It will come. When it’s time.  But even more greatly they preached.

They were doing what is natural. What more could they do other they to sing the praises of Jesus?  If they kept silent. Even the rocks would speak out!  But He doesn't want their speaking to get in the way of the cross or the gospel. Jesus must still face Jerusalem. And as for you. May your speaking be positive and productive. Don’t let your words complicate or compromise the Gospel. Don’t let your words stifle or suppress the story of salvation.  

They were completely amazed! Well...all things He has done...the deaf hear. And the mute preach.

He speaks, - and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
The humble poor believe.[2]

Passive Sentences- 8%
Readability – 83.8%
Reading Level-3.7

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