“Our Savior Gives the Healing We Need”
(Mark 7:31-37 – Pentecost 16 – September 12, 2021)
Mark 7:31-37 – 31Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. 32Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. 33And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. 34Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. 36Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. 37And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Dear Redeemed in Christ, the divine Physician of our soul and Healer for eternal life:
When we deal with illnesses and infirmities that seriously affect our life, it is good to have a doctor who treats us with compassion, listening closely to our needs and caring about us. It is also good if a doctor is able to treat us in a way that helps – not just temporarily covering up outward symptoms of a problem; but if possible, treating the underlying condition to provide more permanent healing and recovery.
Here we see Jesus treating a man with compassion and miraculously healing him. Yet as the divine Physician, He did not come just to provide relief for physical infirmities in this life, or even just to save us from physical death. These are symptoms of an underlying condition of sin. As the Physician of our soul Jesus came with compassion, truly understanding our need and caring for us. He came to save us from sin and death, and bring us healing in His forgiveness and salvation – healing that will bring permanent, perfect health of body and soul in eternal life.
Today we see how “Our Savior Gives the Healing We Need”: 1) He comes with almighty power to heal; and 2) He comes with saving grace to heal.
1) He comes with almighty power to heal
As Jesus came to the region of the Decapolis, southeast of the Sea of Galilee, His reputation preceded Him as the One who had already shown His almighty power to heal. Here, not long before, Jesus had driven many demons out of a man, fully healing and restoring him (Mark 5). Now as a multitude followed Jesus, it says: “Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.”
Put yourself in this man’s place for a moment. With this handicap, he was unable to hear a thing; and as often happens with those who are deaf, his speech was impaired. Imagine the frustration of trying to communicate with loved ones, and the difficulty of being understood! Imagine the hardships in trying to make a living. Imagine the sorrow of not being able to hear God’s Word and fully join his voice with others in worship. This man’s loved ones cared for him and brought him to Jesus, begging: “Just put Your hand on him, Lord; You can heal him!”
What infirmities do we bring before God in prayer, for ourselves and our loved ones? What pains, hardships, and frustrations do we deal with? Is there a condition we live with that no one else can fully understand? As our all-knowing Savior Jesus understands, and He invites us to cast all our cares on Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). As our all-powerful Savior, He knows how He will bring deliverance and healing to us – if not in this temporal life, then in the full restoration of heaven in eternal life.
In this case, Jesus chose to come and bring physical healing to this man. He did so to demonstrate His almighty power as the Savior. Here we see the compassionate care of the divine Physician. First, “He took him aside from the multitude” – away from the crowd of onlookers, away from the distractions of the world, so the man could focus on his Savior alone. Now one on one, Jesus treated him as an individual, giving him His full attention. Then He communicated with him in a way he could understand, using sign language: “and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue” – and by this personal touch to the organs affected, Jesus indicated the healing He was about to do. “Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed” – thus indicating both the divine power by which He would heal, and the human compassion He felt, as the Savior who came to bear this man’s burdens.
Then, He who in the beginning had created all things “very good” by His powerful Word (Genesis 1:31), He who is now the Word of God in our flesh, spoke: “‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.'” And that one Word, packed with divine power, changed the man for life: “Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly.” And how he must have continued to speak, proclaiming the praises of the Lord who had come to His people to bring them His Kingdom and salvation!
Yes by this miraculous healing, Jesus had proven Himself to be the promised Messiah, the King of heaven who was to come, God in our flesh come to restore all things for His people. It was just as God had foretold in Isaiah 35:4-6, as He comforted His afflicted people with words of promise in the coming Messiah: “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing.”
Here, in the coming of our Savior with almighty power to heal, we get a glimpse of the final restoration to come in the new heavens and new earth He is preparing for us (2 Peter 3:13). On the Day of Resurrection when Jesus comes in all His glory, again He will speak His almighty “Ephphatha,” and open our graves and raise our bodies. And in answer to every prayer, He will heal all our infirmities. Our eyes will opened to see Him face to face in glory; our ears will be opened to hear His loving voice; and our tongues will be loosed to sing His praises forever!
2) He comes with saving grace to heal
As the divine Physician Jesus is truly holistic in His treatment, taking into account the whole human need. He treats our whole person, body and soul. He treats not just the outward symptoms but the underlying problem, to bring complete healing. For this reason, He came to deal with the root problem of our sinful condition. He came with saving grace to heal us.
In the beginning God created humans with perfect body and soul, to enjoy holy fellowship and communication with Him forever. But Satan worked evil to bring injury to us in body and soul. He convinced humans to shut their ears to God’s Word and open their minds to his lies.
With the fall into sin, a condition of spiritual deafness overcame humans. It is a condition of hard-heartedness toward hearing God’s Word and accepting His truth. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says: “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” So by nature, we were as good as deaf before God, unable rightly to hear Him or know Him.
In addition, we were overcome with spiritual muteness. Romans 10:13-14 says: “‘Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” But as long we were spiritually deaf to God’s Word, we could not rightly believe or call on Him.
With the fall, some of the outward symptoms of the sinful condition appeared in infirmities of body and mind, disease and death. We see other symptoms too, in the ways we fall into sin. For example, we are not always so ready to do as it says in James 1:19: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” How often, instead of patiently listening and understanding each other, we are quick to speak in anger and impatience. Instead of being quick to share God’s Word of forgiveness and love in Christ, we are quick to judge and condemn.
In many ways, our sin-affected spiritual ears and tongue work to separate us from God and other people. By sin, we cut ourselves off in our own world, like spiritual deaf-mutes. If God had not sent His Son with saving grace to heal us, our sinful condition would have cut us off, body and soul, in the terrible seclusion and suffering of hell.
Again as the divine Physician, Jesus did not come just to treat outward symptoms. He did not come to tell us how to heal ourselves by living a more spiritually healthy life to get right with God. There was nothing we could do to fix our underlying sin-sick, deathly condition.
Therefore, as the truly understanding and compassionate Physician of our souls, Jesus came to treat our whole condition and bring us His spiritual and eternal healing. In order to do this, He became the one who bore our all sin and its consequences to the cross. As Isaiah 53:4-5 prophesied: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
During His ministry, as our sin-bearer, Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He agonized over our fallen condition. He reached out with compassion to reverse the destructive lies of Satan, to reverse the effects of sin – in teaching the saving truth of God and forgiving sin; in casting out demons, healing the sick and infirm, and even raising the dead.
Then on the cross, as the one bearing all our sin, Jesus felt all the griefs and sorrows of damnation, being cut off from communication with His Father. From His tongue rose the confused and anguished cry: “My God My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). But His ears were deafened to that loving voice, as He suffered the wages of our sin unto death. And at last, having shed His blood for our healing, and having given His life to redeem ours, Jesus looked up to heaven; and once again He sighed, breathing His spirit into His Father’s hands (Luke 23:46).
It was the sigh that came with our healing. For Jesus rose to free us from the power of Satan by His finished work, and to free us from the power of sin by His healing forgiveness, and to free us from death by raising us to spiritual and eternal life in the power of His resurrection.
As the Physician of our soul, our living Savior comes to bring His healing to us in Word and Sacrament. He deals with us as individuals, taking us aside from the distractions of the world, leading us to focus on Him alone as our Savior. In His Word, first He puts his hand on us where we are affected, showing our sinful condition; but then He applies His healing forgiveness to us. In His Gospel, Jesus speaks His powerful “Ephphatha” to us; and the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual ears and hearts to believe and be saved. In Baptism, He washes away our sins away, cleansing our souls, restoring us to fellowship with God as His children. In His Holy Supper, He gives us His Body and Blood as medicine for our soul. And as we receive His saving grace and healing, He opens our lips to show forth His praise (Psalm 51:15).
Now, in the care of our divine Physician, we are healed. We are restored to fellowship with God and each other. As we gather in worship, we join our ears in hearing His Word and our tongues in singing His praise. We bring our infirmities before His throne of grace, knowing He hears our prayers. He who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, assures us that He can sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He touches us with His all-sufficient grace to strengthen our faith and help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
At last, the healing He has given us will be fully realized in heaven! He will give us a perfect body and soul, free of all sickness and infirmity, fully restored in Paradise. Revelation 21:4-5 says: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'” With our eyes, we will see our Savior face to face; with our ears we will hear His voice; and with our tongues we will sing His praise!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.