Pentecost 16

September 8 & 9, 2018 – Pentecost 16


Mark 7:31-37                                                                                                 


Dear friends in our Savior,

   “Did you hear about that guy?  They say he’s like no one else.  They say he can do incredible, unbelievable things.  They say he made a paralyzed man walk and healed many others.  They say he has provided food for thousands.  Some say that he can even walk on water.  And did you know that he’s here, right now, today?”  The eager and excited friends knew what to do.  They battled their way through the crowds of people.  They pressed and pushed on until finally they reached him.  “Jesus!  Jesus!  Help us!” 

   Wouldn’t it be nice to have the chance to do the same?  There could be massive, Black Friday-like crowds.  It wouldn’t matter.  We’d fight through it.  We would stand in line, push and pull, whatever it takes, all to have the chance to see him face to face.  “Jesus!  Jesus!  Help me!”  “It’s my daughter.  She’s sick.”  “It’s my mother.  She has cancer.”  “It’s my family.  We’re really struggling.”  “It’s me.  I’m lost.  I don’t know where to go.  I don’t know what to do.”  “Jesus!  Help me.  Please.”

   We have to wonder what Jesus thought about being mobbed by people everywhere he went.  The poorest of the poor, the neediest of the needy, the worst of sinners flocked to him.  People were tugging on his clothes, begging for help, calling out his name from every direction.  “Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!”  What would you think?  “Another one?  Don’t I get any rest or any privacy ever?”

   Here now stood yet another in front of him, a man who couldn’t hear and couldn’t talk.  Jesus was probably tired.  He could have just waved his hand and healed everyone around him and been done with it.  He could have reached more people and made better use of his time with a loud, long, and fiery sermon.  Yet Jesus took time to have compassion on this man.

   Jesus took him aside, around the corner and away from the crowd.  He didn’t need to put on a big show.  He didn’t need any “Oohs” and “Ahs.”  He wanted to do something very special for this man.  This was Jesus’ Personal Touch of Love.

   Now alone, Jesus prepared to do the spectacular.  How do you communicate what you are going to do to someone that can’t hear and can’t talk?  How do you make it clear that you were going to do something for this man?  Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears.  Something with his ears was about to change.  Jesus spit on the ground.  He touched the man’s tongue.  Something with his tongue was about to change.  He looked up to heaven.  Someone from heaven, God, was about to do something.  Jesus was communicating with a Personal Touch of Love.

   Then Jesus breathed with a deep sigh and said in Aramaic, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”).  And they were.  Suddenly all kinds of sounds poured in.  The man could hear the din of the crowd on the main street calling, “Jesus!  Jesus!  Where are you?”  He could hear his friends questioning, “What happened?  Are you alright?  Did it work?”  Suddenly the man could also plainly and clearly speak. 

   As the man burst back to the main street he began shouting with his new-found voice:  “I can talk!  I can hear!  He healed me!  Jesus healed me!”  Overwhelmed and amazed the crowd whispered amongst themselves, “He has done everything well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

   Now here we are all these years later, yearning for the chance.  Oh!  If only Jesus would appear now.  If only I could speak to him.  If only I could beg for his help.  “I would have Jesus heal my sister.”  “I would have Jesus get me a better job.”  “I would have Jesus take my pain away.”  “I would have Jesus take my sadness away.”  If only!  Is Jesus different now?  Has Jesus changed over all these years?  Is he not still God?  Does he not still have all power?  And, does he not look with compassionate love to all of his people?

   But we Americans, who can get Whoppers and “have it your way,” who have the “right” to yell at a waitress when our steak isn’t cooked correctly, and who expect everything to work when we want it and how we want it, we don’t have much patience.  “Jesus!  Help me!  Please!  (And now!  Oh, and if you don’t help, I’m going to be really upset, too.).”

   Look at the power of the Son of God and what he can do.  If he could heal and help this man, he certainly can heal or help us.  Pray to him with confidence, knowing that he can help.  Pray to him with conviction, knowing that he will listen.  Pray to him with courage knowing that he cares about you as he cared about this man. 

   Yet pray to him knowing that he also knows best.  Maybe the time isn’t right for you to be helped or healed.  Jesus let this deaf and mute man wait his entire life up to that point for just the right time to be healed.  Think about all the rest of the crowd.  Jesus surely didn’t help or heal everyone who needed it.  Sometimes it is good for us to be helped or healed.  Sometimes it isn’t good for us.  Jesus knows what’s best.

   Jesus also knows that there are other things that are more important, which is perhaps why he doesn’t heal or help at times.  As we clamor for the opportunity to present our problems to Jesus we often become distracted.  Listen carefully to your prayers sometime.  What do they sound like?  “Jesus, help me with this.  Give me this.  Fix this.  Change this.  Heal this.  Heal him.  Heal her.”  If we’re praying like that, we’re probably thinking like that.  Worrying about money.  Worrying about our family or our kids.  Worrying about work.  Worrying about the future.  These are hearts that are distracted from what truly matters most.

   Think about all the stories about Jesus in the Bible.  Think about all the crowds of people swarming him and begging to be healed or cured or fed or helped in some way.  Rarely do we hear about someone rushing to Jesus and begging, “Jesus!  Help me!  I’m a sinner!  Forgive me!  Please!”

   Perhaps our hearts become distracted this way too.  Why do you come to church?  Do you hope that your life gets a little better if you come to church?  Do you think maybe things will be a little easier if you come to church?  Which would you rather have in your life?  Jesus the healer and helper?  Or Jesus the Savior?

   Jesus certainly could have healed every disease and taken away every problem for those Israelites.  He could do the same for us.  He could make you perfectly fit and healthy.  He could fill your bank account with millions of dollars.  He could make a mansion appear out of nowhere for you.  He could make sure you never get a cold or the flu again. He could heal every sick person you care about.  But if that were the only reason he came to this world, you would still be going to hell because of your sins.

    These pains and problems in our lives are good reminders to us.  They remind us that we aren’t perfect.  We aren’t going to live forever.  Death is part of this life.  In the same way, this world isn’t the be all and end all.  Success and happiness in this world aren’t the most important things.  Our relationship with Jesus and where we go after this life are most important.

   So that’s what Jesus came for.  The crowd buzzed on that day, “He has done everything well.”   They didn’t know how right they were.  Jesus did everything well.  He had compassion on the poor and needy.  He powerfully and boldly preached the words of God.  He befriended the outcasts and the sinners.  Jesus showed perfect love at all times to all people.  Then Jesus showed perfect love in the greatest act of love of all time.  He suffered and died for sin.  With that same Personal Touch of Love, he took all your sins upon himself.  He became guilty in your place.  He died so that you could live in heaven.

   But we wonder sometimes.  Was this really for me?  Did Jesus really care this much about me?  Were my sins forgiven too?  Will I really go to heaven too?  How could Jesus communicate this to us?  How could he tell us what he has done?  How could he assure us that he has spiritually healed us?  With the deaf and mute man he gave him the Personal Touch of Love, communicating with fingers in the ears and a touch of the tongue.  How could Jesus communicate with sinners who are spiritually deaf and spiritually blind?  How could he touch us with personal, tangible reminders so that we would never, ever forget?

   Jesus knew just the way.  He provided us with his very own words, clearly written and communicated in Scripture.  He comes to us through his Word and assures us over and over and over again, “I love you.  I forgive you.”  Yet we still doubt.  So he communicates with another Personal Touch of Love, a personal touch that is always a reminder of his act of love.  He comes to us and touches us with water that is combined with the power of his Word.  He washes us and cleanses us and adopts us into his family in Baptism.  Yet we still doubt.  So graciously he communicates with us yet one more way with a Personal Touch of Love.  He offers us his true body and his true blood, together with bread and wine, in a meal most holy and most blessed.  Like touching the tongue of the mute man, he says, “Here.  Take my body given for you.  Take my blood shed for you.  They are for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

   This is Jesus, and this is how he comes to us with his Personal Touch of Love.  He has done everything well.  Yes, he is our healer and he is our helper.  What power we see today!  But that divine power is also what makes Jesus our Savior.  The one who could speak a word, “Ephphatha”, to heal a man, is also the one who could also speak a word, “It is finished”, and heal all sinners.  This is Jesus.  This is our God.  This is our Savior.  Come to him for healing for body and for soul, for he has done everything well.  Amen.

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