Vol. XI — No. 41 October 11, 1970
And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man; but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
Each of us may at one time have wondered: How can the great God, who in the beginning made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and now upholds all things by the word of His power—how can this God take a personal interest in me, one person among billions on a planet that is as a speck in the incomprehensible vastness of this universe?
Perhaps the doubt that many people have about God’s concern for man in general or individual human beings in particular has led to the great and oppressive feeling of aloneness from which so many suffer in our day. Besides, fear of the present and anxiety for the future weigh heavily upon them, and they long for relief. And since many have lost touch with Scripture, and therefore with the God who reveals Himself in Scripture, they turn to their own fellowmen for the sense of belonging and the feeling of assurance which they are seeking so desperately. They meet for group therapy, telling each other their innermost torments and conflicts in the hope of resolving them thereby. They gather in sensitivity sessions, touching each other intimately in an effort to overcome their feeling of being alone and unloved.
But all such efforts to find relief in one’s own fellowmen must of necessity fall short of their goal. We hear the sufferer Job telling the three friends who had tried so hard to cheer him up: “Miserable comforters are ye all.” Job 16:2. Old Augustine points us the only way out when he says: “Our hearts for Thee, O God, were made, and will not rest until they rest in Thee.”
And the remarkable thing is that our hearts may rest secure in the mighty God of this universe, so surely as He still invites: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28. Such assurance our text this morning seeks to give us as it urges:
Note well these three things:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” the Prophet Isaiah says of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and so we see it on the occasion spoken of in our text. (Is. 53:4.) Christ had come from the region of Tyre and Sidon to the territory of Decapolis, which lay to the east of the Sea of Galilee. There, according to Matthew’s Gospel, “great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet.” Matt. 15:30. Among these poor sufferers was the deaf and dumb man spoken of in our text.
And what was Jesus’ response to all this misery lying before Him? He has just completed a long and difficult journey with His disciples. Did He feel too tired to extend Himself to these sick people? He had entered upon the last part of His public ministry and had so many things to teach His disciples yet. Did He regard Himself too busy to help? Matthew and Mark tell that 11 He healed them.” Weary and full of work though He was, He looked upon them with sympathy and mercifully healed them all!
Christ Jesus has now ascended to heaven, where His Father has “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion and has put all things under his feet,” Ept. 1:20-22. Is Christ now too remote and too busy, so to speak, to look upon our troubles with the same sympathetic mercy? Just the opposite is true, for Scripture assures us: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come bodly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:14-16.
Every need, both large and small. Come before Him with your sins and guilty conscience, and hear again His pardoning word: “Some, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matt. 9:2. Come before Him with the fear of falling away from him in this ungodly world, and find yourself included in this promise concerning His followers: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28. Come before Him with your needs for food, clothing, and shelter, and rest secure in His promise: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things sha11 be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33. Come before Him with your worries about life—facing the draft, choosing a career, finding a pious and God-fearing spouse, meeting all the uncertainties of the future—and receive the assurance: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Ps. 32:8. Come before Him in the midst of sickness and death, and be lifted up with the Psalmist: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Ps. 23:4.
Be assured, then, that the Lord, Jesus Christ, does look upon all your troubles with sympathetic mercy. Well might you join the hymnwriter in his confident confession:
O depth of love, to me revealing
The sea where my sins disappear!
In Christ my wounds find perfect healing,
There is no condemnation here;
For Jesus’ blood through earth and skies
Forever “Mercy! Mercy” cries.
Though I be robbed of every pleasure
That makes my soul and body glad
And be deprived of earthly treasure
And be for saken, lone, and sad,
Though my desire for help seem vain,
His mercy shall with me remain LH 385:4.6.
We cannot but be impressed with the personal attention that He shows to the deaf and dumb man in our text. First Jesus takes him aside from the noise and distraction of the crowd, so that his attention might be focused on Him alone. Then He thrusts His fingers into the man’s ears, and having spit touches his tongue—sign language so simple and plain that the deaf-mute cannot help but understand that Jesus intends to do something about his illness. After that Jesus looks up to heaven and sighs—another bit of sign language telling the sufferer that the help he was about to receive was heavenly help, to be sought by prayer. And then follows the mighty word, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened,” and the man was healed.
In a day when an individual life often counts for so little, and a man is repeatedly treated as an impersonal quantity of data in the memory bank of a computer, it is marvelous to see how the Lord of glory is individually concerned for each of us, His followers. Think back, how He so ordered the events of history that you would be born into a home where the Gospel of Christ was present with its saving power. How in Holy Baptism He made you personally a child of God and an heir of eternal life! How He has, despite your frequent spiritual wandering, kept you through His Word on the narrow pathway that leads to heaven! How He has sent such crosses of suffering into your life, crosses shaped specially for your own shoulder, which might keep you close to His own cross! How He in the Holy Supper comes to you and gives you individually His own body and blood, to assure you of the forgiveness of all your sins! To you, every one of you, He says in the most personal of terms; “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” Is. 49:16.
How can you feel alone and unloved when your Savior deals with you with such individual concern? Every one of you has reason to say:
The Lord hath helped me hitherto
By His surpassing favor;
His mercies ev’ry morn were new,
His kindness did not waver.
God hitherto hath been my Guide,
Hath pleasures hitherto supplied,
And hitherto hath helped me. LH 33:1.
We have already referred to the miracle in our text: one word from Christ’s lips and “straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” Know well that this same almighty power is working daily in your behalf, so surely as Christ has promised: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matt. 28:18.20.
How is this power at work? Through the means of grace, the Gospel Word and the sacraments, He mightily turns our unbelieving hearts to believing hearts, and keeps them His own. Recognize with the Apostle Paul “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” Eph. 1:19. And since, as Scripture says, “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1), Christ can so direct the future of this world as to fulfill the promise which He makes to each of His followers: “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Prov. 1:33.
Do you see why we said that our text urges us to “Trust Him Who Does All Things Well”? Sympathetic mercy, individual concern, almighty power—all these He has shown you and will continue to show you in a way most marvelous!
Then come before His presence now
And banish fear and sadness;
To your Redeemer pay your vow
And sing with joy and gladness:
Though great distress my soul befell,
The Lord, my God, did all things well,—
To God all praise and glory! LH 19:6.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.