The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity August 22, 1999
31, 360, 30, 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
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. 36 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. So far the Word.
In the name of Jesus, the Healer of both our bodies and our souls, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Have you heard about the so-called “Healing Explosion” that’s been sweeping our country? A while back I was in Jamestown, North Dakota, and a pastor friend of mine showed me a poster that was sent to his church. The “Healing Explosion” was headed for Jamestown. A charismatic husband and wife team, Charles and Francis Hunter, had promised that they would perform miracles of healing by the power of the Holy Spirit. They would restore perfect eyesight to those with vision problems, straighten twisted limbs, make paralysis disappear, and open the ears of the hearing-impaired. The pastor said that the local athletic stadium would no doubt be packed with people hoping to have their sicknesses healed. That poster, he said, was going in the trash can, not on the bulletin board.
These sorts of activities are just a small part of what is known as the “Charismatic Movement.” The Pentecostal denominations and “charismatic cells” in the mainline churches are claiming miraculous gifts. They say that with the power of the Holy Spirit, they can speak in unknown languages, cast out demons, pick up poisonous snakes, and heal sick people. In an article in Christian News, a Lutheran layman named Don Matzat exposed much of the so-called healing. He was actively involved with the charismatic movement for several years, but he finally became disillusioned and skeptical. At best, he said, a lot of it is just over-enthusiasm of the part of the people supposedly being “healed”. For instance, at one charismatic rally, he was impressed when the wife of a Methodist minister he was sitting next to threw away her thick eyeglasses and said she could now see perfectly without them. Her husband was gloomy about it, though. “This has happened three times before,” he said, “and each time I end up buying her a new pair of glasses a few days after the rally!” At worst, Matzat says, many of these “healers” actually use stunts and tricks to perform their “lying wonders.” Worst of all, they almost always end up drawing attention toward themselves and away from God’s Word.
These people will continue to be popular, though, because they offer something that lots of folks desperately want—deliverance from physical illness. I think those folks are looking to the wrong person, for the wrong kind of healing. They’re putting their hands on the TV screen and listening to Oral Roberts when they should be opening their Bibles and listening to God. Let’s us open our Bible today and look at an example of real faith-healing! Our theme this morning is:
To me, this account of Jesus healing the deaf and dumb man is a very vivid and important one. Because the man Jesus healed reminds me of somebody I know, a person whom I love very dearly—myself! Have another look at this man, and see if you don’t recognize yourself, as well.
He was a humble person from a small community. He probably wasn’t rich. He was a human being with some physical problems, in his case pretty severe ones. Worse than that, he was a human being with a spiritual problem—the problem of sin. So far, he sounds a lot like me—how about you?
We’re often faced with physical problems in this life. If you haven’t been yet, you will be. Maybe they won’t be as severe as this fellow’s—maybe they’ll be worse! This man couldn’t hear a thing, and he had trouble speaking. Why? What was the cause of his suffering? If you’ve ever gone through a serious illness or disability, you’ve probably spent hours wondering the same thing. “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” A man in a certain CLC congregation once came to his pastor with tears in his eyes. His daughter had cancer, he said. He hadn’t been to church for many months, and he was convinced that this was God’s punishment for his absence. Well, his coming back to church was right, the pastor told him, but his reason was wrong!
It’s true that sin bears it’s consequences in every part of our lives. Our bodies are imperfect, our minds are imperfect, our world is imperfect—all because of sin. But, thankfully, God doesn’t measure out punishment for your sins on a clear, one-for-one basis. Jesus said as much when people asked Him about some Galileans who had been slaughtered by Pontius Pilate. He said, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” Luke 13:2-3.
A day is coming when we’ll be delivered from this sinful world, when our bodies and minds will be free from every imperfection. One day, by the power of Jesus’ love, we will enjoy perfect health in heaven. But Jesus’ healing power isn’t locked up tight until the Last Day—He can and does use it on this earth, during this life! The man in our text is a good example. A humble fellow from a small town—with a problem only Jesus could cure. But Jesus was a famous Man, with huge crowds following him wherever he went. What hope could there be that Jesus would help him? But soon the impossible miracle was happening; Jesus …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. The miracle had happened! A deaf and dumb man could now hear and speak plainly. Jesus had again revealed his power as the very Son of God.
Is that miraculous power gone now? Is the Healing Christ absent from our world of today? Certainly not! God has “placed all things under His feet,” including physical disease and illness. Jesus CAN heal our bodies, and very often He does! When a pastor visits a person in the hospital, they always offer a prayer together that, if it’s God’s will, the patient might be delivered from his illness and restored to perfect health. Sometimes it IS God’s will, and some recoveries are nothing short of miraculous. In my former home congregation in Lynnwood, there was an elderly woman who was diagnosed as having cancer. It had spread to every part of her body; she was given two months to live. She proceeded to live seven years after that, astounding her doctors with subsequent test results that indicated that there was no cancer present in her body. I’m sure you could give more examples. The point is this: don’t be afraid to call upon Jesus for physical deliverance. King David said, “As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.” Jesus loves you and knows what’s best for you. And if it’s God’s will for your life, He CAN heal your body. He CAN do it—as easily as he unstopped the ears and loosed the tongue of this man in Galilee.
Jesus is the original, the true “faith-healer.” But He has the power to heal more than our bodies. He has the power to touch a much deeper disease than any physical illness: the disease of sin. Some of us go through severe physical problems—ALL of us are afflicted with the disease of sin.
When I lived in South Dakota I spent a lot of time in the country hunting and fishing. At first I was very worried about meeting up with one of the rattlesnakes that infest that area. Eventually, though, I found out that the prairie rattler isn’t as dangerous as some other poisonous snakes; very few people actually die from its bite. You can contrast that, e.g., with the king cobra of India. The venom of the cobra is so deadly that even a single bite means almost certain death every time. Reading that reminded me of the awful power of sin. It’s like a poisonous snake that has struck deeply at every one of us. If not treated promptly, we would each of us die a horrible death in eternity. It’s an illness that makes us cry out, with the Psalmist, “Lord, be merciful to me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against you!” And for this illness there is only one treatment, only one cure—the blood of our Savior.
A few minutes ago, we admitted before God and everyone else that we have been infected with that illness. We said, “We confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word and deed.” And then we reminded ourselves of the cure for that illness, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, hath had mercy upon and hath given His only Son to die for us and for His sake forgiveth us all our sins.” Isn’t this a miracle? Isn’t this the most amazing example of “faith-healing” there could possibly be? After all, we had a terminal case of sinfulness. By nature, man never wanted anything to do with God or His forgiveness! Left to ourselves, we would have rather just stayed in our sinful state and taken the consequences in eternity. But even in this rebellious state, God loved sinful mankind. In fact, Paul says that’s how we can tell how great God’s love really is, “For while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8.
God has healed us from this most serious illness by giving us faith. Not faith in ourselves, but faith in Jesus. When we pray Jesus to give us this healing, we don’t have to wonder what His answer will be. In this matter we know what God’s will is! Jesus ALWAYS heals our souls! Every Sunday, when you say those words of confession, God is wiping from His book every dark blot your sin has put there. Every evening, when you ask God to forgive you for Jesus’ sake, the sins of the day are completely erased. The healing is complete, not partial; permanent, not temporary. And there are no strings attached. God doesn’t say, “All your sins are forgiven, except for this one…” He doesn’t say, “All your sins are forgiven, if you do such-and-such…” He simply says, “for Jesus’ sake, all your sins are forgiven.” Period! “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” Rom 8:1.
Jesus is the true, the only “faith-healer.” He is almighty God, and He doesn’t need tricks or gimmicks to accomplish His miracles. Whatever our illness, let us always look to Him for deliverance. He CAN heal our bodies—and He ALWAYS heals our souls! God grant us the faith to trust Him to do just that in our day-to-day lives! In His saving name, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.