Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
Mission Fest 2018 || AUDIO
Rev. Duane Bamsch
Zion Lutheran Church, Terra Bella, CA
Vice President Higher Things
INI + AMEN.
He wants to speak but he can’t. He doesn’t know how to make the words, because he doesn’t know how they sound. Because he can’t hear.
He tries anyway, but it all get jumbled up and hung up in his mouth. It just doesn’t work.
It means that, even in the middle of a crowd and at the dinner table, he’s isolated and alone. His family and friends know this, but there’s nothing they can do.
Until they hear about Jesus. He’s supposed to be able to heal. He’s supposed to be able to do the miraculous. Maybe he can do something.
He’s here, among the Gentiles of the Decapolis, outside the Jewish homeland. Maybe he can do something even when he isn’t on his home turf, away from the land of his God.
Because all gods are territorial, right? They stick close to home?
Still, they plunge into the mass of people. They fight their way to Jesus. They explain the problem. Their friend, their brother, he can’t hear. He can’t speak. Can you do something for him?
The man sees the exchange. His friends are pointing and talking and pleading with Jesus. He turns to the man and acknowledges him.
“What now?” he wonders. “Will he even do anything? Can he heal me? Can he even tell what’s really wrong with me? What if it doesn’t work. What if I came all this way for nothing?”
Jesus takes him by the arm and leads him away. “What is this? What’s he doing? Do we need to go to a certain place? Is there another healer he’s taking me to?”
No, just away from the crowd. Away from the press of people, away from the seething mass of arms and legs and shouts and cries for help.
And that’s when it gets weird. Jesus looks him in the eyes, makes sure he’s looking at him, and then he sticks his fingers into the man’s ears.
And then he spits and touches the man’s tongue. “What is this supposed to do?” the man wonders. “Ah, he knows my ears and tongue don’t work!”
Then, Jesus looks upward, up to the heavens. And he inhales deeply and breathes out that huge sigh. His attention is focused now.
As yours should be, too. What do these actions mean? What do they call to your mind?
Jesus looking up to the heavens? What about the feeding of the thousands? Or dinner at Emmaus with Cleopas? Or that meal on the night when he was betrayed? Or when he called Lazarus out from his tomb?
And what of the deep breath and sigh? Not only the breathing out of the Holy Spirit on Easter Sunday, locked in the upper room, but also giving the very breath of life to Adam at his creation from the dust of the ground.
Jesus rehearses and reenacts the greatest miracles in history. Not only is he—in a sense—recreating the deaf-mute man in this moment, he is also calling to mind his own resurrection to come and the giving of the breath of life and the Holy Spirit.
All of these momentous and miraculous moments should be ringing bells in your minds as Jesus looks the man in the eyes, and he speaks.
The man can see Jesus’ lips move. Three syllables. Suddenly, there is sound! The noise crashes into his eardrums, and he can hear! Voices, laughter, words, wind in the leaves. He gasps! He can hear! And then…then, he makes a sound himself.
And he can hear the sounds coming out of his own mouth! The sounds become words, and he speaks! He speaks clearly for the first time ever!
He runs to his companions and the words come faster and faster, clearer and clearer. “I can hear! I can hear you! I can speak! Listen! The words! Do they sound right to you?”
“Yes, yes, they do!” they shout. They laugh and cry at the same time. Jumping up and down and grabbing him by the shoulders; overjoyed.
They can’t believe it! They are astounded that this Jesus healed their friend so completely and so quickly. They start babbling—“Look! Look! I mean, listen! Listen! He…he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t speak, but listen to him now!”
“Look! Jesus did it!” “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” “This is wonderful news!”
Not just for the nameless deaf-mute. But for you, too. Not just because Jesus’ actions fulfill Isaiah’s words: “the ears of the deaf [will be] unstopped…and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
Not just because the living and active Word of God recreated that which was broken in this man. Not just because those who saw it marveled and spread the news of Jesus far and wide, speaking the Good News of salvation even before the apostles are sent in Christ’s Name.
These indeed are marvels. These are wonderful pictures of encountering the Christ, the Holy One of God. But they are only that—pictures. Dim images and faint reflections of the reality that will be for you on the Last Day.
Jesus, the Lord of Creation spoke one word: Εφφαθα, that is, “be opened,” and that living Word healed the man’s ears and tongue.
The text says he spoke from his mouth “in a straight line.” The words were clear and right and pouring forth.
So also, on the Last Day, when Christ comes from the heavens in glory and He calls on the tombs of His saints to εφφαθα, to “be opened,” they will open, and the saints will come out in a straight line, pouring forth to their places at His side.
Because He first opened wide the door of death to life with His own resurrection. Neither the deaf nor the dead can hear, but His powerful Word creates the reality it promises in His speaking.
Because he first walked the path from death to life. Because in his being lifted up on his cross, in the stretching out of his arms to draw all men to himself, he did just that.
He conquered the Evil One. He conquered sin. He conquered death.
None of these things have lasting power. This doesn’t mean that they will not affect you, though.
This doesn’t mean that you will not be discouraged and dismayed in this life, because of the lingering effects of sin, because of the effects of your sin, but they have no lasting power over you.
For your Lord Jesus has touched your brokenness. He has taken into himself your sin and pain.
In his flesh, he bore the marks of your suffering; and he died your death to leave that sin, suffering, and death behind in his tomb on Easter morning.
He touched you in your Baptism, resting his own fingers upon your forehead to mark you as his child. To heal you of your afflictions for all eternity.
He thrusts his Word into your ears every week, opening them to hear his promises. And he touches your tongue every time you come before his altar to receive the gift of his Body and Blood given and shed for you.
No, you don’t see Jesus as the deaf-mute of the Decapolis did. You don’t physically see a spectacular healing in the spoken Word of God, or water, or in bread and wine. But you do, in a way.
For in these intimate and wonderful gifts, that same Lord Jesus who opened ears and loosed tongues opens eternity to you. He opens your future so that it has no end.
And knowing what lies before you, knowing what your future holds—a place before him, with all of the saints and angels of all time and space, you can now rejoice and you can open your mouths to speak the right words of him who heals you to those around you.
“He has done all things well.” For you, for me, for all who trust in his life-giving Word.
INI + AMEN.