Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In our gospel for today, we have a story found only in the Gospel of Mark. Each of the four Gospels has its own perspective and with different emphases and different details. However, all have the same message of Jesus Christ.
In this episode, Jesus left the district of Tyre and Sidon for the Decapolis region and they brought to Him a deaf mute and begged Him to lay His hands on him. They sought a healing miracle of Jesus. All the Gospels speak of this sort of thing, the healing of the deaf, the blind and other sick people.
Why? What does our reading of the Old Testament (Isaiah 29.17-21) say? The prophet Isaiah spoke of the promised Messiah of Israel, so this passage is a Messianic prophecy, that is, of the redemption of Israel and the Savior of the whole world. It reads: "And in that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. "
So, miracles of healing of the deaf, blind and others were signs of the Messiah. All the gospels speak of miracles, but in many instances, they just say the Lord commanded and the sick were healed. Jesus only said the word and the person was healthy. But in this story, we have a few more details.
"And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And then his ears were opened, and was loosed the string of his tongue, and he spake plain. "
The Lord touched the ears of the deaf-mute and his tongue as well. It was a rite or sequence of actions accompanied by the Word of God, somethingl like the sacraments that the Lord has ordained for us. We believe that the sacraments are means of grace which the Lord has commanded us to observe. What are the sacraments? Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Each one has the Word of God connected with visible elements. In the case of baptism, the water with the Word of God, God's promise. In baptism we receive the promise of God that we are children of God because of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross and His resurrection, with the application of the water on the forehead. In the sacrament of the Lord's Supper we receive the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine, and also the word of forgiveness of our sins.
That means, the Lord uses visible means to communicate his Word to us. He touches us. We also have the Word of God in the public preaching, in the proclamation of the gospel to all nations. But preaching is for all people, all who can hear, believers and nonbelievers. So it is valid to preach the Word on the radio or television. Preaching is a broadcasting of the Word of God.
But the sacraments are those who receive in faith for believers, members of the communion of saints. In the sacrament of baptism, God called us, each of us by name, he touched our foreheads with water. We receive the sacrament together with others in the faith, but each one of receives in our hands or on our lips, the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ.
In this way the Lord touches us as He touched the deaf-mute. How did Christ communicate with this man who could not hear and could hardly speak? With His fingers on his ears and tongue, in a concrete way, Jesus healed physical illness of this man. In the same way, God heals our spiritual disease in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. God touches us through these sacraments with visible elements and the Word that we can hear and understand well.
Also this story teaches us that the Lord is concerned with both our material and spiritual needs. Not only with the material needs alone or spiritual needs alone, but both. We have the promise that God protects us, cares for us and blesses us. Some people think if we have enough faith, God will give us whatever we want at any time. This is not true. God gives us every blessing in his time, not our time.
God cares for us in this life and also we have the promise of eternal life after this earthly life. God always walks with us, to protect us and bless us. So the healing of the deaf and blind were signs of the Messiah's first coming of Jesus Christ. For us, the sacraments are the signs of the presence of Christ until His second coming in glory.
So we live in hope of the second coming of Christ, the hope of healing of all our diseases, physical and spiritual, because when we rise in Christ, we will have full health in body and soul. We give thanks for that and for the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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