Sometimes it takes being Spit on by Jesus.

+ Mark 7:31-37 + (A sermon preached on Trinity XII)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here our Lord opens the ears of a deaf man and makes his unintelligible speech easily understood.  Here our Lord does what He came to do: the Father’s will.  The will of the Father is to reconcile His creation to Himself.  Jesus is the embodiment of the Father’s will and so reconciles creation to the Father, the world having been created through the Son in the first place.  So the Son re-orders, re-creates, restores, and creates anew the creation that is fallen and is out of communion with the Father.

Jesus does the will of the Father.  Jesus does all things well.  Jesus creates communion with the Father where there was no communion.  He gives hearing were there was no hearing.  He gives speech where there was no speech.  Not to just a few obscure Bible figures, but the Lord Jesus gives you hearing and speech as well.  The Lord heals you.

He heals you.  Not just metaphorically – what we often call “spiritually” – but actually.  He heals your body.  He restores it.  Makes it new.  What ails you?  Cancer? Alzheimer’s?  Blindess?  Deaf ears?  A mute tongue?  Intestinal bleeding?  Weakness?  MS?  Death?  The Lord heals you.

Born in your trespasses, you were at enmity with God.  You were His enemy.  And while you were His enemy – before you were even born – the Will of God, the Word of God, the Son of God, came born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem you who were under the curse of the Law; came to bring the Father’s presence to you and to bring you into the presence of the Father.  And He has taken you away from the multitude of unbelievers and has sighed, has breathed out His Spirit upon you.  He has commanded your ears, “Be open,” so that you have ears to hear.  That you would hear plainly the will of the Father, “Be reconciled.”  He has touched your tongue with His body and blood; loosing your tongue so that your speech becomes intelligible, understood in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, that you may tell of His wondrous deeds and how He has worked salvation for the children of men.  Zealously proclaiming what Jesus has done for you: reconciled you to God by the cross.

Jesus does the will of the Father. Jesus does all things well.

But this is really only an afterthought.  Surely the crowds that day – not to mention the deaf/mute – didn’t think it so well done when Jesus stuck His fingers in this man’s ears.  Surely having your tongue spat upon is not such a pleasant experience that would cause one to think that this man does all things well.  Quite disgusting, really.  Dirty fingers into dirty ears.  Slimy saliva mixed with slimy saliva.  First century saliva.  No toothpaste.  No mouthwash.  No q-tips for his ears.  Not too mention Jesus’ character.

No respecter of persons, this man.  Doesn’t care what others think of Him.  Just does what He sees the Father doing without asking anyone’s permission.  No kind words, just fingers in the ear and spit on the tongue.  Seems to be put off by people, this man, Jesus, always asking His disciples why they are still so dull, and the leaders of the people – respected leaders – why they have led so stupidly.  Constantly sending the crowds away and seeking to be alone.  Far from the gentle Jesus that is thrust upon us by a culture that screams, “Just love me,” and “Don’t judge me,” Jesus seems quite unloving and judges harshly.  Diving out money-changers with a whip of cords, ending a father’s way to put bread on the table.  Calling well-intentioned men liars and those that seem good sons of the devil; demanding absolute allegiance of His would-be followers.  This man rebuked His mother as well as His enemies.  This man is not soft.  He is not weak.  He was despised and rejected by men, yet would not give in. He would not break. A man of sorrows, well-known to grief, as one from whom men hide their faces out of fear and shame, even as Peter cried out, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

This man, this Galilean, stuck his dirty fingers in this man’s ears and spat on his tongue.  He healed Him.  He does all things well.  He does the Father’s will.

Knowing the outcome, that Jesus does all things well, it is easy to be jealous of this once deaf-mute.  He got healed today, that is, while he lived on this mortal coil.  That’s what we want.  We want to be healed now.  We want our pains and sufferings to disappear.  And rightly so.  Sickness and disease, poverty and want, such things are unnatural.  They were not meant to be.  All creation moans with eager longing, eagerly awaiting the revelation of the sons of God when it will be healed of all its disease and sickness, its poverty and destitution.  It is good to desire to be rid of what ails us, what attacks our bodies and lives, for such things are the nothing more than the minions of death, which is always the enemy.

But though we may be jealous of the deaf/mute’s healing – because we know that Jesus does all things well – I strongly doubt that we are jealous of how he was healed.  One can image that the deaf/mute, unable to hear, was quite a bit apprehensive of what was happening as this larger than life Rabbi separated him from the crowd – the safety-in-numbers crowd.  Quite apprehensive as this rather rough Rabbi who seems afraid of nothing and puts the fear of God into powerful men and lets no man make excuses before Him, took him aside, away from the comfort of friends.  He couldn’t object, he was mute.  And once aside He stuck His fingers into his ears and put his spit on his tongue.  Nasty business, this healing.  Nasty business, your salvation.

It takes blood.  It takes death.  It takes being rejected by men and scorned by the world.  It takes sleepless nights of tearful prayer.  It separates a father from his son; but also a husband from his wife and a mother-in-law from her daughter-in-law.  Not of Jesus, but of you.  Nasty business, your salvation.  Your Lord does all things well.  He is going about His Father’s business, doing what He sees His Father doing, reconciling you and keeping you in the true faith until you die.  This is His good and gracious will.  He doesn’t ask you.  He doesn’t consider not doing the Father’s will.

Sometimes it takes pulling you aside, separating you from those that brought you to Jesus, from your friends and family, removing your false and fleeting comforts so that He can heal you and keep you.  Sometimes it takes terrorist attacks like those  the Twin Towers 10 years ago; or a devastating tornado like the one this last May in Joplin, or the one in April of 2001.  Who knows how many of His sheep He found in those catastrophes, as He stuck uncomfortable fingers in dead ears.  How many people’s safety did He violate in order to open their ears and unstop their tongues?  The Lord does all things well.  The Lord does all things for your salvation.

Sometimes it takes painful probes into your life, words of Law that condemn you and chastise you, or else devastating and life-altering events so that you become uncomfortable and afraid, worried about what this man, Jesus, is doing to you.  Surely the deaf/mute would’ve rather had Jesus wave His hand over him and thus heal him, but that is not what he needed.  Surely you would rather Jesus leave you alone and stop sending bill collectors and gossipy neighbors and unfriendly friends and incessant illnesses, and lonely nights and just make everything better, but that is not what you need.  You need His invasiveness into your life, into your soul. He does all things well.

Sometimes it takes violating your sensibilities and doing things to shock you, even to hurt you it seems.  Sometimes it takes being spit on by Jesus; being astonished by His work.  He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep. He knows you.  He knows what you need for your salvation and preservation. He knows what you need to be healed that your ears would hear your heavenly Father’s words, and your tongue loosed to sing the praises of Him who heals the nations and raises men from the dead.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me!  Make haste, O Lord, to help me!  Behold, the Lord does all things well.

In Nomine Iesu. Amen.

Above My Desk

Above my desk in my study hangs a crucifix, a picture of my Lord and my God obeying the Father’s will on my behalf, for my blessing and benefit. An icon.  No, not an official Eastern icon, but an icon none the less; a picture into heavenly places where my Lord stands before the Father making His case for me by the stigmata he bears.

Whether I do good or evil, right or wrong; whether I obey or disobey, do my duty or neglect my calling; whether I pray with diligence or forget my prayers; there hangs my Lord for me.  Independent of my wants or my thoughts, free from my sins and not motivated by my love.  There He is, for me, hanging above my desk in my study, always more ready to give than I to receive, always more willing to do than I am to ask, always praying on my behalf.

In the Sight of all

The psalmist writes, “How great is your goodness [O Lord] which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind” (Ps. 31:19).

The great goodness of the Lord is stored up for those who fear Him, for all who trust in Him.  But what is the goodness?  Eternal life, of course. And truly this will be before the sight of all mankind on Judgement Day.  But that’s not all of it.  His goodness is also the cross, which was done in the sight of many.  The resurrection, too, was attested to by over 500.  His ascension was done in the sight of the children of man – at least Twelve of them.  But even now the goodness of the Lord, which He has done for those who trust in Him, is done in the sight of the children of men.

How great is your goodness, O Lord … which you have done in the sight of all for those who trust in you!  For you have prepared a place for me, a dwelling place in your Temple.  You have built a city around me and hemmed me in on every side so that I cannot be removed. You have surrounded me with your armies and commanded them to watch over me.  You give me the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation.  You, O Lord, have opened my lips that my mouth should declare your praise.  How great is your goodness, O Lord, which you have done in the sight of all.

Our Lord gathers us together in the sight of all, saving us from sin, death, and the power of the evil one.  Even in places where His people must meet in secret, the children of men still know we meet.  The gathering – more commonly referred to as “church” – is the goodness of the Lord as much as anything, more so for me.  For what advantage is to me if the Son of God bled and died and rose again but I do not believe and so do not gather to Him? But His words, “For you,” require me to believe.  And in believing, I am gathered and the goodness of the Lord stored up for me and is given to me at the time and place appointed for me.  And this before the sight of the children of men.

Now boasting in the Lord makes sense.  Now I will boast that my Lord and my God does great things for me, He gathers me to Himself.  Not in the spirit only, neither in hyperbole, but body and soul in real time and real space.  He gathers all His saints in His Temple, and they all cry, “Glory!”