Trinity 12, 2016

 

The Epistle. 2 Corinthians 3:4-11

The Gospel.  St. Mark 7:31-37

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Our Prayer this morning again was: “ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.”

 

Prayer, though not necessarily an audible thing, does include both silent and audible words or concepts or thoughts conveying to God our desires and our praise.

 

In this prayer today, notice we call out to God, using as we did this morning our mouths…uttering audible sounds. 

 

We ask God to hear us, using the analogy of ears to hear.  Though God does not have physical ears, He is still said to hear us. 

 

And on the other hand, there are times when He is said to be deaf to certain people or prayers. 

 

Because He is God, of course He hears all things. 

The Scriptures in fact tell us, “He who planted the ear, does he not hear?  He who formed the eye, does he not see?” (Psalm 94:9 ESV)

 

So God is in no way deaf or blind. 

The use of the word “deaf” when relating it to God simply means that He does not regard or respond to the prayers of some.

 

Then down further we ask for things that we are not worthy to ask for…but only through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Again we have a reference to speaking and then Christ or God hearing or listening.

 

We ask for things that we acknowledge we are unworthy to ask for.  And we pray that God would hear us because we petition Him though the merits of Jesus Christ. 

 

He is not deaf to the prayers of those who pray through Jesus Christ.  To all other prayers, He is deaf. 

 

So with the idea of speaking and hearing in mind we can more clearly see the implications of the Gospel lesson for today.

A man is brought to Jesus who is both deaf and has a speech impediment.  Of course on the surface we see that divine power did reside in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

He was not just an itinerant preacher, going from town to town with a message of salvation, though that is still important and true.

 

He was also, by this miracle and many others, demonstrating His possession of divine power, attributes and even His very divinity itself.

 

Jesus grants the petition and restores both hearing and speech.  The man can both hear and speak plainly now.

 

But, as Bishop Ryle writes, “We see but half the instruction of this passage, if we only regard it as an example of our Lord’s divine power. It is such an example, beyond doubt, but it is something more than that.

 

We must look further, deeper, and lower than the surface, and we shall find in the passage precious spiritual truths.[1]

 

In miracle working, Jesus was, we could say, both active and passive…in the sense that He did the miracle and all around could see with their eyes what had transpired.  

 

But in the passive sense, or the more hidden sense, He was doing something much deeper.  And to understand and see this, we have to have ears to hear and eyes to see.

 

And only can we have these if they are given to us by God.

 

When Jesus says, as He does many times in the Gospels, things like “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?”  OR  “He who has ears to hear, let him hear…”

He says these things for a reason that have deep theological, spiritual and foundational meaning to them.

 

In these sorts of miracles, we are also to be seeing that the Lord Jesus has the power to heal spiritual deafness, spiritual blindness.

These are the things we are born with and into and do not just grow out of.  They are inherited disabilities (to put it lightly), which keep us blind and deaf from hearing the Good News of the Gospel and responding to it…and living by it.

 

The Gospel of salvation in Christ alone is Good News indeed and if it does not incite joy, thankfulness, desires for holiness, desires to change and grow, then we have to ask have we not yet grasped these things because spiritual deafness and blindness still plague us?

 

Probably one of the best examples of this sort of transformation and one that is most impressive is that of the Apostle Paul.

 

Here we have an enemy of Christianity. A vile opponent of all things Christian. An enemy of the Cross of Christ who uses every fiber of his being to persecute any and all who profess the name of Jesus Christ.

 

He is on assignment to track down, find, arrest and imprison those who even think about Christ.

 

But one day, Christ in all of His wisdom, appears to him.  Jesus appears to him on the road one day.

 

And, again, this is a person who is completely opposed to Christ, being confronted, changed and subdued under the power and grace of Christ and in a perfect use of divine grace takes all of the energy this man has and turns it 180 degrees from the old way of thinking and doing and makes him channel all of that same zeal into probably the greatest evangelist the world has ever known.

 

We today still reap the benefits of Paul’s work of teaching, preaching, and church planting to this very day.  The scope of his work we will never know this side of heaven.

 

And all of this was done by God, not by Paul.  We don't have even a hint that he was wavering in his mission. 

We don't have even a hint that he was thinking of crossing over.

We don't have even a hint anywhere in the text that he thought he was doing anything except the will of God by persecuting Christians at every opportunity.

 

He was completely devoted to his calling of stopping Christianity.  He was blind, deaf and even mute to the things of the Gospel.

 

Christ that day on the Damascus Road opened His eyes, as He did with many in His time.

He opened His ears as He did with others.

He gave Paul a tongue to confess the faith, stand against enemies, preach boldly, and never recant his faith even to the day he died.

 

All because of God’s sovereign power to change him.  The sole power to change people.

 

You can see some evidence of this in his section from his Epistle to the Corinthians today. 

 

He says in part today… “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6 ESV)

 

What is he saying here?  He is telling the Corinthians that he is no longer defending the Old Covenant…the old ways.  He is now a defender of the New Covenant.  He is a defender of the mission and message that Christ is the way of salvation now, for all men.

 

Salvation is not found, nor was it ever found in the written code.  In the Law.  It was always found in Christ.  The Old Covenant was a temporary thing that covered, in a much different and less sufficient way, the sins of the people.

 

The New Covenant, which is “faith in Jesus Christ alone,” brings salvation to all who believe it and embrace it.  He is a minister of this New Covenant….this new message….this change in method.

 

And yet, he says that he and any other minister of the New Covenant, is not sufficient in and of himself.  God has enabled him to be so.  God enables all ministers to be so.

 

And it can apply to all of us in our various gifts and abilities. 

 

With Paul, it was not self-confidence. It was not, for Paul, some sort of consciousness of “superior excellence”[2] But it was a conviction that he received, that he was what God called him to be.  It was with a spirit of humility and thankfulness.

 

And so it is with all of us as well. 

 

In knowing that God has called us to this place and time, from a state of not knowing Him and a state of rebellion against Him, to a state of belonging to Him through adoption…..

 

….we too have been given eyes to see and ears to hear and a tongue to speak the praises of God.

 

Commentator: “If it is the former, (self-confidence and puffed up) it comes with pride, arrogance, indifference, and contempt of others. If it is of God, it is accompanied by self-abhorrence, meekness, long-suffering, a willingness to be the least and lowest, and by all other graces of the Spirit.[3]

 

All of this coming from one miracle.  No small miracle, but just one of many.

 

The man who was healed that day contributed nothing to his new ability to hear other than a pair of ears. 

He contributed nothing to being able to speak well other than a tongue tied and constrained.

 

Jesus did the work.  He opened and loosed. 

It says about the man near the end of the passage today, “And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”  (Mark 7:35 ESV)

 

Upon healing a blind man, (in another instance) we read this, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”  (Luke 18:43 ESV)

 

Today we don't hear about what the man did with his newfound abilities. 

 

But notice in both accounts the people around, who could see, hear and speak already had things to say about these miracles too.  A testament to the effectiveness of the miracles.

 

The text today says that the people who saw this were astonished beyond measure and they say about Jesus, ‘He has done all things well.

He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” (Mark 7:37 ESV)

 

With the blind man healed, we read, “And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:43 ESV)

 

So in every case, not only the recipient of the healing but those around also had their eyes and ears touched by the miracle as well.  The natural outcome was praise to God by those who believed.

 

There were those also there who saw the miracles and yet remained deaf, dumb and blind.

So in each case it is left to the discretion of God as to the miracle’s effectiveness. 

 

We here today who have been recipients of spiritual hearing and spiritual sight can now, with spiritual tongues loosed, offer, from the heart, thanksgiving and praise to God for these inestimable gifts.

                       

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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 



[1] Ryle, J. C. (1859). Expository Thoughts on Mark (p. 149). London: William Hunt.

[2] Packer, J. I. (1995). Introduction. In A. McGrath (Ed.), 2 Corinthians (2 Co 3:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Packer, J. I. (1995). Introduction. In A. McGrath (Ed.), 2 Corinthians (2 Co 3:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.