Ephphatha

The Deaf man lived in a different world, the sounds of the world, the speaking of praise and prayer…the speaking of buying and selling, living, and playing: all shut off, shut down, left out. But he may have not even thought himself disabled and unfortunate. He may have been comfortable with his life and his deafness. He could have adapted to his life, learned sign language, hung out with others like himself or he could have been miserable, and alone, and shunned OR both. Whatever his life, in his Deafness, It didn’t matter…his friends had heard about a miracle worker and they brought him to Jesus.

His ears stopped… Jesus opened them. His tongue stuck… Jesus loosed it.

Jesus healing the Deaf Man by Richard Caemmerer

Jesus healing the Deaf Man by Richard Caemmerer

But there is something more here. The Deaf man’s ears had been stopped from hearing the Word of God…and here and now, the first thing he hears is the Incarnate One speaking to him: directly to him, Ephphatha! That is “BE OPEN!” Like every last one of us, our ears, our hearts, stopped up from the Word of God. We downplay, ignore it, move it to the back burner, pay attention to it when it is convenient, but treat it like we feel it to be: an inconvenient necessity. What has your sin done to your ears and your hearts?

And where has this put our priorities? What has happened to our speech? Do we hang out with others like ourselves, have we made up a [sign] language to communicate what’s convenient rather than what is real and important? We’re privileged with the presidential campaigns in full swing but we don’t need help bringing to light the absurdity of our talk, our lifestyle, our concerns and worries: we’d rather talk about walls and fences between Canada and the USA, global warming and climate change, which movie is better, which sports team is going to win, than how to save the babies and how to uphold marriage.

The Lord knows our present reality. He knows that we are broken, sinful, stopped up. He knows that we’ve all made a mess out of things and the church is not immune. We make doctrine “convenient” talk while life is relegated to the “inconvenient” category and then fill the void of our deaf ears with life while ignoring doctrine.

We talk about gay marriage while our families fall to ruin and slowly our marriages fail.

We talk about abortion while our children are neglected.

We talk about whether a clerk should go to jail for her beliefs while ignoring our neighbor’s needs, the neighbors and coworkers we see everyday.

We would rather tolerate our neighbors, as though that is a virtue, instead of loving them.

Repent. The Kingdom of God has come to open you.

Not sent to heal, but Jesus was sent to preach. It is remarkable that everything that God does in his means of Grace – preaching, baptism, Lord’s Supper, Absolution, the Divine Service – engages your whole self. He gives you your body and all your senses and not only does he take care of them, but he uses them to assure your of your belonging. When you were first called the Holy Spirit washed you with water. Water combined with his Word and with his command, washed over you… in a similar way that Jesus took the Deaf man, he took you. Taken aside, out of the loud and boisterous crowd, the Deaf man has his one on one, face to face meeting with Jesus. And whereas he wasn’t sent to heal, he has COMPASSION. He compassion that moves him to get dirty…to get down in the trenches with the sinner, to lift us up out of our sin and carry us to safety.

And so it was that Jesus really did stick his fingers in the Deaf man’s ears. He groaned and he spat on the ground, he touched his tongue. But then he preached. Ephphatha! That is, “Be Open!” Be Open! Let your ears hear and let your lips be opened and your mouth declare the praises of God. Ephphatha!!

His Holy Spirit calls each of you to this place. Maybe a friend brought you, maybe it was your mom. You might have been comfortable in your sin. You might love your sin very much. You might hang out with people like you and you might have your own language of sin and death. You might be thinking of that right now and how inconvenient it is that you have to be here. And you might be miserable, alone, suffering, and shunned. And you might be both.

Whatever your life, Jesus has found you and brought you here that you might have your ears unstopped and your mouth loosed. He has brought your into his holy ark of the church to be a member of his holy bride. And like the Deaf man, he really does place his resurrected body into your mouth and his blood he pours down your throat. He has COMPASSION on you. Compassion for Jesus is his death and there is no greater love that a man can have for you.

Here is COMPASSION: Jesus dies on the cross of Calvary to win you back, to destroy death and the devil, and to unravel the sting of sin. He was raised for your justification, your reconciliation, for your life. You moved Jesus to action. Your sin and your mess and your deafness, and blindness, brought him to lay down his life and to pick it up again so that you would have life.

So this is where doctrine and life meet. This new testament is even more glorious than the Law’s work of condemnation. The ministry of reconciliation is this: Jesus has reconciled the Father to you, by the shedding of his blood. The New Testament is in the Blood. It undoes the old ministry because Life is in the Blood and He bestows that Life through it. This gives permanent glory. It makes a holy temples in your heart. The Israelites could not look at Moses’ face, but God has taken flesh that we might look Him in the eye, that He might abide with us, and that we would not be afraid to hear Him.

Be opened, O Christian, and be not afraid. He opens you not to destroy you, but to fill you with himself. Now you live in a different world! The sounds of God’s love, the speaking of his forgiveness and life in Jesus, and the living, playing, and joy of God’s kingdom are yours. Rejoice! Jesus spoke you open! He does all things well.

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Ephphatha

Jesus healing the Deaf Man by Richard Caemmerer

Jesus healing the Deaf Man by Richard Caemmerer

Jesus takes the Deaf man aside (away from the crowd)… There he can speak to the man without distraction.  That’s seems to be one of our biggest weak points: distractions.  The Deaf man was no different and you are no different either.  Jesus takes us in our poor miserable sinfulness and pulls us out of our distractions and out of our silence.

He speaks to us.

He speaks words that we understand.  He speaks our language.  He speaks a Word that gets through all our man made garbage and sinks into the heart.  For it’s what comes from the heart that is the tell tale of a man.  Of our own doing it’s always a mess… but when Jesus rips out the weeds, tills the soil, cultivates and waters there…it’s of a new Spirit.

Away from the crowd, Jesus signs to the Deaf man to let him know what is about to change and what is the object of his performative Word: fingers in the ear, touching his tongue… spitting, sighing… and then what he always does… Jesus speaks a commanding and creating Word, “Ephphatha!”  The Deaf man hears.  Sinners are forgiven.  The dead live.  God’s wrath is taken away.

A moment alone with God: the Deaf man away from the crowd or you hovering with the Spirit above the font of your baptism.  You’re there because God is calling you out of your distracted and sinful life.  He has you there, to push you under the water, to push you away from your death… and to give you Christ’s life.  He has you there only for a moment. Jesus has you there in order to graft you into the crowd that is his Church.  And that’s exactly what he does: baptized you are no longer alone, no longer damned, no longer caught in the devil’s distractions, no longer separated from God.

Be open ears: to hear the Word of God.  Be open chest: to have your heart of sin and death removed.  Be open mouth: to be filled by God to declare His praise.  The God-man, Jesus, was separated from his Father on the cross so that you could be brought to the midst of the Church, near to the Son, alive in the resurrection.  Ephphatha!  Jesus has done all things well.  He even makes the Deaf hear, the mute speak, and the sinner forgiven.