Trinity 12| Mark 7:31-37| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| September 4, 2022
“He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In Genesis one, after each thing that God creates, Moses writes, “And God saw that it was good.” At the end of the sixth day, Moses writes, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God cannot make a mistake. He can only do good. He can only create good. And the creation God made from the beginning was very good. It was perfect. There was no flaw in his creation. Everything was made exactly as he intended it to be. There was no sickness. There were no lame or crippled animals or diseased trees. Adam and Eve had no sin, no pain, no suffering. There was no death.
Yet, that is not the creation we see and experience today. In this creation, we’re plagued with diseases, pain, disabilities, and death. We aren’t perfect, even at the best of times. And we’re all sinners. We don’t walk with God. Like Adam and Eve after their fall into sin, our natural inclination is to hide from God. We do not live in a perfect world. And it is common for people to blame God for this imperfection. It is even used as an argument that God doesn’t exist, because if he existed, he would have made a perfect world. But we cannot blame God for the world’s problems. Disease, illness, pain, disabilities, sin, and death are all our own doing. St. Paul writes in Romans chapter 5, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” The source of all our problems is sin. And we have no one to blame for sin, but ourselves.
When Jesus came to earth, he found his good creation corrupted. They brought to him a deaf and mute man. Christ created the man’s ears and tongue, but they did not work. They did not work, because the man was corrupted by sin. Jesus has come to undo the effects of sin. After Jesus healed the man, the crowd shouted, “He has done all things well! He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” This is most certainly true. And this proves that Jesus is God himself, he who saw in the beginning that all he had made was good. This also proves that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Savior of the Word. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied that when the Christ would come, “the deaf shall hear.” (Isaiah 29:18) Jesus has come to restore his creation. Yet, he has not come simply to cause the deaf to hear and the mute speak, because eventually those ears will stop hearing and those tongues stop speaking when they are in the grave. Christ Jesus has come to conquer sin and death itself.
When Jesus healed the man, he touched his ears with his fingers and he spat and touched the man’s tongue. Why did Jesus do this? Well, the most obvious answer is that Jesus was communicating to the man what he was going to do. Remember, the man is deaf. He can’t hear what Jesus is saying. So, Jesus touches his ears to communicate that he will heal his ears. And he touches his tongue to communicate that he will break the bonds of his tongue. Jesus used sign-language. And he continues to use sign-language for us today.
Jesus uses sign-language in Baptism. In Baptism, we have water poured over a person. This indicates that the old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires. We picture the old Adam being washed away in the flood and a new man rising out of the waters after the image of Christ, who himself was baptized with water. In the Sacrament of the Altar, Jesus tells us that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. Since Jesus is God and can do far more than we can ask or think, yet, he cannot lie, we believe him. Yet, why are Jesus’ body and blood separated into bread and wine? My blood is in my body, as is yours, and as is, presumably, Jesus’ as he is enthroned in heaven. Why then are Jesus’ body and blood separated in the Sacrament? This is sign-language, which teaches us that Jesus was sacrificed for our sins. A sacrifice is made when the blood is poured out of the victim. Jesus is our Victim. His blood was poured out on the cross to make propitiation for our sins. In the Sacrament, we receive the fruit of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, all wrought for us by Jesus’ bitter sufferings and death.
And this brings us to another point of Jesus’ miraculous healing of the deaf and mute man. When Jesus healed the man, he looked up to heaven and sighed. In fact, he groaned. He looks up to heaven, showing that all authority he receives from his heavenly Father. And he groans, because this healing took something out of him. Jesus must spend himself in order to restore his creation. This foreshadows Jesus’ cross. Jesus is our Savior. He takes away our sins. We believe that his Word has the power to save us. Baptism forgives our sins and grants us new birth. The Lord’s Supper forgives our sins, strengthens our faith, and increases our love for one another. How? Only by means of Jesus’ cross. The waters of Baptism cleanse you of all your sin and grant you new birth only because they are joined to the blood Jesus shed on the cross. The Sacrament of the Altar gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, only because Christ poured out his blood for you and gave his body over to death. The absolution proclaimed to you, which calms your guilty conscience is only true because Jesus groaned under the weight of your sin. Jesus’ groan proves to us that there is no restoration of God’s creation without the heal of the woman’s seed being bruised (Genesis 3:15). There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of Christ’s blood. Our forgiveness and salvation were bought with a great price, the innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus our Lord. The Gospel preached to you and believed by your heart is not cheap. Jesus groaned in bitter pain to grant it to you.
The first thing this deaf man heard was Jesus’ voice. How fitting. For what greater purpose did Christ create this man’s ears than that he hear the words of his God and believe them. And so, just as this man’s friends brought him to Jesus to be healed by him, so we bring our children soon after they are born to hear the voice of their God. Before a child is baptized, his ears are clogged by Satan and his mouth bound, so that he cannot sing his praises. Yet, in Baptism, when Jesus’ liberating words are spoken, the ears are unclogged and the tongue loosened. Everyone’s ears are clogged to the Gospel and lips bound by Satan until Christ sets them free. And he does this in no other way than through his Word. Baptism itself is empowered and joined to Jesus’ blood through Jesus’ Word and promise.
And so, we not only start out our life hearing the words of Jesus as he opens our ears and loosens our tongue, but we begin our weeks the same way. I have a pet peeve, which my wife learned about after we were married. I dislike calendars, which start the week with Monday and kick Sunday to the end. But I don’t repent of this pet peeve. I’m right. The first day of the week is Sunday. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, which is Sunday, after having rested in the tomb on the Sabbath, which is Saturday, the last day of the week. That is why Sunday and Saturday are called the “weekend.” They are fixed at the beginning and end of each week like bookends. The start of the week is Sunday, not Monday. And for nearly two thousand years, Christians have started their week by going to church to hear the word of God. There is no better way to start the week. You see, Satan does not leave our ears unclogged and our mouths loose after we are baptized. He works with the sinful world and your own sinful flesh to stop up your ears and to cut off your tongue from praising God. This means that you need Christ to speak his Ephatha to you again.
Consider this past week or the time since you were last in church. What evidence do you see that you are not perfect as God intended you to be? What evidences of your own impending death have you experienced? How does your conscience feel? Are you proud of all that you have done? Would you stand by it before God on Judgment Day? God has given you ears, eyes, mouth, hands, and a mind. Have you used them all to his glory? Have you looked at what you should look at and kept your eyes from evil? Have you listened and paid attention to God’s Word, or to that which does not edify you? Have the words you have spoken been charitable, kind, and true? What have your hands been busy at? Would you be ashamed to reveal your thoughts to others or to consider that God already knows them?
The deaf and mute man wanted to hear and speak, but he could not. So, he went to Jesus to be restored. St. Paul laments that the good he would do he does not, but the evil he does not want to do he keeps on doing (Romans 7). The reasons are the same. The body is corrupted by sin. You review your past week and you see that your eyes, ears, mouth, and hands, yes, even your very heart do not work as God created them to work. You need to be restored. And you’ve racked up a debt by your sins which is insurmountable, which goes above your head. You need to be forgiven. That is why you start your week by going to church. Hearing Jesus’ words, which he groaned in bitter pain to win for you, you are forgiven and restored. Those sins for which your conscience is afraid and ashamed are wiped clean. Each week, you get a clean slate. By means of his Word and Sacrament, Jesus gives to you that which he has gained for you on the cross with bitter groans.
This is why David says in Psalm 51, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” We need the Lord to open our lips. He does this only by first opening our ears to hear his Word. Unless Christ speaks to us, we cannot confess his name and be saved (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13ff). After Jesus healed him, the man spoke plainly. The Greek words is ὀρθῶς (orthos). That’s where we get the word orthodontist, meaning, straight teeth, and orthodox, meaning, right praise or straight teaching. Every Christian should be orthodox. We should speak the truth of God’s Word. Orthodoxy saves, because by it we learn the Gospel. But you can only speak rightly if Christ speaks to you.
Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32). To confess Christ as your Savior from sin is to confess that God has restored you. You may not feel that way now. You may still die and shed this outer form. But through Christ, you will receive a much greater life in the resurrection when the entire creation will be restored perfectly forever. So, as long as we live in this fallen world filled with sin, sickness, and death, we return to him who restores us. Our consciences are restored week by week, year by year, until what we hold to be true through faith will come to completion. Amen.