There’s a little prayer I learned as a seminary student that I pray upon entering church. “Grant, O Lord, that what we say with our lips we may believe in our hearts and practice in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” But what if you can’t say anything with your lips because you can’t hear anything with your ears? You could learn sign language and be able to communicate that way. There are sign language interpreters in some churches who are trained to communicate the Gospel. Even some pastors who are fluent in sign language sign their sermon while speaking it.
Today’s Gospel shows us a man who neither can hear nor speak. His friends bring him to Jesus with the hope He can do something about it. Jesus does something about it and the man uses his God-given abilities against Jesus’ strict order not to tell anyone what has happened. The man and his friends couldn’t help it, and for good reason.
The deaf-mute man in Mark chapter seven is a picture of who you are outside of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus you are spiritually deaf and spiritually mute. The familiar words of Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed tell how it is: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” This is why his friends brought him to Jesus. They believed Jesus was able to open his ears and loosen his tongue.
The man’s friends show they believe Jesus is more than a prophet or a rabbi. He is the Son of God Who is willing and ready to help all men in body and soul. Jesus says in Matthew chapter eleven: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden. Asaph the Psalmist writes about the Lord in Psalm 50, Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. The deaf-mute’s friends show both faith toward God and love toward men. They believed that Christ could save this poor deaf-mute man. They were moved by faith to works of love and mercy. They brought him to Christ and begged Him to lay His hand on him. Christ saw this faith, had mercy, and helped him.
Jesus is never too busy to help. That’s where we so often fall short. We neglect to ask the Lord for help, even when we believe He stands ready to help. So we send out a brain wave, a quick thought to the Man Upstairs. Then we’ve done our good deed. We’ve followed through, if we even get that far. What is more, we play piggyback on other Christians. A Christian must have a personal faith in order to be saved. Yet how often do we see faith in other people’s faith? It’s as if someone will ride into eternal life on the back of Grandma or Grandpa, or even their spouse, or a loved one. Yes, the prayers of a righteous man availeth much, but a righteous man’s prayers mentioning your name aren’t enough for you to ride into eternity on his back.
These people believed Jesus could help the man hear and speak for himself. They wanted him to have the gift that they were given. Taking him aside from the crowd privately, Jesus put His fingers into His ears, and after spitting touched His tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephahatha,” that is “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Notice that Jesus uses means to heal the deaf-mute man. He touches his tongue. He puts His fingers in the man’s ears. He speaks a word. A real Jesus, a real man Who is God, uses real things to heal a real man from a real sickness.
Jesus’ healing the deaf-mute man is a direct shot against Satan, who brought misery and sin into Paradise and still works sorrow and distress in the world. Jesus regards this man as a picture of fallen humanity. This man cannot hear His Word. He cannot speak praise to God for bringing the Savior into the world as a man. It is as Satan wants it. Yet Jesus brings the man from sickness to health. Now he is able to hear the Word as well as speak it.
This is what Jesus does to a fallen creation. He heals it in His innocent suffering and death. He recreates it in His glorious resurrection. This is our gift right now. It is yours by God’s grace through believing Jesus Christ has overcome death and the grave for you. It will be yours in its fullness when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. As we confessed a while ago in the Nicene Creed, Jesus’ kingdom has no end. His kingdom has come among us, just as it came to the deaf-mute man.
His kingdom brings peace and joy. The peace of God means an end to the war that goes on for your soul. Though a rest remains for the faithful when you fall asleep in Jesus, your falling asleep in Him is not a permanent end. It is merely saying, “See you at the next meeting.” There is a next time for a Christian: the next time of everlasting life that never ends.
The joy of God cannot help but speak of what has been heard. That is why the people who saw this miracle, perhaps even the man once deaf and mute, zealously proclaimed it. A faithful Christian who has realized and is aware of god’s goodness and benefits cannot hold their peace. He has done all things well, even for the worst of sinners. He gives you life. He puts the Word of reconciliation in your ears. He loosens your tongue to speak words of praise and thanks that you hear in His Word. The most dangerous muscle in the body, the tongue, becomes the most glorious muscle of the body as it proclaims the greatness of the Lord.
He has done all things well. What you say with your lips you believe in your hearts and practice in your lives. Your body is a testimony of a merciful God Who provides palliative care now and brings ultimate healing in the resurrection. You may not be able to jump, hop, skip, speak, hear, or see well now, but in Christ you are just fine, for He has done all things well for your eternal welfare. Believe it for His sake.