September 9, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

Pentecost 15 Mark 7:31-37

They brought a deaf man to Jesus.

The man couldn’t hear, (or could barely hear). And you know how it is – if you can’t hear what the words are supposed to sound like, you can’t make the sounds yourself and so the man couldn’t talk. He was mute. He couldn’t talk and he couldn’t communicate. So they brought him to Jesus. And they wanted Jesus to lay his hands on the man. They wanted the hands of Jesus to touch this deaf and mute man.

Jesus’ hands were healing hands. And so he took his hands and he brought the man off by himself, away from the crowd and he stuck his fingers in the man’s ears. Imagine what this must have been like – how it must have looked. How it must have felt to have Jesus’ fingers in your ears. And then, as if that wasn’t strange enough, Jesus spit, reached into the mans mouth and grabbed his tongue. And then… He looked up to heaven and Jesus groaned. Some texts say that he sighed, some say he groaned. He let out a low guttural sounding moan. And then… he said - whether to the man or to his ears, I don’t know, but Jesus commanded them to “be open”. And they were.

What strikes me when reading this text is just how strange this event would have been. Imagine it. Jesus grabbing a hold of the man, sticking his fingers into the mans ears, spitting, grabbing his tongue, looking up to heaven and groaning…

Jesus is not the first to groan, you know. Jesus is not the first person, the first person in the Bible, to groan. There are others.

Jeremiah the prophet talks about women in childbirth letting out a groan as they give birth to their first child. You moms could probably relate to that. (Jeremiah 4:23)

Ezekiel talks about the groan of soldiers wounded on the battle field. (Ezekiel 26:15)

We all know about the suffering of Job – that he lost all he had, his wealth, his possessions, his children. And then he lost his health. And Job says, “Today my complaint is bitter and my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.” (Job 23:2)

And so people groan. Women groan in child bearing. People groan when they are wounded or injured. People groan when they mourn the people, the things, the circumstances that they have lost and that have left them empty. People groan.

And Jesus groans. Here in our Gospel text from St Mark, Jesus lets out a great, deep, heart-felt sigh as he looks heavenward to pray. Jesus groans and there is comfort for you in that groaning of Jesus.

You see groaning is something that happens in a bad world. Groaning is a response to something that has happened or that is about to happen that you wish wouldn’t happen. Something bad. My kids groan when they have homework or chores to do. People groan when the alarm clock goes off and they still want to stay in bed. People groan when they suffer a loss or learn of some bad news. Groaning is an expression of despair and suffering. There are times when the suffering is so great there are no words, or there is not strength, there is nothing to do but groan. Groaning is something you and I do when we suffer. Groaning is a reality in this broken and sin stained world.

But Jesus groaned. Perfect, sinless Jesus grabbed hold of this man, grabbed his head, put his fingers in his ears, pulled out his tongue and Jesus groaned. Makes you wonder why Jesus groaned. Maybe they were old friends, maybe this was an old acquaintance. Maybe Jesus knew him. But he didn’t. Mark doesn’t give us a name, an identity. He leaves the story as quickly as he enters it. He was just some guy, no one of consequence. Or was he? Is he? Is there such a thing as “no one of consequence” with Jesus?

Jesus saw his suffering the same way Jesus sees your suffering. While so many others pass by without a word, without knowing or understanding or even caring, Jesus pauses, takes the time to stop, take you aside, treat you as you apart from the crowd so that he knows and understands and feels you suffering and pain. And he feels it right alongside you. There is no such thing as “no one of consequence” with Jesus. Your pain is Jesus pain. Your struggle is Jesus’ struggle. Your grief is Jesus’ grief. And so when Jesus saw this man, unable to speak and unable to hear, Jesus prayed for him with a groan.

Jesus prayed. He looked up to heaven and with deep compassion he prayed that the father would heal this man. And the Father did what Jesus asked. The Jews remarked rightly when they witnessed what Jesus had done, that he does all things well. Because Jesus did do things well. When Jesus was baptized, that same Heavenly Father to whom Jesus was praying here spoke from heaven saying that this was his beloved son. Not only were the people pleased with Jesus, the Father was pleased with Jesus because of what he had done. And so when Jesus prayed for this man, because the Heavenly Father was pleased with Jesus him, the Father gave heard him. Jesus commanded the man’s ears to be open and he commanded his tongue to be let loose. The man could hear and he could speak as clearly and as plainly as any one of us.

And Jesus does that for you also. Jesus prays for you. Jesus sees your heart, you suffering, your grief, your loss and Jesus feels mercy, he feels sympathy, he feels deep concern. And His ears are open to your prayers. He listens to them to each one and he carries those prayers with him to the throne of his heavenly Father. He lays each one there and the Father listens. Just as the Father listened to Jesus’ prayer for this deaf and mute man, the Father listens to the prayers of Jesus on behalf of you. And the father responds. So that Jesus gives his command. The devil who harasses you and torments you is restrained. The illness that would take your life is held at bay. The danger and treachery that would invade your life or your home is warded off by the Lord’s angels. The temptation that would overcome you is given an escape route so that you might get away. The Lord is good. He answers prayer. And when your prayers falter, when your prayers fail, the Lord Heavenly Father hears the prayers of His son. His son who groans.

There are groans in the Bible. The Word of God is filled with groaning, but not just as descriptions of grief and despair. There are groans that are also words of hope and promise.

Our Old Testament text is from Isaiah 35. Verse 10 from that chapter gives a word of hope and a joyful word of promise.

It begins with words that point to Jesus. The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame man shall leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute shall sing for joy. (Isaiah 35:5)

This describes the work of Jesus to a T. Jesus’ ministry was a healing ministry. Better than any doctor or therapist could ever be, Jesus took away illness and impediments and disabilities. Blindness, deafness, the lame and mute. All were healed by Jesus. He reached out his hand he grabbed hold of those who were suffering and he took it away.

But there was a price to pay. Those illnesses didn’t just happen. Disabilities don’t just occur out of the blue. God didn’t make a world like that. Those things happen only in a world where there is sin. Those things happen only in communities and populations where people are sinners. And we are all sinners and we all bear that guilt and responsibility. As long as we populate the earth there is no end to the suffering and grief that are bound to occur. And so Jesus heals that too. Jesus heals that especially. That is the whole point. Don’t just take away the symptoms of the problem. Take away the cause. Deal with the sin and the suffering will go away too.

And so that is what Jesus did. He took not just the blindness and deafness and muteness, he took the sin. Your sin and he carried it to the cross. And he paid its price and he suffered its penalty and he died the death that was earned as a result of it. And now Jesus is alive. Your suffering, you grief that he carried to the cross, he left it there. He defeated it there. He earned victory over it there. And now he lives. He lives to set you free from your suffering and to give you hope that all grief and groaning will end for good forever.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come home to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing/groaning shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)

That is what the Prophet Isaiah wrote and that comes true for you in Jesus. He died for you. He rose for you. He lives for you and your sorrow and grief are on the run.



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