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Christ heals a deaf mute

Mark 7:31-37

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Aug 22, 2021 

There are three main miracles mentioned in the Holy Gospel.  The first two are more obvious: The deaf mute has his ears opened, and his tongue is loosened.  But he also is miraculously able to speak clearly and rightly.  This should not be the case.  A person who has been a deaf mute for a long time does not automatically know how to talk clearly.  They may speak with difficulty and not well enough for others to understand them.  But this man, healed by Christ, is able to speak with clarity.

In the same way, in the garden of Eden, the Lord formed a man out of the dust of the ground.  Adam obviously had never spoken before nor heard speech since up till that moment he had not existed.  If things went the usual way that our experiences teach us, then Adam should have been like a newborn, able to make only incomprehensible noises, and unable to understand what anyone said to him.  Yet the Lord speaks to Adam on his very first day of life, and Adam understands.  More than that, Adam speaks on that same first day.  He does not utter just a few halting words.  He gives an eloquent speech about a man leaving his father and mother and being joined to his wife.  Adam spoke without teaching and understood Godís speech without having to learn how to understand words. 

God desires clear speech.  Words and meaning and the sharing of ideas are extremely valuable gifts.  God does not want confusion and miscommunication, which often lead to various sins.  Although He created a confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel, that was to curb the power of sinfulness for which language had become a tool.

Especially when His voice speaks to us, He wants us to hear and speak clearly.  His Word is life and blessing through His Son, as well as instruction to live a God-pleasing life.  He does not want the eternal grace to miss us because His Words were muddled and confused.  He does not want us living wicked lives without restraint because we did not understand His instruction.

When we confess back the truths He teaches, He wants us to speak them back with the same clarity.  Our confession of the truth affects us and those around us.  He does not desire confusion in our confession.  He wants us to clearly proclaim the excellencies of His marvelous light, and to clearly give a defense for the hope that is within us.

But satan desires that our hearing and witness become muddled, cluttered, and jumbled.  A prime tool he uses to through our hearing and speaking into chaos is when he persuades us to trust our feelings.  In the same way, the clear revelation of God to Adam and Eve became muddled in Eve when she was taught to desire the fruit rather than remember the command of God.  Sometimes our emotions lead us to trust people over the Word of God, as Adam trusted his wife as she handed him the fruit. 

So we also, their children, are too easily led by satan to mistrust the word.  Even we who are reborn as sons of light can have moments of spiritual deafness when our old Adam clogs up our ears.  We may trust other things more than the clear Word of God.  In this way, our confession of the truth also becomes muddled as we mix our experiences and opinions over against the Word. 

For instance, the Word of God clearly says that murder and adultery are sinful, and therefore also abortion and homosexuality as examples of those sins.  But we may have a friend who got an abortion, or we may have a family member who reveals that they embrace their homosexual feelings.  Family and friends may lead us to trust them instead of the clear Word.

Christ, the sinless Man, has true emotions like us, but His are unspoiled by a sinful heart.  He has emotions of compassion, as we see in His deep, heartfelt sigh to heaven.  He was saddened by sin and its ill effects upon the children of men.  So He sighed up to heaven, as if to say, ďHow long, O Father, until we release these poor, suffering people from their awful burdens?Ē In this way, by looking up to heaven, Christ also shows that true and lasting help from manís afflictions comes only from the grace and mercy of the God of heaven.

Christ does not merely feel compassion, but He also does something about it.  In the Holy Gospel, the flesh and blood finger of Christ brought the touch of the untouchable God into physical contact with man.  The incarnate God who became Man brought mercy to man.  Here we see His compassionate work as He begins to heal.

Of course, touch in itself is not a means of grace.  Merely touching Christ did not give eternal life and forgiveness.  Yet touch is important to us humans.  Physical contact is vital to maintaining emotional health.  Touch is necessary.  Our increasingly isolated society suffers rampant mental health issues in increasing numbers.  We cannot live merely by ourselves and not be in contact with others.  Isolation withers the soul, although it may feel nice for a while when we need a break from people.  But God has designed us to touch and be touched, to shake hands, to hug, to show compassion by placing a hand on a shoulder.  Touch says to our neighbor, ďYou are not so repulsive that I will not touch you.  I recognize you as a precious human being.Ē That is so important.

But the touch of God is something even more important.  He shows that He has become one of us.  He identifies with us and desires to comfort us.  His intention was therefore to share in our sufferings, up to and including suffering death and the full consequences of human sin.  He carried nerve endings in His flesh that allowed Him to not only touch and be touched, but also to suffer extreme pain.  The fact that He willingly became Man therefore shows His tremendous compassion.

Yet He does not in an obviously visible way physically touch us today.  He touches us in the Supper sacramentally.  His flesh and blood are given on our lips and on our tongues.  We see His intention to bring His healing touch to us fulfilled in the Supper.  To comfort and be with us forever, He touches us.

Christís touch also points to something else.  The Holy Spirit is called the finger of God in Luke 11:20.  No one can call Christ Lord but by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore His finger in the deaf manís ear shows that He wants to open up all the ears deafened by sin.  By His Spirit, He makes you into hearing people, and more than that, saints of God saved by His Son.

This also Christ does today when the preacher opens your ears and mouth.  In Acts 16:14 it says that Lydiaís heart was opened by the Lord so that she paid attention to what Saint Paul was saying.  It seems more natural to assume that human persuasion is what brings a person to faith.  Yet Scripture reveals that faith is a gift of God, and He grants repentance to us.  This is the work of the finger of God that touches our ear every time we hear the Word.

Christ also uses spittle from His mouth to heal us.  He combines water with the Word from His mouth.  In this way also, His compassion comes to us.

This strange working of Christ in these rituals may seem odd or off-putting or disgusting.  Spittle!  Gross!  Touching his tongue!  Eww!  Canít He do it a different way?  The working of the Gospel is always repulsive to the old Adam.  But a new heart is created in us that is able to confess that where the Gospel comes to us, there is the wonderful healing of Christ.

Only let us be on our guard that we do not go back to acting as if we are deaf and mute.  When the devil sends false teachers, they may make us deaf to part or all of Godís teaching.  The old Adam may begin to reject those parts of the Word it finds disgusting.  As I said earlier, the devil tries to teach us to trust our feelings and experiences to contradict the Wordís promises.  Let us instead cling to the mighty finger of Christ that keeps us in His grace.

When we remain in His grace, it bears wonderful fruit in us.  We see a great example of that in those who brought the deaf mute to Christ.  They show love in wanting to help the poor man.  They show faith in that they knew that Christ could heal.  Although it is possible that they were only miracle seekers who wanted to see something amazing, it is better to assume better of them.  As in our dealing with others in our lives, we do better to assume better motives in others.  In this way we imagine the people receiving back the man whom Christ healed in private, and their joy that followed because they were not seeking a show, but seeking the help that only Christ could give.

True love, that is, selfless love for neighbor, is not natural to us sinners.  An unbeliever may display an external kind of love that feels or appears selfless.  But sin always creeps in somehow, in seeking merit or reward or self-satisfaction or something else.  The true selfless love that is pleasing to God only flows from a heart that He has recreated through the Gospel of His Son and cleansed by His Blood.

That Gospel, which is always accompanied by the Spirit of God, cannot fail to produce fruit in us believers.  For the mighty finger of God is with this Word, and therefore is living and active in us, whatever we may feel or fail to feel.

Therefore we hear and confess the selfless love that worked all good things without reward for the Man who worked.  He has worked healing for us when we were selfish and unable to love.  But His compassion saw helpless sinners who could not hear the healing Word nor speak it.  Rather than leave us to our helplessness, He could not fail to act on our behalf.

So this miracle also points to the end result of Christís work.  The original Creation was declared very good by God in Genesis one.  Now it is wrecked by sin and death because of our fault.  Now there is deafness and muteness and disabilities, as well as muddled speech that destroys relationships and pierces souls with terrible pain.  But Christ has conquered sin and death by His atoning Blood, innocent crucifixion, and glorious resurrection.  He speaks to us of this wondrous promise us that He has taken the curse away from us.  He has been raised immortal, without any blemish, neither sin nor corruption nor disease nor flaws like deafness and muteness.  Therefore He will restore us to a new Creation, where all things are very good again for us. 

The full weight of the curse of sin was no small thing for Him to suffer.  But this He did willingly for us so that the weight might be lifted off, and a future might be purchased for us without any disease or corruption of mortal flesh.

Because hearing aids and muddled speech were not Godís original intention when He created the world very good.  The isolation of deafness is not Godís original intention.  Yet we are comforted by the fact that He still works something good out of things that are not good in themselves.  In and because of Christ Jesus, all things must work together for we who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.

Yet we are comforted even more by that the fact that He will not work this way forever.  He will one day get rid of all crosses and pains and sorrows.  He will no longer work through bad things, but will simply be good in every way to us in all things.

The Lord keep us until that glorious day.  Amen.

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