Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Fulfils Prophecy Perfectly” based on Mark 7:31-37 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, September 9, 2018
If the world was perfect, would we still have to do laundry? The innocence and wonder of a nine year old girl came up with that question earlier this week. Of all the deficiencies and inconsistencies in this world; all of the pains and reasons for sadness; all the obstacles that stand in the way of true joy and happiness, she was worried about putting dirty laundry in a machine that washes your clothes for you.
Most of you are not nine year old girls and, unfortunately, no matter how much you may let your minds wander, you do not live in a perfect world. You know that there are worse things in the world than having to do the wash. You also know that the reason those challenges exist is because of the sin that was brought into the Garden of Eden.
Immediately after that Fall into Sin, God explained how the sin of Eve and Adam would affect their daily lives. Thorns and thistles. Pain in childbirth. And, of course, their bodies would decay and turn back to dust after death.
As generations have come and gone in this world, sin’s effects have become greater and more invasive on the human experience. Hatred and violence. Sickness and disease. Selfishness, loneliness, depression, and so many different kinds of natural disasters.
In the Gospel today, there is an example of just such a defect that came as a result of sin in this world. Some people brought to [Jesus] a man who was deaf and could hardly talk.
This deaf mute lived a silent life. Even with today’s advances in a standardized sign language, interpreters, speech therapists, cochlear implants, and closed captions, those who are deaf or have a speech impediment have struggles that other members of modern society can’t even imagine.
This man, though, didn’t have those advances. He didn’t even know what he was missing out on most of the time. He was likely isolated much of the time, especially because the prevailing belief in those days was that being deaf was not simply a consequence of life in a sinful world, but a consequence of some particular sin that the deaf person committed, himself.
Can you imagine studying your life, day in and day out, trying to figure exactly what it is that you did that caused you the suffering that you are enduring? Or, maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you know exactly what that is like.
Some of you may struggle with your ears or have some difficulty articulating just what you want to say. Those are real problems and, like the man in the Gospel account today, Jesus is concerned with your suffering. There may come a time, here on this earth, when he gets rid of your ailment either through miracle or by working through advances in science and medicine.
However, there is also a sort of deaf and dumbness that each and every one of you have experienced in the past and which tries its best to make a recurrence at every turn.
Even before you were born, sin stripped you of your ability to hear the truth of the Gospel and to claim Jesus as your Savior. And, like the deaf mute, you suffered the unfortunate consequence of not even knowing what you were missing out on. Left to yourself, without someone bringing you to Jesus to be healed, you would have suffered a fate far worse than loneliness or, even, decaying into dust. You would have been forced to endure eternal separation and decomposition in the fires of hell.
Jesus, both as true God and as true man, knew the deficiency sin caused and didn’t care for it. What did he do right before he healed the man in the Gospel account for today? He sighed.
Like a nine year old who is told to carry the hamper down to the laundry room, Jesus doesn’t care for the effects sin has on this world. If only the world was still perfect. If only there was a way to change things. If only there was a way for this man to be able to hear and, then, to speak clearly—to get rid of the silence.
Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. The will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
In good conscience and still following the fifth commandment faithfully, Jesus hates the consequences of sin, both physical and spiritual. So, after sighing, he did something about it. He came with divine retribution to save his people.
Did you notice how personally he dealt with the deaf mute? He took him away from the crowd to have his full attention. He then worked in a way that would be completely transparent to a man who could not hear. He worked visually and tangibly. He touched the untouchable man. He showed him how he understood his defect by putting his fingers in the man ear and touching the man’s tongue.
He then looked up to heaven. Why? To show this man just what was sung about in our Psalm for today. I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help? My help shall come from the one who has made the heavens and the earth. (Pilgrim’s Song – Psalm 121).
Then, in what may be both surprising and, at the same time, expected, Jesus did away with outward signs and gestures and healed the man with the most powerful means in the world. Ephphatha. He spoke. Be opened! he said, and at this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
The Word of God is more powerful than any effect sin can have on anyone. Yes, it can open deaf ears and loosen dumb tongues. But, more importantly, it creates faith and applies forgiveness to those who could not and would not be able to hear about it on their own.
Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.
For you, Jesus worked visually and tangibly as well. As he put the sign of the cross on your head and heart to mark you as a redeemed child of God and then, with a tender touch and such a small amount of water, he baptized you. The pastor’s hand and the water, itself, had no healing properties. But when you were baptized, faith was deposited in your heart and your sins were washed away because the person who baptized you used the powerful means of God’s grace. They spoke the Words of Jesus.
And, of course, the only reason why those words work faith in you and forgiveness for you is because of what else Jesus said while he was on this earth.
Nailed to a cross and ready to sigh his last breath over the effect and punishment of the world’s sin hanging heavy upon him, Jesus spoke. It is finished, he said.
With those words, Jesus removed the defects and effects of sin for you for all of eternity. He finished the work of your salvation and gave you the healing that you needed the most. Because of Jesus’ words, in the eyes of God, you have been restored to the perfection in which humanity was created.
Whether clothes would have eventually made their way into a perfect world or not is a question that, while it might be fun to speculate about, doesn’t really have an answer.
Instead, you have to continue to live in a sinful world, surrounded by its consequences on a daily basis. But, friends, you won’t always. A time is coming when divine retribution will again come to save those who are fearful. When Jesus fulfils his final prophecy and judges the world, he will see your open ears and your loosened tongue. He will hear you speak plainly the faith he placed in your heart and take you with him to the place where sin can no longer reach you.
With hearts filled of faith, be overwhelmed with amazement at everything he has done well for you. Keep talking about it and wait patiently for the day when Jesus fulfils his final prophecy perfectly as well. Amen.