Jesus Heals the Deaf through the Visible Word

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Sermon for Trinity 12

Isaiah 29:18-19  +  2 Corinthians 3:4-11  +  Mark 7:31-37

Our Gospel today teaches a very simple lesson of faith and love.  There’s nothing difficult about it.  It’s easy to understand. Jesus heals a deaf man and gives him his hearing and his speech.  It’s easy to understand, but it’s also worth our time to consider it further, because it teaches us who this Jesus is in whom we trust for eternal life, and it teaches us how He helps, and whom.

Some people there in the region of Galilee had a friend who couldn’t hear and couldn’t speak.  They  loved their friend and wanted to see him healed, but there was no healing for deafness and speech impediments.  Nowhere on earth could this man be healed…except where Jesus was.

The deaf man couldn’t hear, but his friends could hear.  And his friends heard that Jesus was coming through town.  They had heard of His kindness and mercy and His ability to heal all kinds of diseases.  And so, what did they do?  They went to Him.  They took their deaf friend to Him for help.

Now, stop and think about that for a minute, because these people did something that a whole lot of people don’t do today.  People all over town will tell you they believe in God, or believe in Jesus, but the same people don’t go to church.  That’s funny.  If you believe in this Jesus, why wouldn’t you go to a church that preaches Him?  Either because you don’t think you—or anyone you know—needs His help, or because you think you don’t need to go where His Word is preached to receive His help.

The first reason is a real problem.  Most people are unwilling to admit that they need help from Jesus.  And most people are wrong.  They may not be deaf or dumb.  But deafness and the inability to speak are just symptoms of the disease that lives in every person—that disease called sin that always spreads and always kills.  It has a 100% mortality rate.  And even people think they are living a pretty decent life, they are fooling themselves, because God’s wrath is coming against every sin and every sinner.  So everyone needs help, and Jesus is the only one who can help.

The second reason why someone wouldn’t go to church is also a real problem.  The devil has duped people—even Christians—into thinking that Jesus “lives in your heart” or something, or that if you just pray at home, that’s just as good—no, it’s even better than going to church.  You’ll get all the help you need from Jesus at home.

And yet, what did the men in our Gospel do?  What did everyone who wanted help from Jesus do?  They went to Him where He was, because He had come close to them, to a place where they could find Him.

The same is true today.  Jesus has come close to us to help us.  During His ministry, He could be found in one place on earth.   But now He has located Himself and all His help in the preaching of His Word, so that wherever His Word is rightly proclaimed on earth, there Jesus is.  So tell your friends who want to “worship” Jesus in their own way that you know a better way, that you know a place on earth where Jesus can be found—here in your church, where the Gospel of Jesus is preached.

Now, the miracle itself in our Gospel.  The deaf man’s friends bring him to Jesus, and what does Jesus do?  He hurries to help and He communicates with the deaf man in a very simple, very meaningful way.  He takes the man aside, away from the crowd.  See how He cares about each individual who comes to Him for help.  He sticks His fingers in the man’s ears.  This is no distant God who doesn’t want to get to close to us sinful human beings.  He’s right there.  And He will heal this man’s ears.  Jesus spits and touches the man’s tongue.  The only healing that exists is the healing that comes from the body of Jesus—literally.  His saliva—the water that comes forth from His body.  The actual words that come from His mouth.  His body.  His blood.  To be eaten and drunk.  Then Jesus looks up to heaven and teaches the deaf man that His help comes from the Lord.  But that Lord has come down from heaven to earth to help poor sinners in their need.  Then Jesus sighs—a very visible sigh.  I would interpret that sigh as a sigh of the relief that Jesus is about to give to this deaf man.  And finally, one word comes forth from Jesus mouth, “Ephphatha!  Be opened!” And the deaf man was healed immediately, able to hear and speak.

Jesus’ love for that man is Jesus’ love for everyone.  His salvation for that man is His salvation for everyone who comes to Him for mercy.  But the mercy He has promised us is not the mercy of immediate bodily healing.  He may or may not grant that.  He has never promised it.  What He has promised us is the mercy of the forgiveness of sins, of a clean slate with God.  It is the mercy of a Father’s love, channeled directly through the Person of Jesus Christ—the only one, the only place where God’s love is to be found.  It is the mercy of a future bodily healing that surpasses the healing of the ears or the tongue—the healing of the whole body and soul at the resurrection of the dead, and a new and glorious and eternal life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth.

Jesus does for us what He did for that deaf man, but to a far greater degree.  By nature, we are deaf to God’s Word.  People don’t listen to God by nature.  Since Adam and Eve, human beings have permitted the voice of the devil to drown out the voice of God, and people would sooner believe in Santa Claus than in the true God of Holy Scripture.

But someone brought you to Jesus for help.  Maybe it was your parents when you were just a little baby.  Maybe it was a Christian friend or a pastor.  Maybe it’s today for the first time.  Jesus has put His own Spirit into His Word so that, when it reaches your ears, it’s His fingers being placed there.  He has made His Word visible for you, just as He did for the deaf man.  We make the sign of the holy cross because on the cross, the love of God was made visible as He punished His Son for the sins of the world so that the world might be saved through Him. He has poured His lifeblood into the waters of Holy Baptism which has cleansed, not only your tongue, but your whole body and soul, so that you are clean before God.  He has attached the body that was hung on the cross to the bread of the Sacrament, and the blood that He spilled on the cross He has given with the wine—not just symbolically, but really and truly.  Here is the body and blood of Jesus to make you well.  Here is the visible Word of Jesus, communicating to you the very same healing that Jesus communicated to the deaf man in our Gospel.

As you hear again today of the love of Jesus and see the visible Word of His love, both in how He dealt with the deaf man, and in how He gives Himself to you in the visible Word of the Sacraments, may your ears be opened and your tongue loosed!  Repent and believe the Gospel!  And when you see a crucifix or make the sign of the cross (+), when you see the baptismal font or the Altar prepared for the Eucharist, rejoice in the love of Jesus, and know that this is where you can always find Him on earth to help you in every need.  Amen.

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