Preached August 26, 2012
2 Corinthians 3:4–9
St. Mark 7:31–37
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today is the Twelveth Sunday after Trinity, the mid-point in the Trinity Season. We continue on with the consideration of personal sanctification, beginning this morning with the Collect for the Day:
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
The clear theme of today’s Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that it is only through the atoning merits and mediation of Jesus Christ that we dare to hope for the flow of God’s goodness to us. God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift and He alone, through his Son, forgives our sins.
In our Gospel lesson for today, we have another of Jesus’ healings, this time the healing of a man deaf and having a speech impediment. When it says in the Gospel lesson that he had an impediment in his speech, we should understand that to mean that the man was not entirely mute, but that he could not make clearly intelligible sounds, and therefore could not talk in the ordinary sense of the term. This man is brought to Jesus for healing, specifically that Jesus would place His hands upon the man. But that is where it gets very interesting.
Mark 7:33a And he took him aside from the multitude, ... Up to this point, both Jesus and the deaf and dumb man have been surrounded by a great multitude of people. As we well know, Jesus can heal anywhere, under any circumstances. He can heal people not even present where He is, such as in the case of the daughter of the Syro-Phonecian woman or the Centurion’s son, so why does Jesus make a point in this case of taking the man aside from the multitude, taking him out of the crowd? He takes the man aside to a quiet place, where in solitude and silence the man may be receptive to a deep, lasting impression of what Jesus is doing for him. In this same way today, Jesus often takes a soul, setting it apart in the silence of the sickroom, the humble prayers of a true penitent, those suffering great loss or in isolation from earthly companions and friends when He would speak with that soul and heal it. He takes that soul aside, just as He took the deaf and dumb man aside out of the crowd, so that in the quiet of His peace, that soul may listen and hear Him. He did the same thing on a much grander scale when He took His Chosen People aside in the wilderness for forty years, that He might first open their spiritual ears and deliver to them His Law, but the concept was exactly the same.
Mark 7:33b … and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; After having taken the man away to a quiet place, St. Mark describes for us the particular actions whereby Jesus cures the man’s afflictions. Jesus places His fingers in the man’s ears, an action that is symbolic of boring through the blockage that prevents him from hearing. Then Jesus spit on His own fingers and touched the man’s tongue. We might imagine that the man’s tongue was stuck the to roof of his mouth, as with a very dry mouth. Jesus provides the necessary moisture to relieve this problem by His own saliva, coming from His own body, and bringing with it His own power to heal. Jesus does not need to look outside Himself for assistance to bring about the healing, but rather provides everything necessary from His own body.
Mark 7:34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. This is really when the miracle happens. Jesus looks up to heaven and says, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. In looking up to heaven, Jesus is once again claiming for Himself His unity with the Father, His full divinity. The sigh is Jesus sadness for the dismal state of mankind as a result of sin as exhibited by the man there before Him.
Jesus said, Be opened in curing the man’s deafness and dumbness. But we may read a bit more into this, I think. Jesus is also saying, Be open to the Living Word of the Lord, Be open to the call of Christ on your life, Be open to the opportunities to serve in His Kingdom here on earth. One of the easiest things to do in our modern lives is to live in isolation, to hunker down in our own little bunkers and try to ignore the ugliness of the world. It is a great temptation to want to cut ourselves off from the world today. There is so much in the world that is absolutely repulsive, that it is really very easy to want to live in isolation. In doing so, we cannot possibly live the Christian life that requires us to interact with others and be witnesses for Jesus Christ every day of our lives. We must Be open.
Having considered the Gospel lesson as a literal miracle of our Lord, let us now consider both lessons together, in comparison. The Epistle lesson speaks of the letter, referring to the Letter of the Law or the Law of Moses, also called the Old Dispensation.The contrast between the Old and New Dispensations is vividly set forth in the Gospel and Epistle for this Sunday. As glorious as the former was in its origin and in its continuation up to that time, it was a ministry of condemnation, with sacrifices of atonement, but with no sacraments of salvation. The Incarnation of the Son of God was the origin, and the mystical presence of Christ the continuation, of a spiritual life which the world had not before known since the fall into sin. The Church of God had grown deaf, and had not heard the voice from heaven as that voice had been heard of old; there was an impediment in her speech, so that the Word of God did not go forth from her lips in prophecy. The 400 years without a prophet was for the Church entirely parallel to the man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, the man cured by our Lord in the Gospel miracle. The Son of God came down on earth, and touched her by making Himself one with her through His human nature; the sigh of His Passion was followed by the “Ephphatha” of the Resurrection; and as soon as His work was perfected by the looking up to heaven at His Ascension to the right hand of God, the ears of the deaf were unstopped to receive the Inspiration of Pentecost, and the tongue of the dumb loosed, so that “their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words into the ends of the world.” The same Touch of Christ and communication of grace is in the tactile presence of His Person, it is still the means by which the Church as a corporate body, and every individual member of it as a living member, is vivified and sustained; and He Who gives spiritual ability to the ministers of the New Testament, that their acts and words may be the means by which His Presence is continued in the Church, is making the ministration of righteousness, even in the by-places of the earth, to exceed in glory the ministration of Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
The New Dispensation is the perfected statement of God’s love for us, His invitation to fellowship with Him for all eternity, if we will but seek Him out and ask. He makes it so very easy now, whereas the Old Dispensation was really completely beyond our ability to keep, even for the most devout and observant Pharisees. Now, He simply says, “Come, believe on My Son, and enter into My Kingdom.”
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.