Jesus Heals Ear and Tongue
In today’s Gospel lesson [Mark 7:31-37], Jesus heals tongue and ear. He heals the body and the ability of the senses:
“[Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis” – a region of ten gentile cities – “And they brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on him. And taking him (the deaf man) aside from the crowd privately, Jesus put His fingers into the deaf man’s ears, and after spitting, touched the man’s tongue” – Jesus uses His own body, His own self, as physical means to heal this man’s ailment – “And looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said to the deaf and tongue tied man, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’ – we see here the power of God’s spoken Word to do what it says - And the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”
We believe in the resurrection of the body and the power of the crucified and risen Christ to make our broken, lowly bodies whole and complete like His resurrected, glorious body. Jesus is the sure and certain hope for those suffering inabilities in their body, senses, or mind.
The healing of this man in the here and now is a foretaste of the full and complete healing we will receive, in Jesus, in the resurrection, at His return. Come Lord Jesus.
This healing of the deaf and tongue-tied man also shows us that we ought to commit every need to Christ – and that we ought to acknowledge the hand of Jesus at work in the medical advancements, procedures, and medicines that benefit us and our neighbor so greatly in the here and now.
God’s fatherly love and care for His creation is active and at work through those medical vocations which help our bodies. God works through His created means. We are effective witnesses in the world to God our Savior when we give Christ the credit and the thanks.
Let’s also be reminded not to take for granted the abilities we have. God gives us our body and soul, eyes, ears, hands and feet, our reason, and all our senses, and still takes care of them. Yet, many people – old and young – lack gifts and abilities of the body that we consider normal.
What’s behind the inabilities and deficiencies of the body or the senses? What’s behind all maladies and illnesses, whether physical or emotional or mental? What’s the cause?
God is not the cause. God did not create malady, illness, deficiency, lack, want, sickness, nor did He create death. God created life and fruitfulness and increase. In God’s original creation there was no death or lack, bodily or otherwise. Paradise was not separate from earth nor was it a thing to come, but it was part of life. Our home.
Death and decline – and the bad effects on our bodies and minds that come along with death and decline, and the deterioration of our human nature – including what the deaf and tongue-tied man suffered in today’s Gospel – these were not created but are the result of what we call Original Sin.
Original sin is not the sins we commit – the deaf and tongue-tied man is not suffering because of some thing he did. Original sin is the fallen condition of the whole human nature, affecting our souls and our bodies.
Man and woman were created in what we call a state of Original Righteousness. Human nature was, by nature, good and righteous. Life, health, longevity, ability, fruitfulness – and eternal life – are the natural result of Original Righteousness.
But man and woman fell into sin. Original sin is the lack, the absence, of original righteousness – the absence of fear, love, and trust in God – and the presence of distrust and disobedience to God.
We are not made from nowhere, disconnected from everyone else. In body and soul, we are all made out of the fallen human nature of those who came before us – our parents and their parents, back to fallen Adam and Eve. Born of the flesh [John 3:3-6].
So, original sin is also sometimes called “inherited sin” – it’s the sin-brokenness inherit in human nature.
Original sin has broken us, not just morally, but physically, biologically. All the hurtful things in life, and the lack of wholeness and health, are the natural result of original sin, of our human nature’s absence of original righteousness. This affects the whole creation. A declining world, no longer paradise [Romans 8:18-22].
But God’s mercy has been at work all the more. God is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – three persons, one God. God the Son, the Son of God, in willing agreement with the Father, became Man, became Jesus, born of Mary.
Jesus, the holy Son of God, God and man in one person, was a man with what? With the original righteousness we lack. Righteousness instead of original sin.
He is the one and only Righteous Man – who by nature would never die or suffer in body or soul. Yet, on the cross, this Righteous Man suffered all things – in body and in agony of soul – and the Righteous died for the unrighteous - the whole for the broken.
Jesus traded places with us. He traded His paradise for our hell to give us paradise again. The one who loved the deaf and tongue-tied man and healed him using His own body loved all men and gave His body on the cross for all – to be raised for all, giving to us the resurrection of these broken bodies to become like His now risen and glorious body. He has done it.
Jesus, by the death and resurrection of His body in your place, has won for you what we confess at the end of the Apostles Creed – “…the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
At the end of our life, we each suffer the loss of all things – in us and around us. But, in Jesus, this loss of all things is the gateway to the acquirement of better things yet to come – for soul and body.
And Jesus, who has healed our ears and tongues physically, has also healed them spiritually. He has forgiven the sins of ear and tongue – which are so often quicker to listen to and speak of the negative rather than the good.
Jesus has forgiven ear and tongue and is healing our ears and tongues to hear good of one another and to speak to build each other up. To hear with the filter of forgiveness and with love of neighbor.
Jesus begins the renewal of paradise in His baptized people now. He completes it in the resurrection of our bodies – in which bodies we will forever be full of ability, life, completeness, and righteousness.
Thanks be to God for all the good He has done in and through Jesus, here and now, for body and soul, and for eternity. Amen.
[Luke 18:9-14] He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
“God, Be Merciful to Me, the Sinner”
The one said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” The other had said, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other men.”
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
Martin Luther once pointed out – in a slightly humorous way – that each age in life has its own sins, its own temptations. He said, “Young fellows are tempted by girls, men who are thirty years old are tempted by gold, when they are forty years old they are tempted by honor and glory, and those who are sixty years old say to themselves, ‘What a pious man I have become!'” [Table Talk]
An older pastor I once knew said the same thing to me this way – “Every age in life has its own sins. The sin of the elderly is that they don’t believe they’re sinners anymore.” He could say that because he himself was a little elderly.
He said it not to be insulting but because this is the most dangerous sin – not believing that we need to repent. In truth, at every age, the hardest sin to crack is that sin of not believing we’re sinners.
Jesus, our Lord, doesn’t tell us about the old and young in today’s Gospel but about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. This parable is a warning for us at every age in our life – “He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”
He told this parable to those who were convinced that they were just (righteous). And they saw others as the sinners, as those who need to change.
The Pharisee enters God’s house. He prays, “God, I thank you that I’m not like the other people here. They’ve been dishonest. They’ve been unjust. They’ve been adulterers – sexual sins, failed marriages. And I’m really glad I’m not like this one guy, this tax collector” – “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get”– “I give it my all. I do what we’re supposed to do.”
The Pharisee measures himself according to what he does best and measures others according to their faults. He counts those things in life that he happens to be good at as the things that really count for righteousness – and he looks down on those who don’t measure up to those same handpicked standards.
The Pharisee refuses to see himself in the mirror of God’s Law, God’s Commandments, which certainly show that he is a sinner. And if the Pharisee were hearing this sermon, he (or she) would be saying right now, “Yeah, those other people are just like that Pharisee!” “I’m surrounded by Pharisees!”, says the Pharisee.
“I’m surrounded by hypocrites”, says the hypocrite. No, you’re surrounded by sinners. And you’re in like company. We all have different symptoms, but the same disease. Sin.
This Pharisee is the perfect embodiment of our own sinful nature. THE sin of our sinful nature is that we believe we are righteous by a righteousness of our own and not by faith alone in a Savior. A Savior who only saves sinners.
The tax collector is the embodiment of faith in the Savior.
If we’ve heard the Scriptures enough, we’re used to the idea that the Pharisee is the bad guy and the Tax Collector is the good guy in the parable. But for Jesus’ original audience this wouldn’t be so easy to accept.
The Pharisees were actually respected teachers of the people. They stood for the Law and the customs the people valued. They were known as upright citizens, faithful to Israel.
Tax Collectors, not so. It would be just as hard for them to see the Tax Collector as the good guy in the story as it would be for you to see the IRS auditor as the good guy in your life – (though they might be a good guy!). But the tax collectors in Jesus’ day were notoriously fraudulent, and that on behalf of a nation occupying their own.
The point is, the Tax Collector is not a good guy. He really is a sinner. Guilty of real wrong that would be hard to forgive and look past. Yet Jesus says, “I tell you, this man – the tax collector - went down to his house justified – reckoned righteous by God - rather than the other.”
We are not saved by our works, merit, or righteousness, but by faith in the Savior who has forgiven us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. You don’t measure up. So, you don’t need to convince yourself or God that you do measure up. Instead, Jesus’ work on the cross has measured up for your salvation.
The sinner who went home justified relied on nothing in himself but only on the salvation won for him. “The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
And there’s more! In the Greek text, there is a definite article – a “the” – that doesn’t make it into the English. This tax collector said, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” He counted himself as THE sinner in the room. “Chief of sinners though I be.” May we all see ourselves this way in God’s house and rely only on Jesus our Savior.
The Temple was the place where lambs without blemish were slain to atone for the blemishes, the sins, of the people. The Tax Collector knew what he was there for. Jesus, the true unblemished Lamb of God, has now been slain for you – He died once for all [Hebrews 7:27; 9:12,26; 10:10; Romans 6:10] – that’s what you’re here for.
Jesus, the only righteous man, took the place of the guilty on the cross. There, He died for your sins. He put away God’s wrath against you by suffering it for you. On the cross, Jesus was counted THE sinner and died to set sinners free.
In response to His love for us, let us thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
Let us not gather to confess other people’s sins, as the Pharisee did. But let us each truly say and sing of ourselves, “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me; Died that I might live on high, Lived that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine, I am His and He is mine.”
At any age, you are a forgiven, redeemed sinner – wholly counted righteous to God through faith alone in Jesus Christ who has died and is risen for you. Amen.
[Luke 19:41-44] And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
The Things that Make for Peace
Peace be with you!
Peace is written right into the rubrics of our divine service – printed in the hymnal – the recommended words for the pastor to end his sermon with are, “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” [from Philippians 4:7].
And in the Service of the Sacrament – after the pastor consecrates the bread and wine at the altar to be the body and blood of Christ – he then turns to the congregation and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
And to end the service: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
In each case, the liturgy of our service has the congregation respond with “Amen”, which means, “Yes, it shall be so.” The divine service is for peace.
Jesus has come for your peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27]
When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, that evening He showed the nail marks in His hands to His disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” [John 20:19-21]
“Peace” is written throughout the pages of Holy Scripture and is communicated through those same words of Scripture, spoken and expounded upon in the service. The Word of God gives peace.
To give the peace that Jesus gives, the liturgy of the divine service points you to what Jesus has done. We sing, “O Lord, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer.”
In the liturgy, prayers, and Scripture readings - in the hymns, in the sermon, in the words of absolution – we are pointed to Jesus who gives peace.
The peace offered is delivered through the words spoken. “All scripture” – the entirety of the Bible – “is breathed out by God” [2 Timothy 3:16]. The words of Scripture are not mere information about God but are God’s Word – His speaking.
God’s Word has power to do what it says, to accomplish what it speaks. God’s Words of peace and of the forgiveness of your sins – breathed out in the Bible – spoken to you in the divine service – those words accomplish what they say. His Word of forgiveness forgives your sin. His word of peace makes peace.
Peace be with you. Your sins – of this week, this day, this life – are forgiven. Peace.
What’s the source? Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus, God and Man in one person, died upon the cross – not for any wrong He had done – but in your place for your sins. His death in your place, for your sins, made peace – Peace between Holy God and sinful men and women, and children who also sin. Forgiveness. Peace. Jesus did it.
In today’s Gospel reading – Luke 19:41-48 – that peace is about to be accomplished. Jesus has just ridden into Jerusalem – it’s Palm Sunday – He has ridden in triumphantly, not on a warhorse, but on a donkey – a symbol of peace – as the people wave palm branches of victory.
Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem to win the victory of peace for the Jews first, and for the whole world. Upon arrival, as we read, Jesus looks upon that city and weeps. The Lord cries. He is there for their peace. But He knows that they will refuse peace.
“When he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”
How could they not know? He was their Messiah. All their prophets spoke of Him [Isaiah 53]. Moses pointed to Him [Deuteronomy 18:15]. The psalms in Scripture sung of Him [Psalm 22]. All this in countless passages. He was promised from the beginning [Genesis 3:15]
Yet the things that make for peace were “hidden from their eyes” – they did not see what was right in front of them – because they were not willing. Their focus was upon their own works instead of on God’s promise of forgiveness.
Holy Scripture explains it this way in our Epistle reading: [Romans 9:30–10:4] “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works…” “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own…”
People are hungry to find peace. But our natural tendency – a symptom of our fallen nature – is to look to ourselves and what we can do, or not do – to be curved in on ourselves – to be always measuring ourselves (or others, their works).
This is seeking it by works – just as the Israelites sought to be right with God by their works and deeds. This fails. We are sinners. What you do – who you are – what you try to become – these won’t give you peace or make you right with God.
What God has done in Jesus Christ gives you peace. He is the good one. He is the one who measures up. His work alone gives peace.
Because Jesus has died for you, God remembers your sins no more and, therefore, is at peace with you. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” [Hebrews 10:17]. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” [1 Timothy 2:5-6]. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” [Titus 3:5].
How is it given? How is it delivered? His peace is with you always in your Baptism. His peace is with you through being instructed in His Word [Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16]. His peace is with you always, weekly, in the divine service, in the hearing of God’s Word preached, and, for those instructed and prepared for the Supper, in the eating of it.
Baptism, Word, Supper – these are our life-long “things that make for peace” from Jesus our risen, living Savior.
Now, brothers and sisters, I’ll end with this question: Is the house of God where we receive God’s peace also a place of peace among each other? It must be. Because what I, a sinner, receive from God, I also must give to those who have sinned against me – “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Think of the cross. It has how many beams? One vertical beam, going up and down. A second, horizontal beam, going side to side. This signifies that the cross makes peace between me and God – up and down – and that that peace is to then flow side to side to my neighbor.
Considering that I have sinned against God Himself, is it an earth-shattering surprise that someone has sinned against me? No. I’m a sinner against God. Why shouldn’t I be sinned against sometimes?
I hope you can each think this way – because you are each sinners against God, but God has forgiven you. He is at peace with you. He loves you. God even likes you. All because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross.
So, brothers and sisters, the peace you receive from God above in this service, give to each other side to side. And God’s peace will be with you and among you always! Amen.
Pastor Curtis Stephens was born in Flint, MI. He completed his M.Div. at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN and has served congregations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Pastor Stephens began serving at Trinity in July of 2023.