“He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).
But who is He?
If we think back to Creation, Moses tells us who He is, who has done all things well, when he writes, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Only God can make the deaf hear and the mute speak, and no one is good but God alone, so, doing all things well, is here identified as God in the flesh.
It’s God, in the flesh, interacting with this man. The Creator with His creation.
Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears, He spat, touched the man’s tongue, looked up to heaven, and sighed.
He was using simple signs, simple language.
He was telling the man what He was going to do.
Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears to identify the problem, to identify what would be cured. Ears are meant to hear, so Jesus touched the deaf man’s ears.
He then spat and touched the man’s tongue, again, to identify the problem. Tongues were made to confess Jesus as Lord and Christ, and this tongue, this man, can’t. So Jesus touches the mute man’s tongue, to identify what would be cured.
Jesus looked up to heaven, telling the man from whence this power came—from the Living God.
Only God can make the deaf hear, the mute to speak, the dead to live.
And then, Jesus sighed. And then, He spoke.
It’s not when Jesus touched the ears that they hear. It’s not when Jesus touched the tongue that it confesses.
It’s not when He looks to heaven that heaven descends upon the man, and not when Jesus sighs that the deaf man hears.
Rather—God speaks, and it made so.
Jesus, the eternal Word of God, who was with God in the beginning, by whose word all things were made, God spoke, saying, “Ephphatha!” (Mark 7:34). Be opened.
The Creator spoke to His creation—and His creation listened and obeyed.
He who was deaf could hear clearly.
He who was mute could speak straightly.
It’s a miracle. A sign.
The sign signified not only who Jesus was—God in the flesh—and what Jesus could do—shape Creation at will—but also how God wants to deal with us—by His Word.
Not through ear touching, saliva, glances in His general direction, or heartfelt sighs but through His Word does God wish to deal with us.
The simplicity of how God acts leads us to think that there are other ways—more complicated and therefore better ways—to encounter God, other than hearing His Word.
I’ve heard, countless times, someone say: “God told me…” And they didn’t mean “Thus says the Lord in Scripture…”
I’ve heard overly emotional conversion stories that could be destroyed with a question—“How do you know for sure?”
Selling salvation, there are salesmen on tv convincing you to send seed money so you can save yourself.
But these complicated methods of encountering God do two things wrong.
First, they want you to convince yourself that you believe and are saved.
“God told me…” usually means “I want to think, be, or do this anyway. So don’t disagree with me.”
And you can’t disagree with someone’s heartfelt emotionalism without guaranteeing you’ll never see them again. So people tell their fantastical story, and we’re afraid to say, “My, that’s strange!”
And when you can’t afford to buy bread—but you can afford to watch a wolf in sheep’s clothing on a big screen tv, you rest assured that you wrote the right checks.
You will never—you can never—convince yourself that you believe.
Because the second thing these “other methods of encountering God” do is forget the Word.
The outward sign without the Word of God is useless.
Laying on of hands—apart from the Word of God—is useless.
Prayer—if not formed by the Word of God—is not prayer.
So God won’t tell you what God has not already said.
And what God says, you can be sure of, because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever—God is immutable, unchangeable—and He does not lie.
And God does require sacrifice. When you give to the church, whether it’s time or treasure, it should hurt. It should keep you from doing other things. You should give to the church such that you must give up some other things.
Or think of it this way: idols cost money, and God destroys idols.
Thus says the Lord.
So this is why we must hear God’s word.
Confess it clearly, and hold to it for dear life.
God’s word opens our ears to hear Him, our tongues to confess Jesus as Lord and Christ.
Faith always has an object—it always reaches out, grasps, and holds on to something.
We believe what God teaches us in the Bible—we hold fast to His Word—and we confess it.
The Bible is God’s word. Perfectly true. Without error. And powerful, doing what it says, giving what it promises.
The grace it describes is the grace it gives.
The faith that the Word requires for salvation is the faith that it creates and sustains by the work of the Holy Spirit.
God has dealt with you by His Word.
Your sins are forgiven.
God has delivered you from evil.
It’s an interesting way to speak, and please understand what I mean—God doesn’t save us from evil.
He delivers us from it.
If God saved you from evil, you wouldn’t be able to say that you have been afflicted because of it.
But that God delivers you from evil, that that’s how Jesus teaches you to pray, that’s a promise—that though you’re in the midst of evil and suffering and a sinful, fallen world that doesn’t hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come—God has redeemed you, purchased and won you, from all sin, death, and evil, and the day is coming when He will raise you up to life eternal—not saving you from evil—but delivering you from it.
The Word of the Lord endures forever!
Not the empty, passing words and fake-knowledge of talking faces on tv who’re paid per lie.
But the living word of the living God.
Dressed for battle as God and man, Jesus sighed and opened the deaf and mute man’s ears and tongue with a word.
Dressed for battle as God and man, He sighed, carried His cross to crucifixion and pain, and said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
There and then, Jesus made-true all the words of God’s promises, every word that God had ever spoken to His people.
He faced all the evil they suffer.
He suffered all the guilt of sins committed.
Upon himself, He took that chastisement and burden. By His stripes we are healed. And, sins forgiven, God now brings us peace.
He who opened the deaf and mute man’s ears and tongue, opened heaven to us by winning forgiveness for us.
This is who He is, who does all things well. Jesus.
He forgives our sins—in and by and with His word.
And nowhere else. So we hear it, confess it, and live it.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 12 Sermon, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
This outline of this sermon is based on one preached by Rev. Rolf Preus.