The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 2016
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Grace to you all, and Peace, from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Why would Jesus charge the crowd and the once-deaf man to tell no one about the miracle?
The people who brought the Deaf man to Jesus for healing understood that healing was good. They understood that ears should hear and tongues should speak.
This is how far we’ve come, how progressive we are, how much better things have gotten…
In the Gospel lesson, an ailing man was brought to Jesus for healing.
Today, that same man would be encouraged to think himself whole. Encourage a Deaf man to become hearing, for example, and you’ll receive the scorn of his community and yours.
What sins are accepted today? I read, numerous times, regarding the Olympics how special and historic and progressive these Olympics were, but do you know why they were so? Evidently, there were more lesbian and gay athletes, therefore, for that reason, these Olympics were better.
This is the Christian’s place in the world. We’re accused of forcing our views on people who don’t want them, but there’s nothing wrong with turning athletic competitions into a discussion about sexual deviancy.
G.K. Chesterton, an early 20th century Roman Catholic apologist, writes, “It is only the last and wildest kind of courage that can stand on a tower before ten thousand people and tell them that twice two is four” (Heretics, ch.5).
What he means is this: the sick and sinful people of this world need a Savior, Jesus Christ. But the devil, the world, and our flesh hate that assertion, and those who make it, because who wants to admit to their own sin and sickness?
In today’s Gospel lesson, the Deaf man’s friends, and the Deaf man himself, know that ears are meant to hear and tongues to speak. They knew that a man marries a woman, that a person’s a person no matter how small, and that twice two is four.
Jesus opens the Deaf man’s ears and looses his tongue. It’s a miracle. What was wrong because of the sin of Adam and Eve is made right by Jesus, Savior of the sick and sinful.
Once healed, once amazed, they wanted to tell others about it. They didn’t understand why Jesus told them to hush up the miracle, so they ignored God’s command.
That’s a familiar story: we don’t pay attention to what God says, or we just don’t like what He says, regardless, we don’t understand the importance of God’s command, so we figure we know better or that it doesn’t matter, and so we do what we want, what makes us feel good.
What harm could come from ignoring God’s command? When you say it like that, it’s laughable. No one’s going to say that you should ignore God’s command.
But Jesus commanded them to tell no one (cf. Mark 7:36). What harm could come from telling others about the compassionate power of God in Jesus? If you say it like that, it would seem that, even though they directly disobeyed Jesus, they didn’t actually do anything wrong. Thus says the Lord…but they know better.
Here’s the problem.
They weren’t telling people that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They were telling people that He’s a worker of miracles. Step up and be healed!
Now, that’s not heresy, but it is misleading.
God does care about your body. How you use it. To whom you are united. “God created man in his own image…male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:27, 28).
But, after the Fall into sin, God does not promise that it’ll be easy. He doesn’t promise good health or long life or even earthly happiness.
Proclaiming Jesus to be a worker of miracles (instead of God in the flesh who will die for the sins of the world) is a confusion about who Jesus is, what His mission is, and why He’s there. And, it makes His mission and ministry much more difficult.
When He’s brought before Herod, for example, “Herod was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him” (Luke 23:8).
He’s heard that Jesus performs miracles. So he wants to see a trick.
The real miracle Jesus came to perform was the atonement of the world.
He came to reconcile all of humanity back to His Father through His own death and resurrection. He came to give His life as a sacrifice and ransom and to rescue us all out of Hell.
But Herod wants a sign.
Perhaps that was the fault of these friends and the once-Deaf man. Perhaps they spread the word of Jesus the worker of miracles to Herod himself.
We should hear all this as a warning: God’s Word is never arbitrary.
When He says don’t tell people, He means it. And He means it for our good.
The history of sin is the history of how we think we know better than God.
God tells us what’s good, gives us what’s good, and promises what’s good. But don’t we, so very often, claim to know better?
Eve couldn’t understand the command not to eat the fruit. She could see for herself that it “was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6).
Why not do what she knew to be good, since God’s Word and command didn’t make any sense?
She didn’t think she’d bring pain, sorrow, and death upon herself and everyone after her.
She thought God was wrong about what was good. She thought she knew better.
So she took matters into her own hands.
That’s what you do every time you sin.
Every one of you.
You refuse God’s Word for your own wisdom.
It doesn’t matter that Eve didn’t have original sin attached to her flesh, she still needed God’s Word, and she needed to obey it.
The same is true for us but even more so. We have original sin attached to our corrupt flesh. We enjoy sin, imagine new sins, and excuse sins daily.
We need God’s Word to call us to repentance. We need to obey God’s Word.
We need also to realize that all of God’s Word, even the parts that make us aware of our sin, it’s all for our good.
His Word is always trustworthy.
Sometimes, to our fallen reason, God’s Word seems contrary to what’s good.
We’re like the friends of the once-deaf man.
We think, “What could possibly be wrong with telling people about Jesus healing him?” Or, in the modern argument, “What could possibly be wrong with two consenting humans loving each other?”
But when God’s Word and Law seems contrary to our reason, what we call good, we do best to repent and submit and remain silent.
When we don’t, when we insist on our own way, we hurt ourselves and others.
There are no victim-less sins.
That means little white lies, choosing the lesser evil, refusing to disagree with loved ones, and all the other things we do to justify or hide our sins, are dangerous and hurtful.
And hear the comfort meant only for sinners.
Despite our glaring imperfections, the Lord has compassion.
He healed the man.
He didn’t come just to make atonement at some distant point in the future. He came with real compassion. His sight to heaven comes from His heart that’s moved with perfect love to save us all.
The sorrow and pain of the Deaf man moves Him to act even though it’ll result in making His ministry and mission more difficult.
The fact that they don’t faithfully receive His Word, that they take the miracle and run, that they don’t fully understand who Jesus is, doesn’t stop Him or lessen His compassion.
That you are a sinner does not impede Jesus’ compassion.
He is the friend of sinners.
He has compassion on all who suffer.
We’re not only criminals, we’re also victims. If you’ve never thought of our sinful condition that way, when Jesus prays, from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), that’s exactly His point.
We don’t know what’s good.
But we believe very much that we do.
Jesus sighs in sorrow and frustration over our confusion and self-righteousness. He sighs in grief over our sins and self-inflicted pain. He sighs in anger of that which has been done to us by the devil, our neighbors, and even by our loved ones.
Getting involved with us means that we’ll hurt Him, that we’ll complicate matters, that we’ll betray Him in a thousand ways…But it doesn’t matter.
He gets involved anyway.
He sticks His finger in the Deaf man’s ear. He picks up our cross.
He takes our sorrow, our sin, our blame into Himself in order to heal us and to save us.
He even answers imperfect prayers with compassion.
He abides with sinful men. He’s not done with you.
Your sins aren’t enough to drive Him away or disgust Him. Though it shame you on earth, Jesus forgives you.
He loves you and marches toward Jerusalem for you.
More astonishing than any other miracle is this: Jesus is faithful to you, even unto death, and has, Himself, risen from the dead in order to bring you to Himself, alive and healed and whole, on the Last Day.
He does all things well.
He knows what’s good. He teaches us what’s good.
So trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ, to give you what’s best.
Trust in the Lord that what He says is perfect and that you should abide by and in His Word for this life and the next.
The sick and sinful need a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
And He comes to us, by His Word, with real compassion, to heal and help and save.
He does all things well.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!