Text: Mark 7:31-37
Date: Pentecost XVI Proper 18 + 9/9/18
With Mark chapter 7 we have the end of the first part of Mark’s Gospel. As also the other Gospels reflect the earthly ministry of Jesus began with a bright ray of hope. The promised Messiah was predicted to come performing mighty works of healing as we heard in today’s Old Testament reading from the prophet Isaiah, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is 35:5-6). And there are so many more such passages. The first half of Mark’s Gospel is filled with mighty signs all intended to announce that the Messiah has come. Today’s sign especially reflects our Old Testament with the healing of a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. The people seemed to have gotten the idea as “they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well, He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”
We have already seen the scribes and Pharisees begin to criticize Jesus becoming deaf themselves to the clear evidence that Jesus was more than rabbi or teacher, but the One sent by God, proclaimed by John the Baptist, acclaimed by many who believed in Him. Now, it will seem, their criticism will turn to hardened hearts of unbelief that will end in the elimination of this Man by means of nothing less than death by crucifixion.
On the cross it seemed that God the Father had turned a deaf ear to the Son who complained out loud with the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:26, Ps 22:1). There, suffering, bleeding, dying, He seemed so alone. And He was. For He had become The Sinner on our behalf. He there took on to Himself the sin of the world, all your sin and paid the price. It could only be Him alone for there was none other worthy to endure such a transaction, the sinless, holy one for the sin of the world.
One of the strangest passages in Isaiah the prophet is in chapter 42, one of what are called his “Servant Songs” the most famous one being the last, called the Suffering Servant. I say the first one is strange or confusing because it begins clearly applying to the Son of God, Jesus, the Messiah. But then we read these words, “Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord” (Is 42:19). Did Jesus ever become deaf or blind?
Well no. But have there not been times when it seems like the Lord had become deaf to our pleas and blind to our needs? Psalm 28 gives us words to pray in moments like that, saying, “To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit” (Ps 28:1). Indeed they say sometimes the Lord says “No” to our prayer and sometimes “Yes.” But it’s those in between times of “Maybe” or “Wait” that get us and we take up the prayer in Revelation of the souls under the altar “who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Rev 6:10). Yes, we can become impatient and blame a God who has suddenly become deaf to our prayers instead of our own annoyance at His seeming slowness. It is then we best remember the words of St. Peter, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
In that 42nd chapter of Isaiah besides speaking of the Savior as the Servant of the Lord, the Lord also calls others his servant such as Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets in general and it also occurs as a corporate name for Israel as it does when God asks, “Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send?” In fact this passage invites us to confess our own deafness to God’s Word, our own blindness to His ways and return to the way of faith, trusting His Word and ways.
As the Lord was willing and able to take this man aside from the crowd privately and speak the powerful Word that restored his hearing and speech, so is He willing and able to heal you, to use you as His servant, a messenger of God’s salvation and love for all.