16th Sunday after Pentecost
He surely must have thought, “What is there to make life tolerable? I can’t work because I can’t understand. I can’t love because I can’t express it. I am a prisoner in my own mind. My family has abandon me to the beggars cup and to the mercy of others. When I stand out in the night air – I would scream out in pain to the heavens for the circumstances of my life. But I can’t cry out, at least I can’t cry out anything intelligible. And even if I could cry out – I couldn’t hear it. This silence is overwhelming. Life is an altogether unhappy, affair. Even the world around me seems quite dreadful. From my one narrow window on the world, my eyes, all I see are the troubles of others. Even I am a trouble to others. The people that care for me, those that visit me and put up with me – they could be doing other things with their lives other than attending to me. Oh that I could hear once again! I could hear the voice of a friend. A word of encouragement, a voice of compassion!”
Startled from his thoughts like these a group of those that attended to him, the closest thing he had in this world to friends, came and got him. What did they do? Did they scribble something in the dirt? Did they wave their hands? Did they have smiles on their faces? Was the deaf-mute man cognizant of the fact that they were taking him to attempt another cure? If so, did he even want it? The “cures” back in those days were hardly cures at all. They probably made things worse. I’m sure the last thing this poor man wanted was to be laid back on a table or a cot and have some reeking foul herbal concoction poured into his mouth, and into his ears yet again.
PART 1: By his Compassion
His eyes must have been darting all around. Searching faces in the crowd of people. Searching for an answer to all the commotion going on. This was certainly different than any other time they brought him somewhere to attempt a cure. Some in the group ran ahead, they ran off with a purpose as though they wanted to get somewhere before anyone else. Shortly those from the group returned and they brought with them 13 men.
The one at the front had a kindly face. He seemed taller than the rest. Although the men he was with had clearly been on a long journey – this man’s face was clean with no blemish or defect. He looked kindly. Like someone that you’d want to be around friendly, pleasant yet seemingly modest and wise. His eyes, though they were something else. Clear, and calm – innocent, yet dignified – serene, yet they looked familiar with tears.
The crowd pushing and jostling all around, suddenly parted. And this captivating figure, this kindly man grabbed the deaf-mute man by the arm and pulled him aside. They walked a ways, out of eye shot of the crowd. The eyes of the deaf-mute man no longer flitted back and forth. They were locked, fixed, almost cemented in place – centered on the man in front of him.
Then he did some strange things. He put his fingers into his ears. He didn’t even have to say it the meaning was understood. These I will open. Then he stuck out his own tongue and spit on the ground. The deaf-mute man in astonishment steps back with his mouth open. And calmly this man reaches out and touches his tongue. Again, he didn’t need to say a word. The meaning was understood. This I will unloose.
Then this man who pulled him from the crowd stepped back and turned those innocent and dignified eyes to the heavens and gave a visible sigh. Was it a sigh of sadness? Was it a sigh of relief? A silent and quick prayer? A smile formed on his lips and then he uttered the first word that this deaf and mute man had heard in years, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). The sound of the wind, the sound of the crowd in the distance, the crunch of rocks under foot, and the rustle of clothing – the sound of his own voice, his own laughter, now that he can speak what to say but words of thanks – all those things rushed into his ears for the first time in ages.
He must have thought, “Who is this man who’s able to do such a thing? To make the deaf hear and the mute speak? And who am I that this man should have compassion on me to do this? I did nothing, and I have nothing to give to repay!” What incredible mercy, and what incredible compassion!
Incredible compassion. On me! One who is always so ready to cry out to the heavens, to rage against the powers that be for the unfairness of life. Compassion on me, who if I’m honest, has never been truly compassionate to anyone in my life! I’ve never had a thought that wasn’t self-centered or self-serving. Compassion on me, who by rights deserved to be left in silence.
What is his name? What does the crowd keep saying? Jeshua? Is that it? Truly? Doesn’t that mean He Saves? What a fitting name, indeed the most beautiful name I’ve heard in my life! A Savior with compassion. A Savior who heals completely and with no cost.
Now I can hear and speak as surely as everyone in that crowd. There were no foul herbal concoctions. There was no speech training. There was no therapy or sound tests. I’ve been wholly and completely cured. It’s as though I were never deaf, as though my tongue was never mute. It’s like my hearing and tongue have been created new! Who is this compassionate man, this Jeshua, who’s voice commands the elements, who’s name means He saves?
PART II – His Glory
And as Jesus and the now healed man return to the crowd and see their friend healed – they are elated! They cry out again and again “He has done all things well! He has done all things well! He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak!” And yet he keeps telling the crowd to quiet down! Why? They have rallied around him and they would make him king if they could by some means. The more he tries to quite them, the more he implores them, the louder they become.
What a strange man this is, that now healed man must have thought! He denies the adoration of a crowed? Anyone else who had just performed such a wonder would no doubt be basking in the glory of the moment!
No doubt the news of Jesus, and the things he was capable of doing were flying around in that crowd, fueling their exuberance. How elsewhere he had raised the dead, how he had cured other sick people, how the last time he was in that city he drove DEMONS from a man! EVERYTHING THIS MAN DOES TURNS TO GOOD! Everything obeys him, deafness, muteness, demons, even death itself obeys him!
Oh, but perhaps that’s the point! A lesser man would’ve given in, a lesser man would’ve accepted the glory of the moment. But the wonder that this Jesus just worked – this man with the voice of the creator God – Should it not have taught them that he was more than a feeble sinful man?
Were there not some in that crowd, the disciples, perhaps even the man who was healed who pondered the words of the crowd, “He has done all things well, he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak!” Why does that sound familiar? Oh! Isn’t that the prophet Isaiah? How does that whole section go?
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
He came to save them, yes but he came to save you as well! He came to put an end to all blindness, deafness, lameness, muteness, and EVERY effect of sin. Every chain by which sin holds this world down was broken by him with a vengeance. He comes to save. He saves – that’s his name. Jeshua, Jesus!
He didn’t come to revel in a moment’s glory, but to bring Glory to the Father in Heaven. And he did that in a strange show of Glory, glory in weakness. Jesus wanted those people in that crowd, that deaf and mute man now healed to see him in the light of that strange glory. When the voice of the Creator God himself was rendered virtually mute by the screaming agony of the cross. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Later in that section Paul calls Jesus the Lord of glory! He says, they crucified the Lord of Glory!” They crucified the healer of the deaf, mute, lame, and demon possessed – the man with the voice of the creator!
So in those times when we’ve felt like that deaf-mute man – in our darkest hours in the where we ourselves have wanted to scream out to the heavens at the unfairness of life, or because of our own guilt, or because of some effect of sin. When the Devil says, “look at your life sinner! If God loved you would he have allowed that cancer? Would he have allowed that illness, would he have allowed that tragedy?” Just remember, that Jesus is the Lord of glory. No matter the ailment, disease, or cancer, or the effects of old age or even death – none of them can separate you from the Love of Jesus, none of them can invade your soul, they cannot conquer your faith because they can’t infect the eternal life – that perfect and complete healing – that was won for you by the Lord of Glory himself.
This is the great thing about this miracle, the healing of the deaf-mute man – that his healer, his Jesus is our Jesus. Just as he healed that man back then, today he is the same Lord that has healed you! Truly he has done all things well! We can hear his compassionate voice, and we can take solace in his Glory – For He has done all things well. Amen.