Can creation disobey God?

The storm, the wind, the sea—can they disobey?

We know the answer’s no, because—

In Mark chapter four, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep. [The disciples] woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (Mark 4:37-41).

Creation can’t disobey God.

If it could, God wouldn’t be Almighty.

But what about the demons?

Can the demons disobey God?

The unclean spirits, Legion, you know, the demons—can they, now, disobey?

We know the answer’s no, because—

In Mark chapter one, “There was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’” (Mark 1:23-27).

We know the demon’s can’t disobey because of that and because “at evening, when the sun had set, they brought to [Jesus] all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed.And the whole city was gathered together at the door.Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him” (Mark 1:32-34).

The demons can’t disobey God.

If they could, God wouldn’t be victorious over them.

So what about you? Can you disobey God?

The man, the woman, the child—can you disobey?

We know the answer’s yes, because—

“A leper came to [Jesus], imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And [Jesus] strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction” (Mark 1:40-45).

Today, from Mark chapter seven, “Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, [Jesus] came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee.Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue.

Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly.Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it” (Mark 7:31-36).

The rest of Creation can only obey.

The demons, the unclean spirits, can only obey.

But you—we, us—we can and do disobey God, even when we benefit from His work, because we’re fallen—living, every day, between the Fall and final judgment.

Why?

Or—a better question—having this information, what’s next? What does God want for us?

The Gospel according to St. Mark is always, on every page, calling our attention to who Jesus is.

At the Transfiguration, behold, “a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!’” (Mark 9:7).

So we are to hear Jesus.

And—“After John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, [This is what we’re supposed to hear…] ’The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).

And from today’s Gospel lesson, this is the Gospel: “[Jesus] has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (Mark 7:37).

That is, He is the Christ, the Holy One of Israel and the very little while about which Isaiah wrote in the Old Testament lesson has come to pass.

The exalted will be humiliated, and the humble will be brought up as a fruitful field and forest.

For the deaf hear the words of the good book, and the blind see through darkness obscure to perspicuous light.

The humble increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor, miserable sinners rejoice in the Holy One of Israel, who has come to save them.

For—in Christ—the terrible one is brought to nothing, the scornful one is consumed, and all who watch for iniquity are cut off (cf. Isaiah 29:17-20).

Our temptation is to desire the result of all of this apart from the cost…the resurrection of the dead, the miracle, apart from the salvation earned and given in our crucified Lord and Christ…

Felt needs apart from the will of God—that’s our temptation.

Because eyes are meant to see—and ears to hear.

Legs are meant to leap—and hearts to beat.

But when they don’t any longer, who doesn’t want and wish for the miracles we read on every page of Holy Writ?

Prior to the predictions Jesus makes about His crucifixion—in Mark chapters eight, nine, and ten—Jesus commands silence regarding who He is.

Do you follow?

Before He identifies Himself as the One who will suffer and die and rise—He gives the miracle, but He commands silence.

Because He doesn’t want you to think that He came only unstop the ears of the deaf, only to open the eyes of the blind, only to raise the dead—otherwise, why hasn’t He?

But after He predictions His passion, Jesus commands no silence—because He’s told you what He’s about, what to be mindful of.

In chapter eight, “[Jesus] began to teach [His disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Mark 8:31-33).

With these words, in chapter eight, Jesus predicts His passion, His death and resurrection, and after these predictions, He commands no silence…

With the sole exception of chapter nine, after He’s transfigured, when, “as they came down from the mountain, [Jesus] commanded [Peter, James, and John] that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).

United, then, are the commands to tell no one—what Jesus will and has accomplished in His passion—and you, living every day between the Fall and final judgment.

That’s how we’re supposed to see it.

Why are we the only ones who can disobey?

And having this information, what’s next?

What does God want for us?

Hear the beloved Son.

Repent and believe the Gospel.

Want not for your blind eyes to be opened on earth—only to be closed again in death.

Want not for your ears to be unstopped on earth, only to be closed and clogged again in death.

But rather—see that the Holy One of Israel, Jesus the Christ, has done all things well—for you—that you would  be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.

This is most certainly true.

The terrible one is brought to nothing—

The scornful one is consumed—

By the Holy One of Israel, Jesus the Christ,

In whom we rejoice.

In whom our joy is increased.

And from whom we receive eyes that see His goodness and ears that delight in His Word—now and forever.

The time is fulfilled.

The kingdom of God is at hand.

Repent and believe the Gospel.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 12 Sermon, 2021
Mark 7:31-37
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

“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.

Good.

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
Mark 7:31-37
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt