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16th Sunday after Pentecost

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, I can’t imagine what it’s like.  You probably can’t imagine what it’s like either.  But try to imagine life without the sense of hearing.  What would it be like?  Only silence.  No sound.  No voices.  No music.  No birds chirping.  No singing.  No sound of instruments.  Communication would be very difficult.  It would be very difficult to figure out what is going on and to have any awareness of what is around you.  Can you imagine how difficult life would be without the gift of hearing?

Well, we are introduced to such a person in our text for this morning.  Last week we heard about how Jesus had been in Galilee and was challenged by the Pharisees and teachers of the law about eating with “unclean” hands.  After that Jesus headed north to the region of a city named Tyre, some 30 miles away.  On His way He met a distraught mother whose daughter was suffering from demon possession.  Jesus healed her daughter by just saying the word and without even going to the place.  After that we’re told, “Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.”  Tyre was a city right on the coast of the Meditteranaen Sea and Sidon was a city some 25 miles further north also right on the coast.  After that it seems Jesus in a very round about way headed back south but stayed very far from the region of Galilee where He had been.  What’s the point of this journey?  It would be kind of like me driving up to Thief River Falls first in order to get to Detroit Lakes so I wouldn’t have to drive through Hubbard county.  It seems that Jesus is avoiding areas that are heavily populated by Jewish people.  Why?  Well, the Pharisees are becoming more and more opposed to Jesus and His message and Jesus’ popularity at this time is second to none.  After Jesus had fed the 5,000 the people wanted to make Him their “Bread king” by force, so Jesus escaped.  Many people were simply interested in seeing a miracle show, instead of listening to what Jesus said.  So Jesus traveled in mainly Gentile populated areas and perhaps had some time of exclusive training for His disciples.  Well, Jesus ends up on the Southeast side of the Sea of Galilee in a Gentile area known as the “Decapolis.”

The “Decapolis” is a Greek word that literally means “10 Cities.”  It was an area of 10 cities populated predominantly by Gentile people.  Jesus has actually been to this place before.  Some time before this Jesus had driven demons from a man and sent them into a herd of pigs, which ran off a steep bank and died in a lake.  After this the people had pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.  Well, after a while and perhaps after this former demon-possessed man was able to spread the message, now a group of people came to Jesus and brought a man who was both deaf and could hardly speak and they wanted Jesus to do something for him.

Now try to imagine this poor deaf man.  He’s probably terribly confused as to what is going on and as to what they are doing to him and where they are leading him.  He probably doesn’t know who Jesus is or why they are bringing him to Jesus.  So what does Jesus do?  In the midst of the commotion He compassionately takes the man aside, away from the crowd, by himself.  Jesus understand the man’s needs, Jesus understands what is going on in his heart and his mind, Jesus knows his fears and his concerns, so Jesus deals with this individual and his individual needs.  Have you ever noticed how Jesus deals with each person differently?  For one He just says the word, for another He sends to a pool to wash and be healed.  There is nothing mechanical, or heartless, or routine about Jesus and the way He does things.  He deals with each individually and personally.  Jesus isn’t just like a heart surgeon who mechanically does the same operation hundreds of times so that when he comes to you, you’re just another heart, just another piece of meat.  Not to Jesus.  Each is important.

And notice what Jesus did next having him alone with his eyes transfixed on Jesus.  “Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears.  Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.”  Now at first we might think that’s kind of strange.  What is Jesus doing?  If I walked up to you and put my fingers in your ears, you’d probably step back and wonder what in the world I was doing.  Talk about an invasion of personal space!  Add to that spitting probably on the fingers and then touching the tongue!  What is Jesus doing here?  He’s using sign language, isn’t he?  The man couldn’t hear, he didn’t know what Jesus was going to do for him, Jesus made it clear without a doubt that it was He who was going to work a miracle, He who was going to heal this man.  Then Jesus looked up to heaven and sighed.  Ahh.  Jesus felt emotions and His heart went out to people on whom Satan had worked so much havoc.  It’s your sigh when you see people’s homes devastated by tornadoes or hurricanes, Ahh.

But Jesus didn’t just stand idly by.  At just the right time and in just the right way He acts.  “Ephphatha!” He said. “Be opened.”  Mark gives us the very sounds and syllables Jesus spoke, Ephphatha!  Immediately the man’s ears were opened and his tongue loosened and he even spoke correctly!  What grace of God that He should come and speak syllables of human language and do miracles that only God can do!

Then Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  Jesus wasn’t just being modest and humble.  He truly didn’t want them spreading this now because He knew people.  Jesus didn’t want their misplaced zeal to feed people’s desire for an earthly Messiah or for people to see in Jesus just a “miracle-man” and nothing more.  Jesus came with the purpose of going to that cross and He didn’t want anything to get in the way of that mission.

But the people were overwhelmed and amazed.  They could hardly believe it.  And they said, “He has done everything well.”  Finally, this is a summary of everything Jesus did and does.  The Greek word uses a perfect tense which in essence says, “Jesus has done all things good in the past and it continues to be good into the future.”

So, is it true?  Is it true that Jesus does all things well?  What do you think?  What do you believe?  Well, what do you think the parents of this deaf/mute man were thinking when he was born?  Or what do you think they were thinking when he became deaf/mute shortly thereafter?  Do you think they were ready to praise God and say, “God sure does all things well”?  I’m going to guess that would have been a struggle.  I’m going to guess that thought was far from their minds.

Well, perhaps there are many times in our own lives when we struggle to say, “Jesus does everything well.”  When we are lying sick in a bed, when we face this trouble or that difficulty, when the money coming in doesn’t match the money going out, when we suffer the pain of being sinned against, etc.  Are we always ready to confess, “Jesus does everything well”?  So often we are so earthly focused, aren’t we?  “If Jesus does all things well, then I should be healthy, wealthy, and wise…right?”  “And if I’m not, then Jesus isn’t doing what He should.”

But think about this poor deaf/mute man.  He didn’t have an easy life.  But do you think we’re going to see him in heaven one day?  We’re not told, but I think it’s a reasonable guess that he became a believer in Jesus.  But think about it, humanly speaking, if he wasn’t deaf/mute would he have met Jesus in such a wonderful and spectacular and personal way?  We don’t know.  Would he have found out about the love and compassion and power of his Savior?  We don’t know.  Would he have ended up going to heaven?  We don’t know.  But what we do know is that he did meet Jesus in a wonderful way, Jesus did heal him, he did see Jesus’ love and compassion.  And we have every reason to believe that we will see this man one day in heaven.  Was God doing everything well?  Was God ruling all things for the good?  Absolutely!

And God is doing the same in our lives too.  Yes we may go through some difficult and trying and challenging times.  There may be times when we have no idea HOW God is doing all things well, or WHY what He is doing is right.  But remember God’s ways are so much different than ours.  We are often very earthly focused, focused on being healthy, wealthy, and wise.  But that’s all earthly stuff.  God’s ways are so much greater than ours.  He wants us to be spiritually healthy, wealthy, and wise.  In other words He wants us to know that our sins are forgiven, that Jesus loves us, that we have a home with him in heaven.  Our desires are often earth-focused, but Jesus’ desires always heaven-focused.  And the fact is that often the earthly stuff can get in the way and actually become obstacles to our eternal well-being.

God may allow needs and struggles and pain and hardships in our lives, not to punish us, not in order to watch us suffer, but to draw us closer to Him.  You see, God rules and guides all things with one goal: heaven.  It may include some challenging and difficult times, but God rules all things well and is focused on getting us to heaven.

It is our quiet confidence in all times, in good times and in bad, in times of plenty and in times of need, in times of health and in times of sickness, in times of joy and in times of sadness, in all those times it is our quiet confidence to know and to trust that Jesus continues to do all things well.  Whether we see it or not, we trust it.  It is that quiet confidence and that trust that gives us peace of mind and shows itself in our lives to other people.  The Christian’s witness in times of suffering is just as powerful, if not more so, than in times of success.  Other people see.  People who don’t know the truth, people who don’t have such confidence in the Lord, even weak Christians who are tossed to and fro by the constant changes of life will notice your quiet confidence and firm trust in the Lord that He does all things well.

And finally, one day as you are passing through those pearly gates into paradise and are tasting the rich banquet of heaven, where there is no pain or sorrow, tears or sadness, but are experiencing joy that knows no end, and peace everlasting, then you too will confess and praise Him: “Yes, He has done everything well!”  Amen.