Today Jesus heals a man who could not hear, and could not speak. But this was not a first time event. Jesus has been making people speak from the beginning of time. The Word of God is not silent, and he is the one who gives to us words with which to praise our Heavenly Father. The psalmist cries out “O Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.” It is Christ who opens our lips, and only then can our mouths show forth His Praise. He is the one who opens, makes us to hear, who gives us words to speak.
On our own we have ears but can not hear, and we have tongues but can not speak. Our hearts are cold and dead, and unable to hear God’s word. Just like the man in the parable who was deaf, we can not even recognize what it is that God says to us.
Imagine what his life must have been like. No sign language, no closed captions for the hearing impaired. His life consisted of living off the charity of others, whether it was family, friends, or whether he begged for a few coins from those who passed by. He could not talk, could not hear, could not communicate beyond a few rough hand signals to those who new him, he was alone and isolated. When he was taken to the synagogue he heard nothing, he knew nothing of the wonderful way God had led His chosen people out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage. He knew nothing of King David, knew nothing of the psalms, he knew nothing of the prophets, nothing of the saving message of the promised Messiah to come. This man was cut off, living in his own world of silence. Unable even to ask for help. His life had been a difficult life, a confusing life, a life without any apparent purpose, and he was a man without any apparent usefulness.
Christ comes to this lost isolated man, and gives him the most precious gift of all – a chance at a fuller life. A life where he can talk to people around him, he can hear people talk to him – communication can now occur. And more importantly He can hear God’s Word. When Jesus tells the man “Be Opened” his life changed instantly, radically, and forever. The God who created the heavens and the earth, who with a word created light from darkness, and gave to us all the wonders of creation, now speaks a word; and this man, who was deaf and mute, hears.
The change in our lives is no less radical. O Lord open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise! If only you would open my lips oh Lord, then I would praise you. But first, you must do the acting. Without your power I can not even open my mouth, I can not utter one syllable in praise to you.
On our own we stand as unable to praise God as did that deaf mute. Worse than that, we can not even hear God’s word. On our own our hearts are cold dead stones. They have no life. We have turned away from God, stopped up our ears with our own sinful arrogance, and now we can not hear the wondrous message of salvation, How God saved his chosen people from the land of slavery and bondage to sin, and brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of promise, a land of forgiveness. All of this is closed to us, even if the words are spoken, without God’s intervention, they pass right by us, unable to help us. The sweetest word of Gospel that Jesus speaks is heard only as law and condemnation from those who refuse to believe. It happens time and time again in the Gospels – Jesus speaks a marvelous word of forgiveness, the people think he is condemning them – placing an un-doable burden on them. Jesus heals, even raises from the dead, the people think he is possessed by and working for Satan. No matter what God says to us or does for us, unless he opens our ears to hear the word, unless our hearts of stone are made alive by him, we can not receive the Gospel. And as God speaks words we can not understand, we become more and more opposed to Him, our hearts grow colder and harder and we utter not words of praise, but words of cursing for this God who, it seems, will not help us solve the problems that we want him to solve. For if he can heal the deaf mute, then surely God is out there solely to make our lives easier. And when it turns out that that doesn’t happen, we turn away from God. We hear the words, but they have no impact. We see God speaking, but like the deaf man, the words make no sense to us, and we become hardened against a God who would so cruelly mock us by refusing to give us what we want, and instead giving us things that we don’t want, and can’t use, and even don’t understand. We come to despise God and his word, and only a miracle can save us. That is what Holy Baptism is. The miracle that saves us. It is casting out Satan, and inviting in the Holy Spirit.
It is God saying to you “Ephatha! Be opened!”
He is the one who must un-block our ears, who must renew our stony cold heart. He must create in us a clean heart. He must un-block our ears so that we can hear his words, so that we can understand his message, and so that we can believe his promises. Be Opened! The promise has nothing to do with your work. It has everything to do with God’s work. He is the giver of life, he is the bringer of salvation, and he is the one who gives you forgiveness.
In Jesus you find salvation. Not salvation from the job you hate, or salvation from the problems with your checkbook, or salvation from whatever earthly difficulties you think God should just magically take away. He brings salvation for your sin. Salvation from all of the things you’ve done that go against his law. He brings you a Word of salvation and of life. And in this dying world, life is what you need. A new life from the God who created life. We need a kind word from He who is the Word, we need forgiveness from the one who loves us more than anything we can even imagine. And it is this same Jesus who brings us life, and brings us salvation. He is the one who earned for us the forgiveness we don’t deserve, and he is the one who took God’s wrath on himself.
The very same Jesus who used his spit to loose the man’s tongue would be spit on by his enemies, the one who used his fingers in the mans ear to give him hearing would be beaten with fists until he could no longer stand. The one who spoke the word of God and opened would have insults hurled at him like stones. the one who created life would give up his life, and the one who lived without sin would be made sin for you. This is the love of Jesus for you, that he would do all of this for you, who had sinned against him, who turned away from him, who despised and rejected His word. He is the one who comes to you now and says “be opened” and gives you life. And in the Holy water of Baptism your ears are opened, and your tongue is loosed. Just as Christ spit on his fingers and touched the mans tongue, so the water is poured over you. Just as Christ spoke that Word of God, so the Word of God was spoken over you. Just as Christ healed that man, so you are healed, and given a new life. A life without the guilt of sin, a life with a new heart, a cleansed conscience, a new life in Christ.
You have done nothing to deserve it. God, in His infinite wisdom and love has given you this gift. You have closed your ears, But God has said be opened. You were dead, but Christ has made you alive. You are His. He opened the ears of the deaf mute, and now you hear, and now you can speak that word of praise, and now you are healed. Amen.