estimated that the demand for speech-language pathologists will grow by 21%
through the year 2031. The growth in
demand for this training has been caused by several factors. First, there are
now more people over the age of 65 than ever before. They are encountering medical conditions such
as stroke and dementia that result in speech and language problems.
At the same
time there is now early identification and diagnosis of speech and language
disorders in children. We have learned
that early treatment can make a world of difference. On this I can speak from personal experience,
since two of my own children had early help from speech pathologists. What is more the federal government has
mandated that children with disabilities receive special education services
that they need.
demand has grown, the ability of schools to produce more speech pathologists is
limited. For starters, not everyone has
the interest and disposition to work in this field. There is a limited supply of future students.
And those in this profession require extensive training. They must have a master’s degree to work in
accounts, there will continue to be shortage in the immediate future. That’s bad news in general for our
society. However, it is good news for
those like my daughter Abigial who plan on entering this field. By all accounts, she will never have to worry
about finding a job.
speech pathologist could have assisted the man in our text this morning. We learn that he was deaf and had some kind
of speech issue. Yet living in the first
century world he had no hope for assistance.
He had no hope until the touch of Jesus Christ brought healing.
Jesus had returned from the area of Tyre and Sidon which was north of Galilee
on the Mediterranean Sea. Now he was
back at the Sea of Galilee on its west side.
He was in the region called the Decapolis. Named after the ten cities that had been
founded in this region, it had a large Gentile population.
that people brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and had some kind of speech
issue, as they implored Jesus to lay his hand on him. It is hard to tell whether the man had always
been deaf and was therefore unable to speak at all, or whether he has lost his
hearing and now experienced some kind of speech impediment. What is clear is that this profoundly
affected his life, and those who brought him saw in Jesus the hope for healing
the man because the reports about Jesus had spread far and wide. This had happened in spite of the fact that
Jesus often told those whom he healed not to tell others about what had
happened. Our Lord did this because he
wanted to define his own ministry for people.
He didn’t want them drawing false conclusions based on the miracles
brought the man asked Jesus to lay his hand upon him. They wanted our Lord to
touch the man because they believed his touch brought healing. They were right because Jesus Christ was God
in the flesh. He was the incarnate Son
of God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, he was God in
They asked Jesus to touch the man, and we learn in our text that the man certainly received the full treatment. Our Lord took him aside from the crowd privately. Then he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. He looked up to heaven and groaned saying “Ephphatha,” which means be opened.
groaned before he healed the man. He did
this because he was in the presence of what sin has done to the world. He
groaned because this is not what God wanted.
God had made a creation that was very good. It was a world without sin in which Adam and
Eve lived in perfect fellowship with God and with one another. It was a world in which there was no pain,
sickness, or death.
the Fall of Adam and Eve changed all that.
Sin entered into the world and it brought death. It brought illness and disabilities that
cause suffering. And the impact of sin went far beyond the physical. It changed us as we lost the image of God. Rather than living perfectly according to
God’s will we are now filled with sin that is just waiting to get out. Earlier
in this chapter Jesus said, “What
comes out of a person is what defiles him. 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 evil things come from within, and
they defile a person.”
touching the man, Jesus said “Ephphatha” – “be opened.” Immediately the man’s ears were opened and
his tongue was released. He could hear
and speak plainly. Jesus had healed the
man. Once again Jesus charged them to
tell know one. But the more he did so,
the more they proclaimed it. They were astonished saying, “He has done all
things well. He even makes the deaf hear
and the mute speak.”
statement by the crowd echoes what the Old Testament said God’s end time
salvation would look like. This connection is made clear by the way the man’s
speech condition is described. It is a
rare word that only occurs here and in the Greek translation of Isaiah chapter
35. There the prophet says, “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.”
prophet speaks about restoration for Israel. Yet this action pointed forward to
something even greater. God would come
to save his people. He would bring sight
to the blind and hearing to the deaf. He
would bring healing to the lame and speech to the mute.
Christ was the presence of God’s end time salvation. He was God coming to save
us. Our Lord began his ministry by
declaring, “The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” In Jesus Christ the kingdom of God – the
reign of God – had entered into the world.
He was God present to conquer sin and all that it has caused.
Jesus groaned as he encountered the evidence of sin’s
presence. Again and again we are told in
the Gospels that Jesus had compassion upon those whom he met. Our Lord was moved by the plight of those who
suffered. But Jesus had come to do more
than just be moved by the presence of sin and suffering. He had come to overcome it. In the healing in our text we see the reign
of God at work to conquer the presence of sin. Jesus makes the deaf hear and mute speak.
miracles of Jesus point to the single greatest miracle of his ministry. They point to the defining event by which he
has conquered sin and death. Jesus came
to conquer sin by his death on the cross.
He came to win forgiveness for us by sacrificing himself. Our Lord says in this Gospel, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Sin is not some abstract entity. Our every sin is sin against God.
David confessed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is
evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and
blameless in your judgment.” Sin evokes
God’s wrath and righteous judgment against the sinner. This is how the holy God reacts to sin. There
can be no other outcome.
There can be no other outcome. But God wanted a different outcome for us. And so he sent his Son to suffer and die in
our place. The One who had no sin took
our place. He took our sin as if it was
his own and received the judgment that should have been ours. Because Christ has done this for us, we now
have forgiveness before God.
In our text Jesus heals the man. The people exclaim, “He
has done all things well. He even makes
the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Jesus
brings physical restoration to the man as he removes sin’s affliction. This action by Christ shows us that he did
not come only to bring forgiveness. He
came to bring complete healing from all that sin has done. He came to restore us – body and soul.
Jesus Christ died in our place as he received God’s
judgment. He was buried in a tomb. But on the third day, God raised Jesus from the
dead. His resurrection is the beginning
of the resurrection of the Last Day. His
resurrection will be your resurrection when he returns in glory.
This means that in Jesus Christ God has begun the healing
that we need from all that sin has caused physically. We struggle with diabetes, heart problems,
eye problems, and back issues. The
promise of the Gospel – of the kingdom of God – is that in Jesus’ resurrection
God has started the healing that will be ours.
We will receive a healing that overcomes death itself.
We will receive that full and complete
healing when Christ returns on the Last Day. Paul told the Philippians, “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious
body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to
himself.” Jesus will heal you completely
when he transforms your body to be like his resurrected body.
We look for that day with eager
expectation. And we live in the present
as those whose ears have been opened and whose tongues have been loosed. Our
ears are open because the Holy Spirit has called us to faith. We are able to hear the Gospel promise and
what it means for us. We live in the
assurance that we are forgiven before God. We know that death cannot separate
us from his love, and that the victory of the resurrection will be ours.
Our tongues have been loosed by the
Spirit to speak in faith. We respond
with praise and thanksgiving to God because of what he has done for us in Jesus
Christ. We call upon God in every
trouble knowing that his love for us in Jesus Christ is certain and sure. We speak about the saving death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ to others so that their ears may be opened
too. And we look forward to the Last Day
– the day of complete healing. We look forward to the time when we will greet
the returning Lord as we say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the