Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mark 7:31-37 Pentecost 16

Hopeless—the deaf man in the Gospel must have felt hopeless.  He couldn’t communicate with anyone.  He couldn’t understand what they were saying, and they couldn’t understand him.  In that day before hearing aids and sign language and braille, this man was all alone, and he could see no hope for improvement.
I think, at least a little, we can all identify with this man.  You’ve all experienced hopelessness.  The world we live in is not the “very good” world that God created in the beginning.  Awful things happen in this world.  Awful people live here.  There are awful, self-centered thoughts in our own hearts.
You must remember the hopeless feeling you felt as you saw what awful sinful people had done on September 11, 2001.  There was nothing you could do to help while the towers fell and people died.
This last week I saw hopelessness downtown.  I was there for jury duty, and during my lunch in the park I saw all of these helpless homeless people sitting in the shade of the park.   Perhaps only a few feet away some of the wealthiest people in society were walking past or stopping to eat their lunch.  They didn’t seem to notice the poor.  I suppose they felt like there was nothing they could do to help.   I wonder how the homeless people felt—they looked like they felt hopeless. 
It seems that the older a person gets, the more you find personal troubles that make you feel hopeless.  It may be that you feel yourself losing your mind, losing your eyesight or hearing, or losing your health in general.  You can’t stop what is happening.  It makes you feel hopeless.  You go to the doctors, and some of the things they do seem to help for a while.  But in time your health goes from bad to worse, and there is nothing the doctors can do to stop that.  After all, as they say, you’re not getting any younger.
The man in the Gospel who felt so hopeless because he could not hear and could hardly talk finally found a doctor who could truly help him.

Jesus is the Doctor Who Can Truly Help

I invite you to see this story from the deaf man’s perspective.  This man who had been deaf and could not talk probably was used to everyone ignoring him because of his problem.  He was used to the frustration of trying to communicate when no one could understand what he was trying to say.  He probably had tried going to doctors, but they had not been able to help him.  Now, on this one day that Mark tells us about, some people, probably his family, brought him with them.  He didn’t know where they were going, but he could tell they were excited.  They brought him up to a man in the middle of a crowd of people.  The whole crowd was excited.  The people who brought him there said something to the important man, and this important man took him off to the side by himself.  The man put his fingers into the deaf man’s ears—he knew and he cared about what was wrong.  He spit—the deaf man had seen other doctors use spit when they were trying to heal him.  So this important man must be a doctor, and he was going to try to heal his ears.  The doctor touched the deaf man’s tongue—he was going to fix that problem too.  The doctor looked up to heaven and the deaf man understood that this doctor was going to use the power of God to heal him.  The divine doctor took a deep breath and said something—and the deaf man noticed that the doctor had said something because his chest heaved with a great sigh and he could easily read the word on the doctor’s lips, “Ephphatha.”  Instantly the deaf man could hear perfectly again, and his tongue could speak perfectly.  He knew exactly how it had happened too—this was no coincidence.  There was no fancy medicine involved.  The doctor had done this deliberately, and he had done it by the power of God and the power in the words of his mouth.   He knew that this was no ordinary doctor, and he would find out that this was Jesus.
Still, that man in the gospel would lose his hearing again and his ability to speak, when he would grow old like we all do and finally die.  Like all of us, he had a deeper problem.  I hope he learned to trust Jesus to cure his real problem too, just like he had cured the symptoms.  The powerful Word of Jesus our Doctor helps because he cures the symptoms and the real problem.
1.  His Word Cures the Symptoms.
In the Gospel reading we see Jesus, the doctor who can help. 
God never intended for us to get sick.  He created our bodies to function perfectly, and never grow old, but sin has ruined it.  All of our sickness and old age are symptoms of the sin inside of us that has ruined us.  But God can fix it.  Jesus is God, and he came to earth to save you. 
He can take away all your troubles.  He can restore your lost vision and lost hearing.  If you lose a part of your body he can give that back to you.  He can give you back the mind that you feel slipping away.  With the power of his word he made a deaf man hear, and he did it so well that this man could speak perfectly right away, without having to learn how to talk again like we might have expected.  He did it all by the power of his word, because he is God, and what he says happens.
We see that Jesus wants to help you.  You may feel no special reason for God’s attention, but there was no special reason why Jesus would help this deaf man either.  He was not a Jew.  He lived in the Decapolis.  Jesus had just explained to a non-Jewish woman that he had been sent to the Jews, and was under no obligation to help people like her who were not Jews.  But Jesus did help that woman, and he helped this man too.  God cares about all people, and he cares about all of our sufferings.  Jesus wants to help you.
In fact, he commanded us to pray to him when we are sick or in trouble, because he cares and he wants to help.  Through the words of James he tells us,
13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.   (James 5:13-16)

Perhaps God will choose to relieve your suffering now, or perhaps he will not.  We do know that in the end he will take away all our suffering.  He is preparing a place for us in heaven, and he will return to take us there.  He gives us a glimpse of that place in Revelation 22, where he describes the city of heaven.  In this city there is a river flowing from the throne of God, and that river gives eternal life to all who live there.  By the river there is a tree of life, and we hear that its leaves are for the healing of the nations.   You aren’t going to have any of those things that make you feel hopeless.  We will all be healed in heaven.
Now if Jesus, the doctor who can help, is going to get us to heaven, he is going to need to fix the bigger problem that we all have—our sinfulness.   He could heal all our diseases and give you your youth back today, but you would still have to die one day because of sin.  It is the fate of all sinful people who live on this sinful world.  We must die.  As God said in the Bible, “The soul that sins is the one that will die.” And “the wages of sin is death.”  All of your sicknesses and troubles are only symptoms of the real problem. Without the healing that Jesus gives, this would be the most hopeless problem of all.  As much as you try to get rid of your greed and selfishness, your anger, malice, lust, and laziness, your sinful heart finds a way to push those sins to the surface again.  We are hopeless to do anything to get rid of our sinfulness. 
2.  Jesus is the doctor who cures our real problem.
Jesus takes away the guilt of our sin, and he gives us the medicine of eternal life.  He has been doing it here this morning.  Open your bulletins and see where Jesus has been healing you.
We begin on page two with the Invocation, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Those words remind us of the baptism we received, and by that baptism God gave us the right to consider ourselves children of God, and to expect that God will forgive our sins and bring us to heaven. Martin Luther wrote about Baptism in the Catechism, “Baptism works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”  And it does this because the powerful word of Jesus our doctor has said that this should happen.  In Mark 16 Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  When we come to worship, we begin by remembering our baptism, because that is where Jesus gave us healing for our real problem, the problem of our sins.
After the Invocation we confess our sins, and then hear the pastor tell us that our sins are forgiven.  When the pastor tells you that your sins are forgiven, he says this is the word of Christ.  “Hear the Word of Christ through his called servant: I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Christ commanded us to forgive sins.  He said in John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” so when you hear the pastor say those words it is just as true as if Christ himself would tell you that your sins are forgiven.  The powerful command of Jesus our doctor opened the blind man’s eyes, and the same word has commanded that our sins be forgiven. 
On page 3 we pray for Jesus to have mercy on us and heal all the troubles that sin brings into this world and our lives.  We praise him for coming to earth to save us from all of these troubles with the song the angels sang to welcome him at his birth—All glory be to God on high!  In Latin it’s Gloria in Excelsis Deo!  Glory to God in the Highest!
On pages 5,6, and 7 we heard the Word of God tell us about Jesus as our doctor who heals the distress that sin causes in our lives.
Later in the service we will receive the body and blood that our Lord gave on the cross to heal our souls and give us eternal life.  As we anticipate the eternal life that he gives us in the Lord’s Supper, we sing the Holy Holy Holy.  Look at the words in verse two on page 10:  “Hosanna in the hightest! How truly blest is he who in God’s name is coming to set his people free!  He comes to bring salvation, and with his blood outpoured, deliver us from bondage—Hosanna, mighty Lord!”  On page 12 in Lamb of God we sing because Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and he takes away our sin when we receive the Lord’s Supper.
Throughout our worship service, we see Jesus our doctor at work healing our sin and giving us the medicine for eternal life.

Keep in mind that Jesus your doctor most of all wants to bring you to eternal life in heaven.   He wants to heal the real problem of your sin.  Now he may heal the symptoms of your sin also…he might take away your suffering.  You can pray for it.  But if he doesn’t, don’t lose faith.  That is just Jesus being a good doctor for you.  A good doctor knows that if he takes away all of your pain, you might end up worse than before.  You might stop taking the medicine.  You might try to do too much before you have recovered, and injure yourself worse.  You might become dependent on the painkiller.  That’s why they don’t give you narcotics for everything that hurts.  Jesus is a good doctor for you, and he knows that you need some pain in your life to remind you of what is really wrong with you.  You have a sinful heart that is causing all that pain, and you need Jesus your doctor to save you.  You need to keep taking the medicine he gives his Word, the medicine he gave you in your baptism, and what he gives every time you take the Lord’s Supper.  That is medicine for your real problem, your sin.  It gives you forgiveness and eternal life.   Come to your doctor for the healing he gives—yes, for all your problems, but mostly for the real problem—your sins.  Jesus is the Doctor who does truly help.  Amen.