The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.
The Prayer of Collect.
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.
31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. 32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak. (Mark 7:31-37)
TWO SPIRITS THAT DRIVE THE CHRISTIAN
The Seeking Spirit:
Our text opens today following the visit of Christ to the coast of Tyre and Sidon where, we are told in verse 24, “He could not be hid.” Because He was SOUGHT out by a Syro-Phenecian woman who had HEARD of Him, came and fell at His feet pleading that He cast out an unclean spirit from her precious little daughter, her prayer was answered. This Christ did. The lesson, of course, is this: Christ can in no wise be hidden from those who seek Him. How may the “Light of the World” be concealed in the desert night? Moreover, He delights at being found by those who seek Him. As our Prayer of Collect says: He is “always more ready to hear than we to ask.” So Christ deliberately desires to give us that for which we ask – as long as we ask for those things that it is His will to grant. One of the characteristics of the spirit of a Christian is that of a SEEKER. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8)
No man comes to Christ if he has not sought Him out. So first and foremost, we must have a Seeker spirit. There must have been a great guilt that has impinged upon our consciences at some point, evoked by the Holy Spirit, to cause us to feel and know our absolute depravity and sin. Even a dying child, or a dreadful disease, may awaken us to our great need – ‘the soul’s sincere desire.’ Some, like the lost sheep, know not where to seek; so they bleat and scurry to and fro in the wilderness rocks until their cries are heard by the Good Shepherd who comes to them in their loneliness and fright. Shouldn’t we, if able, be like those Greeks who came to Philip at Bethsaida, and desired of him, inquiring: “Sir, we would see Jesus!” (John 12:21 (KJV) But, like the lost sheep of the parable, are not able to go to Him, so they cry out where they are. Some are blind, cannot see, and are BROUGHT to Christ so that the scales may be removed from their eyes and they may see. How does such faith come? “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Have you both heard and believed from the Word of God? Someone must have TOLD you. Have you told others?
Now, in order to share good news, one must be the recipient of Good News – the Good News that is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! Knowing a truth of imponderable benefit to others must compel us to speak out. Have we remembered the Lord’s very last prayer before His ascension? “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt 28:19-20) Have you gone to those who have not heard, who cannot see to come to Christ?
Now Jesus returns the shore of the Galilean Sea – to Decapolis. We are told that, without the news of His coming being published in the newspapers or broadcast on radio, men brought a fellow to Christ who could neither see nor speak. How did they know that Christ was coming? Perhaps bad news does travel rapidly, but Good News travels with the speed of light – the Light of the World. Every place that Christ went, healing and doing good, the witnesses heralded his name and movements everywhere. The news was simply too good to keep silence. It is impossible to know Christ and keep silent. There are no secret Christians!
The Missionary Spirit:
Once we have seen, heard, and known Christ, there is a second spirit that must evince itself – the MISSIONARY SPIRIT! So how is Christ greeted on His arrival at Decapolis on the coasts of Galilee? Men bring to Him a friend who was both deaf and had a speech impediment. Such impediments of speech are common to those who have not, and cannot, hear. All who have not heard the Gospel are also handicapped from speaking it to others. These men who brought this deaf man to Christ had already heard of Him and knew that He was able to heal. So they put feet to their faith and brought a man who could not have heard of Christ. Faith is like a newborn babe – it cannot lie still. It must exercise itself and cry out and, thereby, GROW! Our own faith is increased when we share that faith with others and observe the resulting miracle!
32 “And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.” Men, who were able to know of Christ by HEARING of Him, now bring one to Christ who had no such benefit. I love the spirit of love and compassion that is generated in a heart full of faith. Please note that these men ask nothing that would be shocking of Christ. They do not make demands in their prayer such as the modern church advocates. They besought (pleaded) only that Christ “put His hand upon” the deaf and dumb man. Why were they not more specific? Do our prayers have to be specific in detail? Not at all! In the Lord’s Prayer, we simply ask that His will be done. If the will of Christ is done in our lives, it will be enough! These men could not demand that Christ restore the man’s tongue and loose his ears. So, they knew that the mercy of Christ would do all things needful. We never inquire or suggest the means by which Christ should answer our prayers, we should settle always for the happy result and not the means. We might properly remember that “His ways are not OUR ways, and our ways are not His ways.”
There is no secret formula or incantation whereby the miraculous works of God are produced. The simple and mysterious manner in which Christ healed this man could be replicated precisely a thousand times by mere men with no such result. The power was not in the MEANS, but in the LORD! 33 “And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue.” The example here is one of intimacy. We would sooner drink from the same glass as our child than that of another’s. When we are healed, it is a matter between the one being healed and the healer. So Christ took the man away from the multitude. Our greatest healing from sin is ALWAYS a matter of our coming face to face with Christ and apart from the multitudes. Christ touched the man by placing His fingers in his ears, and spit and touched His tongue. The man was not repelled by this intimate touch. His great need was to speak and hear – not to worry about the means. Many of my own prayers have been answered in amazing and surprising ways – almost never the way I expected. Jesus is a Lord of surprises. He will answer our prayers in ways that will result in our greatest benefit and in ways that we could never have imagined. When we pray, we must expect to be touched by Him, and we must expect to receive Him into our innermost being.
Christ did all things in perfect fellowship with the Father. When we undertake to serve God with a great work, even though our intentions may be commendable, we must first look to God. 34 “And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.” Even our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Begotten of the Father, looked to His Father in all of His works and miracles. He did so because, first, He wished to have His Father’s concurrence in all things; and, secondly, He desired to glorify the Father in all that He did. So must we! Do we boast of our success at organizing a worship service that attracts man, or our success at Bible studies that attract many? The glory is not ours, but belongs to God. In healing, Jesus ALWAYS took compassion on the person who sought it. The Good Samaritan was the only one who took compassion on the poor Jew who lay dying on the Road to Jericho. He felt the pain of the Jew. Jesus feels our pain as if it were His own. He makes Himself One with whomever He touches to heal and forgive.
What was the results of the Lord’s command of “Ephphatha!”? 35 “And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” When Christ speaks a single word to our hearts, the response is immediate – just as immediate as Paul’s being struck down on the road to Damascus. The mystery of god is at work in opening eyes that they may see, or even in blinding the eyes that we may KNOW Him as Paul was blinded on that Road. Once our eyes have been opened to the beauty of the Lord, our tongues shall also speak plainly of Him – “….the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.”
The counsel of our Lord in the next verse may seem a bit strange, but it has a great lesson secreted in its heart. 36 “And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it.” Please tell me: was this not a bit improbable that a man could be healed of speech and hearing and should remain silent about it? Do you really believe that Jesus intended that they MUST not tell anyone? Remember the young man, blind from birth, whose sight Jesus restored and commanded to tell no one? Or do you remember the leper that Christ healed whom He commanded, “Tell no man!” What profound truth was Christ conveying with such counsel? I believe the answer to that question is apparent based on what I know of the loving Lord. How can a man who has been unable to speak keep silence after having his speech restored? It is natural and irresistible that the first thing such a man will do is practice his speech, and tell every soul how he recovered it. The same with the blind man who was healed. How can he go home to his parents and not tell them the obvious – that once he was blind, but now he sees? Or the leper, who was forced to separate himself from friends and family, not tell all that he no longer has leprosy and why?
Jesus is making this point: Once the power of god has worked a marvelous work and a wonder in your soul, how can you keep silence even if commanded by God Himself! Jesus is saying to us, “Though I command your silence from telling others all that I have done in healing your guilty soul and your body, you cannot bear to keep silence.” Once you have known Christ and His Gospel, it will be IMPOSSIBLE for you to keep that secret! You must proclaim the good news from the roof tops!
When Christ has forgiven your sins, and received you by adoption into the family of God, all people will see the change and wonder of that marvelous work come over you. 37 “And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” When Christ works a miracle in your life, it is seldom solitary – it is a healing of all ills the first of which is your deadly disease of sin. He practices ‘triage’ in addressing our most serious affliction first – and that most serious affliction is always sin, for its end is eternal death and darkness.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.