Sunday, September 4, 2022

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity - Mk 7:31-37


Trinity 12

                                                                                       Mk 7:31-37



          During the first two years that I was pastor at Good Shepherd, I visited a homebound member, Bev Chapman.  I had not experienced anything like Bev during my brief time in the ministry up to that point, nor have I seen anything like it since then.

          Bev had mobility issues, which unfortunately, is not unusual for someone in their late eighties.  But what was entirely unique about Bev was that she was unable to speak.  I never was given an exact explanation about what had happened – Bev certainly couldn’t provide it to me.  However, it was apparent that she had experienced some kind of stroke that had damaged her brain.

          Bev was completely alert and her mind was still sharp.  Her smiles and nods indicated that she understood everything that I was saying. However, she was completely unable to speak in response to anything I said. You could see the frustration on her face, because while she had thoughts she wanted to share, her brain simply would not allow her to articulate them in speech. 

          Visiting with Bev was truly a one way conversation.  I would tell her about things at church and about my family, and she nodded and smiled.  But she could not respond and say anything to me.  I could only imagine how frustrating it had to be for Bev – to have thoughts you wanted to share but not be able to speak them.

          In the Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus encounters a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. No doubt communication for him had to be nearly impossible since he could not hear what others said, and his ability to speak was severely limited.  Our Lord heals the man with this touch – a touch that brought the saving reign of God to this individual.  In the miracle, Jesus demonstrates that he is the presence of God’s end time salvation in this world.

          Our text begins by saying, “Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.”  Immediately before our text, Jesus had been in the area of Tyre and Sidon – northwest of Galilee on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  There he had healed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman.  Now, Jesus had returned to the Sea of Galilee and had ventured into an area that was east and south of there.  The name “Decapolis” refers to the ten Greek cities that had been founded in that region during the previous centuries.  This was an area that had mixture of Gentiles and Jews, but with the Gentiles certainly being the majority.

Mark tells us, “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.”  The reports about Jesus’ healing ministry had spread far and wide.  The presence of Jesus in that area prompted friends to bring this man to Jesus.  We learn that he was deaf and had a speech impediment. It becomes apparent later in the text that the man was able to speak, but that he could only do so with great difficulty – his speech was not clear.  We don’t learn anything about how this condition had come about, but obviously it was a great burden for this man.

The friends who brought the man asked Jesus to lay his hand on him.  There are numerous occasions in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus heals by touching someone.  This man certainly received the full treatment. We learn that Jesus took him aside from the crowd privately. He put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.” Then, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

By healing the man, Jesus demonstrates that he is the presence of God’s saving reign in the world.  Jesus is the presence of the kingdom of God which is overcoming sin, death, and the devil.  Mark tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”  In word and deed, Jesus Christ was the presence of God’s end time action to bring salvation.

In our text, the Greek word used to describe the man’s speech impediment helps to make this clear.  It is a rare word – in fact it only occurs twice in the New Testament and the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The other place it occurs is in Isaiah chapter thirty five where the prophet speaks about how God is going to bring his salvation. 

Isaiah writes:  They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

          Isaiah was right.  Our God did come and save us.  It happened as Son of God was conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  The Son of God entered into our world in order to bring God’s reign. In the incarnation he became man, without ceasing to be God.  Jesus Christ came to bring release from sin and all that it has caused.

            Certainly, we see the sin in our own lives.  Earlier in this chapter Jesus described this when he said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and they defile a person.”

          We also see the impact that sin has had through the fallenness of this world. We see it in the physical ailments that afflict us.  We see it in the cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  We see it in the anxiety and depression that burden our lives. Yet all of these things are merely symptoms of the death that sin is working in us.  Because of sin we are in the process of dying all the time.  Sin brings death.  And even more importantly, sin brings the eternal death of God’s judgment. It brings the holy God’s wrath that damns.

          The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was in the world to bring God’s reign that overcomes sin and death. His miracle demonstrates this as he frees the man from deafness and the inability to speak.  However, all of the miracles performed by our Lord point to the single great act by which he has dealt with sin that is the root cause of all that is wrong in our lives and world. And all of the miracles point to the act of God in Christ by which he has defeated death.

          In our text we learn that the man’s friends begged Jesus to lay his hand on him.  However, the Son of God was in the world with human hands to do more than heal individuals.  He was here with hands to be nailed to a cross.  In the next chapter, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ.  Then Mark tells us: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

          The Son of God was in the world to die. His death on the cross was the means by which God provided the answer to sin.  Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Christ suffered and died for our sin. Through his crucifixion he has won forgiveness and freed us from sin.

          Jesus won forgiveness for us through death.  He was buried in a tomb. Yet this death was different.  Everyone else who has ever died, died because of their own sin.  Jesus, the sinless Son of God, died because of our sin.  His death was not only means by which the Father has given us forgiveness, it was also the way God has defeated death forever.

            On the morning of Easter, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body. But the stone was rolled away and an angel said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”  God the Father raised Jesus from the dead with a body that will never die again.  Jesus Christ is the firstborn from the dead.  Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death will never be able to hold on to us.  As the forgiven children of God, to die is to be with Christ, and our Lord will return in glory on the Last Day to raise our bodies and transform them to be like his.

          In our text, Jesus Christ is the presence of God’s reign as he touches the man.  The Lord continues to do the same thing for us today.  Christ, who is still true God and true man, comes into our midst in the Sacrament of the Altar. In the Sanctus we sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” because that is exactly what happens as Jesus’ powerful word is spoken over the bread and wine.  The true body and blood of the risen Lord are present on the altar.  Our Lord is present in his body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. He touches us as we eat his body and drink his blood.

          When he does this, he gives you the forgiveness that he won on the cross.  He gives you food for the new man, so that you are strengthened in faith and can continue in this pilgrimage of life.  The risen Lord gives his body and blood into you, and so you know that your body will share in his resurrection.

          At the end of our text we learn, “And they were astonished beyond all measure saying, ‘He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”  By healing the man, Jesus Christ was the presence of God’s saving reign – the kingdom of God.  Our God has come in the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.  He has not only made the deaf hear and the mute speak, but by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead he has given us the forgiveness of sins and the defeat of death.  He has done all things well. He is doing all things well as his reign continues to be present with us through his Means of Grace. And he will do all things well on the Last Day when he returns in glory.            














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