16th Sun. after Pentecost, September 9, 2018
NKJV Mark 7:31-37
… 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
I recently read about George. George had been deaf from birth. His parents would take him to church when he was growing up, but he never understood what was going on. Think about it. Pastor would get up and talk. Then they’d pass the collection plate, and pastor would talk again, usually with a big smile on his face. Nobody at church knew sign language; there was no interpreter. So, the only real lasting impression he had about church was that the preacher’s job was to make money from the people. Well, because of his negative experience, George wanted nothing to do with Jesus and His church.
Around the world there are some 360 million people who have disabling hearing loss. Out of that vast number, only 2% of the them are Christians. Why? For some it’s because of experiences like George’s; but it’s also because people who are deaf or hard of hearing live a pretty isolated life. The rest of us don’t know sign language well enough to communicate, let alone to share with them the truths of God’s Word. The world of the Deaf is a vast mission field, full of people who need to know their Lord and Savior.
In your lifetime you’re likely to meet at least one person who is totally deaf or hard of hearing. What are you going to say? What are you going to do? Last week we emphasized how Christ is our all in all because of our weakness; but today, we focus on Christ’s strength. As we see His encounter with a deaf man, we’re reminded that Christ is our all in all—for He has done all things well.
- Through His compassionate care.
Christ has done all things well through His compassionate care. Jesus had just arrived in the region of the Decapolis, by the Sea of Galilee, when, suddenly, a crowd came to see Him. And they’d brought a man with them “who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech” (v. 32)—a man who was unable to either hear or talk. They were pleading earnestly with Jesus, begging Him “to put His hand on him” (v. 32).
So what did Jesus do? He did all things well! He showed an uncommon level of care and compassion in answering the prayers of the crowd.
First of all, Jesus stops what He’s doing and takes the man aside, away from the crowd (v. 33). He gave the man His undivided attention, not to mention a little privacy and dignity. But also in doing so Jesus took away all the visual distractions that would have kept the man from understanding what Jesus was up to.
Next, Mark says that Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears, and then He spit and touched his tongue (v. 33). He was engaging in some basic sign language. Put yourself in the man’s shoes; he might have had no idea what Jesus was up to. At least, now he knew what Jesus intended to do. He was essentially telling the man, “I’m going to unstop your ears and loosen your tongue.” But the sign language didn’t stop there. Jesus also looked up to heaven and “sighed” (v. 34), showing the man where his help would be coming from—from heaven, from God, and that it’s the kind of help people pray for.
And then, after taking all this time and giving the man all this attention, Jesus healed him! Totally and completely by the power of His Word, “Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly” (v. 35). Christ has done all things well!
Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus showed everyone that level of compassionate care? What would you say if I said, “He does”? It doesn’t always seem that way, though, does it? It’s tempting for us to look at people who have hearing loss or other disabilities and think that maybe God has made a mistake, or that He doesn’t care about those people as much. But the truth is that Jesus shows this amazing level of care and compassion to all of us—no matter who we are, no matter whether we can hear or not. There are about 7.5 billion people in the world today, and yet Jesus assures us that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Mt 10:30). Do you think someone who takes the time to know you that well—to number all the hairs on your head—doesn’t love you? You have HIs undivided attention. He listens to all your prayers. He shares with you in the pages of His Word His promise of deliverance. And then—He keeps His promise! He delivers—sometimes even immediately! Christ has done all things well—no one cares more compassionately for us!
And when we encounter someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, we want to bring that person to Jesus, to know that compassion for themselves. So how do we do it? By reflecting Christ’s compassionate care. It starts with communicating. You may know someone at work who is deaf, or there’s somebody in the family. Or maybe it’s more than one! Maybe it’s your neighbor or a person you meet at a restaurant. Be willing to take the time to communicate with that person. You can learn sign language if you want, but it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. Smile. Pass notes on paper. Send text messages. Sincerely build a relationship with this person, and then as the Spirit leads, tell them about Jesus. Connect that person with Christ in His Word. Bring them to church. Share printed copies of the sermon—that’s why they’re here! If you don’t know a deaf person, maybe you want to support the ministry of those who serve the deaf and hard of hearing with God’s Word. One way to do that is to look at the work our sister synod the WELS is doing with their Mission to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
- Through His almighty power.
Christ is our all in all. We have total confidence in bringing people to Him as our Lord who does all things well—not only according to His compassion, but also according to His almighty power. Power to open ears to ear and mouths to speak.
With just one Aramaic word, “Ephphatha,” the miracle was immediate. The deaf man’s ears were opened and tongue was loosened. The man who couldn’t hear now heard everything; the man who could barely utter any syllables was now speaking clearly in complete sentences. It was the almighty power of God’s Word. Only God could heal a man’s deafness with one word. Only God’s Word could set a man free from a life of silence and isolation.
And yet, Jesus didn’t want word of this to get out; He forbid them from speaking about it. Why? Because He wanted to put that almighty power to use for the good of all people. And He didn’t want anything to get in the way of that.
That’s because Jesus had a bigger goal than just healing a few people’s diseases and disabilities. He wanted to go after death itself. Death touches every aspect of life on this earth. And yet, we don’t just die overnight. It comes after us piece by piece. Death is ultimately what takes away not only hearing, but all our senses—sight, taste, smell, touch. And so Jesus, in His care and compassion for the whole human race, chose to exercise His almighty power to defeat death. How? By carrying in Himself all our infirmities—all our illnesses, all our disabilities—as He went to the cross. There, at the cross, Jesus defeated death once and for all. There, at the cross, He put to death all our infirmities. He died and rose again—and because He lives, He will someday grant all of us the same kind of healing He gave this man. We will have perfect bodies with perfect ears and perfect mouths, bodies that will never be corrupted by sin and death, bodies that will live in peace and joy with Jesus forever. Christ has done all things well!
And yet there was another miracle Jesus did that day. He didn’t just open the ears and mouth of the deaf man. He also opened the ears and mouths of everyone who saw it and heard about. It was another miracle of the almighty power of God’s Word. Their ears were opened to hear the good news about Jesus and put their faith in Him. Their mouths were opened to proclaim the wonders that Jesus had done. The more Jesus told them to be quiet, the more they spoke up! Because they were astonished “beyond measure”. And in their astonished amazement at the Son of God, they couldn’t help themselves. They had to tell everyone: “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (v. 37).
Hasn’t Christ opened our own ears and mouths the same way? James tells us that, “He brought us forth by the word of truth” (Ja 1:18). By the power of His Word, He has called us to faith in Him and in His promises. And by the power of that same Word, He still opens our mouths—to be able to share the good news of what Jesus has done. And that is why we want to bring all of our friends to Jesus—deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise. Since He’s opened our hearts by His Word, we trust He can—and will—do the same for them too.
As our all in all, Christ has done all things well. And may His powerful, compassionate Word help us to overcome all things to bring more and more souls into His kingdom. Amen.
 Not his real name.