Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Though He was without sin, Jesus understands better than we do.


And He took him aside from the crowd, and place His fingers into his ears, and spit and touched his tongue and looked upward into heaven, and sighed and said to him, Ephphatha, which means, Be opened!  And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue loosed and he spoke plainly.  Mark 7:33-35

WE can never praise the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ highly enough!

It is theoretically possible that God could have made some other arrangement to do away with human sin, that He might have conducted a spiritual transaction in the distant heavens, somewhere far away from our sight, and without our knowledge, but that is not what He chose to do!  Instead, in a show of the greatest possible solidarity with sinful man the heavenly Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world to be our Savior, to assume human flesh, taken on the form of a servant, and to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

As a man He took up residence in Nazareth, a city of Galilee, far removed from the religious capitol of Jerusalem.  From there He travelled to still more out of the way places like Tyre and Sidon where the glory of God's Word had never been heard; where people lived in great darkness, where they had no hope and were without God in the world.  There the Light shone.  There He expelled demons, healed the sick and preached the good news of the Kingdom so that people who otherwise had no expectation of divine blessing would learn the love that God has for all men without exception.

From there He travelled to the region known as Decapolis where a deaf mute was presented to Him for healing.  His friends brought the man to Jesus requesting only one thing, that the Lord should touch him with His holy hand, and it would be enough.

We read in St Mark's gospel that Jesus graciously received the man without appointment, without charge, and without any stipulations or demands.  How different that is from the signs posted on telephone poles around town that warn:  Jesus is coming, clean up your life.  We can no more clean up our lives than rotting flesh can stop stinking, but Jesus has cleansed you to your very core by His Word, and now you are clean!

We learn from Scripture that Jesus did more than just touch him and send him away, but that He turned this faithful request into an unforgettable event.  In a great show of ceremony the Lord used His fingers to open the man's ears and saliva from His own sacred tongue to open the man's lips so that his mouth might show forth God's praise.  With His all-seeing eyes He looked heavenward, because the Son of Man came from heaven to do the will of His Father, to release sinners from the curse that always accompanies sin.

He used His mouth to speak the words of healing.  Because Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, the utterances of His lips are all-powerful.  When He says to deaf ears, "Be opened!":  they open; and when He says with His dying breath on the cross, "It is finished," we should be fully persuaded that the struggles of our soul are over and the day of our deliverance is here.

Neither should we miss the significance of what the Evangelist reports in verse 34 that the Lord "sighed."  We confess in the Athanasian Creed that our Lord not only had a human body but also a "reasonable soul."  He could think, reason, and understand things even as we do.  He could comprehend human suffering and identify with it.  The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help  in time of need."  Hebrews 4:15-16

As our Lord wept over the death of His friend Lazarus, and shed tears of sorrow over the lost city of Jerusalem, so here He sighs over the immense misery that sin visits on the world.  Yet there was more to His sigh.  In His  mind the Lord was thinking of His impending suffering and death.  He understood the trade He was making; that for every sin He forgave, and every disease He healed, that He who "bore our griefs and carried our sorrows," would be stricken, smitten of God and afflicted on the Cross, that He would pour out His sacred blood so that sinful humanity should freshly joy in the Lord.  All this was done for us men and for our salvation.

Still, the faith we profess does not consist only of past events, as prized and amazing as they are, but as we can never acclaim our Lord's incarnation highly enough, neither can we sufficiently exalt the blessed Word and Sacrament by which He resides among us still today.  As Jesus once came in the flesh to save us from our sins, He still comes to us today in the church, in the Word and in the Sacraments to continue His ministry among the people of His pasture.  We should always be cognizant of the fact that it is His voice that we hear in the church, His absolution we receive and rely upon for the ongoing treatment of the sins of our flesh, and His true body and blood we eat and drink in Holy Communion, all to the end that the ears of our hearts might be opened to hear the words of eternal life, for our spiritual nourishment and joy, and that, having our lips opened by Jesus, our mouths might show forth the praise of Him who heals all our diseases, forgives all our sins and gives us reason to sing.  Amen

~  Rev.  Dean Kavouras

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