“They brought to [Jesus] a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him” (Mark 7:32).
You can’t do that today—or, you shouldn’t, because it’s not politically correct to assert that there’s something wrong with being deaf—or blind or mute or pro-choice or homosexual.
To assert that ears hear, eyes see, and tongues confess, offends people whose ears, eyes, and tongues don’t hear, see, and confess.
And to assert that what God says is true offends people who are inconvenienced by it.
Maybe you know someone who’s deaf—or blind or mute. Maybe you know someone who’s had an abortion or foolishly and blasphemously thinks women should be able to choose. Maybe you’ve voted for someone who supports what are called women’s rights (unless they’re unborn-and-therefore-non-voting women).
Maybe you don’t like some of the things that God says or the Church teaches.
To assert—therefore—that there’s something wrong with your identity—who you are, what you think, and even the way you live your life—that’s offensive.
Jesus doesn’t care.
The good friends of the deaf man don’t care.
They bring the deaf man to Jesus, because they know ears are meant to hear and tongues, confess.
It may be very offensive to tell the truth, but lies certainly don’t help.
Lies might make you feel good, and the truth might hurt your feelings; but if your feelings are wrong, they need to be burned with fire, ground to powder, scattered on the water, and drunk (cf. Exodus 32:19-20).
That’s what God thinks of our false gods.
Now, recently, I baptized a baby. I was told by a hospital worker that it wasn’t needed, that there was nothing medically wrong with the child.
It was, to this person, as though the Lord sees as man sees, judging on the outer appearance and not the heart (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7).
It’s offensive to assert that a newborn child has inherited sin from mom and dad and commits his own sin and is therefore at enmity with God.
It’s offensive to assert that there’s something wrong with the deaf man.
But only sinners go to heaven.
I don’t say that to shock—I say that, because there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than the ninety-nine who break the heart of God by claiming they need no repentance (cf. Luke 15:7, 10).
Only forgiven sinners go to heaven.
“Taking [the deaf man] 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, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:33-35).
It wasn’t this man’s sin that caused him to be deaf, though temporal consequences do sometimes follow certain sins.
“It wasn’t that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (cf. John 9:3).
And the work of God is this: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).
This is the work of God: The deaf hear. The blind see. The meek obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor exult in God (cf. Isaiah 29:18-19).
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).
Miracles are interesting.
Who hasn’t prayed for a miracle.
But miracles are never the goal, the end, the point.
So the once-deaf man’s ears were opened.
So his tongue was released.
In the end, he still died and was buried.
The widow’s son at Nain, the little girl, and Lazarus—Jesus miraculously raised them all from the dead, but in the end, they were yet dead and buried.
Miracles are supernatural wonders, marvelous to behold—but, though they may last for the rest of your life, they will still end.
Saint Peter, who stood on the mountain and saw our Lord’s transfiguration and heard the voice from God the Father, he still considered that testimony less sure than what every Christian here today has and hears: the prophetic Word of God, the Bible.
Saint Peter writes: “For when [Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. [But] we have the prophetic word [which is] more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:17-19).
He had the miracles, the mountaintop, and the mighty works of God, but he preferred the prophetic Word.
Miracles aren’t the point; rather, they point to Jesus the Christ, our God and Lord.
Miracles identify who Jesus is.
After Jesus opened the ears of the deaf man, “[He] charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak’” (Mark 7:36-37).
When God created the world, “[He] saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
God is good. And He does all things well.
This is the work of God: when the deaf hear and the mute confess, when He does good things and those, things, well, our eyes are opened and tongues released, and we speak the straight, doxological truth of God’s Word: truly, this is the Son of God.
We didn’t need to see it happen.
We don’t see it happen.
But we hear and believe.
God defines what is meet, right, and salutary, and that definition might offend us or hurt our feelings.
The friends of the once-deaf man have it right.
Jesus does all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.
He doesn’t promise to remove every hardship, He doesn’t promise to provide a life of ease, and the miracles He did perform seem to be with us no longer.
Who hasn’t prayed for a miracle?
But we have something better.
Thus says the Lord: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).
We have something better.
He gives us life in His name.
This is the work of God: He who sighed and breathed His last for us upon the cross has opened our ears to believe in Him and has released our tongues to confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ.
So we hear and believe and rejoice.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 12, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt